Season preview – Eintracht Frankfurt – The Eagles have landed

Anybody who has followed Eintracht’s progress over the last few years knows one thing: It never gets boring. This season promises to be no exception.

People who started following the Bundesliga in recent years may think that Eintracht Frankfurt is an elevator team, caught between the Bundesliga and the 2. Bundesliga. The history of the Eagles would suggest that there is a lot more to this club, however. The team has won the DFB Pokal four times, the Uefa Cup once, and participated in one of the greatest European finals of all time, when the team lost to an almighty Real Madrid side 7-3 in 1960.

Having fostered players like Jürgen Gabrowski, Charly Körbl and Andreas Möller adds to the club’s ethos to say the least. Frankfurt have the history and the local fan base of a very successful side, and is additionally placed in the financial capital of Germany. The club’s mismanagement of its resources during the 90s, and the fact that Eintracht somehow hasn’t managed to put all these favorable circumstances that play into the club’s hand to good use, have made the everyday life of an average Eintracht fan frustrating to say the least.

All Eintracht’s fans are hoping for at the moment according to many Frankfurt locals is that the 2011/12 season was the last go around in the 2. Bundesliga for the club. Armin Veh’s men managed to get straight back into the Bundesliga after only spending one year in Germany’s second tier, finishing the season on a decent second spot with 68 points.

The friendlies leading up to the start of the 50th Bundesliga season have given some positive signals, with Eintracht winning 8 of their 9 matches, and drawing once against the Polish side Zaglebie Lubin. Even strong opponents like Valencia and Red Salzburg were sent back home with huge losses in their luggage. The Eagles weak performance against 2. Bundesliga side Erzgebirge Aue in the cup last weekend has given some reason for concern going into the new season, and dampened the enthusiasm of the press and fans alike shortly before the Bundesliga kicks off.

Newcomers – The revolving door policy

In order to gain promotion to the Bundesliga Eintracht brought 11 new players to the club. Many of them have been sold after only one season at the club. Sporting director Bruno Hübner acknowledged that Eintracht’s transfer policy can seem chaotic to many observers, but claimed:

” Different tiers require different types of players. Not every player has grown in terms of class during the last season, and that is perfectly normal.”

Hübner went on saying that he liked Armin Veh’s calm and realistic approach. The former Wolfsburg, Hamburg and Stuttgart manager proved his co-worker wrong, when he loudly demanded a couple of new defenders as quickly as possible a couple of days after Hübner had talked to the good people of the Bild Zeitung.

Veh was granted his wishes in the end. Given that Mo Idrissou, Matthias Lehmann, Thomas Kessler and Gordon Schildenfeld are gone after only one season at the club, Veh’s demands had some root in reality. Amongst the other unwanted players were American Ricardo Clark and Giorgos Tzavelas.

To replace these players 11 new players have been brought to the club. The most notable signings of this transfer window have been Martin Lanig, Bamba Andersson, Vadim Demidov, Takashi Inui, Olivier Occean, Bastian Oczipka, Stefano Celozzi and Kevin Trapp.

This is how Eintracht potentially could line up at the beginning of this Bundesliga season.

New faces, new tactics

Veh chose to play a straight forward 4-4-2 system last season, letting his team play quick and attractive attacking football. Eintracht had managed to keep hold of some of their most vital players after getting relegated, giving the team an edge in terms of quality compared to most other 2. Bundesliga sides. This time around the Eintracht squad isn’t amongst the strongest in the league, and Veh has therefore decided to change his tactics somewhat.

Several observers who have followed the training sessions and Eintracht’s test matches have reported that the team is going to change its formation. The Eagles are from now playing in a 4-2-3-1 line up, like most other Bundesliga sides. Veh has increased the intensity during training, and upped his teams endurance rate. Eintracht are going to concentrate on a new type of pressing game, hoping to secure a place amongst the 15 best teams in the Bundesliga.

Eintracht’s strong sides – A young, and hungry side

The current squad of The Eagles has an average age of 25 years, and makes this team one of the youngest teams that has competed for the club. Holding midfielder Sebastian Rode noted in an interview with the local press that ”a place in the Europa League or Champions League would be nice, Gladbach managed to do so last season as well after all”. Youngsters like Rode or Sebastian Jung(who was heavily linked with AS Roma throughout the summer) are full of confidence, and know where they want to go. Add to that quality players like Pirmin Schwegler, and the newly arrived Takashi Inui, and you have potentially an exciting mix.

Players like Martin Lanig and Kevin Trapp have already shown that they possess the quality to play first tier football in Germany, and both of them are probably hungry to prove a point after getting relegated with their teams from the Bundesliga last season. Experienced players like Benjamin Köhler and Alexander Meier add a certain sense of stability to the side.

Eintracht’s weak sides – Defensive woes for Veh

Eintracht Frankfurt were hoping for Vadim Demidov to be the missing piece in the defensive puzzle. The Norwegian central defender arrived from Real Sociedad after having played 36 matches in La Liga. The 25-year-old hasn’t found his way so far, and has brought uncertainty and clumsy defensive behavior to Eintracht’s back line according to Spox. Bamba Anderson failed to impress as well, and the newly purchased Carlos Zambrano is seemingly the best defender in the Eintracht squad.

Add to that the fact that the newly purchased striker Olivier Occean doesn’t have any Bundesliga experience, and that the rest of the Eintracht striking force doesn’t have an impressive record in the Bundesliga, and you could potentially see another trouble spot for Veh.

Prediction – the relegation dog fights awaits

Taking all the different variables into account, it’d be rather surprising to see Eintracht in the top half of the table at the end of the season. Much depends upon whether or not Veh’s men are able to iron out the defensive weaknesses they have shown going into the season. The Eagles will need to time adapt to the pace of the Bundesliga, and furthermore, the team needs to find itself on the pitch after the heavy transfer activity during the summer. If Eintracht fails to do so, another relegation from the Bundesliga wouldn’t be a surprising outcome.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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