Checking in with Eintract Frankfurt heading into the Rückrunde

Once Thomas Schaaf ended his one-year hiatus from football to become the new manager of Eintracht Frankfurt, there was little doubt that Commerzbank Arena would become the place to see goals this season. The Eagles have carved out a reputation as the league’s free-scoring side, while also being too generous on the other end of the pitch. As the table currently reads, Eintracht are sitting right in the middle of the pack (ninth), with a goal difference of precisely zero, having scored and conceded 34 goals; on average, that’s two per game on each side of the ledger.

High-Scoring Matches

It may not be as momentous as will be his first return to Weserstadion — a place where he stayed for a remarkable 41 years — but Thomas Schaaff’s first match as the manager of Werder Bremen’s opponent was the headline of match day 14. On the pitch, it was a match that showcased the end-to-end nature of Bundesliga, with seven goals scored, in addition to numerous exciting moments in front of the goal mouth, including four attempts striking the woodwork. Despite an equalizer against the run of play from Werder at the stroke of halftime, Eintracht controlled the proceedings after the break to salvage a very comfortable 5-2 victory.

Remarkably, that match was only tied for third high-scoring match of the Hinrunde. Frankfurt, though, were also the hosts in the top two. They ended up collecting but a single point at home against relegation-threatened VFB Stuttgart and Hertha Berlin sides, but with the ball picked out of the net 17 times between the two matches, it’d be hard to find a SGE fan moaning about lack of excitement.

Attacking Prowess

Nearly half Eintracht Frankfurt’s goals have come courtesy of the partnership of club icon Alex Meier and new signing Haris Seferović. The former leads the league’s goal-scorers chart with 13, despite early doubts whether he would adapt to Schaaf’s philosophy and be able to continue to lead the Frankfurt attack in his eleventh season at the club, as he compiled less than an hour of playing time from the first three league outings under new leadership.

Kevin Trapp, who was handed the captain’s armband before the season start, also hinted the Fußballgott might not be in Thomas Schaff’s plans for the season. But since the mid-September 2:2 at Schalke, there has no looking back for the tall striker. He has started every league game since. After Trapp sustained a 2014-ending injury in match day five at Mainz, Meier even ascended to the captaincy.

His injury-time brace to salvage an improbable point for the Eagles in that remarkable draw against Hertha Berlin stands out as a defining performance for Meier, as the guests’ defense found it hard to contend with his aerial ability and finishing instinct.

Haris Seferović was also played a huge part in turning the Berlin match, in which Eintracht spotted their guests an early three-goal advantage, with a goal and an assist. With the experience under his belt from prior stints in Italy and Spain, as well as a decent World Cup in the summer, the Swiss striker didn’t waste any time in beginning to shine in his new surroundings. His solitary strike proved to be the difference against Freiburg in an opening day win. His work rate is never in doubt, and it is hard to believe he never played alongside Alex Meier before this season, as his two pin-point deliveries for his strike partner against Köln showed perfect understanding between the duo.

Down the wings, Stefan Aigner and Takashi Inui have been the perfect players Schaff’s playing style. The duo have already combined for five goals and seven assists.

Lucas Piazon probably scored one of the best free-kick goals of the season, when he lashed home an absolute belter against Hamburg. The Chelsea loanee is around the corner whenever needed to add further flair in the attacking play.

Further good news is Marc Stendera, 19, who seems to have totally put his long-term injury behind him to play some fantastic football in the later stage of the Hinrunde.

Essentially, Schaaf’s system has revealed that Eintracht Frankfurt possesses an exciting attacking unit combining experienced guys with huge prospects.

Defensive Holes

Non-stop scoring was never the sole identity of Thomas Schaff’s Werder Bremen tenure, as his attacking way of play left plenty of rooms for end-to-end and high-scoring matches. It’s been the same at Frankfurt, despite some defensive reinforcement in the off-season, especially that of Makoto Hasebe, who arrived from relegated Nürnberg. Hasebe has tones of experience and is one of the most reliable defensive midfielders in the league. Even so, his strong showing in the Hinrunde couldn’t stop Eintracht Frankfurt from conceding at a rate of two goals per game.

Defensive woes are not new to Frankfurt this season, though, as they had also struggled under the guidance of Armin Veh. Surprisingly enough, none of the four defenders in the squad – Marco Russ, Anderson Bamba, Alex Madlung, and Carlos Zambrano – are considered good with their positional play and composure. With Bastian Oczipka and Timothy Chandler (or Aleksandar Ignjovski) joining every attack with overlapping runs, it’s a normal occurrence to see the Eagles caught out in breaks.

The defense was not helped by Trapp’s injury, of course. The club was forced to sign unemployed Timo Hilderbrand to back-up the inexperienced Felix Wiedwald who had ascended to first-choice keeper. Hildebrand was called to action at the end of 2014, as Wiedwald missed the final three games of the Hinrunde due to injury. Hildebrand’s trio of performances included a showdown against his old club Hoffenheim, a match which ended in a defeat for Eintracht in a five-goal thriller, no surprise considering the attacking philosophies of the two sides.

All in all, their tendency to allow too many goals – only Hertha (35) and Bremen (39) have conceded more so far – will likely not create relegation concerns as long as they are firing on all cylinders upfront. It was never ideal to lose Armin Veh after he led them into Europa League, but they found a perfect replacement in form of Thomas Schaff, as they emerged as an undeniably entertaining side. They also had to fill gaps left by the departure of regulars Pirmin Schwegler, Joselu, and Sebastian Jung, but have done so admirably, as they have more than enough squad depth to deal with league competition.

Turnaround of Form

In the wake of Thomas Muller’s hat-trick in a comprehensive win for Bayern München in Frankfurt, die Adler were spiralling in the wrong direction, as it marked their fourth league defeat in a row. So it was no secret which team emerged as the favorites when they met ‘Gladbach in league action away from home, but it was a start of a renaissance for the struggling guests, as they come back from an early deficit to produce a deserved win and end the losing streak. They have lost only one match since.

There was a match in which Thomas Schaff played a tactical battle (and prevailed) at Hamburg to frustrate the Red Shorts, who were searching for their first goal of the season at the time. But since player have gotten used to the system, it’s hard to deny that Eintracht Frankfurt are the team of the hour for entertaining football.

As for results, they are only three points shy from the return to a continental football. Then again, they are also only six points separated from the relegation playoff place. It’s all to play for in the second half of the season for the traditional club, and it should be interesting to see where their all-attack strategy leave them at the end of the season.

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical differences, he's interested in every detail of German football, if not any kind of football. Wolfsburg's industrious away win at Hamburg started his Bundesliga obsession back in 2005. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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