Ståle Solbakken, many German football fans might have heard the name of FC Copenhagen’s coach, but wouldn’t know what to expect from him. As it turns out, Ståle “Salvatore” Solbakken is amongst the most exciting coaches in Europe right now.
One of the hottest topics of today was FC Köln getting a new coach. As it stands, the honor of coaching the billy goats next season will fall to Norwegian coach Ståle Solbakken. The man who has said that his German is “as good as Trappatoni’s German”(which made him fluent in German according to Hamburg media outlet MoPo) is somebody German football fans have heard a lot about in the last few weeks, but many of them know very little about him.
Long time followers of the Norwegian “Tippeligaen” will remember Solbakken for his efficient playing style in midfield, his vicious and clinical finishes during his time as a HamKam and Lillestrøm player.
The East-Norwegian’s playing days came to an unfortunate end, when his heart stopped for 7 minutes during a match that Solbakken played for FC Copenhagen on March 13th in 2001. The midfielder followed his doctors advice, and ended his playing career after this incidence.
Solbakken’s first station as a coach was HamKam in 2003, where he had played earlier and started his professional career as a footballer. Leading the team to promotion into the Tippeliga(the highest tier in Norwegian football) in his first season. Nine years after the club’s last season in the Tippeliga, HamKam managed to snatch a sensational fifth place finish in their first season in the league since 1995. After another season that ended with a 10th place finish, Solbakken left the club and returned to FC Copenhagen, this time as a coach.
During Solbakken’s tenure at the club Copenhagen have won the Danish championship each season with the exception of their third place finish in 2008. Furthermore, Solbakken was the first coach that has led the club into the Champions League. The best run in the team’s history was achieved this season when the club reached the knock out phase of the competition. However, Copenhagen were knocked out of the Champions League immediately after meeting Chelsea.
Solbakken’s teams usually play in a 4-4-2 formation when entering the pitch. However, what makes life difficult for the other team is how swiftly the sides Solbakken coaches can adapt, and change their formation in a heartbeat. The Norwegian’s game plan takes into consideration a number of possible events during a match, so FC Copenhagen have in the past changed from a 4-4-2, to a 4-2-2-2 and on some occasions even into a 4-5-1.
This in term has caused several coaches in the Danish Superligaen headaches, and breaking down FC Copenhagen has been almost impossible for several Danish sides, while defending against them for 90 minutes is even tougher. Even coaches of Pep Guardiola’s stature have had their trouble winning matches against FC Copenhagen, fielding a sides that were vastly superior to FCC on paper.
All in all a promising signing by FC Köln in my book. Now that Norwegian players like Moa and Håvard Nordtveit have made an impact in the league, it is already time for a Norwegian coach to give it a go in Germany. All that is left to do before signing Solbakken, is to negotiate a fee for him with the Norwegian FA. The fact that Solbakken won’t coach the Norwegian national team might be a big loss for Norway, but in the end it might turn out to be a gain for the Bundesliga.
Read Tim Hill’s tactical analysis of FC Copenhagen to gain more insight into Ståle Solbakken’s playing style: http://timhi.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/fc-københavn-preview/
What do you think? What will Cologne look like under Ståle Solbakken? Leave a comment below.