Super Cup Shows Eintracht Frankfurt Not Quite Ready for Prime Time Yet

We still have a lot to do, I’m far from satisfied. – Adi Hütter

The Super Cup result wasn’t a surprise to many following Eintracht Frankfurt in recent months. The 5-0 defeat at the hands of Bayern Munich simply concreted fears many followers have been hiding.  Since the elation of the German Cup title in May, the summer has brought a new coach, new faces in the team, and new challenges for the club in general. Make no mistake, the pummeling has been coming since May.

This off-season has shown a change in philosophy for Eintracht.  The transfer window showed them aggressively seeking younger players to bring into the fold, as they had many holes to fill.  As opposed to recent years however, when player loans and free transfers where the primary means of filling vacant roster spots, this summer saw them bringing in players for the long-term. In a huge move for the club, Ante Rebić  signed a contract extension through the 2022 season. With rumors of $40 to 50 million euro transfer offers swirling, Rebić staying in Frankfurt is a victory for the front office. Along with refreshing the squad, the team took serious steps toward securing the team leadership for the future, with extensions for sporting director Fredi Bobic and board member Axel Hellmann.

Starting with the training camp trip to Gais, however,  it has been a difficult time for Die Adler. The team has shown difficulty adapting to Hütter’s philosophy and scheme. The preseason friendlies have shown no attacking punch whatsoever.  Aside from games against Offenburger SV (7:0) and SV Wehen Wiesbaden (6:2), Frankfurt has managed only two goals in the five friendlies this preseason. They were blanked by Real Salt Lake, Greuther Furth, and FC Empoli.  The offense isn’t clicking and lacks playmakers.  Striker Sebastien Haller often appears frustrated after he makes runs only to see a mistimed or misplaced pass. New signees Gonçalo Paciência and Francisco Geraldes often seem lost on the pitch, and veterans Marco Fabián and Mijat Gaćinović have yet to finish plays.

The squad is also lacking wingers. Even with Rebić back (and assuming he will play the wing position), Eintracht lacks quality on the wings.  Former Coach Kovac, who left in the spring for Bayern Munich, opted for wing backs that ran box-to-box, and Eintracht came into the season with nothing on the roster. As the transfer window closes, Hütter must find some play-making wings to help his attack.  As the squad currently sits, Gaćinović and Fabián are playing the wings. Fabián lacks the foot speed, crossing ability, and ball-handling skills necessary to make plays from the position.  Nicolai Müller  will help when he returns from injury, and Danny Blum has also had his hand at the wing position.  Blum had the only shot on goal for Eintracht in Sunday’s Super Cup.

In Hütter’s preferred style of play, timing and team attack weigh more heavily than individual play.  While the midfielders stabilize both the defense (by cutting passing lanes from side to side) and the attack (by getting the ball centrally, allowing the forwards to make runs), the wings create havoc up front. Creating high turnovers and striking quick on the counter are the main points of emphasis. It is clear Hütter will either have to find a way to adapt his system or change the players within it.

“We have brought in good players, the coach must decide whether he implements his game philosophy to one hundred percent or makes an intermediate step,” said Eintracht exec Bruno Hübner in a recent interview.                                                            

Hütter Searching for Answers

Super Cup Starting 11

Hütter’s style is to press high, but press patiently. The ideal scenario being to lie in wait for a mistake and pounce on it. The pressure is high  but soft, trying to force long balls over the top, giving the defense a chance to recover, win the ball back, and strike quickly.

“Pressure build, ball win, fast and forward directly, we try. It’s a bit like Dutch football, just like Peter Bosz did in Dortmund,” stated Jonathan de Guzman in a recent interview. “True, we also have to understand it all first. If it works, if we do it well as a team, then we are very strong.”

So far in Gais, the guys up top have been overly aggressive.  Players are chasing every ball and putting themselves out of position defensively.

“Of course, we also have to keep the depth under control and we cannot get to every ball in the front,” Hütter said recently.

Hütter has been searching for an attacking spark all preseason.  Employing several formations and lineups to get things going, he has yet to find any scenario that looked promising.  On the USA tour, he used mainly the 3-5-2 that Kovac had employed. In Gais, he used both the 3-5-2 and his customary 4-4-2. Against Ferrara, he employed a 3-4-3 formation with Gaćinović, Haller, and Fabián up top. He is still seeking bite in his attack. “It’s annoying that we have not used our scoring chances and made mistakes that you do not have to do,” Hütter said after the game. “You are always angry about defeats.”

Hubner remains confident the team can turn things around, stating “(Hütter) is very meticulous, totally ambitious. He goes into it with so much enthusiasm. The team is also really willing to adopt the new philosophy of Adi Hütter.”

Bild magazine recently ranked Eintracht’s offseason as the worst in the Bundesliga.

The Super Cup

“They deserved the win, we did well only in the first twenty minutes of play. team, their speed in the attackers made the difference, we lacked the courage, we will have to improve and work hard in these two weeks “.  – Adi Hütter .

The best news coming out of the Super Cup match against Bayern is that it is over.  In the end, it is nothing more than a highly showcased, highly publicized test match with a trophy. The Super Cup quickly turned into a nightmare, and the squad’s first true showcase under Hütter  was terrible.  Eintracht showed definite signs early on, playing aggressively on both ends and pummeling the box with crosses.  Bayern Defenders Mats Hummels and Niklas Sule steadily turned away every chance.

Even with as much pressure as Eintracht was trying to create, they left Manuel Neuer with nothing to do.  Fabián’s cross to Lucas Torro in the 14th minute was well defended flawlessly, leading to a corner.  Jonathan De Guzman’s header on the following corner was not close to the mark. And then Bayern struck.  Joshua Kimmich put in a perfect cross to a streaking Lewandowski, raced around and over both Makoto Hasebe and captain David Abraham on the play for a perfectly placed header past Rønnow’s right. 0-1 Bayern, 21st minute.  Eintracht looked to equalize.  Gaćinović had an excellent chance off a nicely placed combination with Haller, and missed just wide right.  Bayern however, capitalized with surgical precision all day.

Just a few minutes later, Salcedo lost Lewandowski off a corner, keeper Frederik Rønnow was caught in no man’s land, 0-2.  53rd minute, Arjen Robben plays a ball into Lewandowski.  Miscommunication by both Abraham and Salcedo led to Lewandowski being all alone again. Abraham takes a terrible angle at the ball.  0-3 Bayern.  The two remaining goals for Bayern came against a completely disheartened club.  Eintracht had nothing after the first 20 minutes.  Like a boxer who had punched himself tired, they could only muster once chance by Blum late in the game.  They were just completely outclassed.

What stands out most in the game is that Eintracht got completely exposed.  After a solid opening 20 minutes, they rotated poorly, lost marks, and twice left the best goal scorer in the Bundesliga completely unchecked. Hütter  has a lot of work to do, and little time to do it.  He must find a way to shore the defense up, where they are staying compact, keeping shape, and not getting stretched.  As the offense looks for playmakers, the defense must carry the load.  New goalkeeper Rønnow also looked like a keeper who had missed the offseason.  He was out of position far too often. Online magazing Kicker gave Rønnow the lowest rating I have ever seen, with a 6.0.

Hütter has a huge task on his hands.  He must reform the team in with his ideals, and he has to find the players necessary to do that. That reformation must start with a defensive, grind it out mentality. The team is built on it, and has thrived on it.  He needs to find playmakers from the wings, either internally or through the transfer market, he must find a way to fill the gaping hole in the midfield. You have to wait how long it takes.”, Bobic says, with no clear timetable in mind. Hütter  needs more time to install his mentality and ideals, and to hope that the players are a match. “We hope that it will be quick, but have to be patient and perhaps deny one or the other valley.” With the season opener with Freiburg just around the corner, and the Pokal opener against Ulm on Saturday, the time to shape things up is drawing near.

 

More Changes Coming

Shortly after the Super Cup, Hütter  announced that Marco Fabián, Simon Falette and Marijan Cavar would also be able to seek other opportunities.  Falette, a starter of 28 consecutive games last season, had fallen out of favor with the new regime.  With Hasebe switching to a more central defender role, and newcomer Even N’Dicka gaining minutes, Hütter  has stated the move is more about the future of the club than Falette’s play.  Hütter  is trying to shrink both the squad and the rotation, which might come back to bite him as the season progresses. “Everyone can see that we have a large roster and I will shrink it because you can’t have high-caliber training with that many players”.

Marco Fabián is a curious case.  The Mexican international has played well this summer for Frankfurt, and has been somewhat of a bright spot for Die Adler’s attack.  But Fabián (29) has not been the same since his back injury at the tail end of the 16-17 season.  He was virtually non-existent last year, and made no impact for Mexico in the World Cup this summer.  With depth already in question, Hütter  has to hope for a healthy squad for the remainder of the season.

Season Starts:

DFB Supercup: 8/12/2018 – Bayern Munich 5-0 Eintracht Frankfurt.

DFB Pokal: 8/18/2018 – SSV Ulm 1845

Bundesliga: 8/25/2018 – SC Freiburg

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Brian Gilchriest

I am a freelance writer for the Bundesliga Fanatic, covering mostly Eintracht Frankfurt. I fell in love with the Bundesliga about the same time I fell in love with my wife, who is from Wiesbaden, De. I also write BriansSportsBlog, covering mostly American Soccer, as well as my thoughts on other sports.

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