Hinrunde Reviews: SC Freiburg

The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how SC Freiburg fared in the Hinrunde.

The story so far

If you gave Freiburg coach Christian Streich the chance to end the season now and not bother with the Rückrunde meaning the current positions held, he’d probably snap your hand off. If die Breisgauer would be more than satisfied to finish 13th come the end of the season and the fact there are five teams below them is cause for some joy.

However, with only four points separating Wolfsburg (12th) from Hamburg (17th), things are a little too tight for comfort for all involved in the lower reaches- Freiburg included.

The season began on a bit of a downer when they were eliminated from the Europa League at the 3rd qualifying stage by Slovenian minnows NK Domzale with the 2-0 second leg defeat proving costly after a 1-0 win in the first leg. The Bundesliga start proved equally as anti-climactic with no wins in the first six games. There were three goalless draws amongst them and heavy defeats to RB Leipzig (4-1) and Bayer Leverkusen (4-0).

Matchday 7 saw the Freiburg turn in a fine display to beat Hoffenheim at the Schwarzwald-Stadion, but they were brought cruelly down to earth with a bump when they were beaten 5-0 at the Allianz Arena as Jupp Heynckes made a winning start back as Bayern Munich trainer.

A point was secured away at Hertha Berlin before three successive defeats sullied the mood in the Black Forest.  Two of those losses were against clubs in bottom half (VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg) meaning they were losing ground even more, while the other was a narrow home loss to Schalke.

There was a however a silver lining to the first half of the season as Christian Streich’s side went the final five games of the Hinrunde unbeaten with three wins (Mainz, Köln and Borussia Mönchengladbach) and two draws (Hamburg and Augsburg).

In a way the arrival of the Winterpause came at the wrong time for Freiburg as they were just building up a little head of steam and looking in the mood to put a few more points on the board while the momentum was there.

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Stat central        

P17 W4 D7 L6 F20 A17 Pt31 (13th)

  • Die Breisgauer have conceded the most goals in the league from open play- 22 in their 17 matches.
  • Only Rune Jarstein at Hertha Berlin has played more long passes than Freiburg keeper Alexander Schwolow who has hit 365 with an 81% pass accuracy in the Hinrunde.
  • Freiburg are caught offside less than any other Bundesliga side with an average of just 1.3 per 90 minutes.

Top Performer: Nils Petersen

So often in the past used as the ‘joker’ from the bench, this season has seen the Freiburg striker really utilise the chances he has been given from the start and he’s rewarded trainer Christian Streich with eight goals.

Seven of those eight goals came in a rich vein of goalscoring form during the final five games of the Hinrunde. After scoring against Hannover on matchday 5, he had to wait until matchday 13 for his next versus Mainz.

A dramatic hat trick in the stunning 4-3 win over Köln in the snow was followed by the winner in the 1-0 win over Mönchengladbach and then two more came in the thrilling 3-3 draw with Augsburg, which ended the Hinrunde.

Petersen scored ten last season and looks set to improve upon that as we look forward to the Rückrunde.

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The summer signings

Freiburg were busy in the summer in an effort to bolster a squad that had finished an admirable seventh, but which had seen its two best players leave in Maximilian Philipp and Vincenzo Grifo.

Tim Kleindienst was signed from 1FC Heidenheim to bolster the striking options. He has however been unable to add to the seven goals he scored last season in Bundesliga II during his seven games, but he has provided three assists.

French midfielder Yoric Ravet may be named after a character in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but he has shown he has real quality in his eight appearances. His debut against Borussia Dortmund was both a tragedy and a ‘Comedy of Errors’ as he was sent off after just half an hour. Fellow midfield arrival Florian Kath has proved just as useful making 13 appearances with 12 of them coming from the bench. He did however score his first Bundesliga goal in the win over Mainz.

US midfielder Caleb Stanko has been limited to a handful of sub appearances, while loan signing from Liverpool Ryan Kent has also struggled to breakthrough. Polish winger Bartosz Kapustka has also failed to shine, although he did produce a fantastic goal in the 3-1 defeat at Wolfsburg.

Defender Robin Koch has made nine appearances while Austrian Philipp Lienhart has made nine as Christian Streich has attempted to find his best back-three set-up.

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Hinrunde highlight

While the wins achieved against Hoffenheim, Mainz and Mönchengladbach brought vital three points, for pure drama and thrills the 4-3 victory over Köln at the Rhein-Energie Stadion on matchday 17 surpasses all of them.

After a delayed kick-off due to the snow, a forlorn Köln raced into a 3-0 lead within the first 30 minutes with a long-awaited first league seemingly assured. Not quite! When Nils Petersen pulled one back just before half-time it seemed nothing more than a consolation, but when Janik Haberer headed in a second on 65 minutes, the slightest of hope was ignited.

Then came the drama. When Salih Özcan fouled Nicolas Höfler inside the area in the 88th minute there was a delay before referee Robert Kampka used VAR to award the penalty. Petersen kept his cool to apparently rescue an unlikely draw for the visitors.

That wasn’t the end of the drama though as in the 94th minute a needless handball from Sehrou Guirassy handed Petersen another opportunity from the penalty spot and with virtually the last kick of the match, he secured a thrilling 4-3 victory.

Hinrunde lowlight

If the last-gasp win over Köln was the highlight, then the last-gasp defeat to Augsburg in the following away game was the lowlight. Three extremely important points were thrown away right at the death when it looked like die Breisgauer were on course for a very merry Christmas.

A first minute goal from Alfred Finnbogason was cancelled out by Christian Günter and when Nils Petersen scored twice in the second half, it seemed as though Christian Streich’s Christmas wishes had all been answered and Freiburg would be spending the festive period well clear of the drop zone.

Not so fast! Just as they had done against Köln, Augsburg delivered two very late goals, both from Finnbogason, to break Freiburg’s spirit.

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The forecast

Freiburg will be under no illusions that they are very much in a fight for their Bundesliga survival as they prepare for the Rückrunde. They face a tough start to the New Year with Eintracht Frankfurt, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig and Bayer Leverkusen up in the first four games.

Defensively they have the second worst record in the league with 31 goals conceded, so priority number one will be tightening things up at the back. One win in eight away games is also a record they would like to improve on.

Lucas Höler has been signed from SV Sandhausen to bolster the attack, but it remains to be seen whether Freiburg bring in any further defensive signings.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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