November 18, 2017

The Worst XI of the 2015/2016 Rückrunde – Part 4 – Forwards

The final chapter in our worst XI of the Rückrunde takes a look at the Bundesliga forwards, after covering goalkeeper(s), defenders and midfielders.

But, first allow us a little detour: the dearth of good strikers has been an issue that has come to the forefront at EURO 2016. In particular, Arsenal manager and French TV station pundit Arsene Wenger posited the theory that Europe does not produce strikers, due to the overeducation/”institutionalization” of its youth players, while the rest of the world churns them out. The Arsenal manager named Luis Suarez, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain as the South American examples, but went on to add Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba as products of street football in Africa. While it’s an interesting theory, and would support this article – after all wouldn’t the author of a worst forwards piece love the Wenger comments? – it’s typical of the intellectually dishonest cherry-picking that is so commonplace in the contemporary list/meme/hot take sports culture. As a side note, this also applies to the similarly dishonest nostalgia of the NBA, as well. Sorry, Sir Charles!

In addition, there is another separate discussion to be had on whether the formations, which often lead to teams employing one nominal striker, have a deleterious effect on the general football public’s perception of strikers. To put it more bluntly: of course we perceive there to be fewer good strikers, if everyone and their mother play in 4-3-2-1 versus the old days of 4-2-4, 4-3-3, etc.

Another separate issue is the “attacking players”: Antoine Griezmann is a nice example from the Euros, while Reus, Mkhitaryan, Schürrle, Julian Brandt, Karim Bellarabi and Daniel Didavi – proven Bundesliga goalscorers – are all lumped in under this umbrella. Clearly this discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but hopefully Monsieur Wenger will allow me to make one point about the quality of Bundesliga strikers:

The likes of Lewandowski, Müller and Aubameyang need no introduction, they are all players with at least 20 goals last season, values north of 50 million and the object(s) of many major club’s affection. The guys in the next tier are also excellent: Gladbach’s magisterial setup man turned goalscoring machine Raffael (who only Dunga is dumb enough to fail to appreciate), Chicharito, who cooled off from a torrid Hinrunde and the ageless Claudio Pizarro, who scored TWELVE times in the spring. Another tier below them we still find some solid options in the shot happy Anthony Modeste (eight more Rückrunde goals to give him 15 on the year), the rejuvenated Salomon Kalou, who added five to his nine goals in the fall, former Hertha failure turned Darmstadt savior Sandro Wagner, whose ten goals in the spring earned him a move to Hoffenheim. Goals were not in short supply for Nagelsmann and Hoffenheim, thanks to the duo of Mark Uth (seven goals under Nagelsmann after just one in the fall!) and Andrej Kramaric (five goals and 2.8 shots per game – would be the 6th best mark in the league!) Last but not least, let’s give a shout out and a mea culpa to Adrian supersub Ramos, who added seven goals in 843 minutes for Dortmund and proved the author of this article (who was thinking of including him on the Hinrunde list) very wrong.

Having taken care of that rant/housekeeping, let us take a look at the three worst forwards of the 2015/2016 Bundesliga Rückrunde. Remember, we are requiring min. 10 appearances and 600 minutes.We will be using the eye test, games we watched, stats from Squawka.com and Whoscored.com.

  1. Haris Seferovic – Eintracht Frankfurt

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Rated as the worst forward by Squawka, Seferovic went goalless for the entire Rückrunde, but did score the crucial goal that kept die Adler in the Bundesliga promotion/relegation playoff against Nürnberg. The Swiss forward, who was also miserable at the EUROs for his national team.  Seferovic kept getting opportunities to start for a Frankfurt team that lost top scorer Alex Meier and his twelve goals for the season in mid February. sefer

1100 minutes of silence = an awesome name for an indie band as well!

Seferovic is a strange case: at Frankfurt, the 24-year-old has finally gotten some playing time after signing with Fiorentina in 2010 and getting loaned out to various smaller Serie B teams and Real Sociedad in 2013. His first season saw him score TEN goals for Frankfurt in 2850 minutes, and he started the 2015/16 campaign brightly with two goals and three assists in die Adler’s first four games. A dry spell followed and while he finished the Hinrunde strong with two assists and a goal, Seferovic has been absolutely abysmal since.

His Hinrunde shooting stats versus

harisHR

his Rückrunde stats

harisRR

show a slightly worse player, who perhaps is creating fewer chances for others (eight versus 18), but could just be getting unlucky? That 43% is not great, but Huntelaar is at 44% and even Robert Lewandowski only got to 50%.

This on other hand is just so sad

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Seferovic has great size at 185cms and 85kgs, but perhaps a 25 BMI is the indication that shedding a few kgs wouldn’t be the worst idea.

VIDEOS

Assist to Stefan Reinartz vs Wolfsburg on Matchday one from 0:55

A great run and a nice header that became and own goal, a penalty scored and a lovely assist to Castaignos for the second goal, all in the game against Stuttgart

A delightful lobbed pass to Alex Meier (is it sacrilege to call this Messiesque?) for the third of six goals against Cologne in the 6-2 drubbing from 0:39 and a calm finish at 1:22.

A great linkup play plus finish against Mainz from 1:20.

The layoff to Alex Meier, who hits the deep three, to open the scoring vs BVB

A great through ball that got denied, but Seferovic pushed on and set up Aigner beautifully to win against Werder on Matchday 17 from 1:02

While he is a 66% passer, he has had five assists in each of the last two seasons and his passing accuracy probably suffered from missing Alex Meier. The first picture shows us his Hinrunde passing, and there’s an argument to be made that Seferovic was close to 70% accuracy because he passed a lot more frequently backwards than forwards. That flipped in the spring, perhaps due to the absence of Meier, as Seferovic often played up top by himself and was forced to create more for others.seferpassHR

seferpassRR

He takes over two shots a game, which is a solid 25th among all Bundesliga players, but the bigger issue isn’t hitting the target (as we saw above), it’s that all too often his shots are too weak. The recent Euro performance vs Romania is a prime example of a shot that he got on target, but it had poor placement and power and was never gonna be a goal.

Also in that game, the left-footed Seferovic pulled off a great series of moves to set himself up for a righty finish that he just curled wide – from 0:12-

Against Albania, while he earned the red card on Cana, he missed another great chance after a great Xhaka ball found him on the left side of the box, and Seferovic again managed a weak shot on goal – from 3:52. Just minutes later, he missed another huge opportunity on a breakaway and then took out his frustration on the goalpost. He would go on to have another good chance in the 81st minute, but the oncoming Berisha did enough to cause Seferovic to miss again.

In the match versus France, Seferovic got only 16 minutes off the bench, as Embolo started.

In the knockout round against Poland, he was unlucky to hit the crossbar.

2. Pierre-Michel Lasogga of HSV is an excellent candidate based on his Rückrunde performance: in 628 minutes, he managed to produce two goals – both incredibly important in the derby against Werder to be fair – and not much else. I already warned HSV fans after his six fluky Hinrunde goals – if I recall, two were horrendous Gladbach mistakes – a Jantschke backpass and the second a complete failure to mark Lasogga inside the six, a couple of  a penalties versus Dortmund and Darmstadt and two tap-ins – against Stuttgart and Hoffenheim. That latter goal was part if the saddest and shortest match compilation video/highlights  Youtube has ever seen…

So, while one might put his goal scoring drought down to being unlucky, the evidence suggests otherwise: From mid-February to late April, Lasogga lost his starting job to a collection of uninspiring replacements: Josip Drmic, who was on our worst of the Hinrunde list, while Artjoms Rudnevs scored two quick goals only to somehow be replaced by Sven Schipplock, who went scoreless for the whole season. Rudnevs has since moved on to Cologne, while Drmic went back to Gladbach after his loan expired.

The more alarming issue is that Lasogga’s numbers have been on a downward spiral:

lasogga

It’s scary to think that he is only 24 years old and his extensive injury history is also a huge concern. The club have already signed Bobby Wood, who is most likely going to be a direct replacement for Lasogga, and there are some Max Kruse rumors floating around.

3. Franco di Schipplock – Schalke – HSV are two opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of terrible Bundesliga forwards. They are both 27, but have gone through vastly different careers: the big Argentine was a highly rated Chelsea prospect at 19, after joining them from Chile in January of 2008, while Schipplock made his move to Stuttgart’s reserve team in the very same month!

Here is how they have done since

  1. Schipplock has done okay, but almost of all his Stuttgart goals came in the 3rd division and his Bundesliga totals amount to 17 goals in 116 minutes.

schippperf

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2. Di Santo has mostly failed – aside from 13 goals for Werder in 2014/15 – but probably has a better reputation, due to better numbers in the Bundesliga.

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For the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign Sven Schipplock – Hamburger SV only managed 350 minutes in the spring, and ended up going goalless in 950 Bundesliga minutes for the season, while Franco di Santo got just 257 minutes for Schalke and scored one goal, after earning over 1000 in the fall. It’s easy to see why: their shot stats are both miserable, 0.6 per game for Schipplock, and 0.9 per match for di Santo, they are both 64-65% passers on an average of 10-15 passers per game. Surprisingly, both offer little in the air at just 1.9 aerials per game won, despite possessing excellent size. Furthermore, while Schipplock is probably the more capable passer, they both produced a paltry 0.5 key passes per match and lost the ball between 2 and 3 times per match. Those are the signs of a back-up striker who should play 10-20 minutes at most, yet they both managed to start over TEN games this season each!

Honorable mentions go out Niklas Bendtner, who is the Mike Tyson of this category and Ádám Szalai, whose Euro performance and injuries kept him off the list.

See you next season!

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL