2. Bundesliga Season Preview: Dynamo Dresden Avoids Last Season’s Relegation Ghost

It’s fair to say that fans of Dynamo Dresden, one of the best-supported clubs outside the top tier in Germany, have very little idea of what to expect from their club this season. An unpredictable club at the best of times, Dresden enter the new season with no fewer than 13 new faces in the squad, as the club looks to recover from an unexpectedly poor season in 2012/13 in which it narrowly escaped relegation via the playoff.

Last Season

During the 2011/12 campaign, Dresden played some of the most exciting football in the league, finishing 9th, thanks to defensive naivety, which unfortunately counterbalanced an excellent attacking unit. However, the club’s fortunes took a turn for the worse in 2012/13. Dynamo’s form under manager Ralf Loose during the Hinrunde seemed to follow a familiar pattern, as Dresden dominated matches in early stages, but failed to capitalize on chances. Dresden’s wastefulness in front of goal led to many points being squandered.

Loose, who had led the club to its most recent highs, contended with injuries to key players, notably Robert Koch and Filip Trojan, as the club entered winter break with just 3 wins in 19 matches and no wins in the last 6. A turgid display at home to Bochum proved to be the final straw and Loose was dismissed. His replacement, Peter Pacult, had coached at the club previously, being at the helm during their last relegation from the 2. Bundesliga.

Initially, Loose’s sacking failed to arrest the slide toward the relegation zone. But as the season drew to a close and Dresden remained in one of the relegation spots, results started to turn around, particularly at home. A 3-2 victory over St. Pauli in April proved to be the turning point, as Dresden fought back down 0-2. Dynamo picked up 13 points from their final 7 games, entering the relegation playoff against VfL Osnabrück in excellent form. Consequently, Dresden proved too strong for their opponents over two legs and secured their spot in 2.Bundesliga for 2013/14.

Transfers and Changes

Despite rumours to the contrary, Peter Pacult will continue as Dynamo coach. He has overseen a summer overhaul at the club with many departures and new faces, similar to the previous two preseasons. Those not at the club next season include: defender/midfielder Florian Jungwirth (VfL Bochum), who had just started to re-establish himself in the first team before leaving this summer as his contract ended; midfielder David Solga (Borussia Dortmund II);  forward/midfielder Tobias Jänicke (SV Wehen Wiesbaden); and defender Cüneyt Köz (Kayserispor).

Among the new arrivals, there is a familiar face in Zlatko Dedic. The 28 year old Slovenian striker rejoins the club for whom he scored 13 league goals during a loan spell two season ago from Bochum. Dedic’s return will boost the club, not least because of their struggles in front of goal during Mickael Poté’s injury towards the end of last season and because of Dedic’s fan-favorite status. The likes of Pavel Fort, who transferred to Slovan Bratislava during the summer, and Tobias Müller, pushed forward from midfield, could not adequately fill the void left by Poté as Dynamo badly lacked strength in depth in front of goal last season. Hopefully, this season will be different with Dedic’s return.

Another new signing, the Croat Adam Susac, has been Pacult’s preferred partner for Romain Brégerie in defense during preseason friendlies. This move allows Anthony Losilla to revert to his preferred midfield position, although the Frenchman excelled when Pacult moved him to centerback last March, which solidified the defense –  indeed, Losilla was included in kicker‘s team of the week for consecutive match days in April.

In total, 13 players have joined the club this summer with 15 leaving. Dresden needed to improve their quality in depth in order to sustain their league position, but the club also needs players who can quickly build chemistry with one another to avoid last season’s near relegation nightmare.

Encouragingly, the core of a strong-looking first-team remains. Pacult is expected to line his side up in a 4-4-2 formation, with Poté and Dedic forming a dangerous front-line. Cristian Fiél, who sustained excellent form throughout Dynamo’s disappointing campaign last time, should partner Losilla in central midfield with Idir Ouali and Trojan on either wing. A largely familiar and settled back line should provide more stability, as Dynamo looks to build on their (surprisingly) competent defensive record from last season. One mystery, however, is ex-captain Robert Koch, who hit such good form in the club’s first season back in 2.Bundesliga that he was touted for a move to the Bundesliga. After recovering from injury, his first-team opportunities have been limited under Pacult thus far.

So if these established players can remain injury-free and in good form, Dynamo have the credentials for a good season, certainly one that should see them stay well away from relegation. In preparation, Pacult’s new squad have had a mixed set of results in pre-season, mixing three victories with a draw against Jahn Regensburg last weekend and a defeat at home to a strong Ajax side in a match marking Dynamo’s 60th anniversary.

DFB Pokal

Ahead of the new season, it’s also important to consider that Dynamo have had much to contend with off the pitch too. The club has been embroiled in appeals and disputes for the second season running. DFB decided to exclude them from the Pokal, a decision which has been upheld this season. Dynamo’s expulsion, due to persistent warnings and a specific incident in a cup match against Hannover last October, generated much debate over the DFB’s harsh punishment and became a catalyst for the wider issues of fan safety in stadiums. It’s fair to say that Dynamo’s large and mostly well-behaved fan-base, who showed during the relegation playoff exactly why German fan culture is currently so revered, are still aggrieved at the perceived unfair treatment by the governing body. The ongoing Sicherheitsdebatte (safety debate) provides a backdrop to these events, as, the safety issue continues to be interesting story to monitor this season, especially given Dynamo’s renowned supporter culture.

For their part, Dynamo are in the process of organizing some potentially lucrative friendlies on cup days with English Premier League side Hull City a possible visitor to the Rudolf-Harbig-Stadion.

Looking Ahead

If we’ve learned anything about Dynamo Dresden since their promotion back into the 2. Bundesliga two years ago, it’s not to make any predictions. A challenge near the top of the table would be unlikely, but not out of reach; another relegation struggle is possible, but eminently avoidable, especially given the return of two reliable strikers and given what we saw in the team’s form at the end of last season; while mid-table is certainly a realistic ambition for Peter Pacult’s side in the months ahead.

This 2. Bundesliga season promises to be one of the most open campaigns for years with few clear front-runners in the promotion race and many teams who will be eyeing up a challenge near the top of the table. Once again, Dynamo Dresden will be one of the most fascinating clubs to follow throughout the campaign.

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Jonathan Lines

Jonathan is a teacher and football writer based in the UK. He writes mostly about German football, with a particular interest in clubs from eastern Germany, past and present. Follow him on twitter @JDL_1989

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