May 27, 2017

Braunschweig Must Match Its Labor with Ambition

As is often the way with newly promoted but unfancied clubs, there is a tendency to romanticise. Eintracht Braunschweig’s promotion is a case in point, thanks to their rapid rise up the leagues, their history of one Bundesliga title, and their groundbreaking shirt sponsorship deals in the 70s. However, Torsten Lieberknecht’s close-knit squad are already developing their own narrative of hard work and discipline, but ultimately failure.

Matchday 1’s performance against Werder Bremen may have warranted more than the late loser by Zlatko Junuzovic, but the Lions still spent more time at their own end of the pitch than their opponents. Against Dortmund, Braunschweig – last season’s 2.Bundesliga runners up – again were circling the wagons around their own box and for 75 minutes, reducing last season’s Bundesliga runners up to what amounted not much more than pot shots by BVB’s usual high standards.

However, Eintracht’s discipline and hard work did not pay off in the end as Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp utilised his bench and used Marco Reus to stretch those Braunschweig legs still further, then it was second substitute Jonas Hofmann who scored BVB’s first goal with an in-off the post shot, then later setting up Reus’s penalty after being felled by Ermin Bicakcic. While Dortmund’s players and fans allowed themselves a sigh of relief at full time, Braunschweig were left with the dubious consolation of having asked serious questions of Dortmund’s squad depth while having nothing to show for it. Even their solitary goal didn’t come from a Braunschweig player skimming as it did off Robert Lewandowski’s head.

In fairness, there was little else – tactically – that Lieberknecht could have done in his attempt to outflank his former teammate and coach, Jürgen Klopp, and the former Mainz player can take solace that he will not be playing the Champions League finalists every week. Indeed, next weekend Braunschweig welcome Eintracht Frankfurt who are struggling to rediscover the swashbuckling form from this time last year and it will be interesting to see if the coach will allow his players to take the initiative against the team currently sitting lower the Braunschweig in the table by dint of goal difference.

Against Dortmund, Simeon Jackson was understandably isolated with Dennis Kruppke and Jan Hochscheidt detained elsewhere on the pitch. The Canadian striker has the pace to trouble Bundesliga defences, but was reduced to trying to draw fouls from Mats Hummels – not an entirely futile gesture, but a longshot at best. However, at home against Frankfurt, Lieberknecht’s tactics board should look a little more like 4-3-3 rather than 10-1.

However, there are definitely positive points, particularly in the Braunschweig midfield. Jan Hochscheidt, signed from Erzgebirge Aue in the summer, showed good close control when given the rare opportunity to do so against Dortmund’s pressing and found his teammates more often than not. Kevin Kratz was credited with the goal against Dortmund (which won’t bother Lewandowski one bit) and made a good run from the preceding corner which proved enough to unsettle the Borussen defence.

There are also options up front with Torsten Oehrl (something of a cult figure among Bundesliga hipsters) who isn’t as mobile as Jackson but does more than simply occupy space. Perhaps Lieberknecht will push the boat out and put the two together some day.

In any event we will know more about Eintracht Braunschweig’s survival prospect after Matchday 3. Defeat at home to Werder can be put down to misfortune and the pressure of the occasion. Losing to Dortmund is no disgrace, especially when it’s by just the one goal. Against Frankfurt the season can begin properly against a team that if the Lions are to have any reasonable expectation to playing in the top division next season, they should expect to beat.

Header image courtesy of dpa.

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