Florian Grillitsch – A bright spark in Werder’s dire season

These days Werder Bremen are once again fighting against relegation, but there have been bright spots despite the survival battle for the club so far this season. First of all the Green and Whites are in the semi final of the DFB Pokal and second of all some of the players the team is banking on to help them in the future are starting to pull their weight.

One of these players is the Austrian midfielder Florian Grillitsch. The 20-year-old is so far the best example of what the officials at the club want the Werder Weg to stand for. Grillitsch himself says that the program the club has developed seems simple enough – on paper. He told the Bundesliga Fanatic:

“Theoretically speaking it is fairly simple: One takes young, talented players with potential and turns them into Bundesliga players. Scouting is part of that equation and besides investing in the youth it also means that young players are given a chance to present themselves. At the end of the day a Bundesliga player who can help the club both from a sporting and financial perspective, should be the result of these efforts.”

When Thomas Schaaf and Klaus Allofs were running out of ideas at the end of their stints at the club, Allofs decided to take massive risks on the transfer market in order to see if those risky signings could bring the club back into a European competition. Signings like Eljaro Elia, Wesley and Marko Arnautovic were the final outcome of the sporting director’s last role of the dice at the club – and in the end the officials at the club had to realise that something needed to change. Additionally there were a fair few youngsters who weren’t allowed their chance at Werder, but who turned out to be great Bundesliga players elsewhere.

Creating a system that would allow the club to identify those young players as well produce was the first order of business when Werder decided to change their mindset about how they should create their squad. Only problem: It takes some time to put these structures into place and even when they are in place, there’s no guarantee that things are going to work out like one would have hoped.

However, with Grillitsch Werder seems to have uncovered a very talented midfielder who could develop into a fine Bundesliga player one day. At first the midfielder joined the club from St. Pölten, where Werder’s scouts had found the talented midfielder. After joining Werder’s U19 side the midfielder was promoted to play for the U23 side in the Regionalliga Nord. In his first full season for the Green and White’s second team Grillitsch was used both as a midfielder and a striker and scored 9 goals, helping his side to gain promotion to the 3. Liga.

The Austrian’s performances in the lower divisions of German football meant that other clubs took a keen interesting in Grillitsch’s development. Additionally his contract was up by the end of the 2014/15 season. Borussia Dortmund were interested in signing the player, but Grillitsch decided to stay at Werder. An easy decision according to the 20-year-old:

“Several months before my contract expired we had good talks with the sporting director. He told me about my perspective at Werder and he gave me the feeling that Werder were counting on me and that I could reach my personal goal of becoming a Bundesliga player rather quickly. That was more than a good enough reason to take the next step in my career with Werder.”

The flexible midfielder has managed to reach his goal of becoming a regular in a Bundesliga side in his first year of playing with the senior side. Most of the times Grillitsch has been used out on the wings, but his coach decided in the game against Darmstadt to allow Grillitsch to drop in between the two centre backs to distribute the ball whilst Werder were in possession. Passing the ball and finding good solutions when in possession have been among the Austrian’s strong points this season. In his 14 games for the senior side Grillitsch has managed to set up 22 shots on goal, providing 3 assists so far.

As of now the Austrian hasn’t managed to register his first Bundesliga goal. His cheeky free kick against Gladbach in the cup and the fact that he knows how to go for goal nonetheless hasn’t escaped the notice of Werder fans this season. It is widely believed among the supporters that Grillitsch is going to get his first Bundesliga goal in the not too distant future, with more to follow.

Grillitsch himself found the following words about his style of play:

“I would describe myself as a midfielder, who has his strong points in attack. I can read the game well and I can anticipate situations ahead of time. Beside my good understanding of the game and tactical discipline I also have pace, the willingness to run and a good passing game on my side. I can keep hold of the ball rather well and if necessary I can head the ball well due to my height.”

But don’t worry, he doesn’t think that he is a complete players just yet:

“Don’t be afraid, there’s a lot (that I would like to improve). I really would like to improve my defensive behaviour. As an attacking player I do have deficits that I need to improve upon.”

The deficits in defence is something the entire team has struggled with throughout the current campaign. However, the fact that Grillitsch has managed to make the jump to the professionals and that he is playing a decent season bodes well for the Werder Weg in the not too distant future. The Austrian himself says that there are a lot of youngsters on their way through.

Florian Grillitsch may be a sign of what is in store for Werder, but in the meantime he and his team need to keep their head over water. Finding more consistency is the key going forward according to the Austrian. The Werder Weg – just give it some(more) time, and it might very well proof to be the tonic for the Green and White’s worries.

Header photo by PATRIK STOLLARZ/AFP/Getty Images

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 32-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.