Karlsruher SC returns to 2.Bundesliga after a one year absence winning. The club won 3. Liga by 3 points over Arminia Bielefeld. However, the challenge that this club faces on returning to 2.Bundesliga is even more daunting, unless they fix some glaring holes in their roster.
Prior to last season, the club sold its best player, Hakan Çalhanoğlu to Hamburger SV for €2.5M. Hamburg, then loaned the U-20 Turkish International back to Karlsruher for the past season; Çalhanoğlu was outstanding for the club, making 36 appearances and scoring 17 times. On top of that, he also provided 14 assists, which was 28% of the clubs total.
On the whole, the club found the back of the net 69 times, leading their division. Koen van der Biezen scored 15 times last season and will be expected to reach double digits next season as well. The 28 year-old moved to the club from Poland, but prior to that had 2 seasons of double-digit goals playing in the Belgian Jupiler Pro League in 2010/2011 and 2007/2008. Also playing a key role in the offense will have to be German Rouwen Hennings. The 25 year-old has previously spent three seasons in 2.Bundesliga with St. Pauli and VfL Osnabruck, making 85 appearances while scoring 13 goals and adding another 13 assists. The club also signed Bulgarian International striker Ilian Micanski from Kaiserslautern. In 28 games at this level he has notched 10 goals and assisted on 7 others.
Çalhanoğlu led his hometown team back to the Bundesliga 2 before moving on to bigger things
On the defensive side of the ball, goalkeeper and captain Dirk Orlishausen will need to use his experience to marshal a defensive line that will be facing stronger opposition. Philippine international Dennis Cagara last played in the 2. Bundesliga in 2005/2006, and the club will certainly hope he can replicate the form from that season making 29 appearances scoring 2 goals and adding 2 assists from his left back position. That may just be wishful thinking though, considering he only made 2 appearances last season. Furthermore, centerback Jan Mauersberger will need to be just as dependable as last season, but that’s a tough ask from a man who just started all 38 league matches and was not on the field for just 45 minutes the entire season. Finally, Manuel Gulde may complete the central defense partnership, the 22 year-old signed with the club on a free transfer from Paderborn, where he made 13 appearances last season.
The most glaring hole is in midfield, as Çalhanoğlu has moved on and the team can’t rely on him anymore to create for himself and others. Picking up his production cannot be expected of any single player currently on the roster, so the whole squad will need to pick up the slack. Selçuk Alibaz will be asked to improve his performances for the club, as he can play most positions in the midfield. As mentioned earlier, Çalhanoğlu had 14 assists last year, so the midfielders will need to step up and provide the key passes. Last season, the next highest number of assists from a midfielder was 3, by both Alibaz and 27 year-old Gaetan Krebs. Tactically, the squad tended to play with defensive midfielders, oftentimes two as the diagram below shows:
Karlsruher SC played a formation like this in most of their 3. Liga games last season according to transfermarkt.co.uk
The schedule seems to be fairly balanced, as the opening 4 games (@ FSV Frankfurt, v. St. Pauli, @ Ingolstadt, v. Greuther Fürth) pose opportunities to get out of the gate fairly well, although starting at promotion hopefuls FSV could put the club behind from the beginning. The run in at season’s end features going to both Dynamo Dresden (Matchday 32) and Bochum (34), who finished towards the bottom last season and hosting Union Berlin (31) and Fortuna Düsseldorf (33) who look to better their last campaigns and be in the promotion conversation offers Karlsruher with the opportunity to get points at the end of the season.
Traditionally, clubs moving up to the 2.Bundesliga face a tough hill to climb in terms of avoiding relegation. Last year, both SV Sandhausen and Jahn Regensburg were relegated straight back down, although Sandhausen in the end stayed up due to Duisburg’s league license being denied, which saw the Zebras being relegated to the 3.Liga. Meanwhile, the other promoted side, VfR Aalen, surprised many by reaching 9th. KSC has similar talent levels to those clubs in the middle of the table and more offensive firepower compared to those at the bottom of the table, so they could very well finish somewhere around 14th, above the relegation playoff position by a handful of points.
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