It is not easy to be a manager in the Bundesliga. As one of the most competitive leagues in Europe, standards are high for any trainer who hopes to lead his/her squad to glory, whether that be the Meisterschale, the DfB Pokal, or the elusive UCL trophy. In recent seasons, managerial turnover has been exceptionally high, especially at the top teams, where results have not always met expectation. In this season of surprising success, shocking failure, and everything in between, let’s take a look at the managerial spread— including those who have vacated their posts—and provide both a grade from 2022/23 as well as a new grade for the current season. I will be following the standard grading system in the United States, where a C- is the minimum passing grade.
We will start at home, of course.
Edin Terzic - Borussia Dortmund
In his second spell as manager of Borussia Dortmund, Edin Terzic has been one thing: inconsistent. BVB’s winning run in 2023 earned Terzic significant plaudits despite Dortmund’s failure to secure the title. When he was handed more power the following summer to shape his squad, one can only characterize that decision as a disaster. Terzic failed to strengthen the squad in key areas, namely the #8 position where one of the best players in world football had just departed. Terzic’s team has lacked an ethos in 2023/24, with abject performances and a absence of clear direction leaving Dortmund clinging to UCL qualfication, the bare minimum expected result. As long as that holds, Terzic can maintain the lowest “passing” grade.
Thomas Tuchel - Bayern Munich
As a Bayern Munich coach, the only thing you’re allowed to do is win. Win every game, against every team. Tuchel has not managed that feat. Picking up the reigns from Julian Nagelsmann, Tuchel aimed to apply his notoriously heavy handed approach to righting the Munich ship. Last season saw Bayern pick up one trophy, the Meisterschale, which is generally considered to be the minimum acceptable achievement for Bayern Munich. This season, after crashing out of the DfB Pokal and trailing Leverkusen for the entity of the season, the ice beneath Tuchel’s feet has become much thinner. Tuchel could still carry Bayern Munich to a UCL title, but if that ambitious plan fails, and the Bavarians fail to stop Leverkusen, one has to expect Tuchel will be cleaning out his office come May. Even so, a certain blue team of Londoners may be considering bringing their old head coach back into the fold, knowing they have barely won a match since his departure. It may not be all doom-and-gloom for old Tommy Tuches.
Xabi Alonso - Bayer Leverkusen
Xabi Alonso is THE undisputed hottest property in the coaching world at the moment. Bayer Leverkusen have not lost a game this season, a feat that no other European side can boast. After replacing Gerardo Seoane, Xabi Alonso had an enormous task on his plate, righting a team who looked outright miserable in the league and abroad. Alonso clawed Leverkusen back up the table into Europa League qualification, all while fighting to the death for a title in that same competition. Had Levekusen managed a continental title (and avoided the tailspin that followed their failure) it would be an A+ for both seasons. Alonso’s tenure at Leverkusen, even if it ends this summer, will be hard to call anything but a success, even if they cannot stave off the indominable Bayern Munich.
Marco Rose - RB Leipzig
Marco Rose has been fine, I guess? I would argue that Marco Rose has kept Leipzig competitive but not taken them up a level from where he found them. Yes, Domenico Tedesco had nearly destroyed everything Red Bull built in his tenure at the club, but once Rose got in the driver’s seat, he restored Leipzig’s Champion’s League pedigree and got the club back to status-quo. Still, the tin can’s penchant for a surprise loss and failure to string together a serious run of form keep Rose from picking up higher marks. I still wish BVB hadn’t sacked him.
Sebastian Hoeneß - VfB Stuttgart
Former Stuttgart manager Bruno Labbadia received his marching orders after a 3-0 loss to Union Berlin back in April. Looking at Stuttgart’s record at the time, this seems like a fairly harsh ruling from the club brass, who were deep in the DfB Pokal and earning mixed, but still decent results in the league. Certainly Stuttgart’s board must have seen something in Sebastian Hoeneß they couldn’t pass up, because he has been a revelation for the club this season. Stuttgart remain in a Champion’s League qualification spot as we enter February, and their result suggest they have no intention of dropping lower in the table. A disappointing loss to Bayer Leverkusen in the cup can be excused, as Stuttgart continue to march forward in the league. Sebastian Hoeneß is quickly becoming a well-regarded Bundesliga coach, who could be poached, along with other Stuttgart stars, come the end of the season.
Urs Fischer - Union Berlin
This, this is a sad one. Urs Fischer, who led Union Berlin back to the top flight of German football, and shocked the league by leading his team to not one, but two seasons of outrageous success. Berlin finished higher in the league than ever expected due to their pressing, organization, and sacrifices to the xG gods, who looked favorably on them for many months. Unfortunately, Urs Fischer forgot to sacrifice a youth player to the gods this past summer, and his luck dried up. Despite adding a rack of talent to the squad, including experienced defender Leonardo Bonucci, outside midfielder Robin Gosens, and forward Kevin Volland, Urs Fischer’s side have collapsed in the league this season. Giving Fischer the boot was very harsh after all he had done for the club, but in the scope of the previous two seasons, something had to be done to stop the bleeding.
Steffen Baumgart - FC Köln
Oof. If you were to ask who is the most entertaining coach in the Bundesliga, the answer most certain was Steffen Baumgart. As head coach of Köln, Baumgart managed to restore some of the Billy Goats’ reputation as a mid-table, rough-and-tumble Bundesliga side who could snatch points away from any opposite number. Today, Köln are languishing just outside the relegation spots, tussling with Union Berlin—somewhere both clubs really do not belong. It was hard not to love Baumgart’s outspoken pressers, sideline antics, and newsie cap. Unfortunately results dried up, and one of last year’s hottest in the league is now waiting for a phone call to find his next club.
Bo Svensson - Mainz 05
I hate Mainz, let’s get that out in the open.
Bo Svensson’s Mainz made a habit of snatching points off big sides, including Bayern Munich, during the 2022/23 season. This season, they have made a habit of dropping points to everyone, and I am all for it. Svensson made significant improvements to an inconsistent Mainz side, instituting greater discipline and tactical direction to a side that had no business taking points away from Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, and Borussia Dortmund, but did so anyway. Much was said about Dortmund’s winning run in 2022/23, but Mainz’s 10-game unbeaten streak was an exceptional feat with a squad that did not boast a star player like Serhou Guirassy at Stuttgart. Like those above, it went sour for Svensson in 2023/24, and when his side notched their seventh match without a win, tumbling out of the cup, it was curtains for Svensson. Mainz are now languishing second-bottom in the league, protected only by goal differential. Hopefully that will not last, as I look forward to their relegation and hopefully a long time spent in the lower leagues. Give us back Hamburg, or even Schalke.
With about four months of football left to play in this season, any of these grades are subject to change. Hans-Joachim Watzke has walked back his comments about Edin Terzic being “unfire-able”, and Chelsea have had a watchful eye on Xabi Alonso. Could Dortmund’s under-fire manager make way before the end of the season if result go back sour? Would Alonso desert his pet project for a role at one of the world’s biggest clubs? We will know in a few months time.
Who is most likely to get the sack at the end of this season? Which former Bundesliga coach deserves another shot? Let me know in the comments.