The Wicky Experiment is over. FC Basel have decided to end the tenure of Raphael Wicky as their manager. The experiment failed and just one year after it’s beginnings, the former reigning champion of Swiss football is in a real sticky situation. I’ve had a lot to say over the past year about FC Basel and Raphael Wicky as he and the club lost their once ironclad grip on Swiss football. The champions, dominant too, for eight seasons in a row, FC Basel haven’t just been dislodged from their perch, they have been grabbed around the throat and thrown down from it. Swiss football isn’t like it was eight years ago and it certainly isn’t like it was at the end of the 16/17 season.
I don’t claim to know everything about Swiss football. I am a relative newbie when it comes to this. As you can find here: (https://wp.me/p6Lci9-8L), I only started following Basel in 2011 and Swiss football as a whole two years later. I am not as well versed on the situation at the club as others may be and I don’t have the access to the news as easily as others, but from my position outside looking in, this is a situation that has been threatened for a while. Perhaps it should’ve happened sooner than it did.
I’m probably not the only one that was surprised or unsure when Raphael Wicky was announced as the replacement for Urs Fischer in 2017. This was a man that had done a reasonable job at youth level with Basel but that is all he had ever coached and the step-up for the 41-year-old was always going to be massive at a club that demands domestic success. It was all change at Basel in general that summer with Bernhard Heusler, the club president, departing after five years. He had been instrumental in the club’s run of title victories and the club thrived financially while he was in the role.
Marco Streller also took up a role at the club as Sporting Director, so yes, this was all very different for FCB. A period of transition was expected but I don’t think many expected Basel to lose their way so spectacularly, I didn’t anyway. As I mentioned, I had my doubts about Wicky throughout the season. This decision by the club only reinforces my opinion that he simply wasn’t cut out for the job and Basel made a wrong turn in appointing him. He was not the sole reason for Basel’s fall from grace but he played a big part in it and perhaps someone else being appointed in 2017 may have seen Basel continue their domination.
It is important to note that Basel lost important players that summer also. Marc Janko and Seydou Doumbia, who had scored many goals in the previous season, both left the club while Matias Delgado decided to retire after only a few games of the season. Those were all big blows to the team. FC Basel are renowned for always being able to replace the quality players they lose with similar quality but that season, they didn’t. It can’t be stressed how detrimental that has been either.
The club brought in Ricky van Wolfswinkel, a well-known player but someone that isn’t going to get the amount of goals they need. He had an injury-hit first season but I don’t think he was or is the answer. Dimitri Oberlin also came in and has shown flashes of what he can do but is still quite raw. Valentin Stocker and Fabian Frei returned to the club in the winter but have failed to make the sort of expected impact while the club also lost two further key players in Renato Steffen and Manuel Akanji to the Bundesliga and the replacement for Akanji, Leo Lacroix on loan, wasn’t up to the same standard.
Albian Ajeti is someone I have championed a lot and he finished as the top scorer in the league last season, he has been one of the only one’s that has delivered as a signing since the 17/18 season and Oberlin at times too. Although Valentin Stocker is slowly finding his feet once again. But in the past, when Steffen, Elyounoussi, Janko, Doumbia and others were all key replacements for players that had gone before them, the same couldn’t be said this time and it hurt Basel. They were still in the title race as the league broke off for the winter break but they had their legs taken away soon after with those next departures.
To be honest though, the squad was still strong. Before winter, after winter. There were players missing but the team, as a whole, were capable of performing a lot better than they did. They were more often laboured, lazy and seemed to lack the determination or any real effort to change their situation. They consistently dropped silly points and were almost resigned to their fate. It wasn’t good enough and as I said, someone else might’ve been able to come in and fix that. A bigger, more respected name. Basel may still have lost the title but I’m convinced that the race would’ve been much closer rather than Basel being delivered their knockout blow in February and March. The trigger should’ve been pulled as the league broke off for the winter break. A new manager with a couple of months to shape his team and make a change but it didn’t happen.
I’m not saying Wicky didn’t have his moments, he did. There were several times that he made me think he had something about him. The performances in the Champions League were fantastic and the club really excelled and also the victory in the last game vs. Young Boys was the best Basel had played all season. Michael Lang was a player that really performed under him last season as did a few others but it was too few. It was clear, to me anyway, that it wasn’t going to work long-term though and it only makes you wonder why Basel waited until the start of the new season to relieve him of his duties and not in May.
It is another poor decision that has affected the club. A club so often noted for it’s good decisions that has helped it dominate and thrive over the years and now it is continually making mistakes and hindering itself. I’m not so sure on the transfer situation there but it seems the manager has less say than ever since the changes at the club. That doesn’t work and the proof is in the pudding with the quality of signings.
FC Basel has been weakened considerably and has much less quality this season than it did last. Elyounoussi, Vaclik and Lang are massive departures and expected and while Omlin and Silvan Widmer should prove good replacements, the squad just isn’t at the level it was a couple of seasons ago. Perhaps whomever they employ next will be able to lift the team and give themselves a chance of winning the title again but the situation looks fairly bleak right now. It is at a point that you question if those behind the scenes really have the best interests of the club at heart. In just over a year, they have allowed Basel to crumble. Poor decisions have been costly.
Last season really irked me. Young Boys were very good, they deserved their title but the truth is, Basel were not broken. They did not need the dramatic change in philosophy that happened last summer and they could’ve continued their dominance but threw their eight-year title run down the toilet for nothing. It is really something that those in charge have to be accounted for. Why is Basel in such a dire position after just one year?
It is imperative Basel make the right choice for manager next and steady the ship. They have a massive European qualifier next week and are already playing catch-up to Young Boys. I’m not sure about totally unproven Alex Frei and a man who struggled at Aarau, Marco Schallibaum, taking the reigns and it again makes you wonder about who is making and why these decisions are being made. The mistakes though, can’t keep being made and the club needs to get back on it’s feet. Some people say it is a good thing for Swiss football and maybe it is. There was real interest in YB toppling the Basel monopoly last year, but to see such mismanagement at the top club in Switzerland is just terrible to see.
Young Boys have taken over the Basel mantle for now and maybe that will continue. Perhaps Basel will win this weekend and secure qualification in the Champions League and all of a sudden things will be rosier. Maybe it was just Wicky but unfortunately, I think the problem is much more deep rooted than that. We shall see.