Can Bochum Rise Again?

Any team can beat any other in this year’s 2. Bundesliga. In a context with so much parity, VfL Bochum is a club who particularly suffers. After new/old coach Peter Neururer rescued Bochum from relegation last season with his return to the club, hopes and expectations were high for this season.

Last season was the worst for Bochum since the foundation of the Bundesliga in 1963 and, in addition, several crucial players left the team. First, Leon Goretzka (18), who is considered one of Germany’s top talents, went to Schalke. Despite his young age, he was already a key part of VfL. Also, Christoph Kramer’s (22) loan deal from Leverkusen ended. He had  a major impact on Bochum’s midfield, and his talent is such that he is now playing in Borussia Mönchengladbach’s starting eleven. Marc Rzatkowski (23), who had only ever played for Bochum, also decided to leave the club, making the move to league rival St. Pauli. Furthermore, Zlatko Dedić (28), who always had a rough time in Bochum but was the best scorer, left for Dynamo Dresden.

All in all, sixteen players left the club at the end of last season and twelve new players arrived, as Bochum had no option but to rebuild. Some of the new arrivals have already had an immediate impact on the team, some have the potential to play a bigger role and some have not  really arrived yet.

One of the best players so far is Florian Jungwirth (24). He has quickly developed into the go-to man in Bochum’s midfield. Ken Ilsø (26) is also developing into a key player in Bochum’s forward line. Due to his late arrival at the club shortly before the end of the transfer window, it took him a while to get into it and to know the playing style of his teammates but his brilliant techniques can clearly be seen and he’s quickly improving to keep up with his teammates and showing his classy distribution skills There is certainly high hopes for him at the club, especially since the only attacker in the starting eleven so far, Richard Sukuta-Pasu (23), has had a hard time finding the goal so far.

So far Bochum’s season has been very patchy. After a surprising victory over promotion candidates Union Berlin in the season opener , the crowd was full of expectation for this season. What followed were mediocre matches with mixed results, including a victory against another promotion candidate, Greuther Fürth. However, after that, they lost the next five league games in a row, which ended with a goalless draw against Kaiserslautern and a crucial victory against Energie Cottbus, much needed for the team’s confidence.

The question that remains, though, how can a team that everybody in the league assures to have much higher quality than you would guess by looking at the standings be struggling so much?

Well, one point of course is the massive changes that the Bochum squad has endured. Excepting Yusuke Tasaka (28), the complete Bochum midfield has been reformed with new players and a similar case happened in the forward line. So, of course, it takes time to make all the new players play together well, but this should be no excuse for the more obvious points Bochum are lacking. They are creating chances, even high percentage ones, but are just not finding the net. Especially Sukuta-Pasu, who is running and fighting for two. He holds the ball well and even creates his own chances, but just seems very unlucky with his finishing.

Even more crucial are Bochum’s mistakes in the defense. One thing a lot of fans criticize is that Bochums defence is just too slow in general. Both central defenders improved on avoiding easy turnovers but still have the obvious problem speed deficits. Another big problem are the full-backs. The right side is covered with experienced Paul Freier (34) and the recovering star talent Jan Gyamerah (18). The left side has been  a problem in Bochum for years now. Jonas Acquistapace (24) is helping out as well as he can, but he just seems not to be on top of the situation in this position. All hopes here lies on Felix Bastians (25) who could be back in about two weeks after suffering an ankle injury.

So where does the journey go from here? Today’s victory against 1. FC Köln could point towards a certain direction. Bochum clearly went into the match as the underdogs but were way more confident about getting a good result after their excellent performances against the league’s top sides so far this season and came out with a hard-fought 1-0 victory thanks to a lone second-half goal by Richard Sukuta-Pasu. Bochum avoided  easy mistakes in the opening phase of the match and took all three points, something which will be really important for the fans, the team and the coach. So far, Bochum’s fans have kept supporting the team and Peter Neururer, a fact that cannot be taken for granted as Bochum fans have a reputation for being very impatient.

On the back of this important victory, Bochum can continue strengthening  their confidence for the very important upcoming matches against Bielefeld, 1860 München and Karlsruhe. However, first of all, it’s important that they enjoy the victory and being Köln’s carnival Grinch.

You can also listen to an interview with Ken Ilsø talking about Bochum’s current fortunes in the latest episode of Aufstieg by clicking here.

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Marco was raised in Essen but now lives in Bonn. He is a football enthusiast who went with VfL Bochum through all ups and downs of being a fan. Follow him on twitter under @MarcoVolkmar

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