The German Football Weekly: Issue #3
Free weekly newsletter highlighting some the biggest news, and headlines from the beautiful game on German soil
by Adam Khan on August 13
Another Bundesliga gameweek is upon us, meaning thrilling action, goals galore, and another issue of The German Football Weekly!
Special guest, and Ethiopian Bundesliga commentator, Eskender Tamrat talks you through SC Freiburg’s credentials as a European contender, whilst I discuss the post relegation status at Werder Bremen & Schalke 04, as well as guide you through the latest Game of the Week!
I hope you enjoy ISSUE #3 and for any suggestions or comments feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or simply send me a DM on twitter!
The Bundesliga’s Perennial overachievers
SC Freiburg have long been the symbol of stability in the Bundesliga, comfortably finishing between 7-15 with a modest budget and optimistic support.
Far from the league's whipping boy but equally nowhere near being considered a giant killer, manager Christian Streich has achieved such impressive top-flight longevity by picking up points against lower opposition rather than going all in on staging the odd upset against the league's toughest opposition.
This had led to a startling statistic by February of last season, with Freiburg failing to beat either Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich in their previous 16 encounters (32 matches in total).
Yet, in that same month the Breisgau Brazilians would send this record toppling to the ground, adding another 3 points to their league tally against Schwarz/Gelb visitor from the Ruhrgebiet.
Fresh from his new contract at Dortmund, Marvin Hitz had a day to forget as Freiburg recorded a first win over the Black and Yellows in Streich’s era (joined in 2011).
While the two long-range drives Hitz conceded left plenty to ponder on the Swiss’ position as BVB's #1, Freiburg hoped nights like that would be a catalyst to drive them on to new heights.
Their draw in the penultimate weekend against Bayern was dominated by Robert Lewandowski equaling Gerd Müller’s record, but for Freiburg it was yet another signal that Streich was preparing to kick the club into another gear in the 2021/22 campaign.
Their first home game of this season - the third from last before Freiburg move into their new stadium - was a chance for Streich to record another shockwave.
Marco Rose was foiled to the supercup midweek, but Dortmund were still riding the high of an impressive victory in gameweek 1, putting five past Eintracht Frankfurt despite the Eagles being coached by the defensive guru Oliver Glasner.
But, Freiburg went to the game with high spirits of their own, yet to concede a goal in their Pokal and Bundesliga openers, and, as Dortmund would soon find out, with one of the league’s best set-piece takers starting at LW - Vincenzo Grifo.
The Italian, who just narrowly missed out on the Euros, put the hosts ahead, spinning a sumptuous free-kick for the 100th goal Gregor Kobel's conceded in the Bundesliga.
While the game followed the same script from last season - Freiburg going 2:0 up before Dortmund showed signs of a comeback late on - the second goal here was a different beast, with a magnificent linkup play between Freiburg’s three attackers: Roland Sallai, Woo-yeong Jeong and Lucas Höler.
With Sallai and Grifo coming of their best Bundesliga goal scoring seasons, and Jeong finally nailing down a starting spot with more consistent wing play, Streich easily has the most in-form crop of players in the final third since his decade-long managerial spell at the Schwarz-Wald Stadion began.
Nils Petersen returning to fitness ahead of time and Kevin Schade, who had an impressive first-team debut a week after scoring twice against Dortmund II in 3. Liga, add more options to the side who could be gunning for Europe.
Meanwhile, the defense looks as solid as ever, with Yannik Keitel's own goal 59 minutes in remaining the only time Mark Flekken has had to fish a ball out of his net this season.
It’s exciting times for Freiburg, retaining the core of last seasons' roster, and promoting various young starlets who led the u23's to an unlikely 3rd Bundesliga promotion.
With the shiny new SC-stadion (34,700 capacity) opening in October with a home fixture vs RB Leipzig, there is a lot to look forward to from this familiar club from the Black Forest.
Whether it will be enough for Freiburg's first European campaign since 2014 remains to be seen, but all in all, SC Freiburg's stability and unusual squad depth could see them once again be amongst Europe's biggest overachievers come the 14th of May!
Do you think any Bundesliga team has made more out of their budget than SC Freiburg? And where do you see them finishing this season? Let me know on twitter with the #BUNDESLETTER hashtag!
Restart and Upheaval in the Zweite Bundesliga
It’s been 97 days since the final whistle blew on Schalke and Bremen’s topflight status, both departing the Bundesliga after 29 (Schalke) & 39 (Bremen) uninterrupted years in the first division.
And whilst both deservedly dropped to the second tier, the ultimate route to relegation could not have been more different, with Schalke doomed after 10 matchdays, whereas Werder Bremen were still dreaming of European football in March.
To take silver linings out of S04’s historically poor campaign is difficult, but the 7 points they had accumulated at the midway point meant that they could at least begin planning for a potential relegation.
Ozan Kabak (20-year old centerback) departed the club in January in the hopes of holding his value on-loan at Liverpool, whilst a failed experiment with the veteran Vedad Ibisevic (36-year old striker) was prematurely put to an end.
There were still some questionable signings in the category Sead Kolasinac, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, and Shkodran Mustafi, but all did show potential upside with the first two returning to the club they had regularly competed in the Champions league with, whilst Mustafi for all his shortcomings still presides over a career with more than 100 premier league appearances, and a World Cup winners medal.
Furthermore, Schalke increasingly switched to a youthful approach in the latter stages of the season, giving opportunities to countless prospects from their u23 setup in favor of the ‘bad eggs’ who wouldn’t be following the club into the Zweite Bundesliga anyways.
At the same time as an unnamed club in Green (*cough Werder Bremen *cough) were hopelessly plummeting towards the relegation zone, S04 manager Dimitrios Grammozis was able to go into Bundesliga fixtures without the pressure for results, and thereby use them as trial runs for the great rebuild ahead.
Across the 10 Bundesliga games Grammozis took charge of, the former Darmstadt manager gave opportunities to 13 different u23 players. Whilst a handful came to just a solitary appearance off the bench, many established themselves in the side, with the likes of Florian Flick (21), Mehmet Aydin (19), Kerim Calhanoglu (18), and Malik Thiaw (20) emerging as vital figures.
Not only did this set a signal for Schalke’’s renewed identity as a ‘Talentschmiede’ (Talent Factory), but it gave valuable experience for the various youngsters which would form the core of the promotion side this season.
Just take Florian Flick as an example, a player who hadn’t even featured in any of the first 30 matchday squads, but shown so brightly when finally given an opportunity that he played every minute in the remaining four matches. Now, he has started all but one of Schalke’s Zweite Bundesliga fixtures and has become a valuable asset for Grammozis to build a new era at the VELTINS-Arena around.
In the transfer market Schalke have also impressed with the additional time to plan their Zweite Bundesliga restart.
Die Königsblauen were successfully able to get the club’s 4 biggest earners off the wage bill, as well as cut ties with other aging veterans and self-serving stars who wouldn’t be invested in the second tier campaign ahead.
With an outlay of just €1.95m Schalke 04 have also made 14 new signings. With a mixture of cheap deals, free agents, and loans, sporting director Rouwen Schröder has put together a side with the right balance between second-tier experience and youthful edge.
Whilst it is still far from rosy at the Veltins-Arena - sitting in 13th place after 4 matchdays and yet to resolve departures for Ozan Kabak and Amine Harit - Die Königsblauen’s additional planning time has definitely put them in good stead compared to their long-time Bundesliga rivals: SV Werder Bremen.
It may come as a surprise when you read that Werder Bremen were still dreaming of European football in the spring of last season, but Die Grün-Weißen (green & whites) were sitting comfortably mid table and just 5 points off the European Conference League spot on matchday 24.
What followed was one of the biggest collapses in modern Bundesliga history, with Bremen taking just 2 points out of their final 10 matchdays to land in the relegation zone for the first time on the final matchday.
An unprecedented restart lies ahead - one which the club hasn’t planned in the slightest for financially.
Whereas Schalke were able to quickly move its highest earners off the wage bill, Bremen needed until early August to begin gutting the roster.
For a start this has completely quashed any advantages of preseason for new manager Markus Anfang, implementing his ideas and philosophy to a roster which in a matter of weeks would be all but gone from the Weser-Stadion.
More worrying though is where they will go now with just 4 more days of the window remaining. At the time of writing, Werder Bremen have the second smallest roster in the division, undoubtedly a product of their transfer business which has seen them make just 5 new signings compared to their 14 departures.
The squad is also the youngest in the division (24.3 avg. age). Whilst Schalke 04 were able to afford their academy talent a trial period in the topflight when relegation was prematurely confirmed, many of Bremen’s u23’s are making their first appearances for the club in an environment where they are now immediately forced to deliver.
Eren Dinkci (19-year old forward) for example has already doubled his minutes from last season, forced to step up to the plate as Bremen have just two registered forwards over the age of 20 in the entire squad!
Off the back of almost two seasons without matchday revenues, and a decade of spending beyond their means, Werder Bremen are facing a pivotal 21/22 campaign, one which has the capacity to define the club's future for the next decade and beyond!
Who do you think has the better outlook for the difficult years ahead, and do you think either SV Werder Bremen or Schalke 04 could earn promotion this season? Let me know on twitter with the #BUNDESLETTER hashtag!
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Sunday 1:30 (CEST): St.Pauli v Jahn Regensburg
It’s a top of the table clash earning our pick this week, with Jahn Regensburg (1) taking on St.Pauli (5) in the Zweite Bundesliga this Sunday.
The hosts and table-toppers from Regensburg have been the surprise package so far, taking 12/12 points, progressing to the next round in the DFB Pokal, and conceding just 1 goal across 450 minutes of competitive football.
With a suffocating press & stalwart defense, Die Jahnelf ( The Jahn Eleven) have put the likes of Schalke 04 (4:1) & Holstein Kiel (3:0) to the sword, but more than anything their impeccable set pieces have seen them rocket up the table!
Of the 12 goals they have scored in their 4 league matches, 7 have come from a dead ball situation. A well-taken corner from FC Bayern loanee Sarpreet Singh, a catapulted long-throw from fullback Benedikt Saller, or a quick counter press on a miscued opposition throwin have all been catalysts for Regensburg’s goal anthem to blast across the Jahnstadion speakers.
For the opponents looking to end Regensburg’s unbeaten run we travel to Hamburg, meeting up with recent derby victors and Germany’s favorite cult club FC St.Pauli!
After a high-flying start which saw Die Kiezkickers (Neighborhood kickers) spank Holstein Kiel 3:0, and take their 4th derby victory in their last 5 meetings with Hamburger SV, dreams of Bundesliga promotion were slightly dampened last week with a 3:1 defeat to SC Paderborn.
However, all in all it has been a terrific start for manager Timo Schultz, carrying on the Ruckrunde (the second half of the campaign) form from last season with exciting attack-centric football.
Regularly deployed in a 4-diamond-2, St.Pauli aren’t shy of committing upwards of 7 players into the attack, allowing for the likes of leftback Leart Paqarada to use his incredible technique from long range, or young midfielder Finn Ole Becker to crash into the box to put away any rebounds.
Whether Sarpreet Singh can add to his league-leading 5 goal contributions ( 2 goals, 3 assists), or St.Pauli can register their first ever away victory at the Jahnstadion remains to be seen, but one thing to be sure about is that Sunday’s mid-afternoon showdown has all the ingredients to be another classic of this already scintillating Zweite Bundesliga season!
Bundesliga GOTW: Friday 20:30 (CEST): Borussia Dortmund v TSG Hoffenheim
3. Bundesliga GOTW: Saturday 14:00 (CEST): Wehen Wiesbaden v 1.FC Magdeburg
++TWITTER THREAD THURSDAYS++
In this week's edition, I countdown the days until the transfer window slams shut with 1 player from every Bundesliga club who could still be on the move.
And that’s a wrap for this week!
I hope you enjoyed ISSUE #3 of the Bundesliga Newsletter.
Special shoutout again to Eskender Tamrat for coming on this week. You can find him on twitter HERE.
If you would like to contribute to the newsletter, or would like to get in contact regarding any partnerships, feel free to reach out to email@example.com, or simply send me a DM on twitter.
We will be taking a short one week break for the upcoming international fixtures, but after that we will be back again with ISSUE #4 on Friday the 10th of September.