The German Football Weekly: Issue #4
Free weekly newsletter highlighting some the biggest news, and headlines from the beautiful game on German soil
by Adam Khan on September 10
12 days of subpar international football, and even more mediocre album drops (ahem Drake) are finally behind us. With domestic German football entering our screens again, it’s time for another issue of the German Football weekly!
Greuther Fürth: Unlucky or just Plain F*cking Bad!
It’s safe to say Greuther Fürth were hoping for a slightly more joyous topflight return, taking just 1 point from their opening 3 Bundesliga matches, and going out in the first round of the DFB Pokal to 4th tier SV Babelsberg.
To understand what’s gone wrong, I looked at all 9 of the goals Fürth have conceded this season, and, let's just say if poor defensive organization and a lack of leadership makes you nauseous, it may be time to look away.
A theme that kept popping up throughout the analysis was Fürth’s tendency to ball watch.
Rather than realize the danger of an opponent peeling off their blindside, the Fürth defense was continuously drawn to the opponent with the ball and thus left gaping holes for opposition teammates to exploit.
The first goal they conceded this season was a prime example of this (pictured above), with defensive midfielder Paul Seguin and centerback Gideon Jung both stepping to the same ball and thereby allowing a clear passing channel into the goalscorer; Wataru Endo.
The summer departures of Fürth’s youth internationals Anton Stach (22), David Raum (23), and Paul Jaeckel (23) have hampered Stefan Leitl’s side from replicating their successful attacking football in the topflight, but perhaps the biggest loss of all was veteran Mergim Mavraj.
Despite turning 35 over the summer, Mavraj was a key figure last season, starting every match he was fit for and forming a formidable partnership with Jaeckel.
Whilst Mavraj had a tendency to appear as if he was dragging a 20 pound weight on his back when forced into a running duel, his positional play and, more importantly, organization meant his lack of speed was rarely exposed.
Though it would be foolish to act like a sluggish, injury-prone, 35-year old is the key to turning Fürth’s topflight misfortunes around, it nevertheless begs the question where the leadership will come from this season to avoid such amateurish mistakes like the opening goal vs Stuttgart.
This next opportunity (pictured above) didn’t actually result in a goal, but it was another glaring example of Fürth’s spectator-like defending which has gotten them into heaps of trouble.
It felt like I wasn’t the only one who had Borna Sosa in my fantasy team that afternoon, with the entire Fürth defense fixated on the newly-crowned Croatian international, but rarely getting close enough to actually hinder his pinpoint crosses coming in.
Bauer looks especially foolish on this occasion, failing to pick up the Moroccan forward Hamadi Al Ghaddioui who is the only threat Sosa can pick out in the box.
Were it not for a decent save from Sascha Burchert - a phrase we haven’t had to say very often this season - it could have been a well-earned 7 points for another Borna Sosa assist.
That however, would be just temporary respite, with 19 seconds passing before Burchert would need to fish another ball out of the back of his net.
I imagine some of you are beginning to catch onto the theme now, so I’ll let this clip play out in full so that you can come to some of your own conclusions before I interject (below).
Maximilian Bauer, the mastermind behind leaving Al Ghaddioui free at the back post has now taken another note off of the ‘mediocre centerback manual’ and opted for a light jog to an unthreatening opposing player as the best form of action. Unsurprisingly it leaves a gaping hole in the position he was actually supposed to fill, and now Die Schwaben are two to the good with just 36 minutes played.
Finally, to end off this little section of ‘Fürth like to look at the ball even though there are 10 other players on the field who can score a goal”, let's take a peek at the final goal which Die Kleeblätter have conceded this season.
It’s right-back Marco Meyerhöfer who's been the latest casualty to be infected with the ‘BALLWATCHING19’ virus.
Whilst he does do a better job then his centerback partner Bauer - occasionally checking his shoulder as Onisiwo makes his way into a crossing position - getting tighter to the onrushing Mainz attacker, or even stepping across his running path could have atleast made for a trickier finish then the tap in Kevin Stöger was ultimately presented.
That lack of tightness and dismissal of any contact brings us onto our next point, Fürth’s inability to keep up with the physicality of the Bundesliga.
It’s a surprising phenomenon given that there isn’t a massive difference between the physicality in the first and second German divisions, but Fürth has nevertheless given the impression of a youth team playing against men so far this season.
Here (below) is the 4th goal which Die Kleeblätter conceded on matchday 1. The space afforded to Sosa is perhaps the biggest offence, but Maximilian Bauer (once again 🤦♂️) does his side no favors by allowing himself to be completely shrugged off with minal contact from Al Ghaddioui.
His teammate Meyerhöfer didn’t do it much better the following week (below), allowing a player with more than 47 headed goals a clear route to goal with poor positioning and negligible resistance.
Even in the latest match against Mainz this issue looked far from being resolved, with Hungarian battering-ram Ádám Szalai ragdolling the Fürth defense. It wasn’t just his goal 18 minutes in, but his countless aerial duels and elite hold-up play allowed Mainz a constant outlet to move up the field.
“It’s simple, currently we aren’t good enough to win 3 points in the Bundesliga, and that’s something we need to work on.” (Stefan Leitl following the 3:0 defeat to Mainz 05)
There’s definitely a lot of work that needs to be done at the Trolli-Arena, but with 31 matches still to play Stefan Leitl has more than another time to craft a topflight-miracle.
With exciting attacking components, and the biggest xG underperformance (should have scored at least 2 more goals), Fürth could well be in a better position. If they can address the issues plaguing their creaky defense, it isn’t out of the question that they could give the likes of FC Augsburg, VFL Bochum, and Arminia Bielefeld a run for their money!
Do you think Greuther Fürth has enough to stay in the topflight? Let me know on twitter using #BUNDESLETTER!
Euro Expert’s Talent Watch:
The Euro Expert is back, taking a look at one of Germany’s brightest young talents and newest international goalscorers - Karim Adeyemi!
The Talent Score: 8/10
“As well as being a really strong finisher, Adeyemi has combined his raw natural ability with strong coaching in a lethal cocktail for Salzburg. His goal against Austria Wien showed his good off the ball movement, and he has completed 2.7 dribbles p90 so far in Austria. Last season in 11 starts, he also created 11 big chances for teammates, so this is far from a flash-in-the-pan run of form.”
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Saturday 18:30 (CEST): RB Leipzig v FC Bayern München
Starved of Bundesliga football for the better part of a week & a half, it is only right that the first day back brings us two of the most exciting matchups of this early season.
Early afternoon kicks off with an attractive fixture between Bayer Leverkusen & Borussia Dortmund, but it is the encounter 3 hours later which takes our pick for Game of the Week!
RB Leipzig v FC Bayern: a battle between two title candidates, with tensions rife after Bayern's viking-like pillage in the transfer window .
Whilst The Red Bull Arena isn’t exactly known for being one of Germany’s most raucous atmospheres, Bayern's poaching of the home sides' manager, captain, and star defender could see a fiery spirit flare up on Saturday evening.
But it isn’t just the possibility for Leipzig to get one over on their former star-men, but also a crucial 3 points up for grabs after a stuttering start to the season.
A massive blip against a Corona-hit Mainz 05 saw them end gameweek one with a loss, whilst an inspired Dominik Szoboszlai victory was canceled out 9 days later with another flaccid home defeat to VFL Wolfsburg.
Jesse Marsch has shown in phases how effective Leipzig can be with a less possession oriented approach and more aggressive press, but a victory over Bayern would really be the catalyst to see them kick on.
On the other hand, a defeat could spell disaster, all but eliminating them from the title race before it’s even got going!
Their opponents Bayern have fared significantly better so far, unbeaten in the Bundesliga, and having already added another Supercup to the club’s overflowing trophy cabinet. Yet, it hasn’t all been rosy for Julian Nagelsmann, and he too could benefit massively from an important away victory.
Lackluster defending and Bayern's extremely highline have already been mercilessly exposed this season, whilst another poor performance from Leroy Sané could see a small hiccup turn into a full scale crisis at the Sabener Straße!
When it comes to a head-to-head, FC Bayern are the clear favorites,with Leipzig winning just one of the last 10 fixtures (4 draws, 5 defeats) the two sides have contested, but there's a reason I nominated ‘Die Roten Bullen’ as my #1 title candidates.
Marsch’s turbo-charged attack has more than enough firepower to worry any side in Europe, and the 31-time German champions are no exception to that rule! If Leipzig can come out of the gates with a performance similar to that of their last home match vs Stuttgart, there’s no reason why they can’t hand Bayern their first defeat of this still young season.
2. Bundesliga GOTW: Sunday 13:30 (CEST): SC Paderborn v Schalke 04
3. Bundesliga GOTW: Saturday 14:00 (CEST): 1.FC Kaiserslautern v Waldhof Mannheim
++ TWITTER THREAD THURSDAYS ++
In this week's edition, I graded each Bundesliga club's record signing.
You may have also missed last weeks as it didn’t feature in our #SPECIAL. That was all about the summer transfer window, looking at my top 20 arrivals in the Bundesliga!
And that’s a wrap for this week!
Enjoy the upcoming week of German football, and try not to think too much about the fact that in just 28 days the next international break is upon us. :(