November 19, 2017

2016-17 Season Preview: Can VfL Bochum Maintain Trend after Summer Losses?

Basics

name: VfL Bochum (Verein für Leibesübungen Bochum 1848 Fußballgemeinschaft e. V.)
nicknames:
 die Unabstiegbaren (the unrelegatable) 
founded: 14 April 1938
club colors: blue and white
primary rivals: SG Wattenscheid 09, Arminia Bielefeld, Borussia Dortmund, FC Schalke 04
fan friendship: FC Bayern München

Stadium

Vonovia Ruhrstadion
capacity: 29,299
2015-16 attendance: 306,053 (18,003 per match)

Trophies

2. Bundesliga champion: 1993-94, 1995-96, 2005-06

2015-16 Finishes

2. Bundesliga: 5th with 51 points (56 goals scored, 40 allowed)
DFB Pokal: quarterfinals (0-3 loss at FC Bayern München)

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals:  8
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 5
Number of Matches drawn:  12
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 6
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals:  3
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in loss:  2
Number of matches in which a led was blown, resulting in draw:  7
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw:  4
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory:  3

Top 2015-16 Scorers

Simon Terodde: 25
Marco Terrazzino: 5
Peniel Mlapa: 5

Summer Test Results

Record: 4-2-3
Goals Scored: 29
Goals Allowed: 10

VfL Bochum 5:0 Concordia Wiemelhausen
LFC Laer 0:15 VfL Bochum
KFC Uerdingen 1:2 VfL Bochum
VfL Bochum 0:1 FC Brentfort
Eintracht Trier 1:0 VfL Bochum
VfL Bochum 3:4 KAS Eupen
Jahn Regensburg 2:2 VfL Bochum
VfL Bochum 1:1 Cardiff City (Herne)
VfL Bochum 1:0 Hamburger SV

Questions with a Club Fan:

Vavel writer and editor Jonathan Walsh would be an excellent source for this preview based on his expertise and editorial background, but when the Fanatic sought someone to give a fan’s perspective on the coming season for VfL Bochum, Walsh’s fan side was happy to give us the good.

“I’ve been hooked on VfL Bochum since my first trip to Germany three years ago,” says Walsh from Bochum on the eve of Saturday’s season opener against 1. FC Union Berlin. “I cover the 2. Bundesliga extensively, and we (at Vavel) take pride in being one of the leading English sources for coverage of the German second tier.”

Keep an eye out for . . .

In terms of youth players, there are three: Vangelis Pavlidis, Gökhan Gül, and Görkem Saglam. The former and the latter-most of the trio have been heavily involved in preseason, with the latter even taking the captain’s armband at a stage. Gül is the brightest of the lot and should injury hit an already depleted defence, he is in line to play a huge role while still in his teens.

Terrace favorite . . .

Aside from club captain Patrick Fabian, the decision to extend Felix Bastians contract and keep a Bochumer Junge at the Ruhr side was very warmly received. The defender was a key player last year and rarely put a foot wrong. That, combined with complete commitment and the fact he was born in the city, make for a fan favourite in anyone’s eyes.

Player you’d happily drive to another club . . .

Piotr Cwielong has been released after seemingly doing nothing for two years, so that’s the main man ticked off. Now he’s gone, it’s hard to say who everyone wants rid of. Hochstätter has done a brilliant job this summer.

Advice you’d give your manager . . .

Finishing training; all day, every day. Finishing chances still seems to be a major issue, and with Terodde gone that could prove even more troublesome with Mlapa up front.

Opposition player you secretly admire . . .

One player I’ll always have a soft spot for is Marc Schnatterer. His goals and assists speak for themselves, as does his superb commitment to Heidenheim, especially with his current deal running to 2020. Not many wingers are made captain, and he deserves a lot of credit for combining goals and leadership into a nice neat package.

Opposition player you despise . . .

To be honest, there’s no player I have a distinct hatred of in the league. Some Bochum fans may be leaning towards a poor season for Terodde after he left for a league rival, but he gave us a superb final campaign, and for that, I can’t be angry.

What will opposing sides underestimate?

Hopefully Mlapa. Given that it’s no longer the league’s top goalscorer leading the line, maybe they’ll expect less of a player who is yet to realise his full potential.

What are fans overestimating?

Nothing. If anything, a few Bochum fans are predicting a much lower finish than last year. That, in my views, is pessimistic and I think it’ll be more of the same.

Tip you’d give foreign fans visiting Ruhrstadion for the first time  . . .

Fly into Düsseldorf and get the Stadtbahn/RE to Essen and on into Bochum. You can get a tram to the ground, but I prefer to walk up Castroper Straße with the other fans. It’s easy to get a ticket on the Ostkurve so make sure you do for the best atmosphere! I’ve yet to get a tour and I’m not sure if I will. You’re so close to the pitch in any of the seated areas, too. You can’t go wrong.

Where will you finish? . . .

Hopefully in and around where we did last year. Losing the entire front four – one of the best in the league – is hard for any club let alone one of Bochum’s financial situation. Hochstätter has done well, but top six would suit me fine.

What is your all-time favorite VfL Bochum memory?

My favourite memory from a purely a performance point-of-view was last season against SC Freiburg. To take them down in such style was nothing short of superb, especially with the season they went on to have. As a fan, most certainly being there when Nando Rafael scored a last-minute equaliser against Greuther Fürth.

When last we saw them

VfL Bochum got off to a raucous start last season, reeling off five wins right from the get-go and following that with three draws. Had you watched the first quarter of the 2. Bundesliga season and then taken a really long nap, you’d have awakened at the end of spring very confident that the elevator club had again pressed the “up” button to move into the Bundesliga.

Except then they won just one of their next nine to drop toward the bottom of the upper half of the table. Verbeek’s crew played well enough to be in the promotion chase until the last half-dozen match days. Once it became clear they would not be able to close the gap on the top three, it all collapsed like a souffle left out too long before serving.

Aspiration

The words being used are “play among the top teams,” which isn’t quite the same as saying “gain promotion,” but it’s not too far off.

VfL Bochum was eleventh two seasons ago and fifth in 2015-16. As a rule, clubs expect to see progress from season to season, meaning that the continuation of the established trend would have Bochum thinking they belong among the three or four best clubs in the division, which should also mean that promotion can be achieved.

Reality

The gap between fifth place and third sounds very short, but the top three in the 2. Bundesliga ran away from the rest of the pack last season. Bochum finished 14 points behind third-place 1. FC Nürnberg. Gertjan Verbeek’s squad could improve their points total by a full dozen and still fall a bit short of a shot at moving to the Bundesliga.

But it also comes down to something much more simple: there are too many new pieces. Verbeek is integrating too many newcomers into a highly tactical approach for the team to simply restart where it left off. There is necessarily a learning curve that will challenge such lofty expectations.

The Boss

Disclaimer: the author is a confirmed fan of Gertjan Verbeek as a trainer.

Back when 1. FC Nürnberg got rid of Gertjan Verbeek in a desperate move designed to maybe avoid relegation, some of us here at the Fanatic (i.e. ME!) labeled it a huge misstep. The odds of the move actually working seemed low enough, but who better to lead der Club with an influx of youth in the second division.

Nürnberg’s loss has certainly been Bochum’s gain . . . so far.

Verbeek’s somewhat “eccentric” personality is plenty of fun when the times are good. If things get though, though, the charm wears off a bit, as we saw in Nürnberg.

Philosophy

“Attack and attack some more” is how Verbeek likes his teams to play. Do not expect that to change much even though Bochum has had to replace so many offensive pieces. You’ll see a lot of 4-2-3-1 with a lot of high-tempo play up top. That’s how Verbeek prefers it. He would rather dictate play on his terms than try to adapt to someone else’s.  

Plan B

 

Just because Verbeek sticks close to his preferred formation and style of play doesn’t mean he isn’t flexible. In fact, he tends to have high expectations of his players to have some positional flexibility. He can deploy the same eleven players in the same formation, yet get a different look from it by simply shifting the pieces around.

And on the odd occasion, you might see a 4-1-4-1 . . . maybe . . .

Personnel Changes 

Where did the offense go?

Simon Terodde (VfB Stuttgart), Marco Terrazzino (TSG Hoffenheim), Janik Haberer (loan from TSG Hoffenheim ended), and Onur Bulut (SC Freiburg) all have departed, taking with them 37 of Bochum’s 56 goals last season. The VfL tapped SpVgg Greuther Fürth for attacking midfielder Marco Stiepermann and striker Johannes Wurtz for €1.2 million of the €3.7 received for Terodde and Terrazzino. Bochum also collected winger Tom Weilandt from the Kleeblätter.

Gone too is long-time number one Andreas Luthe, who moves to FC Augsburg, but Manuel Riemann had taken over the keeper role by the end of last season.

Strengths

Though Bochum will want to position themselves as an attacking squad, the return of their most-reliable defensive pieces from last season will be the foundation from which the retooled offense will be launched. They will know how best to serve Verbeek’s game plan, which should keep things relatively stable for a while as the offense finds its groove.

Weaknesses

The weakness comes with there being no certainty that the offense will find its groove. Mlapa is a guy with talent, no question, but there have been plenty of talented attackers incapable of becoming “the man” when they were called. This summer, the offense had no problems scoring in droves against less competition, but when facing teams closer to their level, they struggled. It’s a work in progress.

Crucial Stretch in Schedule

The new-look offense is going to get some early looks at promotion contenders, with the benefit of the matches taking place before their home fans. After the opener against Union Berlin, Bochum host Hannover, Stuttgart, and Nürnberg in their next three home matches, respectively. Few would be surprised if those three clubs take the top three spots at season’s end. Perhaps the team can get a lift from their fans to hold court against those top clubs & not fall out of the race by the end of September.

Verdict

There’s too much change happening here to believe Bochum can continue its upward arc. Bochum is likely to take a bit of a step downward in the table, but with Verbeek at the help, it might be a slight step backward from which to launch a bigger step forward the following season.

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Randall Hauk is a freelance writer living in the United States while covering German football. He is currently the publisher of Planet Effzeh, an English-language site covering 1. FC Köln. He wrote about the German national team for the Telegraph as part of their World Cup Nation coverage.