One goal in six games would normally spell the sack for a football coach but in the case of Armin Veh, it means a contract extension, writes Eurosport’s Andreas Evagora.
Eintracht Frankfurt have been desperate to hang on to Veh since he was linked to a move to Schalke. This week their persistence paid off when the 52-year-old extended his contract until the summer of 2014.
Negotiations between Frankfurt’s executive chairman Heribert Bruchhagen and Veh seemed to be on thin ice.
‘‘I have threatened Armin that I will drown his dog in the river Main if he does not stay,” Bruchhagen disconcertingly said earlier this month. That’s an original negotiating tactic, perhaps one that Alex Ferguson could use the next time he has a problem with Wayne Rooney, given the Manchester United player’s love for this French mastiff.
Veh signed, but not because of the threat against his canine companion. “I can tell Heribert doesn’t know my dog. He would be the one who ended up in the Main.”
Back to the football: forget recent form, Veh has done a sensational job at Eintracht Frankfurt.
He took over the Eagles after a catastrophic relegation in 2011. That season, fans had to wait a club record eight games after the Christmas break for a goal, which perhaps explains their patience this time out.
Veh led Eintracht to promotion, the team scoring a whopping 76 goals in 34 games.
Things got better and better, with Eintracht the first promoted team to win their first four games of the season (Sebastian Vettel became a big fan, though given events in Malaysia last weekend, the club might want to play down that particular celebrity link).
The good form continued, with Frankfurt second after eight matches and comfortably in fourth at the half way mark of the season. Veh’s men were the surprise package of the season in Germany.
Then things started to go horribly wrong. At the start of the season Veh said the team’s target was 40 points, the total that generally guarantees Bundesliga survival. He insisted contract talks would wait until Frankfurt had passed the 40 point mark.
That objective was ignored when Eintracht amassed 37 points after 21 matchdays. Then the rot set in. Frankfurt’s last six games have yielded a solitary goal (that in a home defeat against struggling Stuttgart) and a mere three points.
Dynamic midfielders Takashi Inui and Stefan Aigner lost their buzz. Top scorer Alex Meier scored two days after turning 30 in January, but has not found the net since.
That 40 point mark has still not been passed. That Frankfurt still sit fourth is a testament to the inability of any team below them to put together any kind of form.
Storm clouds gathered. Much was made of Veh’s close friendship with Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt, with whom he won the Bundesliga title with Stuttgart in 2007.
Veh, remember, didn’t even want the Frankfurt job in the first place, only agreeing after Bruchhagen refused to take no for an answer.
For much of the German media Veh to Schalke was a done deal. But Veh has always done things his own way, and rejected a move to Frankfurt’s biggest rivals for a champions League spot. ‘‘Walking on egg shells is unbearable,’’ he explained.
Great news for Eintracht and surprising to some because Veh has already threatened to leave the club.
Over the summer, when the club were tempted to sell their two young Sebastians, midfield engine Rode and swashbuckling right back Jung, Veh’s message was clear: if they leave, so do I.
Rode and Jung have been outstanding this season and a new shirt sponsorship deal will pump around 18 million euros into the club and help keep the pair in Hesse. New signings have been promised with Freiburg midfielder Jan Rosenthal already on the way.
Perhaps Veh’s hands off, take it easy style had much to do with this decision to stay away from the pressure cooker atmosphere at Schalke.
Veh has nothing to prove after bringing the title to Stuttgart for the first time in 15 seasons.
Unceremoniously fired by Hamburg after a 6-0 defeat at Bayern Munich, Veh is one of the rare top coaches who freely admits there are more important things in life than football.
When asked how he gets the best out of his team, Veh admits that as a player he was lazy. That helps when getting that extra effort out of players on the big occasion.
Now his future has been settled, Veh needs his team to rekindle their early season form.
Frankfurt need goals urgently. Suddenly there are problems at the other end of the pitch: outstanding goalkeeper Kevin Trapp broke a hand this week in the most bizarre fashion, shooting an advert for TV, so veteran Macedonian Oka Nikolov must stand in for the rest of the season.
This weekend, there is no better chance to turn round the team’s poor form and justify Veh’s decision to stay with The Eagles, with a match against rock bottom Greuther Furth.
Deputy Head, Eurosport2
Eurosport2 has live Bundesliga action on Saturday with Stuttgart v Dortmund (15:30) and Bayern v Hamburg (18:30). On Sunday there’s Wolfsburg v Nuremberg and Furth v Frankfurt. Coverage in North and East Europe only.