Eintracht Frankfurt 2018-19 Season Preview: DIe Adler Look to Go Forward under New Coach

Eintracht has huge holes to fill in the Midfield, Heart, and Soul.

Basics:

Full Name: Eintracht Frankfurt e.V.

Nicknames: Die Adler (The Eagles); S.G.E.; Launische Diva (Moody Diva)

Founded: March 8th, 1899

Club Colors: Red and Black

Primary Rivals: Mainz ‘05, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, FSV Frankfurt

Fan Friendship: Oldham Athletic (England)

Stadium – Der Commerzbank Arena (Der Waldstadion)

Capacity: 51,500

2017-2018 Attendance: 834,700 (49,100 per match; 7th in Bundesliga)

Trophies:

German Championship – 1959

DFB Pokal – 1974, 1975, 1981, 1988, 2018

2.Bundesliga – 1997/1998

Additions:

Adi Hütter, Evan N’Dicka, Lucas Torró, Nicolai Muller, Felix Wiedwald, Frederik Ronnow, Goncalo Paciencia, Allan Souza, Francisco Geraldes.

Key Losses:

Omar Mascarell, Lukas Hradecky, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Marius Wolf, Niko Kovač.

Overview:

2017/2018 was filled with ups and downs for Die Adler.  After a very poor start, they rebounded they rebounded and shot up the table throughout die Hinrunde. The Eagles made it as high as 4th going into March. However, the next two months were brutal to the Eagles, as they lost 7 games of their last 11, and brought home only 5 points in their final eight games.  Die Ruckrunde has been notoriously unkind to Eintracht for the last decade, and last season was no different. The agony that the Eintracht supporters feel seemingly every May, however, was banished in high style this season thanks to the 3-1 victory over Bayern in the Pokal Finale, the first hardware won by the Eagles in two decades.

Changes are coming.  Niko Kovač was not only a tactician, he was a motivator.  Adi Hütter must be able to match Kovač tactically and emotionally.  Kovač was a perfect combination of stoic and fiery, teacher and tactician, cheerleader and disciplinarian.  He seemed to know, for much of the season, the exact right buttons to push and the players played for him. Hütter is by all accounts an amazing manager and tactician.   And he’s demonstrated that — a league double for RB Salzburg in 2015. a league title for Young Boys Bern last year.  He’s the first Austrian Coach to ever win a league title abroad. “Adi knows his football, he lives and breathes the sport,” said Eintracht board member Fredi Bobič, “His CV is impressive. He’s proved at several clubs that he’s capable of getting the maximum out of his players through hard work, even if circumstances aren’t ideal. That’s why he’s a perfect fit for our club. Adi was always our preferred choice, and our talks ultimately reached a positive conclusion. We’re looking forward to a successful time together.”

Adi Hütter has big shoes to fill in Frankfurt

 

Hütter, like Kovač, will press high and look to force quick turnovers and counterattacks using a hybrid 3-5-2 scheme. Outside of his normal 4-4-2 alignment, Hütter has shown a familiar shape in the pre-season friendlies. Hütter must find balance and depth in the attack.  In his unveiling presser he stated: “I obviously like to play attacking football – that’s what gets people to come to the stadium. You always have to have a Plan B, though. I’m sure we’ll find the right balance. In the coming weeks we need to develop a style that suits the players.” Hütter, a veteran of Europa League and well accustomed to it’s rigor, will need to develop the right rotation to keep players fresh.  Eintracht will look to make a deep run in the Europa League, and the Austrian must push the right buttons to keep the squad fresh.

Roster Breakdown:

Goalkeeper – Lukas Hradecky, the reigning Bundesliga Goalkeeper of the Season, left via a free transfer to Bayer Leverkusen.  He was simply brilliant last season. The favorite to replace him will be Frederik Rønnow. The Danish international is coming off a season which saw him rack up ten clean sheets in 36 games for Brøndby in the Danish Superligaen. Rönnow is a long, rangy keeper very much in the same mold as Hradecky.  He stays ready and low, cuts down angles, and fights through every play. He should be a solid pickup for Eintracht this year. Former Werder Bremen keeper Felix Wiedwald makes a return to Frankfurt as much for depth as for insurance. He’s a reliable keeper, and despite an up-and-down year at Leeds United, can get you through a spell and can fill in if Rönnow struggles.

Defense – Simon Falette, David Abraham, and Marco Russ make their return the defense, as well as Mexican international Carlos Salcedo.  Salcedo put himself on stage during the World Cup, and hopes to bring that momentum to Commerzbank Arena this fall. The group as a whole where extremely solid last year, leading a defense that conceded only 45 goals.  Simon Falette (fourth in the Bundesliga with 2.1 interceptions per game) and Abraham provided leadership.  Falette, though,  must control his aggression however, as he led the club with ten yellow cards as. Eintracht lead the league with 72 yellows, and ranked 3rd in the Bundesliga with 15.5 fouls per game.  Newcomer Evan N’Dicka (France) also looks to make his mark on the rotation. The 18-year-old is a tall (6’3”) rangy defender with good feet and pace.

Jetro Willems, Timmy Chandler, and Danny DaCosta need to bring consistency to the fullback position.  While much of their attack came from the group charging down the wings, or playing long balls from the back, Eintracht struggled when they had to play short passing, controlled games last year. Chandler had an exceptional run after his return from knee injury in November, but struggled to find consistent minutes in March. Part of the reason he struggled to find consistent minutes was the emergence of Danny da Costa. Willems is an explosive two-way player who likes to get forward and be direct.  He is an excellent crosser from the wing, ranking 9th in the Bundesliga in Accurate Crosses per game, and 6th in the Bundesliga in Accurate Corners. He should fit well in Hutters attacking style. Da Costa is similar in style to both, although might be the best long ball passer in the group. As a unit, they do a good job at winning the ball back, and playing long passes up the field. The goal by Rebić  to take the lead against Bayern in the Pokal Finale came off the foot of De Costa. All three must be more consistent in their short passing and defensive play, however.  Taleb Tawatha could also figure into the rotation.

Midfield –. With the losses of Marius Wolf (Dortmund – $4 Million), Kevin-Prince Boateng (Sassuolo – Free) and Omar Mascarell (buy back from Real Madrid), the “Pokal Siegers” are missing three key pieces. In Wolf, their creative playmaker (lead the team with eight assists and chipping in five goals during league play). In Mascarell, a steady defensive presence, logging 770 minutes for the Red and Black.  Boateng, however, is the biggest loss (to date). Not only was he vital on the pitch for his play, he was also Eintracht’s emotional leader. He was the on field personification of Eintracht’s Ultras, playing with controlled recklessness, passion, always on the edge. He flew hard into tackles, went after every ball and played every second at full throttle. Every second he was on the pitch you could see him yelling at someone.  Direction, encouragement, guidance, and a whole lot of trash talk. While his defense and deep playmaking ability will be missed, his intensity and passion will be missed even more.

While the transfer window brought major losses to the midfield, there is a solid core returning.  The seemingly ageless Makato Hasabe will again hold down the defensive midfield. Steady veterans Gelson Fernandes and Jonathan de Guzmán return . Spark plug Mijat Gaćinović often comes off the bench to provide much-needed energy to the midfield, and has grown into an exciting player.  Eintracht desperately needs to find a difference maker in the middle of the field. This could come from new addition loanee Francisco Geraldes. The 22-year-old Portuguese native has pace, and excellent ball handling abilities. He finds gaps in the defense and exploits them. Allan Souza (Liverpool), a Bundesliga veteran who spent 2016-2017 with Hamburg, has deepfield playmaking potential and plays the long ball well. He joins the Eagles on a year-long loan. 

Additionally,  the signing of newcomer Lucas Torró, a defensive mid from Osasuna, along with a return to health for Mexican international Marco Fabián (he played 20 minutes against Empoli Wednesday after being held to just seven league matches last season by injury) could turn the Eintracht midfield into a position of strength despite the losses of Wolf, Boateng and Mascarell, while holdovers Marc Stendera and Danny Blum will look for minutes off the bench.

A healthy Marco Fabián can be a difference maker in Frankfurt

Forwards – Ante Rebić made his mark for Croatia this summer in the World Cup.  A locomotive with an impressive stepover and a heavy right foot, Rebić was a force to deal with all season long for the opposing defenses.  He is fast, direct, and plays with strength and guts. He is also most likely on his way out the door. The hero this summer for both club and country, many English teams are rumored to be lurking, as well as the “Club which shall not be named” from Munich and a reunion with Kovač.  Unfortunately, for all Eintracht fans, we may never here “Bruda, schlag den ball lange!” again.

Sébastien Haller’s initial Bundesliga Campaign started with promise.  Brilliant in the Hinrunde, his nine goals  and 4.5 aerial chances won (9th in Bundesliga) led the squad on the year.  His high-flying, game winning bicycle kick deep into stoppage time against Stuttgart was goal the 2017 Goal of the year.  He faded at the end, only accounting for a single goal and assist over the last 13 games and not starting the Pokal Finale. Haller will have to play better in Die Hinrunde for Eintracht to move up the table.  Luka Jovic, the 20-year-old Serbian International finished the season strong (seven goals in 15 appearances, four goals as a substitute).  Newly acquired Gonçalo Paciência ($7 Mil, Porto) has shown tremendous touch and ball handling abilities during his time away from Porto on loan.  He has a great eye for his teammates, can hold up the ball, and create. He could be the playmaker that Eintracht has been searching for. Nicolai Müller will also add depth and a veteran presence to the attack.

Synopsis:

Eintracht must improve their attack to reach Euro League status again next year.  Their 45 goals ranked them 8th in the Bundesliga, and put them at a 0 goal differential on the season.  They bogged down in the final third too often and don’t create quality chances often enough.  As hard and high as they pressed in 2017/18, only four goals came off the counter attack. Hütter must find a way to get more out of his attack this coming campaign for the Eagles to be a serious contender.

Prediction:

The Eagles have so many unknowns, so many new faces that predicting where they will end up this year is difficult.  New coach, new system, and the leaders from last year’s squad have moved on. They have a gaping hole at playmaking in the midfield.  At best, they are a Euro League tier team, and with a break or two a Champions League qualifying caliber team. If the boys can’t gel, or find creativity in the attack, they will could find themselves just out of the relegation zone. Eintracht will do enough to finish 6th, and return to the Europa League.

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1 Comment

  1. They also own the 1980’s Uefa Cup , beating Gladbach on away goals (3-2 loss and 1-0 win) !

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