Season Preview 2014-2015: FC Augsburg

Nickname: Die Fuggerstädter, after the Fuggers – a prominent mercantile family from the city.
Founded: 8th August 1907
Club Colours: Green-red-white
Primary Rivals: TSV 1860 München
Fan Friendship: SC Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund
Trophies: None
Stadium: SGL Arena, formerly the Impuls Arena (opened: July 26th 2009, capacity 30,660)

2013-14 Season Summary

Bundesliga: 8th (52 pts.)
DFB Pokal: 3rd round
Top Goalscorer: André Hahn (12 goals)

Club Reputation

Despite tracing their date of foundation back to the creation of Ballspiel-Club Augsburg in 1907, the current FC Augsburg would only come into existence in July 1969 with the merger of BC Augsburg and local rivals TSV Schwaben Augsburg. After a number of years languishing in the nether regions of the German league system, FCA would make its first breakthrough into the 2. Bundesliga in 2005/06 before taking the big leap into the top flight in 2010/11.

Despite being seen by many as candidates for the drop, Die Fuggerstädter would punch beyond their weight to finish in fourteenth place in their first 1. Bundesliga season, which would be followed by a near miss the following year. Having skirted with danger Augsburg would again be odds on for a return to second division football, but after a poor start would start exchanging blows with the big boys. Narrowly missing out on a spot in the Europa League, Markus Weinzierl’s side would finish in a creditable eighth spot – arguably the highest point in the club’s history.

Having come into the 1. Bundesliga with not much of a reputation FCA have had to set about forging one, and the successful 2013/14 season would be capped off with a famous 1-0 win in front of a packed SGL Arena over FC Bayern München, who up to that time had gone a record fifty-three matches without defeat. Away from the pitch, general manager Stefan Reuter has certainly engineered a sense of purpose in establishing the club as a stable top-flight unit.

Reality

Augsburg have built a reputation of being a compact, hard-working and hard-tackling side that have relied more on function than flair – a squad that has consistently proved to be greater than the sum of its parts. There will no doubt be a desire to repeat the achievement of 2013/14, but with few big names at their disposal – and the departure of star man André Hahn to Borussia Mönchengladbach – the first task will be one of establishing a decent platform to ensure their survival in what is predicted to be a fiercely competitive battle in the lower half of the table.

In 2013/14 Augsburg would be sufficiently solid at home and surprisingly efficient on the road, but the challenge will surely be on for Weinzierl’s side to repeat this feat.

Philosophy

Over the course of the 2013/14 season Augsburg would base their game on solidity, defensive discipline and teamwork, and this can essentially be described as the team’s philosophy. Solid without being spectacular, but more than capable of competing against the best. This approach has been consistent at all levels, from the pragmatic approach adopted by Reuter through to Weinzierl’s tactics on the pitch.

The team would score just forty-seven goals in their thirty-four matches last season, but conversely would concede just the same number. However with a number of strikers moving to the SGL Arena there might be a few tweaks to the defensive approach. The signing of talented German youth international Shawn Parker from Mainz 05 and promising Brazilian Caiuby from FC Ingolstadt 04 has certainly cranked up the level of firepower up front, and alongside established figures Halil Altıntop, Sascha Mölders and Tobias Werner there is plenty of goalscoring potential.

This is not to say that there is going to be a move away from the defensive approach any time soon, and the signing of Ghanaian Under-20 captain from Abdul Rahman Baba from SpVgg Greuther Fürth should ensure that things remain tight and make up for the loss of roving left-back Matthias Ostrzolek.

Plan B

Given that the mission will be one of consolidation and survival, there will be little scope for a Plan B. Perhaps the best indicator can be taken from the poor start to last season, where the coach would stick to his guns and maintain faith in his side to see things through. As things turned out the team would fix matters pretty quickly, meaning that the coach would never need to resort to desperate measures.

Of course, this could all be turned on its head if the coach decides to adopt a more attacking approach – where the Plan B would be effectively be last season’s Plan A.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Augsburg’s biggest strength is arguably the squad’s self-belief which would be given a major boost after its eighth-place finish last season. However, this could also prove to be its biggest weakness. With the lack of quality depth across the squad  an extended poor run of form could just send the team deeper into the mire. This is where we will see if Markus Weinzierl really has a Plan B up his sleeve; if the defensive approach fails, the lack of established firepower up front may well be the club’s undoing.

The key to Augsburg’s success will be momentum, and should things get off to a good start they could prove to be just as hard to break down as they were in 2013/14.

Takeaway from 2013-14

2013/14 would be a massive success for the Die Fuggerstädter, and apart from their top-half finish perhaps the biggest moment of the season would be the win over FC Bayern – something that every FCA supporter will be dining out on for the next couple of years at least. However every serious supporter will still look on last season as being something of a surprise, and rather than running the risk of bettering that achievement the first task will be one of survival with anything after that considered a bonus.

The money made from the sale of Hahn has given the club additional funds to bolster the squad, but in line with the club’s serious long-term ambitions the management have not gone crazy with every new signing well thought out.

Trivia

Augsburg’s 1-0 win over FC Bayern on 5th April 2014 would bring an end to Die Roten’s record unbeaten streak of fifty-three games. It was the first win by any Augsburg side over Bayern since BC Augsburg’s 3-1 win in the Oberliga-Süd in August 1961.

Verdict

Augsburg’s season will depend on their getting a decent start, and maintaining the level of confidence and belief from last season. Should this be the case, they are certainly good enough to avoid the dreaded drop and earn a comfortable mid-table finish. However, a poor start could see things unravel pretty quickly and plunge the team into the sort of relegation struggle that would define their first two seasons in the top flight.

The Boss

Since taking over from the successful Dutchman Jos Luhukay at the end of the 2011/12 season after four years in charge of SSV Jahn Regensburg, former FC Bayern youth player Markus Weinzierl has taken Die Fuggerstädter from strength to strength. Making the best of limited resources and working to a tight budget, the thirty-nine year old from Straubing has turned a side marked for relegation by many pundits into a one that would just miss out on a first season in European club football. In December 2013 Weinzierl’s contract would be extended, keeping him at the club until the summer of 2017.

Odds to win league: 500/1 (Source: Ladbrokes)

60-second dossier

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 6
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 9
Number of Matches drawn: 7
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 6
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 6
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 5
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 2
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 5

(Source: Fussballdaten.de)

Five-Year Record: 3 (2.BL), 2 (2.BL), 14, 15, 8

Q & A with a club fan:

1. Which player would you keep an eye out for this season?

Definitely Abdul Rahman Baba. FCA just signed him and I believe that he can perfectly replace Matthias Ostrzolek at that left spot in their defense. He had some great games in the second Bundesliga and he is just 20 years old. When he shows all of his potential he can be one of the best on his position in the Bundesliga.

2. Who would you see as the terrace favourite and why?

Very difficult to say that. In that category you always have to mention Daniel Baier and Tobias Werner because they are so long with the team and they always play with 100 percent. In this season I think that Caiuby, in Germany also called “Kai-Uwe”, can become one of the favourites. He is a great guy and if he also plays well, he will be one of the fan’ favourites.

3. Which player would you happily drive to another club?

Nobody. Stefan Reuter has done a great job and I think that this team is perfect. The only thing that can become a problem is that we have too many strikers and that there will only play one (two at the most).

4. What advice you would give to Markus Weinzierl?

Stay with your system. He discovered the 4-1-4-1 system for Augsburg and I really like it. He should not change it just because we have a lot of strikers. Daniel Baier has done a great job as the only defensive midfielder and I would stay with that system. Also I hope that he stays calm even if we are losing a few games. Nobody expects a season like the last one.

5. What opposition player do you secretly admire?

Adrian Ramos. In my opinion one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga. I hope he can show his potential when playing with Ciro Immobile. Although he is large, he is so fast and skilled with the ball. I wish him all the best for his time in Dortmund. And of course: André Hahn. I will watch a lot of Mönchengladbach’s games just because of him, a great guy.

6. Which opposition player do you despise?

I can’t say despise but I don’t like Klaas-Jan Huntelaar because he always scores against us. He is a terrific striker but I don’t want him to play in the Bundesliga, Augsburg has just no answers against him.

7. Where do you think you will finish this season?

I don’t expect a season like the last one but I see ourself as a Top 12 team in that league. If the new players show their potential we can also be a Top 10 team. But as Weinzierl says all the time: First we have to look that we have three teams that are below us, then we’ll see what we can do.

8. Do you think the club could have done anything to keep André Hahn?

No. I’m absolutely satisfied with what they have done for him. He had a very low exit-clause and then you can’t do anything against it. Mönchengladbach had the money and they paid it. What I wouldn’t like to see is that Augsburg overpays him, just because they want him to stay. Because then we have one “star” in our team and Hahn would have known that. Now we used the money to get really, really good players (Matavz, Caiuby, Baba) and we will play as a great unit again. I also believe that it was the best for the development of Hahn, because he is young and should deserve to play in a better team.

A big thank you to Christian Schmidt for providing the answers!

Fixture list

Hinrunde

23.08.14 1899 Hoffenheim (A)
29.08.14 Borussia Dortmund (H)
14.09.14 Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
20.09.14 SV Werder Bremen (H)
24.09.14 Bayer Leverkusen (A)
27.09.14 Hertha BSC (H)
04.10.14 VfL Wolfsburg (A)
18.10.14 1. FSV Mainz 05 (A)
25.10.14 SC Freiburg (H)
01.11.14 FC Schalke 04 (A)
08.11.14 SC Paderborn 07 (H)
22.11.14 VfB Stuttgart (A)
29.11.14 Hamburger SV (H)
06.12.14 1. FC Köln (A)
13.12.14 FC Bayern München (H)
17.12.14 Hannover 96 (A)
20.12.14 Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)

Rückrunde

31.01.15 1899 Hoffenheim (H)
04.02.15 Borussia Dortmund (A)
07.02.15 Eintracht Frankfurt (H)
14.02.15 SV Werder Bremen (A)
21.02.15 Bayer Leverkusen (H)
28.02.15 Hertha BSC (A)
07.03.15 VfL Wolfsburg (H)
14.03.15 1. FSV Mainz 05 (H)
21.03.15 SC Freiburg (A)
04.04.15 FC Schalke 04 (H)
11.04.15 SC Paderborn 07 (A)
18.04.15 VfB Stuttgart (H)
25.04.15 Hamburger SV (A)
02.05.15 1. FC Köln (H)
09.05.15 FC Bayern München (A)
16.05.15 Hannover 96 (H)
23.05.15 Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)

Crucial Schedule Stretch

Given that Augsburg’s immediate mission will be one of survival, one would always look first at those teams likely to be in the mix with them. Perhaps their most crucial stretch will come midway in both the Hin- and Rückrunde, with four games against the two Bundesliga new boys SC Paderborn 07 and 1. FC Köln and two clubs that struggled last season, VfB Stuttgart and Hamburger SV.

Then of course there will be two fixtures against FC Bayern, with Augsburg entertaining the reigning champions in December before making the short trip down the Autobahn A99 to the Bavarian capital in early May.

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London-based but with his heart firmly in Fröttmaning, Rick Joshua's love of German football goes back more than thirty years and has witnessed everything from the pain of Spain '82 and the glory of Italia '90 to the sheer desolation of Euro 2000. This has all been encapsulated in the encyclopaedic Schwarz und Weiß website and blog, which at some three hundred or so pages is still not complete. Should you wish to disturb him, you can get in touch with Rick on Twitter @fussballchef. This carries a double meaning, as he can prepare a mean Obazda too.

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