Welcome back to Frankfurt! After a truncated first half of the season due to the 2022 World Cup, we’re ready to get back to competitive action.
We’ve been in spectacular form so far this season, and I’m hopeful this is the year we can grab the European crown. Or at least get further than Liverpool!
Things may not all go our way however, as though our form domestically is as good as ever, Bayern and RB Leipzig are not far behind us in the Bundesliga table.
There are plenty of matches ahead of us, but let’s start with the January window…
January Transfer Window:
I mentioned in the previous part that there were a few players that I was keeping tabs on due to lack of progress, and two of them are off:
Nicolás Benedetti never really developed from the player I brought in two and half seasons ago (for £750k, so a tidy earner at least). Perhaps if I’d utilised an AMC at some point he would’ve been ideal, but as a ST, AMR and MC for us, he never truly belonged. His contribution; 36(35) appearances, 13 goals, 9 assists, average of about 6.95.
Aymen Barkok started off at Frankfurt in the game as a promising teenager. He always looked good against lesser opposition, but was never up to facing the big boys. Now 24, despite being homegrown, I’ve decided to let him go. He wouldn’t go to Torino for £5m, so we’ve practically given him away. He gave us 32(14) appearances, 6 goals, 6 assists, and a hefty average of about 7.25 (bolstered by always playing against lower league teams in the cup).
The incoming transfers are all German youngsters, as I continue to desperately scrabble around for potential future German internationals that are young enough to become homegrown here at Eintracht.
Andreas Becker is a very promising playmaker. Despite Barkok leaving, I still have almost twenty playmakers at the club…
I’ll focus on Victor Balgou however. Unhappy at Schalke, he was available at a ridiculously cheap £1.6m, and although not well rounded technically, he shows a lot of potential at just 18 years old:
In fact, a couple of months after this screenshot was taken, his media description updated to “wonderkid”, so he could be a hell of a bargain…
With the defeat at Bayern, the league table was as close as it’s ever been, with Bayern just a point behind me and RB Leipzig three behind them. The team reacted to that defeat (and the end to our record smashing 69 match unbeaten run) brilliantly with four great offensive performances.
With a couple of minor injuries in the squad, Wyn Pritchard was thrown into his first ever start for us away in the Rhein-Main Derby against Mainz. And he only bloody scored four!
We’re still on form, thanks to a brilliant recovery from 2-0 down against Leipzig:
Arsenal (again) in the Champions League and we played our new, more cautious formation for the first time:
We got a good result in the end, and we largely kept them at arms length, so overall it looks like a promising addition to our stable of tactics.
A month without concession:
Eight clean sheets in a row! Fourteen wins in a row! Both of these exclamations are club records. We looked really strong throughout the month, and demolished Arsenal to reach the Quarters of the Champions League once again.
We started the month with the 2nd XI defeated away at Leverkusen, as we rested our stars for Liverpool (again):
For the fourth season in a row, Liverpool have knocked us out of the CL. We held our own in both legs, the new tactic performing well, but this time it’s away goals that gave us the boot. A Champions League campaign without losing a game, but ultimately, another failure.
German football continues to be owned by us however.
We sign off with three more wins:
The highlight is beating our local rivals Mainz in the cup final, to win our 4th DFB-Pokal trophy in 5 seasons.
But beating Bayern to help knock them out of Europe next season was a close second:
That’s right, it’s another comfortable title for us, though we weren’t quite as good as last season. And somehow, between January and May, Bayern managed to collapse from offering us a genuine challenge to 7th place, courtesy of 9 league losses.
And yes, Liverpool won the CL yet again.
End Of Season Review:
The fans know what’s what, giving Evan N’Dicka some love after his top season:
I don’t know why Gian-Luca Itter hasn’t earned a place in the team. I see why that midfield got chosen, but in reality I suspect it’d get overrun!
David Raya did enough to earn European Goalkeeper of the Year, keeping 7 clean sheets from our 10 games in the Champions League.
Evan N’Dicka had a fantastic season in defence, averaging 7.67 and scoring 8 goals to boot. Fynn Otto is really starting to develop, putting pressure on me to get him in the team more often.
Marc Stendera had another superb year, 13 assists to his name, but he still can’t get a call from the German national side. Also with 13 assists, Sergio Gómez, who had a brilliant season, scoring 9 goals too.
Up front, no striker had a truly outstanding year, but our four main threats all got into double figures for goals; Rolf Klingenburg (16), Sébastien Haller (14), Brian Brobbey (13) and Carlos Alberto Santos (12).
A somewhat surprising choice for Bundesliga Player of the Year. Juan Manuel had a good season for sure, but player of the year seems a bit much, especially when he’s in the same squad as Evan N’Dicka.
There may not be a better young striker on the planet. We could have a contract dispute this summer, as I couldn’t get past his agent earlier this season unless I was willing to promise a minimum fee release clause. I was hoping to win the Champions League to give me more negotiating power, as I don’t want him to go the way of Brenner…
The U19s under the expert stewardship of Dennis Bergkamp have had a hell of a season, winning their domestic division, the German Youth Championship and then doing something the first team couldn’t:
News which would be of vital importance if the other big teams in Germany ever stepped the hell up:
Still, it’s good to be back at the top table.
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.
2. Develop a brand of football. I love a swift, incisive counter attack that features fast, technically gifted players.
3. Technique, Composure, Decisions, Determination, Pace, Acceleration. These are the six attributes I’ll be targeting with new signings to hopefully get us towards that new brand of football.
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.
WORK TO DO. We’ve been struck with a number of mediocre youth intakes over the seasons, and irritatingly for this aim, many of the best prospects to come through the intakes haven’t been German. We have a promising Romanian right winger who will likely be in the first team squad next season, and this year’s best prospect is a Japanese striker.
5. Win stuff. Duh.
ACHIEVED. But damn you Liverpool.
This will probably be the final time I repeat these aims for this save in their entirety, from now on Aim #4 will be the only one I come back to.
Our attempt to win in Europe by trusting in the development of the players we already had has failed this season. It’s going to be an important summer, with many of our most important players expecting (and deserving) renegotiated contracts.
There are a few more names who are perhaps holding back some of our young prospects, so there could be some high profile departures. Conversely, I think the time may have come to spend a bit of cash in the transfer market. Perhaps a couple of big signings will push us over the top?
Personally, I don’t know how many more times I can fall to Liverpool before moving on. The lack of competition in Germany, and the repetitive nature of our CL draws have me tiring of the save a bit. I’ll see how it goes, but season six could be my last at Frankfurt.