August 19, 2017

Season Preview 2014-2015: SC Freiburg

Nicknames: “Breisgau-Brasilianer”, “Breisgau-Boys”

Founded: 30 May 1904

Club colors: Red, black and white

Primary Rivals: VfB Stuttgart, Karlsruher SC

Fan Friendship: FC Augsburg, Alemannia Aachen

Trophies:

  • 2. Bundesliga (3): 1993, 2003, 2009

Stadium: MAGE SOLAR Stadion (formerly Dreisamstadion). Capacity: 24,000. Renovated in 2004.

2013-14 Finishes:

  • Bundesliga: 14th
  • DFB Pokal: Round of 16 (knocked out by Bayer Leverkusen 1-2)
  • Europa League: Group stage

Top Goal Scorer: Ahmed Mehmedi (13 – in all competitions)

2013-14 Season Summary

Club Reputation

Freiburg have been a yo-yo club in the 90s and 00s, but at the same time enjoying some fantastic Bundesliga finishes, such as 3rd place in 1995, 6th in 2001 and 5th in 2013, narrowly missing out on the Champions League. This means that European football has not been a stranger to the Dreisamstadion in recent decades, a fantastic achievement for what is one of the smallest Bundesliga clubs. Despite this, their stadium is one of the hardest for away teams to visit due to the great atmosphere and the proximity of fans to the pitch. Freiburg have also successfully implemented a youth system in recent years that has seen them bring up some fantastic young players, and this alongside some shrewd budget signings has been the club philosophy in recent times.

Reality

The arrival of Christian Streich at the helm in the winter of 2011 saw Freiburg be steered clear of an almost-certain relegation. Still not content with that, Streich took little Freiburg into European competition but it was apparent that they were not able to cope on so many fronts with such a small squad, especially after it being decimated after their successful 2012/2013 campaign. While Streich’s antics might not win him many friends on the touchline, Freiburg won many neutral fans over thanks to their success and the modest ways of achieving it. However, it was made apparent last season that they need a bit more financial power and depth in the squad to be able to regularly challenge for European spots in the future.

Philosophy

Streich mostly enjoyed fielding a 4-4-2 formation throughout the year (on 25 occasions), with two deep central midfielders (Julian Schuster/Gelson Fernandes/Vladimír Darida/Matthias Ginter) and Jonathan Schmid and Felix Klaus out on the wing providing most of the assists. Freiburg are also a side who like to attack and score goals, having scored 3 or more in 7 Bundesliga matches (20%). The flip side of the coin is their inconsistency in attack, having failed to score in more than a third of their matches (35%) and averaging just over 1 goal per game. This underlines huge inconsistency in their matches, something that Streich will have to address if they want to improve on last season’s highest position of 12th. Tactically, Streich likes his team to have good flexibility in adapting to situations, intensive off-the-ball pressing and perform well in quick transitions.

Plan B

Vladimír Darida provided the option to change things around for Streich last season, as his usual 4-4-2 formation could turn into a 4-4-1-1, with the Czech man able to play behind the striker on a few occasions. Streich also adapted his formation to counter specific teams last season, having fielded the 4-1-4-1 on a couple of occasions when facing long-ball teams or even a 4-2-3-1 come 4-3-3 when coming against teams who enjoyed long possession stings, in order not to endure the inferiority in midfield that the 4-4-2 brings. Versatile players like the aforementioned Darida, the departed Ginter (who could play in central defence or central midfield) and even Mehmedi, who last season played as striker, second striker, out wide or in attacking midfield; allowed Streich to shuffle his formations adding a degree of unpredictability and maximum flexibility in his tactics.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Having lost their two best players in the summer, with Oliver Baumann (Hoffenheim) and Matthias Ginter (Dortmund) departing the club, Freiburg’s main strength now will be a collective rather than individual feature. One of their main assets, as mentioned before, is their stadium, a smaller-than-average arena in which fans are on top of the players can be intimidating on certain evenings for bigger clubs. Another strength is their speedy transitions, able to recover the ball and quickly get to the opposition goal thanks to the speed of players like Jonathan Schmid and the know-how finishing of Mehmedi.

In terms of weaknesses, with the departure of Oliver Baumann there will be huge shoes to step into. Rakhi Bürki arrived from Grasshoppers Zürich and it seems he will be the one getting the nod ahead of Sebastian Mielitz, who also arrived from Werder Bremen. Still, neither are in the same class as Baumann and points will be dropped just on that factor.

Another weakness is, as seen last season, the lack of depth. There’s a huge gap between the pitch and the bench, especially in attack. Ahmed Mehmedi is the only striker in the squad of Bundesliga class. An option would be Austrian Philipp Zulechner, who arrived last winter from Austrian Bundesliga side SV Grödig, after having scored 15 goals in the first 20 matches. However, Streich only gave him one start and just over two hours of football in seven matches last season, in which Zulechner scored one goal, so something must not be right there. However, it looks like he’s the only alternative to Mehmedi in the squad right now aside from Karim Guedé.

Takeaway from 2013-14

A European campaign which included a trip to Spanish giants Sevilla was definitely a season highlight, which many believe ended early due to Streich’s approach of treating it like a secondary competition, seeing the negative effect it was having on their domestic form. Also not to be forgotten was the home draw against Bayern München, with Nicolas Höfler’s late goal earning the team from the Breisgau a prestigious point.

Trivia

Freiburg were statistically one of the least dangerous sides to face last season. Only 371 shots on goal were made (17th) and 135 corners taken (17th), reducing their attacking options considerably.

Verdict

After the decimation the squad suffered last summer, two more “quality” players from then now have also left, with lower-standard players coming in. However, without the handicap of European football, this impact should be minimised and a lower-mid-table finish should be on the cards.

The Boss

Christian Streich is Freiburg’s most famous face, known for his managerial prowess as well as for his behaviour on the touchline. While he doesn’t win many friends with the latter, just ask Gertjan Verbeek, he saved Freiburg from almost certain relegation and was the architect of their recent success. He’s local, he’s passionate about the club and it’s hard to think of anyone who could do a better job.

Odds to win league:

1500/1 (courtesy of bet365)

“60-second dossier”

  • Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 5
  • Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 4
  • Number of Matches drawn: 9
  • Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 5
  • Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 11
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 2
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 4
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 4
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 3

Five-Year Record:

2013-2014: 14th

2012-2013: 5th

2011-2012: 12th

2010-2011: 9th

2009-2010: 14th

Q & A with a club fan: @SCF_UK 

“Which Freiburg player do we need to keep an eye out for?”

Christian Günter

Günter was a player who gradually began to play a bigger role in the team as last season went on, which culminated in a surprise call-up for Germany’s friendly with Poland when Bayern and Dortmund players were unavailable due to DFB Pokal Final duties. He’s a marauding left-back who could have a break-through season this time around if things go his way. There are still questions over the defensive elements of his game, but when he picks up the ball and runs with it he’s the sort of player that gets the crowd off their feet. He may eventually find himself more suited to a midfield role on the wing, in the same way that Gareth Bale moved forward. Günter’s not quite in Bale’s class, but he’s definitely an exciting player.

“Which player is the terrace favorite?”

Admir Mehmedi

The Swiss international carried Freiburg at times last season and his goals and assists were a major reason Christian Streich was able to keep the club in the Bundesliga after a difficult Hinrunde fighting on multiple fronts. The fact the club have forked out the required money to make his loan move permanent shows just how much faith is placed on Mehmedi’s shoulders and it’s to be hoped he can be even better this time around now he has a season of Bundesliga experience behind him. He has the ability to frustrate at times by not releasing the ball quickly enough on the edge of the area, but he’s a very talented player who will be key to Sport-Club’s success.

“Which player would you happily drive to another club?”

Karim Guedé

Poor Karim. Poor, poor Karim! He’s become something of a scapegoat during the last year or so but his bumbling performances have the potential to induce sheer rage. It’s clear that he does bring value to the squad and obviously Christian Streich admires his work ethic which fits the hard-working mentality Freiburg are renowned for, but ultimately Guédé is just not very good at football. His touch is inadequate, he has little finesse and his finishing isn’t great either. That said, I still expect him to feature fairly regularly unless the club dip into the transfer market for a striker to partner Mehmedi.

“What piece of advice would you give Christian Streich?”

Less of the touchline antics, please. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christian Streich. What he has done since inheriting the mess left by predecessor Marcus Sorg is nothing short of a miracle what with keeping us in the Bundesliga and a European campaign. However, at times he does risk losing his temper and with it the respect of the wider footballing world. It’s good to see his passion, but he can go a little overboard and the row with Gertjan Verbeek last season was a little unbecoming, even if Verbeek came out of it looking worse. Streich is clearly a very likeable character with his strong Badenian accent and all-round demeanour and it’s to be hoped he can keep his angrier moments to a minimum.

“Is there an opposition player you’d love to see play for Freiburg?”

Julian Green. 

The young American is a name that’s cropped up with more regularity over the last 12 months but it’s safe to say he exploded into international consciousness with his cameo at the World Cup. Being realistic, it’s hard to envisage Green getting a lot of first team football this season in a very strong Bayern team, and I’d love to think that a club like Freiburg would be well-suited to nurturing his talent on a season long loan deal. Make it happen!

“Which opposition player do you despise?”

Shawn Parker

One player of American descent I have very little love for is Shawn Parker. It effectively stems back to a game in January 2013 when Freiburg travelled to Mainz. Parker attempted a pathetic dive which rightly earned him a yellow card and then got his marching orders for an off-the-ball incident. His indignation at two completely correct decisions revealed him to be quite an arrogant and unlikeable individual and that’s stuck with me ever since. Parker is one of those cocky opposing players you just love to hate, and it’s fair to say I don’t wish him the best of luck at his new club Augsburg.

“Often overlooked strength”

Probably the Dreisamstadion. With such a small pitch and fans right on top of the action, it can be an intimidating place for other teams to visit. While we know a new stadium is required for the long-term sustainability of the club, it will be a shame if we end up losing the home advantage the current location provides.

“How was your European adventure last season?”

It was good fun. Obviously it didn’t go quite as well as we hoped going out in the group stages, but it was a rare experience for Freiburg and we savoured every moment. Personally I made the trip to Seville for our game in the Estadio Ramón Sánchez-Pizjuán and had a great time despite the result. To be savouring the atmosphere in the hot cobbled streets of Seville with over 1,000 SCF fans that had made the trip is something I’ll never forget. If you can’t enjoy being in Europe when it so rarely comes along then there’s something wrong I’d say. To be honest, if we hadn’t thrown away wins against Slovan Liberec and Estoril at home, we would have easily got through the group, but given its impact on our league form it perhaps wasn’t the worst outcome.

“Where will you finish” 

There are so many teams that look quite evenly-matched that it’s difficult to predict. I think we should do better than last season because we’ve not lost as many players as last time around and should be more settled without any European football to worry about too. Oliver Baumann and Matthias Ginter will both be big losses, but I think our recruitment has been quite solid and improved the squad overall, so if I had to say a particular place, I’d perhaps go for somewhere around 11th.

Fixture list:

August

  • 23 Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
  • 31 Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)

September

  • 13 Borussia Dortmund (A)
  • 19 Hertha BSC (H)
  • 23 Hoffenheim (A)
  • 27 Bayer Leverkusen (H)

October

  •  3 Werder Bremen (A)
  • 17 Wolfsburg (H)
  • 24 Augsburg (A)
  • 31 1. FC Köln (A)

November

  • 7 Schalke 04 (H)
  • 21 Mainz 05 (A)
  • 28 Stuttgart (H)

December

  • 5  SC Paderborn (A)
  • 12 HSV (H)
  • 16 FC Bayern (A)
  • 19 Hannover (H)

January

  • 30 Eintracht Frankfurt (H)

February

  • 3 Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)
  • 6 Borussia Dortmund (H)
  • 13 Hertha BSC (A)
  • 20 Hoffenheim (H)
  • 27 Bayer Leverkusen (A)

March

  • 6 Werder Bremen (H)
  • 13 Wolfsburg (A)
  • 20 FC Augsburg (H)

April

  • 04 1. FC Köln (H)
  • 10 Schalke 04 (A)
  • 17 Mainz 05 (H)
  • 24 Stuttgart (A)

May

  • 2 SC Paderborn (H)
  • 8 HSV (A)
  • 16 FC Bayern (H)
  • 23 Hannover (A)

Crucial Schedule Stretch:

The beginning of the Rückrunde could be tricky for Freiburg. Despite a feasible first home match back against Eintracht Frankfurt, February brings tricky trips to Mönchengladbach, Berlin and Leverkusen as well as the visit of Borussia Dortmund and the unpredictable Hoffenheim. If Freiburg don’t have a decent Hinrunde, it’s hard to see where they’ll pick up points during this month. 

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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