Why FC Ingolstadt are faring well in the Bundesliga

The Bundesliga Fanatic shines the spotlight on FC Ingolstadt with different takes from three observers on how the low-profile club with little history is looking quite capable of surviving their first-ever Bundesliga season.  Click here and here for more thoughts on FCI.

When FC Ingolstadt 04 achieved promotion to the Bundesliga for the first time in their history last season, it was believed to be a momentous achievement for the small Bavarian club. Ingolstadt is a tiny city in that state with just over 130,000 inhabitants.  Given that the club was only formed under its current name in the fifth division just 12 years ago, it was easy to see why their promotion brought so much praise and attention in the German footballing scene.

Despite all that though, they were tipped by many as one of the clear favorites to be relegated before the season began and weren’t believed to be cut out for this level like many of their predecessors before them. Ingolstadt though, under the management of Ralph Hasenhüttl since 2013, have proven everyone wrong.

With just nine games to go until the end of the season, Ingolstadt sit in 9th place on 32 points and look like near certainties to stay up for another year. They’ve managed to achieve this despite having the worst attack in the league by some distance but simultaneously hold the best defensive record outside of the top three clubs.

Their results throughout the campaign have come to the surprise of many who didn’t expect so much success from a club that’s never played in the top flight before. People have been looking for reasons as to why Ingolstadt are managing to do so well when clubs like Paderborn, Eintracht Braunschweig, and Greuther Fürth did so poorly before them in similar circumstances.

One key reason they’ve done well is the fact that they’ve allowed themselves to maintain continuity from last season’s 2. Bundesliga triumph and didn’t end up making too many changes to upset their chemistry like those clubs did. While the aforementioned clubs above hardly ever stuck to a certain system and had any sort of consistency during their Bundesliga stays, Ingolstadt have, for the most part, stuck to the 4-3-3 formation that they’ve used in recent seasons under Hasenhüttl and rarely budged from it.

FCI Leader Hasenhüttl
FCI Leader Hasenhüttl

They’ve also been smart with their transfer business and not made too many changes to last year’s squad, which has helped keep the things unchanged when it comes to continuity and consistency. While the likes of Paderborn and Braunschweig ended up financing nearly half a squad’s worth of transfers after their promotions, Ingolstadt have only made minor changes to theirs and mainly brought in players for depth purposes. In fact, Markus Suttner aside, their first choice eleven is practically the same as last season.

The defensive and tactical discipline as well as the experience on the field has also been pivotal to their success. The fact that they have the best defensive stats in the entire league outside of the clubs occupying the automatic Champions League spots, despite being new to all of their surroundings, speaks volumes of their quality on that end of the pitch. Sporting the league’s worst offensive record hasn’t severely hindered them because of their strong defending, which without, they’d likely be languishing in a relegation spot and headed back to where they came from already.

Benjamin Hübner - Solid
Benjamin Hübner – Solid

It isn’t very normal that a club of their stature is defending this well immediately after promotion, but good tactical squad management as well as the presence of experienced but still relatively young players like former VfR Aalen manBenjamin Hübner (who has won 64% of his challenges), Marvin Matip and Tobias Levels, along with 2015 addition Markus Suttner of Austria Wien, has helped.  Additionally, the advantage of having built a platform before they came up and stayed true to their ways has all played its part in why Ingolstadt is faring so well despite many giving them very little chances of doing so just seven months ago.

Now they sit in a comfortably surprising position of not having to worry about going down, barring the most catastrophic of meltdowns, which they never would have believed had been possible before the season started. They’re now able to enjoy themselves more and play with less weight on their shoulders, which is a testament to all their hard work to this point. Despite the fact that their leading goal-scorer, Moritz Hartmann, has scored five of his six goals from the spot, Die Schanzer’s Bundesliga stay looks set to be extended for another year which is yet another wonderful chapter written in the short history of this special football club.

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Edin Halilovic

Edin is a Bosnian currently residing in the United States whose interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general has been increasing heavily in recent years. Follow him @edinh_96