By Francois Duchateau
Stale Solbakken loves the Premier League and English football, so getting the Wolves job in England will mean a lot to him. He grew up admiring Liverpool, who are his dream club.
His playing career was brought to an abrupt end in 2001 when he suffered a serious heart attack during training while playing for Copenhagen, who he later went on to manage. He often joked that being manager of topsy-turvy club Koln, as he was this year, was not a good idea for someone who has a pacemaker fitted.
Despite ultimately being fired at Koln last month, Solbakken is still respected in Germany. He is known for his brilliant humour as a coach. He did really well in dealing with the heavy media scrutiny at Koln and is always very honest with the press.
He is known for being extremely strict and inflexible with his tactics. He prefers a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 system and will hardly ever vary from having two solid banks of four.
Solbakken's match strategy builds on quick counter-attacks after forcing the opponents into making mistakes. He uses a strict zonal marking policy. Both lines of midfield and defence are very tightly lined up, pressing high up the pitch to try and win the ball or force a mistake.
With his system he was successful at Copenhagen and built up a very strong team over his five years, earning a notable draw against Barcelona in the Champions League.
At Koln, who were relegated this season, though, he did not have the type of players needed to put his ideas into action and was lacking in quality overall, even if Arsenal-bound Lukas Podolski performed well.
|SOLBAKKEN'S CAREER SO FAR
Their relegation was caused by making too many defensive errors, they conceded just too many goals and because they only played one system, their opponents had the formula to exploit their weaknesses the longer Solbakken’s reign went on.
Solbakken is still popular in Koln, even though he made the controversial decision to remove the captain’s armband from star man Podolski. Fans and pundits generally don’t blame him for the club’s struggles, although they do say he was far too stubborn with his tactics.
That popularity is shared by his former charges at Copenhagen, whose fans had a chant "he has no hair, but we don't care" in support of him.
After his successful period at Copenhagen he was up for a new challenge and was initially announced as the new Norway coach. However, before starting the role Koln bought out that contract after Bayer Leverkusen had also showed interest in him. He was signed by Koln sporting director Volker Finke because of his playing philosophy.
He was hugely popular with the players, especially Podolski, who backed him although he took off his captain's armband. Solbakken is a coach that gives the players a lot of freedom away from matches.
They are allowed to sleep at home before home games, for example. It caused some scandals, though, as players like Miso Brecko and Slawomir Peszko made headlines for being drunk and misbehaving. Also there were critical voices saying he trains too little and without enough intensity. He mainly focuses his training on tactics, not so much on physical aspects, an area where Koln were lacking.
He is a huge fan of English football and has the right attitude and humour to be successful in the United Kingdom. It will be important to see how the bond and working relationship between him and the team – whether he clicks with them will be important, as will the amount of time and patience he is given by the club.
His tactical vision is very strict, so it might cause problems in the beginning. If the players - he prefers tall, physical ones like many in England and which he didn’t have in Köln - are willing to go with his vision, he could do very well.
However, if Wolves as a club or the fans are not patient, or there is too little discipline; he might find himself struggling again. An intriguing reign lies in store.