Ralf Rangnick rumours have steadily been gaining pace towards the end of last week. He’s the football hipster’s choice who masterminded the fairy-tale rise of TSG 1899 Hoffenheim from the third tier of German football to seventh in the Bundesliga. So what should Sunderland fans make of 'the German Wenger' being linked to the current managerial position at the Stadium of Light?
Rangnick played football but only in a part-time or lower-league capacity. He started coaching at amateur and youth level before helping Ulm to promotion from the third tier in Germany. He had a brief spell at Stuttgart before moving to Hannover and then, most famously, dropping down the leagues to manage Hoffenheim – the German minnows bankrolled by former player and SAP software entrepreneur Dietmar Hopp – with immense success. He resigned after a key player was sold without his knowledge and took up the job at Schalke whom he took to a Champions League semi-final.
We thought it would be quite apt that Schalke fan and blogger Torsten Wieland (@TorstenWieland) share with us his thoughts on potentially our new manager. Check out his website here Koenigsblog. Here is our interview with him;
WAW: Can you tell us a little bit about the kind of football we could expect from Rangnick should he be offered the job?
Torsten: Rangnick is definitely a manager for attacking football. His teams are aggressive in general and they play with high intensity. He likes pressing in the opponents half of the pitch and that is also his way to keep the ball away from his own goal. Long, high balls he does not like. His teams play flat and hard passes.
WAW: Do you think his style would suit the English game?
Torsten: To be honest I’m not an expert of English football and the Premier League. But in my mind good football should work anywhere in the world. As a student Rangnick was in England and played for Southwick FC. He speaks English very well and in more than one TV interview he said he would love to work in England one day.
WAW: Tactically, would you say he a good manager?
Torsten: Absolutely. In Germany he has been a pioneer of the modernization of football. As a manager of the 3rd League Club SSV Ulm in the 90’s he established zonal marking and the defensive line, in times the clubs of the Bundesliga still used sweepers. Rangnick was a kind of forerunner of today's younger generation of German managers like Jürgen Klopp or Thomas Tuchel. I think Rangnick is still at least as good as these young guys. Tactically hardly anyone can fool him.
WAW: Would you say Rangnick is the type of manager who can motivate players and form good relationships with them? Do you think he is good at developing youth players?
Torsten: Certainly he can motivate. But for example, at Schalke he failed to form a good relationship with Raúl. Rangnick hates to make compromises. Raúl was a great player of his own style but that wasn’t the style Rangnick likes. Rangnick always wants to establish the game from his mind. That’s why he fits in well with young teams who are happy to learn. If players just want play like they always have they would get into trouble with this manager. Even with backroom staff it could be difficult with Rangnick if employees do not follow suit. Rangnick understands himself as football teacher. At the same time it must be clear that he is the boss.
WAW: We know his time with Schalke ended prematurely due to ill health - can you tell us a little bit more about that and is it something that should worry us?
Torsten: Rangnick resigned from his previous job on New Year's Day 2011. He planned to pause for half a year. Even when rumours arose that he would come back to Schalke, it was always said he would not sign until the start of the 2011/2012 season. However, when Schalke fired former manager Felix Magath on March 16th, Rangnick stepped in.
Then the big message September 22nd hammered all of German Football, Schalke in particular and me for sure. Because of a burnout syndrome Rangnick resigned immediately. He felt physically overloaded. He could not eat properly or sleep. Later he said that the break between his two jobs was not long enough to “recharge the batteries”. I cannot judge whether that can happen again. He said in an interview that he felt completely healthy again and ready for another coaching job.
WAW: Sunderland are having a tough time at the moment, currently bottom of the league with just one point - do you think Rangnick is a good option to turn our season around?
I’m really not sure if he can work this out. Normally Rangnick is someone who needs some time to teach the team his game. If teams are in trouble on the bottom of the table, new managers react usually trying to stabilize the defense and only then they work on the offense. Rangnick hates destructive defensive play. At Schalke we quickly saw how his game was supposed to work, but at the same time, the team conceded goals regularly. From my point of view Rangnick is no manager for quick success. But if you give him some time, in my opinion he is an excellent man. To be honest, I wish he would come back to Schalke for a third time.
Thanks to Torsten for his very interesting and insightful views. It all sounds like he would suit Ellis Short’s vision for a long term manager and would implement the kind of football we would all want to see. There are concerns about his initial impact - when you think how poor our defence is at the moment, can we really afford a manager who cannot tighten things up at the back? Also, would he even come to Sunderland? He’s been linked with several managerial vacancies (or potential changes) in England at Liverpool, West Brom, Spurs and most recently – in the summer – with Everton. Journalist Raphael Honigstein expressed doubts about his taking up the reins at West Brom (May 2012) on the grounds that perhaps he would be looking for a bigger club to go back into full time management. Whether Sunderland would be considered a bigger club or whether, a year on, he may be more likely to take on a club not competing for European places remains to be seen.
A quick scan through the archives of fan sites of those clubs shows universal positive responses about the potential of Rangnick being appointed. [For those keen to know more – check out the comprehensive post by Roy Henderson for the renowned Liverpool blog Tomkin's Times.]
Go for it, Mr Short.
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