November 19, 2017

Eintracht Frankfurt: 2017-18 Season Preview

Basics

Name: Eintracht Frankfurt e.V
Nicknames: die Adler (the Eagles)
Founded: March 8, 1899
Club colors: Red and Black
Primary Rivals: 1. FSV Mainz 05, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, SV Darmstadt 98, and Kickers Offenbach
Fan friendships: Oldham Athletic, Wacker Innsbruck, Atalanta Bergamo, and FSV Frankfurt

Stadium

Commerzbank Arena/Waldstadion

Capacity: 51,500
Total 2016-17 attendance: 8,34,500(Average attendance: 49,088)

Trophies

German Champions: 1958-59
German Cup Winners: 1973-74, 1974-75, 1980-81, 1987-88
UEFA Cup Winners: 1979-80
2. Bundesliga Champions: 1997-98

2016-17 Finishes

1.Bundesliga: 11th, with 42 points. (36 goals scored, 43 conceded, GD -7)
DFB Pokal: Runners-up (lost to Dortmund 2:1 in the finale)

“60-Second Dossier”

Number of matches won by 2 or more goals: 5
Number of matches won by one goal: 8
Number of matches drawn: 12
Number of matches lost by one goal: 7
Number of matches lost by 2 or more goals: 8

Top 2016-17 Scorers

Marco Fabián: 7
Branimir Hrgota: 6
Alex Meier: 5

Preseason Record

Record: 3-3-2
Goals Scored: 27
Goals Conceded: 10

SV Heftrich 0:15 Eintracht Frankfurt
Seattle Sounders FC 1:1 Eintracht Frankfurt

SJ Earthquakes 4:1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Colombus Crew 1:0 Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht Frankfurt 1:1 US Sassuolo
Eintracht Frankfurt 1:1 Benevento Calcio
Eintracht Frankfurt 3:0 Real Betis
Eintracht Frankfurt 5:2 FSV Frankfurt 1899

View from a Fan

Lars Marolt is a resident of Wiesbaden, roughly a 30-minute drive from the Frankfurt metropolis. He has been an ardent fan of the Eagles since childhood and often visits the Commerzbank Arena to watch his beloved Eintracht. Here’s a look at how this passionate fan sees things leading up to the new season.

You can contact him via his Facebook page.

Who to look out for?

From the new signings, I’m definitely excited about Sébastien Haller. He is the club’s record signing and has a great personality. When speaking of the entire team, I will pick Marc Stendera as the one to keep an eye on next season. It will be interesting to see if can live up to the talent he showed a few seasons ago, if he can stay injury free of course.

Fan favorite?

No more Lukas Hradecky for sure. We fans are pissed off because of the way he played with the club officials for his new contract. Alex Meier is definitely the terrace favorite, just because he is, simply, a legend at Frankfurt. The ultimate Fußballgott!

Player you want to get rid of?

Hmmmm, that is a tough question since I like almost all of our players, but maybe Lukas Hradecky. Of course, he’s a great keeper, and I always thought he loved this club. However, with the way he strangled (Eintracht Sporting CEO Fredi) Bobic to earn a new contract is simply unacceptable. The new contract will make him the top earner at Frankfurt, and as we fans are obliged to believe, football is much more than just cash.

Advice you would give to Niko Kovac?

Due to the fact that there came several new faces this summer, much like last season, I would advise him to form a team which works (together) off the pitch as well. In German, it’s called “teamgeist” (team spirit).

Opposition player you despise?

Of course, we hate Timo “Hurensohn” Werner, just like any other fan from a traditional club. Firstly, he left his boyhood club Stuttgart for ‘money bitches’ Red Bull Leipzig. Secondly, (he is reviled) because of his dive versus Schalke.

Sandro Wagner is another player on my hate list.

What will opposition fans underestimate?

Puh! They will probably underestimate us playing at the Commerzbank Arena. Maybe they will think that playing us in Frankfurt wouldn’t be any different from playing us somewhere else. We have a huge advantage at home. If you remember last season, for example, we drew against Bundesliga champion Bayern and won against Pokal winners Dortmund.

What are the Frankfurt fans overestimating?

The expectations. Maybe some fans (like me) hope so much so that they completely forget that we have a team with shedload of new players. It’s going to take time to complete this transition process. So, we really shouldn’t expect too much from SGE next season.

Tip you’d give for visiting Waldstadion for the first time?

When someone wants to visit the Waldstadion for the first time, I would suggest that they travel by train and feel the whole experience. The feeling comes alive when you leave the train station and go with thousands of fans to the stadium. Then of course, drink some Äppler (apple cider) and celebrate the victory in the Nordwestkurve.

Where will Frankfurt finish?

I think it is hard to say where Frankfurt is going to finish next season. Of course, I hope for them to finish in the European spots, and maybe that’s realistic too, but if we finish tenth, I would still be satisfied.

Your favorite moment from last season?

Due to the fact that I had a ticket for the cup final, I’d probably choose that. Although we lost, it was truly amazing just being there. The atmosphere at both ends was just astonishing. Also, when Marco Russ got subbed on during the Pokal quarterfinal against Arminia Bielefeld, that was such an emotional moment, too. I don’t even have to explain, it was just an amazing moment at the stadium.

+++++++++++

Aspiration

European qualification!

Having fallen short after being so close to securing European places last season, Eintracht will be anxious to embark on a similar journey. For a club largely synonymous with Bundesliga history, playing in Europe on a consistent basis is fundamental to the club’s accretion in nigh future. As a matter of fact, there is no European challenge in place for Eintracht next season, therefore, the extra cynosure would be on the league and the cup. (Oh, the German cup I mean, you Koala bear!)

Reality

Surprisingly, the reality shouldn’t be anything different from the initial aspirations.

Oh wait . . .

Speaking of R E A L I T Y, as Lars mentioned, a mid-table finish could be acceptable, too. Considering the overhaul in the club over the summer, one really shouldn’t expect too much from Eintracht.

Well, they never do anyway.

The preseason performance has shown that the team needs time to sync-in. The largely renowned defense of last season has been torn apart, thanks to a mediocre Ruckründe campaign and the departure of defensive lynchpin Jesus Vallejo. The midfield has also been renovated, now with guys like Gelson Fernandes coming in to replace the terribly underrated Szabolcs Huszti.

And the offense? Oh . . . my . . . word.

What team do you call this Steve?! It’s only 2017, and you do not have Alex Meier in your team? Listen Steve, I don’t care if your mind broke down while you were on your way to see your terminally ill grandpa. You have Branimir Hrgota as your main striker. That would be ten goals (presumably, from six yards) deducted for the season, please.

But then again, Eintracht’s aspirations might not be that far from reality. Despite their big overhaul this summer, the current team still has the capability of giving a go for the European places. Considering the competition already burdened with dreifach belastung (the triple burden of playing in three different competitions), Hertha, Köln, and Hoffenheim (apologies to Mr. Streich!) might presumably be bogged down a little, allowing Eintracht to maybe nestle through into their places next season.

The Boss

Do you have a “heavydirtysoul”?

If yes, then I’m afraid Niko Kovač is your guy!

And if you don’t, then don’t worry; he is still your guy.

What? You don’t know about Kovač bro?!! The charming, endearing, and somewhat beguiling Croatian mastermind, formerly (as a player) of heavydirtydirty Bayern Munich (excuse my hate for the club). A stickler of manners, Kovač is someone even the Human Rights Association could be proud of. “Empathy is important, openness, honesty and an understanding for others,” he once told Die Welt. He is stringent. He is open. He is lucid. He is direct. And he has the natural authority about him, with his marked cheekbones, strictly paired hair, and an appearance like the hero from any good old James Bond film, filled with charisma and class (and quite a lot of it).

The 45-year-old trainer solidified an old and baffled squadron to one of the fiercest bunches in the Bundesliga last season. A natural authority and impassioned “You have to eat dirt” speeches certainly sparked life into this Eintracht team once, but can he repeat that feat again? Well, you wouldn’t put anything past him.

In an interview with kicker magazine, Kovač sounded quite humble when asked about the potential of his team repeating last year’s performance: “We are preparing technically, tactically, and physically just as well as we did last year. That was the biggest reason for our success. The new players must integrate quickly, and we also need some luck. We want to play refreshingly good football”.

Philosophy

The three things paramount in die Adler‘s footballing set-up are

  1. defensive stability
  2. tactical flexibility
  3. intensity

Give them too many chances, and you’re in trouble. Eintracht are a team which takes full advantage of opponent’s mishaps, primarily in offensive areas. If your team is Dortmund, and you can’t seem to unlock the Eintracht defense, and are getting frustrated by the poor touches of Reus, slow buildup of Marcel Schmelzer, or Emre Mor not passing the ball at all, and then you see Sebastian Rode, warming up . . . just calm down and hope that the Eintracht lords will have mercy on you.

Oh! I have also heard, they are very forgiving from February to May.

So basically, Eintracht will press the opposition intensely throughout the first quarter of the game or even beyond, depending on the situation. Loose ball recoveries have also been one of the key factors behind their pressing schemes.

Here’s an observation from the match against Bayern Munich: the amount of ball recoveries is simply incredible. To add to this, here’s another statistic effectively showing their interventions throughout the pitch.

So, there’s definitely something going on in the Frankfurt midfield. SGE play a relatively low passing game with 76% accuracy. Their width translates into a cheeky pressing and transition system, which helps the team make more interceptions throughout the length of the pitch, whilst giving them some extra efficiency on the break.

Did I mention that SGE have made the most number of interceptions than any other team last season (855!)?

Transfer Market

Ins: A lot of new faces arrived at the club, mostly adding to the depth of the squad.

Carlos Salcedo and Jetro Willems will be direct replacements for departing Jesus Vallejo and Bastian Oczipka, respectively.

Gelson Fernandes and Jonathan de Guzman will bring a wealth of experience. Fernandes in particular, has been a good signing and might eventually replace the aging Makoto Hasebe.

Taichi Kamada is an exciting youngster coming in from Sagan Tosu. He showed a lot of promise in preseason friendlies and is one to look out for. (As we go to press, die Adler have confirmed reports that Metz defender Simon Falette, 25, is taking his medical in Frankfurt).

https://twitter.com/eintracht_eng/status/895207939992059904

Net Expenditures: €15.55m
⦁ Sébastien Haller (FC Utrecht – €7m)
⦁ Jetro Willems (PSV Eindhoven – €5m)
⦁ Daichi Kamada (Sagan Tosu – €1.6m)
⦁ Danny Da Costa (Bayer Leverkusen – €1m)
⦁ Gelson Fernandes (Stade Rennais – €500 Th.)
⦁ Carlos Salcedo (Guadalajara – Loan fee. €450 Th.)
⦁ Jan Zimmermann (1860 Munich – Free Transfer)
⦁ Jonathan de Guzman (SSC Napoli – Free Transfer)

Net Earnings: €4.5m
⦁ Bastian Oczipka (FC Schalke – €4.5m)
⦁ Furkan Zorba (VfL Osnabrück – Free Transfer)
⦁ Heinz Lindner (Grasshoppers – Free Transfer)
⦁ Haris Seferovic(!) (SL Benfica – Free Transfer)

Strengths

Defensive Stability

Defensive stability has been Eintracht’s main source of ‘decency’ when it comes to performances. Defensive stability has been a key reason as to why the Eagles are still flying high among the Bundesliga elites, and it’s all been due to Kovač.

Thanks to the Croatian’s disciplinary tutelage, die Adler boast one of league’s best defenses. They conceded the third-fewest shots (344), fourth-fewest shots on target (123), and fifth-fewest shots inside the box (241) last season. They also conceded the third-fewest set-piece goals (112).

David Abraham is a key man in the Eintracht defensive line. The rejuvenated Argentinian defender won the most challenges in defense (230 with 65% accuracy) and also made the most interceptions (223).

Eintracht’s xG-against (expected goals against) rate for the entire season was at an incredibly low 36.08 last season. Only Leipzig, Dortmund, and Bayern managed better, while Dortmund ended up conceding way more than their initial xG plot.

However, one can only hope that the defense will perform at the same level as it did last season. The departure of Jesus Vallejo, whose partnership with David Abraham was one of the most-formidable defensive pairings last term, will be a huge blow.

Diversity

Diversity is an important and unique feature for Eintracht. Kovač has always been a huge fan of diversity in his side. In an interview with Eurosport.de, the 45-year-old said, “If there are different cultures, the one learns from the other. And my boys – especially the Germans see what the Spaniards are doing, the Croats see what the Serbs do – it grows together”.

Indeed!

They have players representing no fewer than 16 different nations in their first team at the moment. From Spain to Sweden, Finland to Serbia, and Azerbaijan to France, Eintracht are a global package! They also have the most foreign players in the league with 20, which is almost the combined tally of Köln and Freiburg (21).

In addition to being so diverse, Eintracht Frankfurt also have one of the youngest rosters in the league, with an average age of 24.3. Only HSV, Stuttgart, Leverkusen, and Leipzig boast younger squads than the Eagles. It all adds up to what might be the perfect sitch for Kovač to implement his tactical ideology, which requires substantial athleticism and pace. While the average age of the entire squad has actually increased from last season, it’s the average age of the starting men which has seen a substantial downturn. For example, left back Bastian Oczipka (28 years old) was replaced by Jetro Willems (only 23), Alex Meier’s injury spell will mean Branimir Hrgota, Sébastien Haller, and Luka Jovic, all of whom are aged 24 or below, will be in charge of the attack. Other key players in the squad include Mijat Gacinovic (22), Omar Mascarell (24), and presumably, Carlos Salcedo (23). This young group of first-team players is sure to be more fitting under the tactical setup of Kovač, providing him with more speed and efficiency.

Depth

Eintracht Frankfurt actually have good depth in their squadron, too. Of course, they don’t boast depth enjoyed by Bayern and Dortmund, but the Eagles do have decent backups. In defense, they have Abraham and Salcedo as first-team regulars, with Russ, Slobodan Medojevic, and Andersson Ordonez providing cover for the back line. While they also have two quality fullbacks for each flank: Timothy Chandler and Danny Da Costa primarily on the right and Willems and Taleb Tawatha on the left. Even Yanni Regasel can play as a right back, but let’s not count too much on him. After all, he is just a Joo-Ho Park to Eintracht.

Makoto Hasebe is not getting any younger, but at 33, he will still remain a key part of the setup. Omar Mascarell, Marc Stendera, Jonathan de Guzman, Taichi Kamada, Fernandes, and Max Besuschkow are Kovač’ other midfield options.

The attack is also quite packed with Marco Fabián, Mijat Gacinovic, Aymen Barkok, Marius Wolf, and Danny Blum all having the ability to play just behind the striker or in the wing positions. Sébastien Haller, Meier, Hrgota, and Jovic are the striking options for the former Croatian national team boss.

The Fountain of Youth

Maybe we do not talk about it enough, but the Eagles’ youth system has provided them with substantial cover for the first team, at least under Kovač.

This season, there will be a host of young talents initially playing for the Eintracht youth teams but looking to make a mark on the first team. Renat Dadashov and Besuschkow in particular have been constant features in the club’s preseason preparations. Both of them found the net in the friendly against FSV Frankfurt (Don’t take that too seriously though; after all, it’s just Frankfurt).

Dadashov is an out-and-out striker, who has been quite prolific in the youth teams of Eintracht and Leipzig. He also made 15 appearances for Germany U-17, scoring 13 goals in the process, before opting for Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Besuschkow was a youth-level star for VfB Stuttgart before he joined Eintracht earlier this year. Apart from making a host of appearances in the youth level, he also has experience in 3. Liga, where he made 33 appearances for VfB Stuttgart’s reserve squad, netting four goals and providing six assists. The 20-year-old can play anywhere from central midfield to left midfield, and Kovač will be delighted to have his services before the start of the new season.

Other youth players with potential to contribute this season include Nelson Mandela Mbouhom, Noel Knothe, and Leon Batge, providing some decent cover in their respective positions.

Weaknesses

Sluggish Offense

Eintracht Frankfurt are quite depressing when it comes to attacking dominance.

A boring and obnoxious stat: Eintracht managed only 36 goals last season, fifth-fewest in the Bundesliga. Due to Meier’s absence for much of last season, Eintracht failed to find a proper leader in the offensive zones. Of course, you won’t score too many goals having Hrgota as your top striker. It’s usually the lack of chance creation which hits them hard, ultimately having an effect in their overall scoring tally.

SGE created only 277 chances last season, almost half of what Bayern managed. They were also pretty average when it comes to shots. While their 382 shots is just about average for the season, the tally decreases significantly when it comes to shots on target with 124, which was 15th in the league.

Set-pieces are also a significant weakness. The Eagles managed just 104 shots and eight goals last season from them, both second-worst in the league. Looking at Alex Rathke’s xG table, Kovač’ men totaled an xG sum of 39.49, meaning there’s not much difference when it comes to xG and actual goals, but that does suggest that SGE need to improve their conversion rate, because having the sixth-worst conversion rate (8.8%) in the league clearly doesn’t help at all.

So, if the Frankfurters can somehow improve their offensive brutality, they would really have a strong case of finishing in the European places next season.

And please don’t include Hrgota as your main striker; they haven’t forgiven Steve just yet.

Injuries

Injuries did stall Frankfurt’s growth last season. As the graphic (thanks to @fbinjuries) down below suggests, SGE were the most ill-fated culprit of injuries last term with a player being out on the sideline on an average of 76 days.

Seriously, what could be worse for a club, to see it’s important players suffer constant injuries? Well, more injuries! SGE recently confirmed that Mexican playmaker  Fabián will be out for about eight weeks, as he joins Meier and Mascarell in Frankfurt’s injury list.

Departures

The fact that Vallejo and Oczipka have already left the Eagles could have a nasty effect in the team’s performances next season. It will be a difficult for  Kovač to replace the two talented defensive coordinators. As I specified in my earlier article about how Oczipka’s departure could be a gain for Schalke and huge loss for Eintracht, Vallejo also leaves behind a substantial gap to fill. His initial replacement in Salcedo doesn’t really have a great CV, failing to make a breakthrough at Fiorentina. While, there will be a series of question marks over Williems’ cogency of clinically replacing the Schalke-bound defender.

Inconsistency

Lack of consistency – is what halted Eintracht’s route to seal an European spot last season. After finishing the Hinrunde rather impressively, Eintracht’s hellish Ruckründe performance saw them climbing down to 11th. Therefore, Kovač might as well try to keep the consistency intact throughout the season, if they are to make a strong impressing next season.

Crucial stretch in schedule

It’s definitely the end of the year schedule which might cause a trouble or two for Eintracht. They have tough games throughout the month of November and December with matches against Hertha, Bayern, Schalke, Leverkusen and Hoffenheim. So, it’s probably safe to say that SGE must win games early in the season, because it will, no doubt, get rough for them later in the season.

Prediction
Bundesliga: 9th
DFB Pokal: Quarter Finals

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Bundesliga connoisseur and writer at Bundesliga Fanatic. Also a Bundesliga correspondent for The4thOfficial. In love with the Bundesliga since birth. Big fan of TwentyOnePilots and basically every other teen stuff(Star Wars not included). Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam. Come to my house and we will watch Netflix and eat Nutella. lol just kidding. Follow me on Twitter @CoverShadow09

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