When looking for reasons as to why Bremen had their poorest of poor seasons last year, there is one thorn that sticks out more than the rest, namely the side’s inability to keep out goals. It was a recurring theme that cost them dearly throughout the season. A goals-against tally of 66 was just one fewer than relegation play-off survivors 1899 Hoffenheim. This is a statistic that cannot be recreated in this coming season. Before we delve deeper into Bremen’s defensive troubles, here’s a quick overview of the comings and goings throughout the summer of promises to be a season of transition.
Players In: Luca Caldirola (Inter Milan), Nils Petersen (FC Bayern München), Cedrick Makiadi (SC Freiburg)
The signing of Luca Caldirola from Inter Milan during the summer surprised many. After a very impressive U-21 campaign, captaining Italy to the Final; I, among others, expected him to possibly have earned himself a starting spot in what is right now a less than impressive Inter defence. But nevertheless, an impressive signing for Bremen considering where they finished last year’s campaign. He has undoubted talent, but the question of his first-team experience is a worrying one. 29-year old DR Congo international Cedrick Makiadi was a useful player for Bremen manager Dutt at Freiburg and so already possesses the much-needed first-team experience to compete at the highest level. A powerful holding midfielder, Makiadi will bring a different edge to what was a very talented, but slightly timid Bremen midfield last year.
Players Out: Sokratis (Borussia Dortmund), Christian Vander (Retired), Kevin De Bruyne (End of loan)
Immediately by looking at the players Bremen have lost so far this summer, you can see that their two most influential and consistent players during the season have left the club. Sokratis, at 25, was always looking to move up the ranking in his footballing career, and after an impressive season for the Greek centre-back, it was no surprise that Dortmund came calling. The loss of Kevin De Bruyne is probably the most worrying for the club. Such a wonderful player for them last season and no true replacement brought in… the young Belgian has been quoted as saying “I loved my year at Bremen, it taught me a lot about teamwork and sticking together through tough times.”
After sorting out the defence, replacing a player as influential as De Bruyne should probably be priority number one. With such a big factor missing now for Bremen, it left possibly too big of a gap to fill for the team and Dutt may now look to implement a different style of play this coming, one that emphasizes flair less and restore some of the grit and passion the team were known for in the past.
A quick overview of the summer transfers tells me that Bremen have lost their two best players from last season and have replaced them with two players that fit Dutt’s prescribed model. Caldirola and Makiadi will certainly be better suited to Bremen’s style this year but whether they will improve Bremen’s overall squad is another thought to revisit throughout the season.
The loss of talisman Sokratis to BVB has certainly not made Bremen’s task of tightening up the defence any easier. Although the replacement, Luca Caldirola has obvious talent, the vast majority of his playing time has come in the second tier of Italian football. So it begs the question, is his really ready to start in the Bundesliga?
The tarsal fracture suffered by Lukas Schmitz in a friendly against 1860 Munich during the summer, sidelining the starting left-back for around six weeks, hasn’t made life any easier for Dutt in his attempts to create a confident starting defence. Finding the right balance of defensive players and chemistry will be one of the biggest challenges for Dutt early in the season.
New manager, Robin Dutt, formerly of Freiburg, Leverkusen and a technical director for the German FA (DFB), has said that the players haven’t yet recovered from what was a very difficult season last year and that he is continuing to work on getting his concepts across to his players. Dutt replaces long-serving manager Thomas Schaaf. Other than the expectations of filling such big shoes Dutt also faces the challenge of getting his players to buy into his preferred way of playing, which is to press the ball, stay strong through the core of the team and use pace in attacking positions.
That learning curve was very much evident in a disappointing pre-season. The first competitive game for Bremen this season brought nothing but more frustration to their fans. A very unimpressive 3-1 loss away to 3.Liga side 1.FC Saarbruüken in the first round of the DFB Pokal shocked Germany. It was a great chance for Dutt to show the fans that he was taking every game this season with the same determination to win as the last. But to lose in such a manner to 3.Liga side already seemed like a great setback. Bremen’s first five games of the season are as follows:
Matchday 1: Eintracht Bruanschweig (A)
Matchday 2: FC Augsburg (H)
Matchday 3: Borussia Dortmund (A)
Matchday 4: Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)
Matchday 5: Enitracht Frankfurt (H)
Three very tough away games to start for Bremen will provide their squad with a real test. Homes games against Frankfurt and Augsburg could provide the first, and possibly only points accumulated during the first five games of the season.
With a lot of work ahead of Dutt and the club a very long and hard season for the boys at SV Werder Bremen is probably the most realistic prognosis at this stage. Although Caldirola will develop into a more experienced player through the season the 13/14 campaign may come to soon for him to relieve some of the defensive worries plaguing the club. Although Robin Dutt will bring a breath of fresh air to the side, if he can do anything more than manage a mid-table finish with the squad he has, it should count as positive progress. This is the squad Bremen are heading into the season with:
Goalkeepers: Sebastian Mielitz, Raphael Wolf, Richard Strebinger
Defenders: Luca Caldirola, Mateo Pavlovic, Assani Lukimya, Lukas Schmitz, Sebastian Prödl, Theodor Gebre-Selassie, Florian Hartherz
Midfielders: Cedrick Makiadi, Clemens Fritz, Mehmet Ekici, Eljero Elia, Aaron Hunt, Zlato Junuzovic, Aleksander Ignjovski, Felix Kroos, Tom Trybull, Levent Aycicek, Predrag Stevanovic, Ozkan Yildirim, Aleksander Stevanovic, Phillip Bargfrede
Forwards: Marko Arnautovic, Joseph Akpala, Nils Petersen, Johannes Wurtz, Niclas Fülkrug
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