Lions for Lambs: How FCK have imploded this spring
January 9 may be a day FC Copenhagen will lament for a very long time. It was the day they fired Roland Nilsson.
At that point, the Danish champions had only lost three times in 18 games and looked destined to steamroll their way to their fourth title on the trot. But then Nilsson was sacked and the inexperienced sports director, Carsten V Jensen, was installed instead.
Since then, FCK have won just six from 14, with only two wins in their last six. During that time FC Nordsjælland have overturned a six-point deficit to lead by two, and at the time of going to press looked likely to win their first ever Superliga, providing they could beat AC Horsens at home on Wednesday night. FCN have an inferior goal difference so FCK would need to beat Silkeborg at home and hope that FCN fails to win.
Nilsson’s brand of football wasn’t popular with the fans, but many of them are now rueing the change. No more so than last weekend. On Sunday FCK, who won the Danish Cup final last week on Wednesday, lost to FC Midtjylland while FC Nordsjælland beat Brøndby.
A long-range free kick scored on the hour by Danny Olsen was all FCM needed against a lacklustre FCK side. FCN, meanwhile, beat Brøndby 1-0 thanks to a goal by Kasper Lorentzen, himself a former Brøndby player, early in the second half. It was the catalyst for a bizarre moment at Brøndby Stadium as the home fans actually cheered their opponents’ goal. It could very well end up being the strike that means their arch rivals come second this season.
But Kasper Hjulmand, the head coach of FCN, was not ready to pop the champagne just yet.
“The league table can still change many times as there are still lots of minutes to be played and Horsens is playing for third place,” Hjulmand told MetroXpress newspaper. “I think a lot about Horsens, more than anything else. We’ll face them on Wednesday.”
The FCK players were notably disappointed with the uninspired performance against FCM, but midfielder Thomas Kristensen wasn’t ready to give up quite yet.
“It’s very, very disappointing, but we need to look in the mirror,” Kristensen told TV2 Sport. “We have earned just two points from the last few matches and that is not good enough. But there is still one game left, so there is still a chance.”
It would seem that Jensen may not be the messiah he was hailed on that cold January day.
“Roland Nilsson started the season with new players, but was dismissed during the winter break, and Jensen took over,” football pundit Jan Kalborg told DR News. “At the time nobody questioned the decision, but he has not been able to solve the problems.”
And they’re not wrong, because statistically Nilsson had more success than Jensen. In 31 matches, including a failed campaign in Europe, Nilsson’s team scored 1.9 points a game while Jensen’s average is 1.63 points in 19 games.
The real travesty for FCK is that this season’s winners automatically qualify for the 2012-13 Champions League, something that they have contributed to greatly thanks to brilliant results in Europe in recent years.
Instead it looks like FCN will nick the lucrative Champions League wealth, while FCK will have to go through the qualification process, where teams like Feyenoord, Fenerbache, Malaga, Udinese and Lille await. They will all prove to be tougher opposition than FC Midtjylland.
One can almost hear the FCK fans saying: “My kingdom for a Nilsson.”