Category Archives: Robin Dutt

The Strange Case of Hanno Balitsch

The last weekend of the Hinrunde in the 2011/2012 Bundesliga season was one of the low points of the last five years for Bayer Leverkusen fans. Floating dangerously between the final European spot and the middle of the pack, the match against FC Nuernberg in the BayArena was supposed to send Leverkusen into the winter break with a victory and an important 3 points. The result was anything but that. Looking timid, tired, and totally out of ideas, Leverkusen had their collective rear-ends handed to them by a Bundesliga team battling to get out of the relegation zone. The mood of the trainer, team, and, most importantly, the fans after the game was a mixture of disbelief, confusion, and cynicism. Already during the game, fans had turned their backs to the embarrassing charade on the pitch and serenaded Robin Dutt and his players with sarcastic chants suggesting the trainer and a large portion of the team might be better off with other clubs.

The shock of finishing the first half of the season so poorly quickly gave way to feelings of anger, however, as Robin Dutt seemed to have taken the fans advice and began to clean house. The first player (and maybe not the last) to feel the wrath of the controversial trainer was Leverkusen’s defensive all-arounder, Hanno Balitsch, who was told that he no longer fit into Dutt’s plans for the team and could begin looking for a new club. Both trainer and player seem to have had a very strained relationship, one that apparently wasn’t helped by the outspoken Balitsch’s suggestions that Dutt’s system wasn’t working or wouldn’t work at Leverkusen. And so it seems the qualities that made Hanno such a fan-favorite, namely his outspoken nature and confrontational spirit, also helped speed up his departure from the club. Those fans who remember how Balitsch arrived at Bayer Leverkusen will also remember that he had a similar run-in at his former club, Hannover 96, with then-coach, Dieter Hecking. I am neither condemning nor condoning Balitsch’s supposed behavior, and at this point what occurred between trainer and player is still unclear, but Dutt’s reaction should be examined.

It’s no secret that Bayer Leverkusen has one of the smallest rosters in the Bundesliga. Add to that the fact that several key players, including Renato Augusto and Tranquilo Barnetta, are only just returning from injury, and Dutt’s release of an experienced and combative defender/midfielder seems, at best, bold. At the very least, Balitsch would have provided depth for a squad sorely in need of players, but for many fans he was also an answer to some of Leverkusen’s problems between defense and midfield. An active Balitsch, for example, could have been played at the RB (right-back) position, where the creative Gonzalo Castro has been marginalized in a limited defensive role. Alternatively, Balitsch’s style could have (and has) worked as a midfield “destroyer,” in which he is responsible for breaking up the opposition’s link-up play between midfield and offense. In short, his ability to play a number of positions like a pitbull should have made him an attractive candidate for more playing time. Dutt, ostensibly with the tacit permission of Rudi Voeller and Wolfgang Holzhaeuser, nevertheless felt Hanno’s worth on the pitch was not worth the headache he caused off of it.

Robin Dutt has made the task of bringing Leverkusen back among the top four Bundesliga clubs that much more difficult for himself. Not only because he removed a player from the roster, but primarily because he has removed a player who had very little to do with Leverkusen’s first-half swoon. Dutt seems to be grasping at straws as he tries to reassert his authority over a team that has seemingly stopped listening to its trainer. Whereas the removal of a player such as Simon Rolfes or Michael Ballack from a position of influence would have made a statement, the dismissal of Hanno Balitsch appears to be spiteful and not a little short-sighted. For the remaining players on the team, Dutt’s move will appear to be retribution for opening one’s mouth against the coach, and one has to question if any trust exists between the two parties anymore. If it does exist, there is a chance that Bayer Leverkusen can find their way back into the top three at the end of the season. If not, then Hanno Balitsch will be one of the lucky ones at the end of the season.

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Listen also to Episode 5 of the Neverkusen Podcast>> Click here


Game Report: Champions League Group E, Fixture 2, Bayer Leverkusen vs KRC Genk 2:0

Bayer Leverkusen beat Belgian champions Genk 2-0 at the BayArena in a sometimes nervy performance to go second in Champions League Group E behind Chelsea and leave Genk at the bottom of the table.

Lars Bender opened the scoring on half an hour, but Leverkusen laboured for long periods and only put the game to bed in the final minutes as substitute Michael Ballack scored with a deflected effort.

Genk had their chances, particularly through set pieces and can consider themselves unfortunate not to have grabbed a point.

The first half was dominated by Leverkusen, though there were brief pockets of Genk pressure, and it was they who created the first chance after a quarter of an hour. Leverkusen would struggle with set pieces all half and this was the first as Jeroen Simaeys headed over at the far post from the first corner of the match.

Andre Schurrle was involved in everything for Leverkusen and it was he a minute later who sliced a golden opportunity miles over the bar from 10 yards after being teed up by Sidney Sam.

Leverkusen looked to be running short on ideas until Bender grabbed the breakthrough. When Stefan Kiessling was tackled after trying to turn in the box, the ball fell to the young German, who hit a first time effort from a tight angle past the lunge of Laszlo Koteles and into the far corner.

A couple of efforts from the edge of the area went close for Leverkusen, the second a shot from Renato Augusto that was acrobatically palmed behind by Koteles. Genk had one further half chance following another corner to the far post, but it went the same way as the other, flying wide.

The second half was a bit of a timid affair until the excellent Schurrle almost scored what would have been a memorable solo effort. He jinked in and around four or five Genk challenges and found himself with only the goalkeeper to beat, but his shot flew into the legs of Koteles and away to safety.

Genk created a wonderful opportunity to equalise with 13 minutes to go as Marvin Ogunjimi was presented with a free header with absolutely no one around him. He headed into the ground, taking some pace off the ball, but Bernd Leno still had to pull off an excellent save to tip it around the post.

It was nervy in the last 10 minutes until Ballack settled it. Anele Ngcongca’s header fell onto the chest of the German veteran and his early volley hit off the same man and flew into the far corner.


Reactions after the game

Robin Dutt: “It was an important victory for us. People talked before the match about how we needed to win, but if you come off a run of three defeats in a row nothing is guaranteed.  I saw a good mentality from my team today, even though not everything worked out perfectly, of course.  We sometimes lacked aggression and didn’t apply as much pressure as we should have, but that has something to do with the confidence level after the latest results. The victory nevertheless feels great.”

Michal Kadlec: “Of course we’re happy with the win, especially given that recent weeks have not been easy for us. However, you have to say that there is still a lot of room for improvement.  The performance was a step in the right direction, but the win was the only thing that mattered.  At the end we were trembling, but Bernd Leno parried the header wonderfully. With Michael Ballack’s goal in added time, we were finally able to relax. Lars [Bender] was really happy with his goal and I’ve already asked him where he got his left foot. It doesn’t really matter who scores, though, the main thing is to win in the Champions League.”

Lars Bender: “At Leverkusen, we’re not used to losing three successive games. We absolutely had to win this game and it’s taken a lot of pressure off us. I don’t know why Michal Kadlec said I don’t have a left foot – I don’t score often, but when I do it’s always with my left. For the goal, I didn’t think too much about it, I just hit it and it was a nice strike.  It’s great to be named man of the match, but the win is more important”. Chelsea are the clear favourites in this group and we’re in competition with Valencia for second place. It was a good first step in the right direction and now we have to win at home against Valencia.”

Line-up: Leverkusen vs Genk

Substitutions Leverkusen
65 min. Balitsch for Renato Augusto
80 min. Ballack for Kadlec
90. + 3 min. Derdiyok for Kießling

Substitutions Genk
46 min. Barda for Vossen
69 min. Hyland for Nadson
78 min. Nwanganga for Hubert

Yellow Cards: Kadlec and Toprak (both Leverkusen); Nadson and Pudil (both Genk)

1:0 L. Bender (30 min.)
2:0 Ballack (90. + 2 min.)

Statistics Leverkusen vs Genk
Attempts on target: 5 vs 5
Attempts off target: 11 vs 4
Corners: 7 vs 9
Offsides: 3 vs 2
Fouls committed: 15 vs 18
Possession (%): 62 vs 38

Standings Group E
1 Chelsea FC 4 Points
2 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 3 Points
3 Valencia CF 2 Points
4 KRC Genk 1 Point

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or here>>

Game Report: Bundesliga, Fixture 7, Bayern Munich vs Bayer Leverkusen 3:0

by Patrick1904

It was clear after 20 minutes that Leverkusen would go another year (22) without winning in Munich: Ribery outdrives Youngster Da Costa on the left wing, low cross to unmarked Müller BAM 1:0 (5 min.); Van Buyten hits a powerful free-kick through Leverkusen’s “wall” BAM 2:0 (19 min.)

Our offensive attempts can be best summarized in Kiessling’s innocent shot on goal 11 minutes into the game. Bayer 04’s midfield was more involved in containing ball controlling Bayern then supporting Kiessling in his attempts towards goal. Luckily the Bavarians geared down after their comfortable lead to save energies for their Champions League game next week and only Robben late in the second half used a counter-attack to establish the 3:0 end result.

A complete tactical analysis can be found here:

What did Robin Dutt say after the match? Please fasten your seat-belts!

“The team had big plans for this game. However we received a crushing blow in the initial minutes. Despite this, I need to compliment my players, because they fought well defensively and avoided being slaughtered here today.”

I think it’s time to let other fans speak as you already know my thoughts going into this season.  Here some extracts out of the two major Leverkusen supporter forums which should give you a good idea, how only in a few months everything has been turned upside down:

User Jannes on

“Slowly we are noticing that after Vidal’s and Hyypiä’s exit the squad is just average. Heynckes made public in the press more than a year ago, that the management denied him necessary reinforcements. This made the coach and at the end also Vidal leave. A lot of Bayer fans were just blind to see, including myself,that Jupp wasn’t the bad guy at the end of last season for leaving to Bayern Munich.”

User Viererkette on

“If not now, a radical change of mind takes place in our entire management, we will be heading for horeful times. How should a team, that tomorrow probably find itself in the last third of the table and without a leader return to the first four places? Ballack is ignored, Vidal sold and for Hyypiä no decent substitute was bought. What kind of management is this? And this is not all, let’s see how the Teldafax story will end (possible return of sponsorship payments due to insolvency).

If we mess up Wednesday’s game, we got a real crisis at our doorsteps. The hard work of the last years is threatened to end up with no returns.

In London our technical gifted players showed that they can eat grass and fight aggressively. Only this kind of football will help us in the next weeks. Otherwise a revival of the season 2002/03 (saved from relegation in last fixture) is likely.

Good night!”

User Maulwurf on

“Sorry but it seems a lot here have lost the sense of reality! Could be that many thought we would fight the 1st place, just like Dutt promised. But me and many others agreed that with these centre-backs it would a difficult task. We had a bad start with 3 unnecessary losses (Dresden, Mainz and Cologne), however the realistic Champions League spots are still reachable.

From now on we gotta make the points! With a win against Genk, Wolfsburg and Gladbach the situation will be completely different!

User Shady04 on

It’s time to clean up certain parts of the team, especially Rolfes. It’s not acceptable, that every coach experiences the same problems here with him (criticised Dutt’s tactics on Friday). Heynckes controlled a lot of aspects better, but many fans did not like the way we played.

Dutt has made mistakes, no question. But he is not the problem, it’s the structure and mentality of the team (or parts of it).

User schmidty

“What can a coach do so wrong, that the team abandons him in such a way today?”

Reply User Ansteff

“If you have a look at all the out of place declarations in Interviews/press conferences, you can imagine that he behaves similar internally (Castro will only play in defensive midfield, Ballack and Rolfes cannot be on the pitch at the same time…). Together with the tendency of profiling himself (I’m a derby coach), it’s all very similar at the moment to Labbadia in his best times.

I don’t think he is a bad coach. I do believe that he can help us in the long term. The question is whether too much has gone broken in the first weeks and he can still manage to make a unit out of this team and convince the lads of his tactical ideas. It has to happen quickly, before everything turns very negative.

Regarding cleaning up the squad of bad characters, I do not believe that this troupe is difficult to manage. The 4th and 2nd place of the last two years show that they have quality. There is however a difference when directing SC Freiburg or a top team. Heynckes found the way to have success with this squad. Dutt so far not, let’s hope this changes quickly!

Walter Posner04 on

“The criticism towards coach and players is correct, but at the end the Bayern have achieved what they wanted. They got Heynckes back and consequently made Vidal leave. A functioning team was pulled apart. They can live with the fact that Vidal did not move to Munich, we however not. We still have some great players in the team but the mix is not perfect and the choice of coach seems to have been wrong.”

Line-up: Bayern (top) vs Leverkusen (bottom)

Substitutions Bayern
65 min. Luiz Gustavo for Gomez
78 min. Robben for Kroos
82 min. Alaba for Ribery

Substitutions Leverkusen
65 min. Bellarabi for da Costa
85 min. M. Friedrich for Toprak

Yellow Cards: van Buyten (Bayern); Kießling,Toprak,Reinartz,Sam (all Leverkusen)

1:0 T. Müller (5 min.)
2:0 van Buyten (19 min.)
3:0 Robben (90 min.)

Statistics Bayern vs Leverkusen
Posession: 61 % vs 39 %
Shots: 12 vs 4
Fouls: 11 vs 16
Corners: 4 vs 1
Offsides: 5 vs 0
Distance covered (km): 108 vs 114

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or here>>

Ex-Bayer 04 assistant coach Peter Hermann talking to Rolfes and Kiessling prior to the match

Bayer Fans in Munich

Dutt *uck off, then everything will be good. The first banner of this sort so early in the season. The same group of people probably created the Facebook Page below requesting the dismissal of Robin Dutt

Facebook Page: Robin Dutt Raus.

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Match Preview: Bundesliga, Fixture 5, FC Augsburg vs Bayer Leverkusen

by Patrick1904

Friday, 9/9/2011 @20:30 (GMT+2)

With most fans already looking ahead to Tuesday’s clash against Chelsea, the Werkself is expected to sum 3 points against a team that 99,99% of football experts see without a chance to maintain the division.

Press Conference (Thursday)

Opening statement Robin Dutt: What game do I expect on Friday?  It will be different to the last three.  After the initial defeats against Dresden and Mainz, I had to focus our training session mainly on defensive behaviour given that we were playing 3 quality teams next: Bremen, Stuttgart and Dortmund.  We know of our offensive strength and that we always good for a goal.  So it worked out well at the end.  Against Augsburg, Bayer 04 takes the role of favourite and should have the ball at most times as they are expected to take a defensive approach.  A quick transition from defense into attack will be necessary to find the spaces in their defense.  This is going to require concentration and discipline from my team.

Question: Augsburg has hardly any strikers available: Nando and Oehrl are injured, Thurk suspended by the club.  Only Mölders seems to be the option for the coach, do you expect a very destructive side?

Dutt: Yes Nando picked up an injury in a test game after scoring 2 goals, that’s a tough loss for them.  Though Mölders has been dangerous as only forward in their line-up, especially in counter-attacks.  I don’t expect a completely defensive opponent, but they will surely be cautious going forward.  Augsburg had a bad start, we can therefore also expect some changes and surprises.

Question: Is this Friday game a problem for you or could you work well with the team this week as not many players were absent?

Dutt: Especially Simon Rolfes, André Schürrle and Eren Derdiyok have played a lot of minutes with their national sides.  The players that stayed here, did a great job in the training sessions.  At the moment we have the correct mixture: Fun and at the same time concentration whenever we hit the training pitch.

Question: Leverkusen is going to be very busy with a lot of matches in the next weeks.  Are you looking forward to the participation in the Champions League?

Dutt: We are trying to put that aside until the referee blows the final whistle tomorrow.  Of course given the short time between Augsburg and Chelsea, I have used this break to watch also a few matches of our Champions League rival.  Me and the team are looking forward to measure ourselves against the best sides in Europe.  But at the end, I don’t see much difference in playing against Bayern Munich or now against Chelsea, they are both top teams internationally speaking.  We will go out with the objective to win as in every other game.

Question: Do you a see risk that some of the players are already thinking ahead and underestimating Augsburg?

Dutt: We had little line-up changes in the last weeks.  If it becomes apparent, I am sure to have players who are very keen on playing against Augsburg.  Maintaining the concentration in both competitions is especially important in the upcoming weeks.

Intervention of Gonzalo Castro

“It was a productive week and a half, our training session were filled with intensity.  I think we are well prepared and should travel with the sufficient confidence to Augsburg to grab the 3 points.”

Question: How much confidence has the team gained out of the game against Dortmund, where Bayer 04 clearly dominated the first half?

Castro: A lot!  I think in the first 60 minutes till the red card we contained them very well, Dortmund did not create much danger.  We should have scored two goals but unfortunately they didn’t go down.  After the red card, everything changed. Under the line, it was a great performance which showed that we are able to compete successfully against the best.

Question: It looks like that the right-back position in the German team is still not very defined.  Do you still have the dream of returning to the Nationalmannschaft?

Castro: Of course I maintain this dream, but I think we should be realistic. Bayer 04 comes first, we have now a lot of important matches in the Bundesliga and Champions League. My whole concentration is channeled at that, anything else arrives with strong performances at the club.


With Kadlec suspended for three games and Oczipka doing his first rounds on the training pitch this week following his injury, Castro will take the role of left-back.

Ballack is expected to receive the honor to start against Chelsea, to oil the engine playing in Augsburg would help.

Line-up Augsburg (from Kicker):
Jentzsch-Callsen Bracker,Sankoh,de Roeck,Davids-Hosogai,Sinkala-Bah,Baier,Bellinghausen-Mölders

Comments are welcomed 😉

Match Preview: DFB Pokal, 1st Round, Dynamo Dresden vs Bayer Leverkusen

Saturday, 30/07/2011 @15:30 (GMT+2)

Test games are finally history, the new season is just a few hours away!

Find below an extract of Robin Dutt’s press conference on Thursday:

Question: Have you decided which goalkeeper is going to replace René Adler on Saturday?

Robin Dutt: David Yelldell will be in goal.  It was a very close call influenced by a lot of factors.  One of them, was the choice between short-term (Yelldell) and long-term prospects (Giefer).  At the end we thought it was better to go with the short-term perspective, also hoping that René Adler will return soon to the line-up.  Both goalkeepers showed a similar level in the pre-season, that’s why we had to take into account the experience factor.  David played the entire last season with Duisburg and was also majorily responsible for the run into the Cup final. He did not receive any goal in the test games, although it must be said that Giefer’s received goals cannot be put on the negative side. As said a close call!

Question: Could you please comment on the opponent…

Robin Dutt: On paper there are surely easier match-ups in this first round.  We have seen in their home game against Rostock, that the crowd is very emotional.  Against a Champions League team we can expect the fans to be even more motivated.  Dresden has experienced player such as captain Christian Fiél, Filip Trojan and also speed on the wings with Heller.  Leverkusen will emerge victorious if we manage to put our qualities on the pitch in both defense and offense.  In this competition it’s possible to advance very far, the difference with the Bundesliga is that mistakes are not allowed, everything is decided in one game.  Once you lose, you out.  And like every year a team from the 1.Bundesliga will be eliminated by a lower division side.  We have to make sure that’s it not us.

Question: Mr.Dutt, how close did the team get to your football philosophy during this pre-season?

Robin Dutt: We made some progress over the last week, looking at the game against Genk.  However you cannot expect that everything has been absorbed at this point.  The team’s mentality is already very close to what I expect, in the tactical area there is still work to do.  But my side is at the stage where it should be after a season preparation.

Question: How do you see Ballack’s role regarding Saturday and for the coming weeks?

Robin Dutt: It’s important to bring every player close to their potential.  Michael is in a very good physical condition.  But in central midfield we have 6 great players: Simon Rolfes, Michael Ballack, Gonzalo Castro, Lars Bender, Renato Augusto and I also include Tranquillo Barnetta here.  As coach you cannot do much wrong, they all quality players.  But I will have to communicate a lot, as 3 players are going to be disappointed every matchday to not have made the starting line-up.  This does not exclude anyone.

Question: Closed training sessions are new to us, where will it take place and how secret is it going to be?

Robin Dutt: Either on the training pitch or in the BayArena.  I am surprised about the repercussions of this measure, especially at a time in which tactical innovations are praised so much in the press.  If I let the public watch our specific preparation for the upcoming opponent, I could also simply send my tactics to Thomas Tuchel for the Bundesliga opener and he would give us theirs.  The scouts would have no need to travel.  If we obtain information and try to implement something for an upcoming match, then our game plan needs to be protected.

Question: Can you talk a bit about André Schürrle…

Robin Dutt: He is now in a better shape after an exhaustion dip following the first weeks.  Against Genk he showed his immense qualities, we are currently very happy with him.


I predict this line-up, you can count in 1-2 deviations.

Line-up Dresden (from Kicker):

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Epic Fail in front of goal by Marcel Heller (previous matchday)

Dresden Fans (previous matchday)

Bayer Legend Ulf Kirsten will have a divided heart in this match.  He made his first steps at Dresden and then joined Leverkusen after the Berlin wall came down.  His son Benjamin Kirsten (goalkeeper) currently plays for Dynamo but is injured and therefore out for this game.

As usual we will have the Mundilev Chat during the match. Join, it’s free!

Friendly: Bayer Leverkusen vs Glasgow Rangers 2:0

Leverkusen won 2:0 against the Glasgow Rangers in Telgte, the goals were scored by Barnetta and Ballack.

Hanno Balitsch started as captain, while Michael Ballack took the lead in the 2nd half.  It was a surprise that the reelected Rolfes did not receive the armband when he came in with one hour played.

Barnetta and Schürrle produced a lot of opportunities on the wings for the Werkelf.  The new goalkeeper Yelldell did show some minor insecurities over his 90 minutes spin.  It will be interesting to see how Dutt reacts to Adler’s injury.  I would let Yelldell play the German Cup games and Giefer both Bundesliga and Champions League.  The young german goalkeeper is talented and needs every chance to grow.

Schwaab missed yesterday’s friendly, as he still is suffering from some minor muscular inconveniences that arose in the training camp in Austria.  Why Bastian Oczipka was not called up is not known.

Robin Dutt after the game

“This was probably our best game in this pre-season and better than against Salzburg as the opponent was much stronger today. The only negative aspect was that we should have made more out of our chances. But I am very satisfied, especially about our ball recovery, management of possessions and superiority in the air. It was also positive that despite many substitutions, we kept our organization.”


Ballack for Balitsch (46 min.)
Sam for Schürrle (46 min.)
Kießling for Derdiyok (46 min.)
Rolfes for Renato (61 min.)
M.Friedrich for Reinartz (66 min.)
Da Costa for Bender (76 min.)
Jørgensen for Castro (76 min.)

1:0 Barnetta (13 min.)
2:0 Ballack (78 min. penalty)

Video Highlights:

Champions League Flair in Telgte, population: 19.000

Takko Stadium in Telgte

David Yelldell

Capitano Ballack

More photos @


Results of election for captaincy 2011/12:

1st Captain: Simon Rolfes
2nd Captain: René Adler
Player’s council: The above mentioned + Michael Ballack,Manuel Friedrich and Hanno Balitsch