2015/16 Season Preview: FC Augsburg

Fußball-Club Augsburg 1907 e.V.

  • Nickname: die Fuggerstädter.
  • Founding: 1907.
  • Ground: WWK Arena (30,000 capacity).
  • Colors: Red, white, and green.
  • Rivals: Bayern Munich.

2014-15 Finishes

  • Bundesliga: 5th place (49 points, 0 GD), qualified for the Europa League.
  • DFB Pokal: 1st round exit (0-1 loss to Magdeburg).
  • Top Goal Scorer: Rául Bobadilla (10 goals).

“60-second dossier”

  • Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals:  6 matches.
  • Number of Matches won by 1 goal:  9 matches.
  • Number of Matches drawn: 4 matches.
  • Number of Matches lost by 1 goal:  10 matches.
  • Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals:  5 matches.
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss:  0 matches.
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw:  1 match.
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 1 match.
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory:  4 matches.

2014-15 Season Summary

Last season began with a dud for FC Augsburg Coach Markus Weinzierl and company.  FCA was eliminated in the first round of Pokal play by fourth-division club1.FC Magdeburg, and then lost their first two league matches to Hoffenheim and Borussia Dortmund, in both cases going down two goals during the first half and being unable to overcome those deficits.  MatchDay 3 saw FCA gain their first win, away at Eintracht Frankfurt, and the Bavarian side won their first home match the next week against Werder Bremen, 4-2.

The season was marked by consistency, as FCA never had a losing streak of over 2 matches, and except for a brilliant November in which they won four straight, never won more than two in a row.  Their highlights of the season were wins over Champions League bound clubs Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and … Gladbach, whom they swept.

On the other hand, FCA dropped matches to relegation strugglers Paderborn, Hamburg, Freiburg and Hannover in April and May — FCA’s fifth place finish, while laudable, with hindsight is somewhat tainted by Schalke’s implosion, BvB’s unimaginably poor first half of the season and Eintracht Frankfurt going off the rails following Alex Meier’s injury.  Both Ruhr Valley clubs had better goal differentials than FCA’s flat 0 (43 goals scored, 43 allowed) — BvB was +5 and the offensively challenged Royal Blues of Schalke still managed a +2.  To put things in perspective, 11th place Mainz was only two goals worse in differential than 5th place Augsburg.  Also, FCA finished 8th in the 2013-2014 season with 52 points — last year they finished three places higher on three less points.

Generally speaking, FCA are the little engine that could.  Since their promotion to Gemany’s first division following the 2010-2011 season, they are the only club with little/no Bundesliga pedigree to survive — Fortuna Düsseldorf, SpVgg Greuther Fürth, Eintracht Braunschweig and SC Paderborn have only been one-year wonders in the top-flight before returning to the 2nd division.  Even among Bavarian clubs, one would imagine tradition-laden clubs 1860 Munich and/or 1.FC Nürnberg to occupy the first-division berth that FCA has gradually tightened a hold on — but 1860 ‘s Lions have too long been tabby cats (I’m being kind here) while Der Club suffered demotion a year ago.

FCA have been a defense-first team in the sense that they’ve never posted a positive goal differential in their four years in the Bundesliga, but the pendulum is shifting as the last two years they have been equal in goals scored and allowed.  The backline led by Paul Verhaegh and Ragnar Klavan and goalkeeping with Marwin Hitz and Alex Manniger are very solid and deep, and the defenders are tied to each other by experience and trust on the field, making familiarity a positive, difference-making trait.  Meanwhile, the midfield is good and the strike corps, while not imposing, manage to get enough done.  Moreover, FCA have been able to get considerable mileage not only from their longtime veteran players but from recent newcomers such as Rául Bobadilla and Halil Altintop.  The club got a bit younger in the transfer window, but boasts much hard-earned Bundesliga experience on their roster from players who weren’t considered top quality at one time.

Losing Rahman will be blow, but recall that the summer before FCA’s important contributor Andre Hahn left for Gladbach, yet FCA improved in the standings.  This is a team, rather than a collection of individuals.  They are managed smartly, they play smartly, and with more than a little style that gives them a good chance for points against any Bundesliga opponent.  How they fare playing in three competitions (Augsburg face SC Freiburg in the Pokal’s 2nd round) this season as opposed to only having Bundesliga concerns last season will be quite interesting.  Although some lament that Europa League competition may be detrimental to a small club in the long run, I doubt that there are any but the most cautious FCA fans that don’t look forward to seeing what Weizierl’s men can do in Europe.

2014-15 Trivia

FC Augsburg, along with Bayern Munich, were involved in the least amount of draws in the Bundesliga last season, as each club settled for just one point on only four occasions.  At the other extreme, Köln, Mainz and Freiburg each were involved in 13 league matches in which points were shared.

Money Matters

Transfers In (Expenditures)

– Philipp Max (Karlsruher SC) €3.8m

– Dominic Kohr (Bayer Leverkusen) €1.4m

– Daniel Opare (FC Porto) free transfer

– Yannik Oettl (SpVgg Unterhaching) free transfer

– Piotr Trochowski (FC Sevilla) free transfer

Transfers Out (Earnings)

– Pierre-Emile Höjbjerg (FC Bayern Munich, loan return)

– Mathias Fetsch (returned from loan, sold to SG Dynamo Dresden) €150,000

– Ronny Philp (returned from loan, sold to 1. FC Heidenheim) ?

– Nikola Djurdjic (Malmö FF, loan)

– Ioannis Gelios (released)

Of course the elephant in the room is the expected move of Baba Rahman to Chelsea, reportedly for a fee worth up to €30 million, including all add-ons.  The latest news, reported earlier on Friday, was that Rahman had passed his Chelsea medical but  FCA’s Stefan Reuter disclosed that there were still details that remain to be decided if the deal is to go through.  Rahman played in FCA’s 1st Round Pokal win over the weekend, but since Tuesday has been training as an individual, not with the FCA squad.

The Boss

Markus Weinzierl took over at FCA in July, 2012 after being the head man at SV Jahn Regensburg for 140 games, getting them promoted to Bundesliga 2.  The forty year-old has compiled a 42-20-27 record entering his fourth season with the Bavarian club after achieving a fifth place finish last season.

Weinzierl seems patient with his players.  He has developed a solid backline and gets the best out of players willing to overachieve — Tobias Werner being a prime example. He develops players but can also manage a match, and it’s a wonder he is still in Augsburg after what he’s achieved on a low budget.  Perhaps he wants to finish the job he’s started, seeing how far he can take this club.  Perhaps he’d rather not deal with the egos of star players at bigger clubs.

Jonathan Hardings’ 442 article last month called Weinzierl “the most promising coach in Germany.”  Weinzierl is humble, despite the club’s rise and his A- finish at the tough  Hennes-Weisweiler-Academy, where Roger Schmidt and Markus Gisdol were classmates. FCA’s man on the sidelines sums up his approach simply. ” I think being realistic matters, working with the framework you have, and to have a team on and off the field with the right character.”

Despite being wooed by Schalke, Weinzierl addressed his decision not to leave Augsburg. “There were a lot of rational reasons in favour of making the move [to Schalke], but in the end I made an emotional decision for FCA,” Weinzierl told German magazine Spiegel Online soon after news of his decision to stay was released.

Fuggerstädter fans are happy that their friendly, talented coach is still around.

Odds to win league

 – 500/1 Betfair

Five-Year Record

  • 2010-11:  2nd place, 2.Bundesliga (65 points, +31 GD)
  • 2011-12:  14th place, Bundesliga (38 points, -13 GD).
  • 2012-13:  15th place (33 points, -18 GD).
  • 2013-14:  8th place (52 points, 0 GD).
  • 2014-15:  5th place (49 points, 0 GD).

Questions with a Club Fan

FCA fan Stephan Urban was kind enough to give us a fan’s look at his club.  Follow  @Urbster 

  • Keep an eye out for . . . “Well, we don’t have many new players so, there won’t be any big surprises, just yet. But I hope Matavz will prove his money’s worth this
    season”
  • Terrace favorite . . . “Definitely Raúl Bobadilla, he even got is own fan chant. And he did get back early to training, although he could have stayed at home for some days. Against Elversberg he showed again his importance for the team”
  • Player you’d happily drive to another club . . . “At the moment Baba, but only for the money. But I love the team that we have at the moment, such nice guys”
  • Advice you’d give your manager . . . “Don’t start without Bobadilla and Werner, like last week against Elversburg, it will end badly”
  • Opposition player you secretly admire . . . “André Hahn, still miss him a lot”
  • Opposition player you despise . . . “Manuel Neuer, especially when the refs ignore his fouls.
  • Tip you’d give away fans . . . “If there is an Augsburg Calling event, plan an extra day. There will be a party with fans and bands from both sides, also different events to see the city and meet nice FC Augsburg fans. We really try to be
    welcoming, as long as you’re not from Munich”
  • Where will you finish . . . “I don’t think it will be that easy to make it again to Europa League, but 8 or 9, would still be awesome, from where we are coming from. As long as we stay in the Bundesliga, I’m happy”

Crucial Fixtures Stretch

It’s probable that Weinzierl and company are quite happy with their 2015/2016 schedule. FCA open with three winnable matches, at home against Hertha Berlin, away to Eintracht Frankfurt and then home hosting newcomers FC Ingolstadt.  Things then get tougher. MatchDay Four is a trip to Bayern Munich September 12, and FCA are away to Gladbach two weeks later and Leverkusen two weeks after that.  Between that trio of dates with some of Germany’s top clubs, FCA get Hannover and Hoffenheim at home.  

So in reality, there is no brutal stretch, per se.  It really depends on how Weizierl’s men respond to their first Europa League tournament, and if the roster is deep enough for FCA to earn the league points it should against lesser opponents.

Verdict

Being a believer in baseball analytics prophet Bill James, I also believe in his Plexiglas theory — a team that improves one season is likely to backslide the next.  But did FCA improve last season? they finished higher in the standings, but earned less points than the previous season.  Competition should be tougher, as Schalke and Dortmund figure to be much better than last year, and one of Eintracht Frankfurt, Mainz, Werder Bremen or Köln, could display enough improvement to more seriously challenge for Europe.

Given everything, I’d predict that FCA will battle for a European spot, but may fall short, thus a 6th to 10th place finish. It is difficult to imagine Weinzierl’s club being able to duplicate their tremendous ability to not drop points again (only one blown lead last season, resulting in a draw).  Nevertheless, a lengthy journey in the Pokal and/or making it out of Europa League group play would be a huge plus and another step forward for die Fuggerstädter.  A hugely interesting season awaits.

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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.