VFL go into the international break in relaxed mood. A fine left-foot shot from striker Lukas Hinterseer with two minutes to play secured a 3-2 home win against Dynamo Dresden last Sunday and the first victory for Bochum on the fourth matchday of the current season. That Should certainly have improved the mood of new coach Ismail Atalan. At the same time, his team still needs to improve: The club from the Ruhr are 12th in the table on four points.
It was an unusual moment for the management on Castroper Straße to choose to part company with head coach Gertjan Verbeek: The strident Dutchman was dismissed in the middle of pre-season and replaced by Ismail Atalan from third division Sportfreunde Lotte. The 37-year-old's 'new' team is virtually unchanged from last season: Only two regular first choices have left the club while the attack has been strengthened – in Lukas Hinterseer and Dimitrios Diamantakos, VfL have signed two strikers with experience as pros in Germany. And there is another newcomer well known at Bayer 04: Robbie Kruse, who was still with the Werkself at the start of the year, joined the VfL attack force in July. However, he is currently away with the Australia national team and is therefore unavailable for a reunion with his old team-mates.
Just two and a half weeks separated the appointment of Atalan and the first game of the season against St. Pauli. It is clear that the team still has problems implementing the playing philosophy of the German-Kurdish coach. That has been made more difficult by a conversion rate that saw room for improvement – before Hinterseer's goal against Dresden, all VfL goals had been scored by defenders.
Since the first promotion to the Bundesliga in 1971, VfL had always succeeded in returning to the top flight in the first year after relegation. The club has now been in the second division for the last seven years. 2010 was the last time Bundesliga football was played in Bochum. The coach back then was Heiko Herrlich. The current Bayer 04 head coach managed Bochum in the 2009/2010 season. That was the first time the now 45-year-old head coach the team in Germany's top division. The club are aiming to return there over the medium term.
Given the strength of the competition and the rather bumpy start to the season it is unlikely there will be a return to the top flight for next season. The quality of the squad is, without doubt, above the average in the second division. It is up to Atalan to turn potential into points to be in with a shout of promotion to the Bundesliga.
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