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 Werder Bremen fared in the Hinrunde.
The story so far
The one saving grace for Werder Bremen fans after finishing a rather dismal Hinrunde in 16th place is that rivals Hamburg finished below them in the table in 17th.
Apart from that it has been a sadly familiar tale at the Weser Stadion this season- so much so that this review could probably have been penned back in August and then just published after the completion of the first seventeen matchdays. Werder started the season badly, continued to leak goal and lose, sacked their trainer, appointed someone from their youth teams and had a slight improvement just before the Winterpause. Sound familiar?
Any optimism die Grün-Weißen began the season with following an impressive 2016-17 Rückrunde soon faded with consecutive defeats to Hoffenheim and Bayern Munich. They picked up their first point with a 1-1 draw at Hertha Berlin but a win eluded them as a series of poor and dull performances saw trainer Alexander Nouri coming under increasing pressure.
They went four games without scoring and were lucky to come away from the Nordderby with Hamburg with a goalless draw. They did beat Hoffenheim in the second round of the DFB Pokal, but couldn’t create any momentum in the Bundesliga and lost 3-0 at home to Augsburg on matchday 10.
Such was the abject level of their performance and the cluelessness of their display that the axe finally came down on Alexander Nouri. A number of experienced coaches were mentioned as successors (Bruno Labbadia prominent amongst them), but the Werder bosses did what they always seem to do (Viktor Skrypnyk, Nouri) and appointed from within with Florian Kohfeldt promoted from Werder Bremen II.
There was a slight improvement under the new coach with a first win achieved against Hannover on matchday 12 as well as successive victories over Stuttgart and Borussia Dortmund.
A 93rd minute equaliser from Fabian Frei saw them throw away a two-goal lead in their final game of the Hinrunde, but there was a little festive cheer to finish the year as they progressed to the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal with a win over Freiburg.
P17 W3 D6 L8 F13 A20 Pt15 (16th)
- Werder are one of only two sides not to be awarded a penalty so far this season (Bayer Leverkusen are the other).
- Bremen have conceded just six of their goals from set-pieces. Only Bayern Munich have a better record in that respect.
- Midfielder Thomas Delaney has committed the most fouls in the Bundesliga with 43- averaging 2.4 per 90 minutes.
Top Performer: Jiri Pavlenka
While Werder Bremen have struggled this season again, one of the shining lights of their disappointing Hinrunde has been goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka. Signed from Slavia Prague during the summer to try and shore up a leaky defence, the Czech has more than met expectations at the Weser Stadion (even if Werder are 16th).
He may have conceded 20 goals (this time last year it was 36), but he leads the Bundesliga in the number of saves made with 71. The 25-year-old was instrumental in keeping Werder in the game in the Nordderby with Hamburg and was fantastic in the DFB Pokal win over Hoffenheim. If the defenders in front of him can tighten things up, Werder could have a very good Rückrunde.
The summer signings
As mentioned above goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka has been an instant hit at the Weser Stadion, while left-sided fullback/ wing back Ludwig Augustinsson has also impressed with the start he has made at the club. The Swedish signing from FC Copenhagen has missed just one game all season and his stats show the contribution he has made. He ranks 5th in the league for crosses with 59 and has also played 83 passes into the box.
The jury however is still out on the other two summer arrivals. Jerome Gondorf has made six substitute appearances and didn’t really impress on either of his two starts (Bayern and Wolfsburg), while striker Ishak Belfodil struggled to fill Max Kruse’s boots, but did finally grab his first Bundesliga goal on the final matchday of 2017 against Mainz.
Matchday 10 at home to Augsburg saw a dire performance from Werder and was the cue for those in the corridors of power to decide to finally dispense with Alexander Nouri’s services.
Having just beaten Hoffenheim in the DFB Pokal to register their first win since the first round win over Würzburger Kickers, there was a mood of optimism as they welcomed Augsburg to the Weser Stadion on the Sunday afternoon. Any hope of a first three points in the Bundesliga were soon dispelled as Werder lacked attacking impetus and were made to look awful by their visitors.
Two goals just before half-time were a just reward for Augsburg and Werder never looked like responding in the second 45 minutes. Ex-Hamburg midfielder Michael Gregoritsch made it 3-0, but Werder could have conceded five or six in the second half such was the docile nature of their performance.
Yes Dortmund were in the midst of a crisis, but to come away from the Signal Iduna Park with three points is an achievement in anyone’s book. Interim coach Florian Kohfeldt did his chances of getting the Werder job on a permanent basis no harm at all with a well-thought out game plan, which his players executed superbly and led to a deserved 2-1 victory.
They deservedly took the lead in the 26th minute through Max Kruse after dominating the opening to the game. The lost Fin Bartels to injury in the first-half and conceded an equaliser to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the 57th minute, but they continued to carry out Kohfeldt’s instructions to exploit BVB’s weaknesses.
Werder were rewarded in the 65th minute when Theodore Gebre-Selassie headed home Max Kruse’s corner to seal the win. There was a horrendous miss from Shinji Kagawa, but in the end the visitors more than merited their win.
If last season is anything to go by, Werder will storm up the table in the Rückrunde and finish just outside the European places. It could however been a more sobering second half to the season with anywhere above 16th a bonus.
If Max Kruse can stay healthy there are goals to be had and with the likes of Fin Bartels, Thomas Delaney and Zlatko Junuzovic in midfield there is quality enough to move clear of the drop zone. There is youth in the Eggestein brothers and experience in Philipp Bargfrede and Gebre-Selassie.
If they players can buy into Florian Kohfeldt’s game plan, be more adventurous going forward, while at the same time tightening things up at the back, Werder should be fine.
However, looking around the Bundesliga, are there three teams worse than Werder? One or two yes, but it’s wholly conceivable that 16th is about where Werder deserve to be. An interesting Rückrunde awaits.
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