Summary

  • Ljungberg appointed as Jonker's assistant coach at Wolfsburg.
  • Unproven managers being given a chance to develop in Germany's top flight.
  • Bundesliga coaches have the youngest average age across Europe's top five leagues.

The appointment of Freddie Ljungberg as Wolfsburg's new assistant has underlined a growing tendency in the Bundesliga: giving young coaches a chance to test themselves on the big stage.

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Much has been made this season of the Bundesliga's focus on developing young players, with blossoming talents like Timo Werner and Ousmane Dembele lighting up Germany's top flight on a weekly basis. Yet it is not only on the pitch that youngsters are being given an opportunity to shine.

Watch: Wolfsburg's Borja Mayoral discusses what his team have to do to stay up this season:

Dugouts are becoming increasingly populated with hungry young coaches who are determined to show they have what it takes to succeed in one of the most competitive leagues in world football.

Ljungberg is simply the latest man to enter the fray. The 39-year-old Swede – a two-time English Premier League winner with Arsenal – is preparing to step things up in a big way, trading his role as an U15s coach with the Gunners for the No. 2 job alongside Andries Jonker at the Volkswagen Arena.   

Freddie Ljungberg (r.) leads Wolfsburg's training. © imago / Christian Schroedter

Former Sweden manager Lars Lagerback coached Ljungberg for much of his international career. The 68-year-old, now in charge of Norway, believes the former winger has a bright future in management.

"He has very good football instincts and a good understanding of the game, which is fundamental," Lagerback told Swedish website Fotbollskanalen. "He's had a taste of coaching at Arsenal, and it's great for him to start by going directly to a top club as an assistant. I really think he has the potential to become a good coach." 

Jonker should serve as an interesting role model for Ljungberg. Now 54, the Dutchman got his first taste of the Bundesliga in 2009, as an assistant to compatriot Louis van Gaal at Bayern Munich. He spent three years at the Allianz Arena – briefly taking over as caretaker manager – before becoming Felix Magath's chief assistant at Wolfsburg in 2012. Nearly five years later, he has returned to take over the top job – and Ljungberg may be hoping to follow a similar path.   

Watch: click play on the video below for highlights of Wolfsburg's defeat to Bremen last time out:

A look at the current crop of Bundesliga managers (see below) is ample evidence that age – and by extension, experience – is by no means the most important factor when it comes to selecting a manager. Half of the league's 18 coaches are aged 45 or below, and six of them are enjoying their first stint in charge of a top-flight club.

Hoffenheim's Julian Nagelsmann is the obvious statistical anomaly. At 29, he is younger than many active players, but that hasn't stopped him taking his side from the relegation battle to fourth place in just over a year. After going through the entire Hinrunde unbeaten, Hoffenheim look well-placed to secure a historic first qualification for Europe this season. The club management must be delighted that their shock decision to promote 28-year-old Nagelsmann to head coach in February 2016 has yielded such spectacular results.  

Other clubs have shown similar willingness to put their faith in relatively inexperienced managers. Consider Thomas Tuchel, who had spent a year as Mainz's youth team coach when he was given the top job in 2009, just before his 36th birthday.

Thomas Tuchel has been a success since taking over at Dortmund. © gettyimages

Though he had spent many years coaching behind the scenes at Augsburg, Tuchel still had to prove himself in the hot seat, and he did so with aplomb. In 2010/11, his 05ers kicked off the season with seven straight wins, and eventually finished in a club-record fifth place, earning themselves a spot in the UEFA Europa League.

Tuchel was suddenly attracting a lot of attention from the Bundesliga's big guns, and duly took over as Borussia Dortmund coach in the summer of 2015, following Jürgen Klopp's departure. It was a bold statement. Rather than bringing in an established figure with title-winning experience, one of Germany's biggest clubs chose to appoint one of the country's most exciting young coaches, a man they knew shared their ethos for free-flowing, attacking football.  

Tuchel's team may not quite be the finished article – they have only just managed back-to-back Bundesliga wins for the first time since November – but they have certainly turned a few heads this season. The BVB faithful won't have forgotten the 1-0 win over champions Bayern, or beating Real Madrid to top spot in Champions League Group F – not to mention the incredible 8-4 goalfest against Legia Warsaw.

Watch: click play on the video below for highlights of BVB's win against Freiburg:

Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt are also reaping the benefits of putting their faith in former players Pal Dardai and Niko Kovac, who were teammates together at Hertha for many years.

After hanging up his boots in the capital in 2012, Dardai became part of Hertha's coaching set-up, working his way up to first team manager by 2015. Having flirted with relegation the previous year, Hertha were as high as third midway through Dardai's first season in charge, and eventually finished seventh. This year they are fifth, and very much in the thick of the European battle.

A similar story for Eintracht. Former Croatia captain Kovac has breathed new life into the club since being drafted in late last season, and ensuring Frankfurt's Bundesliga survival with a relegation play-off victory over Nürnberg. The Eagles are soaring once again, with European football very much in their sights and a DFB Cup semi-final to come at the end of April.

Niko Kovac has guided Frankfurt to the last four of the DFB Cup. © gettyimages / Maja Hitij

And it's not just the top sides in the league who are relying on the emerging generation of coaches. Darmstadt, Augsburg and Werder Bremen have all chosen to part ways with their managers this season, replacing them – respectively – with Torsten Frings (40), Manuel Baum (37) and Alexander Nouri (37). None of them had previous experience of managing a top-flight club, and yet they were charged with the task of keeping their teams in the Bundesliga.

It may prove a bridge too far for Frings, whose Darmstadt side are six points adrift at the bottom – but Baum and Nouri are moving in the right direction. Augsburg have won three of their last five outings, which has pushed them up to 13th, while Bremen have just grabbed back-to-back victories over Mainz and Wolfsburg.

That defeat to Bremen was the end of the line for Wolves coach Valerien Ismael, who was dismissed over the weekend. It is now up to Jonker and Ljungberg to get the 2009 champions back on track, starting with Saturday's trip to Mainz on Matchday 23

The two men are certainly preparing to jump in at the deep end. Jonker will be acting as head coach, rather than interim coach, for the first time in his Bundesliga career, while Ljungberg is about to exchange the relative anonymity of coaching U15s for the high-profile assistant role at a major European club.

But they shouldn't worry. They're in good company.

Andy Smith

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It's only a number! The current Bundesliga coaches, from youngest to oldest...

29: Julian Nagelsmann (Hoffenheim)                          

37: Manuel Baum (Augsburg)

37: Alexander Nouri (Werder Bremen)

40: Torsten Frings (Darmstadt)

40: Pal Dardai (Hertha Berlin)

42: Markus Weinzierl (Schalke)

43: Thomas Tuchel (Dortmund)

43: Maik Walpurgis (Ingolstadt)

45: Niko Kovac (Frankfurt)

47: Markus Gisdol (Hamburg)

49: Roger Schmidt (Bayer Leverkusen)

49: Ralph Hasenhüttl (RB Leipzig)

49: Martin Schmidt (Mainz)

50: Peter Stöger (Cologne)

51: Christian Streich (Freiburg)

52: Dieter Hecking (Gladbach)

54: Andries Jonker (Wolfsburg)

57: Carlo Ancelotti (Bayern Munich)

Average age of coaches in Europe's Top 5 leagues

Bundesliga: 45.22 years

La Liga: 49.15 years

Premier League: 50.45 years

Serie A: 51.05 years

Ligue 1: 51.5 years