Season Preview 2015/2016: SC Freiburg

Sport-Club Freiburg e.V.
30 May, 1904
Schwarzwald-Stadion – Capacity 24,000
Red, Black, and White

2014-15 Finishes:

Bundesliga: 17th (7W 13D 14L 34 Pts) Relegated to 2-Bundesliga
DFB Pokal: Quarter-Finals – Lost 0-1 to eventual champions VfL Wolfsburg
Top Goal Scorer: Nils Petersen (9 goals in all competitions)

“The 60-second dossier”

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 5
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 2
Number of Matches drawn: 13
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 8
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 6
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 1 (1-2 to SC Paderborn on match day 31…that was painful.)
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 7(!!)
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 1
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 2

2014-15 Season Summary

The 2014-15 season was, in a word, disappointing and as we know ended with Freiburg’s relegation from the Bundesliga. In an extremely broad sense the contributing factors were twofold: the inability to close out matches and the fact that at any given point in the season there were a slew of injuries throughout the squad.

The details are below but Freiburg had an awfully difficult time holding the lead in matches, especially in the Hinrunde, where the club went winless in their first 9 matches and finished the first half on 15 points and rock bottom of the table. While points are points no matter when you get them in a season needlessly throwing away points early on puts unnecessary pressure on the club to make up ground closer to the end of the season. This pressure was then compounded by the fact that outside of perhaps Bayern and Dortmund, who were truly ravaged by the injury bug during the 2014/2015 season(but nonetheless both clubs had vastly greater budgets and therefore squad depth), the SCF squad was hit with injuries more than most clubs in the Bundesliga and thus the squad was practically never fully fit – Freiburg were also not helped out at all by the wave of flu that hit the surrounding region in January, which caused players to miss matches or not perform on the pitch at full health.

With all that said, one of the club’s main strengths is the ability of the manager to get the most out of the players he has at his disposal, especially the young players – the vast majority of players to suit up for the club in 2014-15 were under the age of 24. Christian Streich is not timid about putting youngsters into positions of responsibility and holding them accountable for their play on the pitch. This allows players to put into practice the manager’s football philosophy and adapt to the professional game perhaps more quickly than if they were mere observers. The drawback is that they are essentially learning on the job and errors, sometimes costly, will occur more frequently. These errors did occur more frequently last season which greatly contributed to the club’s relegation.

What is Freiburg’s playing style then? When he first took over Christian Streich had his club playing a high pressing, counter-attacking style in the vein of Jürgen Klopp’s Dortmund, Thomas Tuchel’s Mainz, and most recently Roger Schmidt’s Leverkusen (although Schmidt takes this perhaps to an extreme level). And the results were incredibly positive as the players bought in which caused the club to punch above their weight. The Freiburg of 2014/15, however, were a shell of their former selves and often times looked like they were playing not to lose as opposed to playing to win. The team lacked creativity in attack, relying less on crisp, quick short passes and more on hoofing long balls out of the defence to the attackers up field, bypassing the midfielders almost entirely. Defensively the team were not terrible but suffered from periodic, and at times severe, lacks of concentration which tended to cost the team dearly and at the worst possible instances.

Relegation to the lower division is going to come with certain setbacks, the worst of which is the departure of key players looking to play their football at the highest possible level. Freiburg’s summer transfer window is a perfect example of this as no fewer than 6 first team calibre players have departed for greener pastures and replacements will have to be found. This is where being a resourceful club with a very strong youth academy system becomes a huge boon and we should expect to see several players from SCF II make the jump to the first team and perhaps make significant contributions in the upcoming season.

Supporters of SC Freiburg understand the club’s status as a yo-yo club and it is probably a fair assumption that they’ll still turn out in droves to support the team. During the relatively disastrous 2014/15 season, the Schwarzwald-Stadion was sold out in 9 of the club’s 17 home matches and the average attendance was 99% of capacity. Of course the primary aim for all involved would be immediate promotion to the Bundesliga, but one gets the feeling that the Freiburg faithful are a patient bunch.

2014-15 Trivia

Christian Streich must have broken a box full of mirrors while walking under a forest of ladders in front of a parade of black cats before the 2014/15 season kicked off. Hypothetically speaking, if matches ended at the 80th minute as opposed to the 90th, Freiburg would have had 9 more points and a +4 to the better in their goal differential. This would have put SCF on 43 points and -7 goals for and against, which would have seen them finish 10th in the league ahead of Werder Bremen and behind 9th place Frankfurt by a single goal! To make matters worse, in 3 of the 4 scoreless draws Freiburg played to, they missed a penalty (Mehmedi vs ‘Gladbach on matchday 2, Darida vs Hamburg on matchday 15, and Schuster vs Schalke on matchday 28). Oh what could have been…

Money Matters

Total € Out: 4.05 M
Nils Petersen – Werder Bremen – €2.80 M
Vincenzo Grifo – Hoffenheim – €1.00 M
Tim Kleindienst – Energie Cottbus – €0.250 M

Total € In: 25.8 M
Admir Mehmedi – Bayer Leverkusen – €8.00 M
Vladimir Darida – Hertha BSC – €3.80 M
Jonathan Schmid – Hoffenheim – €3.70 M
Roman Bürki – Borussia Dortmund – €3.50 M
Oliver Sorg – Hannover 96 – €3.50 M
Felix Klaus – Hannover 96 – €3.00 M
Hendrick Zuck – Eintracht Braunschweig – €0.300 M

Total balance: €21.75 M

The Boss

While the term “miracle worker” might be a bit too hyperbolic to describe Christian Streich there is definitely more than just a hint of truth in it. Since taking over from Marcus Sorg in December of 2011, Streich has made a proper Bundesliga club out of Freiburg in spite of the fact that he’s been operating on a shoestring budget  – at least until the most recent season. Seen as a great teacher and tactician, Streich is no stranger to working with and developing younger players having spent the bulk of his coaching career with the Freiburg U-19 squad and this of course melds perfectly with how Freiburg must exist as a club with any ambition to stay in the top flight. An emotional character on the sidelines (and one who gives a killer post-match interview)  Streich has a fierce loyalty with the club, the fans, and city of Freiburg and this appears to be reciprocated in kind. It would be incredibly difficult to predict him ever leaving the club on his own accord.

Odds to win league:

5/1 – paddypower.com
11/2 – bet365.com
11/2 – williamhill.com

Five-Year Record:

2014-15 Bundesliga – W7 D13 L14 – 34 Pts – 17th (Relegated to 2 Bundesliga)
2013-14 Bundesliga – W9 D9 L16 – 36 Pts – 14th
2012-13 Bundesliga – W14 D9 L11 – 51 Pts – 5th
2011-12 Bundesliga – W10 D10 L14 – 40 Pts – 12th
2010-11 Bundesliga – W13 D5 L16 – 44 Pts – 9th

Questions with a Club Fan:

Many thanks to Chris (@SCF_UK) for taking the time to provide some of his insight!

Who is the player to keep an eye out for this season and why?

Nils Petersen
Nils Petersen

With seven Stammspieler having left the club over the summer, there aren’t too many big name players to single out with the squad mainly being built around youth. The one obvious one however is Nils Petersen, who took a very brave decision to drop down to the 2. Liga. I’m sure we’re paying him fairly handsomely, but he could easily have stayed in the top flight for just as much money, if not more. When so many key players left the club, Petersen signing on a permanent basis was a much-needed boost and hopefully he can replicate his goalscoring antics from the Rückrunde last season. Elsewhere I’m expecting big things from Mats Dæhli, providing he can stay fit. He’s a very technical player and I think he could be highly effective this coming season.

 

Is there a particular terrace favourite amongst the Freiburg faithful?

Petersen has obviously won over pretty much the whole fanbase by putting pen to paper, and there certainly won’t be a shortage of Petersen 18 shirts on the terraces. So much of the starting XI will be entirely new names though, so you can’t necessarily call any of them fan favourites. It was pleasing to see Mensur Mujdza stay on as he has been at the club for some time and provides some continuity. And then on the fringes there’s the lovable lump Karim Guédé. His technical prowess leaves a lot to be desired, but you can never fault his effort and his assist for Petersen’s winning goal against Bayern in the penultimate game of last season will live long in the memory, so it’s a shame it counted for nothing in the end when we got relegated.

Conversely, is there anyone currently on the club that you’d pack up and drive to the first train out of town?

To contradict what I’ve just said, there will no doubt be some fans who would place Big Karim into this category, and although there have been moments where his ‘shall we say’ unique playing style have frustrated me, I still think he’s worth keeping around. There aren’t really any real wasters in the squad, although I’ve been disappointed with the attitude of Marc Torrejon since relegation. As one of the few older players remaining in the squad, he should be setting an example but has come across as if he’d rather be elsewhere. He’s definitely a solid enough central defender at 2. Liga level when he’s committed, but in his current mood I wouldn’t be sad to see him move on.

You’re given an audience with Christian Streich. What’s the one piece of advice you’d give him?

To be more flexible and attacking. Back when we had our near-miss for 4th and qualified for the Europa League, we had a team and a style that featured high intensity pressing but also could counter-attack quickly. Over the course of the last two seasons, we’ve become ever more defensive and it’s been less fun and more frustrating to watch. Christian Streich has openly admitted he’s been more pragmatic to cope with the squad at his disposal, but now we’ve dropped down a division and have a squad filled with young players, I’d like to think we can be more adventurous and rediscover some of our attacking swagger which we seem to have lost.

Any player playing for an opposing club that you secretly (or not so secretly) admire?

I’ll have to be honest and say that having been in the Bundesliga for the last six seasons I haven’t paid that much attention to the 2. Liga. That said, you can’t help but be intimidated by some of the players that RB Leipzig have brought in, even if I massively oppose the way that club is being run. Davie Selke should absolutely tear this division apart, if he feels like it.

Which opposing player fills you with rage whenever he steps on the pitch to play against Freiburg?

Again, many of the players that fit into this category are now playing in a different league to Freiburg, but any player wearing an RB Leipzig shirt is going to be on the receiving end of some whistling from me. So many of them are there for just the money and it’s perhaps because of their mercenary attitude that they failed to go up last season despite their massive budget. And while not a player, I’ll be looking forward to sending some rage in Gertjan Verbeek’s direction when Freiburg face Bochum. Verbeek and Streich have history from a couple of years ago so I’ll be hoping Verbeek has a long hard season

Are there any tips you’d give to folk visiting the Schwarzwald-Stadion? Etiquette tips for away fans?

Where do I start?! Honestly, there is so much to recommend about a trip to Freiburg that I don’t have time to list everything here. It’s such a great place so for those who can, it’s worth spending a few days rather than just coming for the game and getting back on the train home. However, it must be said that the facilities for away fans are very poor. They’re stuck in one corner with a terrible view and until the new stadium is built, away fans don’t have much to enjoy at the stadium itself, which is a shame.

OK get out your crystal ball. Where are Freiburg finishing this year?

I think a lot will depend on how we start and how quickly we gel. Traditionally we’ve been slow starters in recent years but I’m going to let my heart rule my head and say we’ll have a good season and sneak into 2nd place with an automatic return to the Bundesliga. That might be a bit optimistic, but I’d definitely be disappointed if we finish outside of the top six.

Crucial Fixtures Stretch:

It may seem rather lazy to point out the first five fixtures of the season as being crucial but given that in the past few seasons Freiburg has gotten off to horrible starts a strong opening to the 2-Bundesliga campaign is very important. Fortunately for Freiburg, these games appear to be very winnable as they all come against opposition that finished mid-table in the previous season, the exception being 1860 München who barely stayed in the league. Ideally Freiburg would love to run the table in these games but a 3-1-1 record would definitely not be sneered at.

27-07-2015 vs 1 FC Nürnberg (H)
01-08-2015 vs 1860 München (A)
15-08-2015 vs VfL Bochum (H)
22-08-2015 vs Fortuna Düsseldorf (A)
28-08-2015 vs SV Sandhausen (H)

Verdict

In reality, Freiburg are on paper one of the premier teams in the 2-Bundesliga and therefore they should be considered strong title contenders to say nothing of finishing in the top 3. The squad, while drastically depleted of its core, still has in it a good number of Bundesliga quality players and that is definitely more than can be said for much of the opposition they’ll face this year. Things should look good for the Breisgau-Brasilianer in 2015-16.

League: 2nd
DFB Pokal: 3rd Round

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Born in Toronto, Adrian is a first generation Canadian by way of Bavaria and the Black Forest. After some intense football soul searching he's now a fully fledged member of the Church of Streich. Follow @AdrianSertl