Werder Bremen 2016 Hinrunde review


Photo Credit: Source: Stuart Franklin/Bongarts–Zimbio

Most fans of Werder Bremen were just hoping for a better start, so that this season would not be quite as “exciting” as the end of last season, where staying up wasn’t decided until the end of the final game. Yet, what they endured was much the same of the past few years.

The chaos started not long after the final whistle of last season.  The club needed to go through changes, but it became a battle of whose philosophy was it going to be. Thomas Eichin wanted to get a new coach to start fresh, after already agreeing to some signings that would take place in the summer (Petsos, Kainz, Eilers, Thy), many who thought they would add depth, others felt they were signings of a team that would play in the 2nd division.

Board members along the Weser River saw it otherwise, they sided with the coach Victor Skripnik and decided to let Eichin go, as the change. Eventually they signed up former Werder player Frank Bauman as the new Sporting Director, so right or wrong, the Werder Family got tighter and voices from outside are who would come to control the club, as well as some new members of the board.

So the rebuild would begin.

As the season began…well it didn’t take long to know, it was going to be another struggle for the “Green and Whites”.  Before the season even began, Werder lost in the first round of the DFB Pokal to 3rd division club Lotte.  While no one saw them going to Munich to win, what did happen was a team that looked completely unprepared and unqualified to be in the Bundesliga thrashed 6-0 by the Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. They would go on to not have any points until the final week of September, which also happened after firing Victor Skripnik and U-23 Coach Alexander Nouri took over.

So what made this all too familiar a start to the season so bad?  Well it seems to be the same old story for Werder, questionable tactics, leaky defense and injuries, injuries, injuries.

The signings, especially after Baumann took over shifted to the defense was the area he brought players in to hopefully shore up the continued leaky defense. Losing both Center Back’s to transfer and a loan return, Werder brought in Diagne, Sane, Moisander, Bauer as well as a loan return of Luca Caldriola…this was met with mixed success.  The beginning of the season they looked like a group of un-coached amateur’s playing in a beer league against top competition…it was tough to watch. Unfamiliar with each other, out of place and quite simply embarrassing on so many levels. Factor into that Luca Caldirola broke his leg and people were in full panic mode.  There were times that Felix Weidwald was lost and out of place…again…other times you wondered was he just taking so many shots on, eventually quite a few goals would be let in.

Then the injuries, that have plagued the club kept up pace at the beginning of the year. To put this in perspective, only two players were in the starting lineup of both week 1 and the final match before the Winter break (Bauer and Sane). Key players like new signee Kruse, Pizarro, Bartels, Garcia, Caldirola all are hurt or spend significant time getting healthy.  This contributed to the disaster beginning.

Once Skripnik was fired and Nouri was brought in it seemed the fortunes on all of these fronts began to turn…for the better. By winter break, it seemed Bremen found a new tactical system a modified 3-5-2, as well as the play in the center of Sane, Moisander as well as in front of them of Fritz and Bargfrede (when he finally returned from injury), began to find a rhythm.  Robert Bauer’s solid play on the right side of the defense even displace longtime starter Theodore Gebre-Selassie to coming off the bench. Then slowly but surely the team got healthy and began to assert themselves.  So much that the final third of their games Bremen did not lose a match.

This puts Werder Bremen at 16 points and in 15th place in the Bundesliga, 3 points ahead of the relegation playoff spot and 5 points behind ninth  place.  While fortunes have seemed to turn positive as of late, what will the New Year bring? Many fear…here we go again.  To end the Hinrunde Bremen play Dortmund, then face Bayern, for many not allowing points until February. If they are beaten badly does it send the club into chaos again or can they gain a foothold and continue to improve?

Some of the problems and eventually the better form of the club will be the key answers.  The longer Pizarro, Kruse, Bartels Gnabry play with each other up top, it would seem they would get better, though many are concerned that Pizarro still doesn’t have a goal, though he didn’t play until the very end of October. Does this new system of Alexander Nouri have the players to be successful long term? Will the defense which has let 34 goals in (though only 5 in their last five matches), continue to find its form, or revert back to the position of the past.

Werder Bremen have also not done themselves any favor’s by losing to far too many teams that on paper, they should beat if they are to stay up. (Losses to Augsburg, Mainz, Freiburg, Frankfurt while not beating Darmstadt, Hamburg)

Before we look ahead, a few items to wrap up:

Worst Signing: Fallou Diagne (In attempt to sign a CB to replace Vestergaard, he was awful, now doesn’t even play often for the 3rd division team.) (honorable mention: Thanos Petsos)

Best Signing: Serge Gnabry (This is easy, in fact for the price, he may be one of the best signings of the whole Bundesliga, thanks Arsenal) (honorable mention: Robert Bauer, he has been unsung, but has become very solid and might be a fixture for a while at RB)

Worst Moment: There were many but I am going to go with the loss to Sportfreunde Lotte. This was an omen of a horrible start. (Honorable mention: Mainz, while they played well…they gave up 2 goals (87th and 92nd min to lose 1-2)

Best Moment: Probably beating a very in form third place Hertha Berlin at the Olympia Stadion, not many gave them a chance in this but they played their best game and it was even their first clean sheet of the season 1-0.  (honorable mention: the final match, after conceding early, they clearly kept going and going, while getting a late goal against a though Hoffenheim club.)

Best Player: Serge Gnabry, he has established himself as an impact player, garnering a lot of interest already from other big clubs.

As Bremen begin their winter training, a few more questions remain.  Can USMNT Aron Johannsson get healthy and contribute, or will he continue to fall further behind in his development?  Will they be able to stay healthy? With late positive form, continuity could be key for this club. They early part of 2017 will be key, after Dortmund and Bayern, it will be a stretch they will want to have positive results from, I won’t want to be going into the final few weeks of the  year again needing points, considering they will end with Hoffenheim and Dortmund. This club needs to stop playing scared, knowing they won’t win every game but at times, especially against clubs they should have good results against they played way too careful.   Let’s see if they can be solid mid table…or might this club get relegate?

–I see them finishing around thirteenth place…hopefully.

***P.S. Most Werder Fans are really excited to see Danish/American Thomas Delaney join now and contribute, he was the captain of FC Copenhagen and regular on the Danish National team (The USA reportedly didn’t want him…I think our loss at what I have seen).  He brings a great attitude and experience, even though he just turned 25, he wanted to make the jump to the Bundesliga…keep your tabs on him, who looks to replace Captain Clemens Fritz as he winds his career down.***


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