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 FC Augsburg have fared in the Hinrunde.
The story so far
Augsburg should be largely satisfied with their showing in the Hinrunde and will be looking forward to an equally successful Rückrunde. After 17 games they sit 9th, but have the European qualifying places in their view and will not be daunted by the so-called bigger clubs they’re competing with.
The campaign didn’t get off to the best of starts with a first round exit from the DFB Pokal and a defeat to Hamburg on matchday 1, but Manuel Baum’s side recovered well going on a five-match unbeaten run which saw wins over Köln, Frankfurt and Leipzig. Against Köln Icelandic striker Alfred Finnbogason was amongst the goals with a hat trick.
Many people had tipped Augsburg for a place in the bottom three this season, so to beat last season’s Vizemeister Leipzig was quite a feather in the cap and finger up to the doubters.
Consecutive home defeats to Dortmund and Hannover dented progress, but then came a morale-boosting 3-0 win away at Werder Bremen as well as a 1-1 draw at home to a dangerous Bayer Leverkusen.
Augsburg lost to both Bayern Munich and Schalke in the closing weeks but also had wins over both VfL Wolfsburg and Mainz. They saved up a real Christmas cracker for the final game of the Hinrunde with a highly entertaining 3-3 draw at home to Freiburg, which required two goals in stoppage time and another Alfred Finnbogason hat trick to save the day.
Augsburg’s relative success in the Hinrunde has been based largely on a solid defence (Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and Martin Hinteregger in front of keeper Marwin Hitz), tough-tackling-playmaking CDMs (Daniel Baier and Rani Khedira) and quick counterattacking (Philipp Max), aligned with players in a hot goalscoring streak (Alfred Finnbogason and Michael Gregoritsch) and the added craft of Brazilian Caiuby.
P17 W6 D6 L5 F27 A33 Pt24 (9th)
- Philipp Max leads the Bundesliga in assists with 10 this season already. Last he provided just 3 all season.
- Striker Alfred Finnbogason has now scored in the first minute of a Bundesliga match on three occasions.
- Captain Daniel Baier leads the way in picking up free balls in the opposition half with 198.
Top Performer: Philipp Max
With all the attacking talent and flair on show in the Bundesliga, it is testament to the form shown by Philipp Max that he leads the way in the league when it comes to providing assists. The former Bayern junior and son of Schalke legend Martin Max, has been in scorching form this season.
With ten assists and one goal to his credit, the 24-year-old has taken the Hinrunde by storm. He’s played an astonishing 224 passes into the opposition box (his nearest rival is Joshua Kimmich on 153). He leads the Bundesliga in crosses with 79 (again beating Kimmich into 2nd place and 16 more than teammate Marcel Heller on 63).
Max has played every minute (bar the last ten against Eintracht Frankfurt) which just goes to show the importance he has had this season for Augsburg.
The summer signings
A lot of respect has to go to Augsburg for their transfer dealings in the summer. Their key signings have all settled in immediately and made a positive impact on the squad.
The €5 million paid to Hamburg for Michael Gregoritsch seems an absolute bargain based on his Hinrunde performances (8 goals 5 assists), while €1 million signing Sergio Cordova also looks like a snip.
Rani Khedira in midfield has excelled since joining from RB Leipzig and right back Daniel Opare has also been a key player both defensively and going forward. Marcel Heller has provided extra pace of the flank, although so far the goals have been missing from his game.
Eric Thommy, an arrival from Jahn Regensburg, did start to make a few appearances towards the end of the Hinrunde, but injured himself and will have to ease his way back into contention.
At least Augsburg got their lowlight out of the way early in the season. The first round of the DFB usually throws up a shock or two, but sadly for the Fuggerstädter, it was they who provided the headlines back in August.
Two late goals saw them dumped out of the Cup by third division 1FC Magdeburg at the MDCC Arena. Magdeburg are becoming a bogey team for Augsburg having eliminated them three years previously in the second round.
Granted, Werder Bremen were very poor on the day, but Augsburg played really well and really could have won the game by a greater margin than just 3-0, such was their dominance and the chances they created.
Michael Gregoritsch headed the visitors ahead just before half-time from a Philipp Max (who else?) cross and Alfred Finnbogason added a second from the penalty spot in stoppage time with what was Augsburg’s 250th Bundesliga goal.
Gregoritsch added his second and Augsburg’s third on the hour mark. The chances just kept coming for the visitors, but sadly for them, no further goals were forthcoming. No matter. The nature of their display had the fans, who had travelled to the Weser Stadion purring with delight.
Coach Manuel Baum will have his sights very much set on finishing well above the 13th place achieved last season. Augsburg achieved European qualification in the 2014-15 season and it is not inconceivable that history could repeat itself this season.
Augsburg have a formation and a game plan that works, and if opposition trainers don’t work out a way to stop them, and key players can stay healthy, expect the club to have an equally impressive Rückrunde and push for a top six finish.
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