Augsburg We Have a Problem

I don’t know if FC Augsburg trainer Martin Schmidt is a fan of Jay-Z (and to be fair he doesn’t look like he would be), but just like Mr Beyonce he has 99 problems.  It may only be week 1 of the new Bundesliga season, but the signs are already there that the 2019/20 campaign might be a very long and stressful one for the Fuggerstädter.

Augsburg had a thankless task on the opening weekend with a trip to face heavily fancied Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park and after taking a shock first minute lead, they collapsed to a 5-1 defeat. That defeat alone could be glossed over, but the problems at the WWK Arena run a little (a lot?) deeper.

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FC Augsburg have been a steady Bundesliga club for almost a decade now with this being their ninth consecutive season in the top flight. Although they are regularly tipped to be one of the clubs to struggle, they more often than not surprise people. They have usually stood for togetherness, continuity and a clever transfer policy, but last season saw that change and the early signs this season are not good.

Last season saw Augsburg finish 15th with trainer Manuel Baum sacked. His replacement Martin Schmidt did secure their Bundesliga status, but it wasn’t pretty. The  last game of the season saw them thrashed 8-1 at VfL Wolfsburg. With 71 goals conceded, Augsburg had the joint worst defensive recorded alongside relegated Hannover.

That defensive record wasn’t helped by the loss of Martin Hinteregger, who the club first suspended for publicly criticising Baum, then sent out loan to Eintracht Frankfurt for the rest of the season. The ‘bad apple’ has now made that move permanent so as not to pollute the whole cart.

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A new season, a new slate and new optimism then?

Not so. The new campaign got off to the worst possible start with an abject 2-1 defeat in the first round of the DFB Pokal to Regionalliga West minnows SC Verl.

“We knew exactly what was coming for us this match” Schmidt said after the loss. “It was going to be a real Pokal scrap. However, in the opening stages we failed to deal with what we had addressed before the game.

“We were asleep for the first twenty minutes. Nevertheless, we came back with chances before half time. I think you could see today that a few things weren’t working for us so we know that there’s a lot of work ahead of us in the coming weeks.”

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A lot of that work needs to done defensively. Their new Czech goalkeeper Tomas Koubek made a error for Verl’s first goal, and against Dortmund he looked hapless with at least two of BVB’s goals coming after mistakes from him.

In front of him, the back line looks anything but secure, as both Verl and Dortmund showed. With Jeffrey Gouweleeuw injured and both Hinteregger and Kevin Danso sold, midfielder Rani Khedira is partnering newcomer Marek Suchy at centre back. Young Dane Mads Pederson is at right back, but it remains to be seen if the jump from the Danish Superliga is not too steep. Raphael Framberger is still a long term injury casualty.

With Philipp Max out injured, Georg Teigl (another midfielder) is filling in at left back. The situation is far from ideal with the first choices from last season Kostas Stafylidis und Jonathan Schmid both sold. Rumour has it that both key players Philipp Max and Michael Gregoritsch want to leave.

That Augsburg have problems is obvious. How quickly those problems can be remedied will be key. The Dortmund loss can be written off as expected, but next week sees them host newly promoted Union Berlin. It is probably too early to be speaking of “must-win” games, but Augsburg seriously need something to cheer about.

It could be a long, long season for FC Augsburg.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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