Welcome back to Eintracht! Previously, things had gone pretty well. Just about top of the league, and we’ve qualified through our very first Champion’s League group.
I’m going to try something a little different today and post the entire second half of the season. Although I quite enjoy doing four posts a season, it does mean my play time is leaving the blog behind. I think from next season I’ll try three posts, so this bumper edition will hopefully set me on that track.
Today we’ll have a whopping six months of the season, the January transfer window and our first steps into a more positive tactical outlook.
I’ll conclude with a brief season sum-up, and a look at how we’re getting on towards my five aims for the save…
Behind The Scenes:
I seem to be stuck with an imbecilic board:
We haven’t actually made any money since the summer, when I could’ve used it to properly bolster the squad instead of relying on loans. As a rule, I don’t like making many moves in the January window as I feel it’s disruptive. But I suppose I can save it for next summer. Trust me to complain about more money.
And this was nice of them:
Seeing as I can’t rely on them to provide timely or generous transfer funds, I pumped cash from our burgeoning bank account into facilities:
It’s probably for the best in the long run.
So, for the first four games of December we were still actually using the old tactic. Our first game playing with a positive mentality from the start was against local rivals Mainz:
Brenner got hurt after his goal against Hertha and looks likely to be out for six weeks. Unfortunately in the following league games, both Sebastian Haller and Gabriel Barbosa continued with their frustrating tendencies to miss clear chances. Fortunately our midfield got us out of a jam or two, but this was the last straw tactic wise.
For the final two games of the month we went nuts and put Ben Woodburn and Brian Brobbey up front in our new, more positive 442. Remarkably, it worked, and that goal for Brobbey to seal the derby win against Mainz put him in the Frankfurt record books as our youngest ever goalscorer. But damn it, during the winter break, Woodburn went down with an injury too.
Still, there’s plenty of cause for optimism:
We set up to defend against City, as I was resting the entire first team for the highly unlikely top of the table clash against Hannover. Our second string worked miracles keeping City at bay and we took our place in the knockout stages as a runner up.
Meanwhile, our new U19 manager Henrik Larsson, is doing awesome work with the youth team:
They’re also top of the league, and many of them are showing some great developmental signs. Hopefully we’ll see a couple of them in the first team soon…
Brenner’s marvelous year is capped with a fantastic individual trophy win:
January: Transfer Window:
More went on in January than I would usually be comfortable with. In November it looked certain that Jetro Willems would be leaving us as he was deep in contract negotiations with Lazio on a £25m move. So I arranged the transfer of Gian-Luca Itter as a replacement. Then Willems’ transfer fell through. Other ins:
Christian Früchtl comes in as a back up goalkeeper after Felix Wiedewald kicked up a stink about going out on loan.
Deadline day presented us with an opportunity to loan two players that could make a big impact. Valon Berisha comes in to provide competition on the left wing and has a £9m option for us to buy.
Paco Alcácer I couldn’t resist. Transfer listed at Barcelona, we’ve loaned him in until the end of the season with an option to buy of just £5m. He’s the latest attempt at finding Brenner a reliable partner, although I note from his history that his 2018/19 season on loan with Dortmund went badly (just nine goals in forty matches).
Edgar Elizalde is a promising Uruguayan centre back who will go straight out on loan. For some reason the board are very unhappy about the deal, seeing it as a terrible financial deal for the club. It’s £300k! You goons took more than £20m in bonuses in the summer!
Plus, I’ve made a sodding profit this season…
…despite losing out on another potential £10m from Willems’ sale. Quite why he rejected Lazio, but accepted Brugge is beyond me, but he wasn’t happy being second choice and wasn’t performing well enough to get the first team job back.
There’s the usual bunch of developmental loans, and we failed to sell Ante Rebic. Still, at least Hamburg will be covering his wages. A surprise departure is David Abraham. Our third choice CB this season, getting plenty of game time, but his old club Independiente came in for him, and he wanted to go home. So I let him. We’ve got enough depth.
This new positive outlook seems to suit us:
Eleven goals from three games that we totally bossed. Perhaps our defending was a little lax at times, but if it moves us toward some fluid football, I’ll live with that. I’m relieved to welcome Brenner back.
Three league games that look tighter than they should, and a creditable draw at Bayern:
But the big game of the month was our first leg against Monaco.
As I said on Slack, I’d rather be lucky than good:
Monaco whipped us for the first half an hour, they played just how I want us to. We couldn’t stop them. But the sending off changed it all, and we went on the attack, first to try and get back into the game and then in the second half, to try and establish a cushion we could hopefully hold on to…
We did just enough:
Monaco are a good side and we are lucky to be through. If not for that first leg red card, they would’ve given us a shellacking.
Back in the league, our good form continued. Marc Stendera hasn’t had much of a mention until now:
As you can see, he lacks a bit physically, which is why he was mostly a back-up in my first year. But he’s got a lot going for him creatively, has superb dead ball ability, and is home grown at Frankfurt. His impressive performance against Leverkusen yielded his first goals of the season, a curler from the edge of the box, a direct free-kick, and a penalty to seal his hat-trick. He also assisted the other two goals, one from his always dangerous corner delivery.
We just cannot beat Dortmund:
Every league game against them in two years has finished the same, a one nil defeat in which they were on top.
Finally, we’re on the wrong end of a red card in a vital match:
Liverpool played us off the park in truth, but we showed tremendous grit to stay in it, and then somehow take them to extra time. I switched to a 342 at half time, and it made us more solid, but eventually the pressure told, and Eden Hazard scored with the last meaningful action of the game. It’s been a great first season in the Champion’s League, we’ve fared better than I thought we would.
By the end, the players were absolutely knacked, and it showed in a terrible performance from a heavily rotated side at Hamburg.
With the final performance of the month, Marc Stendera repeated his hat-trick, an identical effort; one from outside the box, a free kick, and a penalty. Again!
A pretty drab month, from a knackered squad:
But we showed local rivals Mainz who was boss. Us. Us is who’s boss. Two more goals from Stendera corners giving us the bragging rights.
So was it enough for the title?
Easily in the end. We wrapped it up in the least sexy way possible – with Bayern losing away at Mönchengladbach hours after our 0-0 draw at Augsburg. But we well deserve the title, even more so than last season, with consistent performances and only Dortmund able to beat us. Bayern have spent more than £370m in two years, and didn’t really give us a proper challenge.
The team of the season is exactly the team I would’ve picked:
Vice-captain Carlos Salcedo is once again Fans’ Player, leading the defence, and bagging six goals to boot.
I find it remarkable that after waltzing to a comfortable league title, only seven of our squad managed to rate above 7.00 for the year, and only five were regular starters:
I don’t really know what that means. If anything?
Alongside Salcedo, our top performers include Taleb Tawatha at left back, who has been far exceeding expectations on that flank.
In midfield, our creative hub Stendera, who scored six (two hat-tricks and no other goals (!)) and assisted twelve times. And veteran winger Nicolai Müller, who though he is slowing down, was still effective.
Up top, our two best forwards, Brenner and Sebastien Haller. Haller was inconsistent, but when he was good, he really impressed, particularly in the second half of the season. Brenner is great, and I look forward to seeing how we can develop him in the future.
We once again dominated corners in the league, scoring sixteen and conceding from just one for the second season in succession.
And so to another inevitable manager of the ye… what?
Oh. Fair play to Manuel, getting Augsburg into the Champion’s League is impressive work. Does this mean we’re not plucky underdogs anymore?
I started the save with five aims of varying type. Have we progressed towards achieving them?
1. Become consistent Champions League Qualifiers, and eventually, one of the top ten teams in Europe.
Two seasons out of two, and a big rise in the rankings.
2. Develop a brand of football. I love a swift, incisive counter attack that features fast, technically gifted players.
We’re trying, but we’re not there yet. The football has improved no doubt, but I’ve not seen a lot of evidence of incisive counters so far.
3. Technique, Composure, Decisions, Determination, Pace. These are the five attributes I’ll be targeting with new signings to hopefully get us towards that new brand of football.
We’ve done pretty well here. Several of the new signings are excellent in this area and our training and mentoring is improving our younger players. No-one has any attribute below an 8, and I can count the single digit attributes of the entire squad on one hand.
4. Develop youth talent, with an emphasis on our own homegrown players. Eventually, I want five of them in the German national squad. A big ask.
Our U19 side were excellent, and the players have made great progress. I think we’ll be seeing a few of them push into contention next year, and in the next post I’ll show how a few of them look. Gian-Luca Itter, signed in January, actually came through at Frankfurt originally, so we’ve bought him home too. But we don’t have a single German cap in two years.
5. Win stuff. Duh.
A second Bundesliga title. So that’s a big ten-four.
Next time we’ll embark on my new schedule of three posts a season, and will start with the changes over summer, some youth development and a light sprinkling of tactics talk before starting season three.
It’s been a long one, but I’m happy to have properly caught up with the save. If you’ve got this far, thanks for reading!