When Niko Kovač took over on March 8th, 2016, Eintracht Frankfurt were in 16th place and set for a relegation battle that would go on until the very end of the season.
The Croatian did just enough to keep the club up, as Frankfurt defeated FC Nürnberg in the relegation playoffs to remain in the Bundesliga.
What a difference a summer makes. Frankfurt currently sit in 6th place and don’t look like letting up anytime soon.
Frankfurt’s transformation has not been because of splashing the cash. The club only spent €2.2m in the summer, with left back Taleb Tawatha being their most expensive signing at just €1.2m.
A big reason is the high-pressing 3-5-2 Kovač has implemented that has been instrumental to their success. The amount of sprints and interceptions they’ve completed illustrates the hard work they put in, with the German club having completed 260 sprints and an average of 23.7 interceptions per game – both the most in the Bundesliga.
Similarly to Chelsea’s revival under Antonio Conte, it all starts with the defence.
Real Madrid loanee Jesús Vallejo has been a rock at the back for the German club all season. The Spanish central defender, who plays on the left side of Die Adler’s back three, has received plenty of praise since his move, and rightly so. The 19-year-old is composed on the ball and reads the game exceptionally well for someone his age.
His manager had this to say about his young defender when speaking to AS:
“I’ve never seen a player like [Vallejo], as a player or as a coach. This kid is scandalously good.”
Similarly, Frankfurt goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky told Marca, “He is our best player at the moment. Vallejo makes my work a lot easier.”
Giving Vallejo all the credit for Frankfurt’s defensive success would be unfair. One player cannot singlehandedly be responsible for the joint-second best defense in the Bundesliga, one that’s conceded just 11 goals all season. Frankfurt defend as a unit, from back to front.
Frankfurt attack as a unit as well. 11 different players have scored already this season, with their top scorer Alexander Meier only having scored four.
Don’t let his infrequent goalscoring fool you. Meier is key to their attack, as the 6’4” German striker holds up the ball as well as anybody in the Bundesliga.
Omar Mascarell, the other of Frankfurt’s two signings from Real Madrid in the summer, is the player who starts most of the team’s attacks. He completes an average of 49.7 passes per game, second-most on the team. You will often see him spraying balls from side-to-side as Frankfurt use the width of the pitch very well.
Marco Fabian is Frankfurt’s main playmaker. The Mexican midfielder has scored three and set up four already this season. He also has a WhoScored rating of 7.57, the highest of any Frankfurt player.
You could praise every single person associated with Eintracht Frankfurt at the minute. From the players, to the manager, to the chairman – everyone. The German club will hope to keep up their impressive form and earn European football for next campaign.