“Now begins the battle against relegation”, was amongst the most widely used comments made after FC Augsburg managed to become the 51st team to grace the Bundesliga. A quick look at the team and its’ squad reveals just how true this comment really is.
85 minutes had gone, and Augsburg were still chasing the goal that would send them to the Bundesliga. Securing second place in the 2. Bundesliga, and avoiding last season’s heartbreak when the team lost against FC Nürnberg in their promotion play off was the team’s primary interest this time around. Suddenly, Stephan Hain found himself alone with the ball 2 meters in front of goal, and easily netted the goal that got Augsburg promoted. Scenes of incredible joy broke out, and arguably the most impressive pile on in 2. Bundesliga history commenced. Even coach Jos Luhukay found it hard to contain himself and ran down the entire length of the pitch to join in. That was the moment that clinched Augsburg their historic promotion but what are the finer details to this Bavarian success story?
Tactical Set up and Personnel
How exactly did Augsburg manager Jos Luhukay manage his side to promotion this season? Let’s take a closer look at Augsburg’s tactical set up.
Bundesliga followers won’t have any problems recognizing Simon Jentzsch’s name. The former 1860 Munich and Wolfsburg keeper has 241 Bundesliga appearances to his name, and is known to be a formidable keeper. Good shot stopping abilities, and a cool head are some of the best qualities the 1meter 95cm man brings with him and with his experience Augsburg have a seasoned and reliable man in the net.
Luhukay plays usually with 4 defenders at the back, with the two fullbacks in attacking mode. Anybody who has seen Augsburg in action this season will have noted that the fullbacks and the right and left midfielders often alternate positions, creating an unpredictable element to the Augsburg attack. The fullback positions are usually filled by Canadian international Marcel de Jong on the left, and Paul Verhaegh on the right. Augsburg’s width has been one of their key strengths.
The centre of defense this season has mainly consisted of former Rostock player Uwe Möhrle and Gibril Sankoh. The latter is a ball playing centre back, who is able to initiate attacks after gaining possession and is key in Augsburg’s build up play. Both defenders are good in the air, and Möhrle in particular is difficult to beat in an one-on-one situation. However, Möhrle isn’t the quickest defender anymore, while Sankoh in some situations lacks composure and coolness, which could both be exploited by the Bundesliga’s more dynamic attacking players.
Luhukay plays with 4 midfielders, two more traditional wingers, and two central midfielders who take turns as holding midfielders as the attack evolves. In the second half of the season Luhukay has mostly used Ndjeng and Bellinghausen on the wings, and Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker and Lukas Sinkiewicz in the centre of midfield. All in all their midfield is a potent mix, with two talented wingers, who combine speed with an enormous amount of technical ability, and two central midfielders who are very capable of going switching between defense and attack. Callsen-Bracker and Sinkiewicz both have experience playing in defense, which adds to the stability of the team and allows their wide players to focus more on attack.
Augsburg usually play with two forwards. Luhukay has usually put his trust into Rafael, and either added Thurk or Oehrl into that equation. Rafael is definitely amongst the most exciting players in the 2. Bundesliga and has been a standout throughout the season. He combines speed, a clinical finish and boatloads of technical ability and has been a handful for most defenders in the 2. Bundesliga. As is the case with every promoted side, they will have to score goals if they want to stay up and all eyes are on Rafael to deliver for Augsburg.
How will the team fare in the Bundesliga?
With Möhrle’s lack of speed at the back, and two fullbacks that are always willing to go forward no matter what, Augsburg will find it difficult to defend in the Bundesliga. A weakened defense is the crux of many newly promoted sides and Augsburg definitely seem to present that challenge as well.
Both of Augsburg’s wingers will face much tougher fullbacks in the Bundesliga, while the central midfielders lack the pace to keep up with the toughest midfielders and attackers in the league. With more sides in the first division pressing off the ball and high up the pitch Augsburg could struggle to play their natural game.
It is difficult to see how Oehrl and Thurk will find the net as often as they did in the 2. Bundesliga. Rafael will fare better, but he will also have a tough time competing at the highest level and against much better drilled defenses.
“Now starts the battle against relegation” is an apt picture of what Augsburg are going to face next season. The team has to strengthen its squad in several key positions if they want to survive. One central defender, and a more experienced fullback on either side are the minimum requirements. Furthermore, the team should also pair Rafael with a more vicious striker to share the scoring and to relive the pressure on the star striker.
In any case, it is rather difficult to see how Augsburg could survive in the Bundesliga at this point. Having said that, there is still plenty of time to strengthen the team during the summer and the Bundesliga is known for its upsets. In conclusion, Augsburg and their fans are facing a tough season, and the team must improve if they want to avoid relegation next season.
What do you think? Will Augsburg survive their first ever season in the Bundesliga? Leave a comment below.
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