Bundesliga Season Preview: Part Four

  1. Eintracht Frankfurt

When Niko Kovac took over at Frankfurt in 15/16 and somehow saved them from relegation no one really knew how he did it. When Frankfurt were in 3rd or 4th place for a stretch of games no one knew either. When Fabian got injured in the second half of the season Frankfurt stopped creating chances and even with him, they couldn’t stop their downward spiral. It was enough to get to a cup final but in the league, it was a mid table finish.

To not let this second half happen again, Frankfurt spent some money. They had to let go of Vallejo who returned to Real Madrid, Oczipka who left for Schalke and Seferovic who left for Benfica. In came players like Sebastian Haller (23), Jetro Willems (23), Simon Falette (25), Daichi Kamada (20) and Danny da Costa (25). There were a few other signings but these already have an obvious pattern: Frankfurt always look for value and cheap signings and thus end up with a squad made out of players from all sorts of nations. It’s a high risk/high reward game and it requires the club to restructure their squad every single season because they are framing themselves as a stepping stone club that also operates with 3-5 loans every season.

Just like last season, it is probably the right thing to be pessimistic about Frankfurt’s changes but these risks backfire more often than they do work out. That being said, their chances to stay in the Bundesliga are still good but they will likely be involved in a relegation battle.

Main Questions: How fast can the Frankfurt squad turn into a cohesive unit? Will the negative trend from last year continue?

  1. Mainz 05

Mainz has a great history of “making” their own managers. Both Klopp and Tuchel came from inside the club and so did Schmidt. The same applies to Schmidt and new head coach Sandro Schwarz also fits into that mould having coached the U19s and the II. team before. Last season Mainz narrowly avoided relegation after a bad second half of the season that was partially down to the sale of Yunus Malli who was not replaced properly.

This summer started with another the big sale. Jhon Cordoba left to replace Anthony Modeste at Köln. In came Abdou Diallo (21), Alexandru Maxim (26), Viktor Fischer (23), Rene Adler (32) and Kenan Kodro (23) with the latter being the “replacement” for Cordoba. Mainz have always been a stepping stone club that signs players who either didn’t make it at other clubs or who are still very young to then sell them. It’s a good business model if it works and Heidel made it work well for several years. But Heidel left in 2016 and Rouven Schröder hasn’t proven that he can do the same just yet.  

This season is probably one of more important in recent Mainz history. There are no clear relegation favourites and they are one of the poorest teams in the league. Staying up this year is obviously as important as it is any year but it also hasn’t been as hard in recent history.

Main questions: How much is Cordoba’s loss going to be affecting Mainz? How long will Mainz be involved in a relegation battle? Is Viktor Fischer’s career finally going to kick off?

  1.  Hamburger SV

I thought about this or a long time. But realistically Hamburg is going to be involved in another relegation battle so making the HSV 16th-Joke felt obvious. Last season they somehow managed to get out of the relegation play-off spot thanks to a last minute goal on MD33 and a late goal on MD34.

Another summer has gone and like always the Hamburg board goes into the season with the goal of a mid table finish. Like always Hamburg have spent more money than everyone else down there, signing André Hahn (26), Julian Pollersbeck (22) and Rick van Drongdelen (18) for a combined 12.5 million € and making the Papadopoulos deal permanent for another 6.5 with the only big out being Michael Gregortisch who leaves for Augsburg. That being said, there are still some issues in the squad that need to be addressed. Hamburg needs an upgrade on Douglas Santos at left back, the central midfield department is as bad as ever and the depth behind injury prone Papadopoulos leaves much to be desired.

Lots is gonna be about if the wide attackers Kostic and Müller are going to have good seasons because they are most likely Hamburg’s best players. If they do, Hamburg can stay up either directly or just whip the 2. Bundesliga team like practically every Bundesliga has done.

Main questions: Can Hamburg avoid major injuries in low depth areas? How is Markus Gisdol going to perform in his first full season in charge of Hamburg? 16th?

  1. Hannover 96

Breitenreiter and Heldt. Last time these two worked together, Schalke finished 5th with one of the best squads they have had in the last years. After they managed to secure promotion with what was a lower end Bundesliga budget, things got weird. First of all there is still the hassle between the members and Martin Kind regarding the buyout of the club but the dealings in the transfer markets haven’t been good either.

No player of significance left the club but all of the signings are low end Bundesliga quality players including Julian Korb (25), Michael Esser (29), Pirmin Schwegler (30) and Matthias Ostrzolek (27) whilst only spending 5 million € in transfer fees. Even for a newly promoted team, this is not a lot of money. Right now this leaves Hannover with a low end Bundesliga squad despite having the potential of being a mid table team like they have been in the past thanks to the big stadium and the backing of Martin Kind. But to fulfill that potential you have to establish yourself as a Bundesliga team first and with the current squad, this is going to be an uphill battle. Apart from a few miraculous promotions, Breitenreiter hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he can turn a low-quality team into a team that stays in a league. When he faced the same situation with Paderborn the team did indeed get relegated.

Hannover are likely to bring one or two players in before the window closes but it’s questionable if that will be enough to lift the squad level out of the relegation places.

Main questions: Can Breitenreiter work magic he couldn’t at Paderborn? Is Eugen Polanski going to rekindle his career? Can Hannover avoid a catastrophic season like the 15/16 one?

  1. FC Augsburg

It sounds a bit weird but 17/18 marks Augsburg’s 7th consecutive Bundesliga season. In that sense they are one of the more established teams in the league and people assuming that they will finish at the bottom of the league is probably nothing new considering their financial resources or lack thereof.

Prior to this season, Augsburg had to let go of some cherished players like Kohr, Bobadilla, and Verhaegh, spending most of the money on Michael Gregerotisch (23) who hasn’t really impressed at Hamburg. They also took a bit of a risk signing Sergio Cordova (19), a right winger from Columbia. It’s the free transfers that show Augsburg’s real level: Rani Khedira (23) from Leipzig and Darmstadt’s resident pace wizard Marcel Heller (31). Both probably not players for a team that wants to stay in the Bundesliga. Now they’re about to lose Kostas Staflydis and the left back is probably their best defender. There will most likely be a replacement but nothing as of yet.

There are also doubts regarding manager Michael Baum. When he took over last season Augsburg were in a decent spot and didn’t have much to do with a relegation battle. Baum wanted his team to play more proactive and since – apart from Daniel Baier – the player material isn’t made for that the results weren’t very good. When Augsburg needed a few points from the last four games, Baum decided to just go full defensive mode and it ended up working but that’s obviously not something you can do over a whole season.

Questions: How will Augsburg replace Staflydis? Can Manuel Baum prove that he is a manager or is he more likely to win the sack race?

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