July 27, 2017

DSC Arminia Bielefeld Struggle for Survival in Bundesliga 2

DSC Arminia Bielefeld’s dramatic late equaliser against St. Pauli has become just the latest example of the unpredictable nature of the club at this current point in their history.

Arminia’s return to the second tier of German football has been turbulent for most of this season. A sensational start to the campaign with only two defeats from eight, left them sitting as high as 3rd in the Bundesliga 2 table; however, this success was just as quickly undone with seven consecutive defeats, tumbling Arminia down the table to serious relegation territory. However, their slump finally ended with a shocking 4-1 thumping of title-challengers Greuther Fürth, but this promising result served to raise more questions about Arminia’s form, as it demonstrated that the club is capable of both the ridiculous and the sublime.

On occasion, Arminia have shown themselves to be quite capable of competing at the 2. Bundesliga level, though perhaps their early season success led to some naivety about the challenges of playing at a higher level. 11 of the 38 goals Die Blauen have conceded have occurred after the 75th minute; additionally, Arminia have dropped a staggering total of 10 points after taking the lead in matches. This trend is exemplified by moments such as the conceding of a last minute equaliser at home to fellow relegation rivals Dynamo Dresden in the final game before the Christmas break when a crucial three points looked all but secured. Arminia is having to learn the lesson in securing results the hard way.

The concession of a late goals is part of larger defensive struggles that have plagued Arminia this season. They currently have the worst defensive record in the league, conceding 5 goals more than the table’s bottom side (Engerie Cottbus) with Arminia’s lone highlight being a clean sheet secured earlier in the season at St Pauli. However, the club is hopeful about loan signing Vujadin Savić from Ligue 1 side Bordeux, who will  add some defensive solidity during the Rückrunde.

In stark contrast, scoring goals has not been a problem for the Ost-Westfalen side, who have found the net 29 times this season. This rate is impressive, especially considering that only SC Paderborn and Union Berlin, two successful Bundesliga 2 sides, have better strike rates than Arminia. Their standout goal threat thus far has been Fabian Klos, who has adapted to the Bundesliga 2 with ease, with 5 goals and 4 assists, despite being ruled out for a few matches during the Hinrunde because of injury. Such form is sure to attract attention from bigger sides, which may tempt Klos away this summer if Arminia’s from does not show significant improvement by the season’s end.

If there is a man who has the potential to bring improvement to this side, it is surely current coach Stefan Krämer, who was appointed two years ago when Arminia were engaged in a 3 Liga relegation battle. This relegation escape was no easy task as Arminia were in the midst of a free-fall down the ranks of German football, despite having been a somewhat regular fixture of the Bundesliga including an extended period from 2004 to 2009. Krämer’s impact was immediate as he galvanised the side, steering them clear to safety while also winning the Westfalen Cup in his first half season in charge.

In Krämer’s first full season in charge, he lifted the side to 2. Bundesliga promotion, while also contending for the 3.Liga title with Karlsruhe up until the season’s final week. That season was highlighted by a thrilling, but ultimately disappointing loss to Bayer Leverkusen in a DFB Pokal match that gave supporters an early glimpse of what Krämer’s side was capable of against tougher opposition.  It was this evidence of improvement that led the club’s hierarchy to keep faith with Krämer during Arminia’s early season troubles this season – something the administration would be wise to do again as Ariminia fight off relegation once again.

For Arminia though, it is not simply the prestige of playing in a higher league that concerns the club. Financial trouble, which mounted from the costs of redeveloping the stadium at the Bielefeld Alm, followed by the financial repercussions of two relegations, has left the club in a position of steep debt, a situation familiar to many clubs who sit a distance away from the top echelons of German football. A trimming of the wage bill and a new sponsorship deal have somewhat stabilised the situation, but it is the place in the Bundesliga 2 and the vastly superior advertising and TV revenue that it brings is what is most important to the club, making anything other than league survival almost unthinkable. Fortunately, the club has been well-supported during home matches at Die Alm, drawing an average attendance of roughly 17,900 spectators per game.

For the moment, Arminia sit level with three other sides (Inglostadt, Erzgebirge Aue and Dresden) tied on 22 points, who make up two of the relegation places. The competitive nature of the league is apparent as even Fortuna Düsseldorf only sit at 10th place – a mere 4 points clear of safety. In a league so closely contested, a run of consecutive wins for any of the sides in the bottom half of the table should see them clear of any danger.

DSC Arminia Bielefeld are as well-equipped as any side to survive in the Bundesliga 2 this season, though based on their recent history nothing is can be certain for the inconsistent Die Blauen. Remember, we are talking about a team who has been promoted to the Bundesliga on seven occasions and played 9 seasons in third tier of German football. Expecting anything other than a topsy-turvy ride would be foolish.

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