The season thus far for Werder Bremen has been, to say the least, a disappointment.
Hopes were high in the beginning, as on paper Werder had seemingly put together one of the more solid core eleven within the Bundesliga. At least, that was what was speculated. As it has turned out, the club from Bremen sits in the middle of the table with no sense of purpose and a lack of drive to get anywhere.
It would seem that both club and fans had visions of Champions League dancing in their heads, especially when Werder nabbed Belgian star Kevin De Bruyne and ex-HSV hitman Eljero Elia. It has taken them four months to finally start molding together with the rest of the side, especially Elia who has not lived up to his potential yet since coming over from Juventus. De Bruyne has adjusted quicker, but has made it no secret that he doesn’t like life in Germany. Coming off a fresh win over Hannover 96 – a good win, yes, but just one of several that the Green-Whites should have had- they now sit right behind their last opponents with 25 points, 11 points off a Champions League spot.With that being the case, it is likely that the Champions League is now out of sight. While not unheard of, it will be hard to make up 11 points with half a season to go. Schalke, Mainz, Hannover, Freiburg, Hamburg, Frankfurt, and Gladbach all stand between Bremen and a Champions League spot. Even Europa League, only just four points off, could be a huge task.
What Bremen are in need of is some form, that ever elusive dog that has come and gone so far this year. Some goals would be nice as well (not the back-of-the-net kind, though we’ll gladly take them). With a new director of football at the club it becomes important for its directions and aims to be made manifest to the public. Clearly, every club is aiming for big things. That much goes without saying. How they are going to go about reaching those heights is another task entirely and so far, it has been awfully quiet on Bremen’s end.
January came and went with only two signings, neither of which will likely have a large impact on the next few months. In fact, one could argue that the departures may effect the team more with Florien Trinks heading to Furth and Stevanovic to Holland.
This then leaves us with what? A fight to stay in the first division? Hardly entertaining, since it’s doubtful that even though Werder seem to jump up and down in terms of positions in Bundesliga we will be fighting to stay afloat. Our squad it much too good for that, not to mention the fact that Werder Bremen have yet to dip below 12th place all season. Are we destined to wander aimlessly up and down the Bundesliga because we can’t win the close ones and win the easy ones?
Having had the experience of surrounding myself with coaches and teams, it has become clear to me in my experience that goals are what drive human beings to be successful if the goals are well constructed, or to fail if they are poorly constructed. As such, knowing where we sit in the standings it would seem like a good goal to attempt to reach the Europa League. How can this be done?
First, as mentioned prior, Werder Bremen need to find some form. No more of this up, down, up, down, win, lose, win, lose stuff. Bremen need to string together some wins and gain some momentum. This means all players need to get on the same wavelength and work together as a team.
Fortunately, this week may have seen the beginning of that as Nils Peterson had a multiple goal game and the squad appeared to keep pushing together until the end. Both goals came late, but better late than never and it could mean they are now gaining the right mentality to finish out matches. My heart continues to break at the loss we took a week ago to Hamburg, a loss that falls directly into the category of not finishing a match mentally to the end. How you practice is how you’ll play, and to that end Schaaf needs to ensure that the players are putting in the hours on the practice field and in the mental game along with him and his staff. They’ve got to start winning the close ones. Elia needs to have a greater impact out wide, or we find someone else. The back line needs to cease making silly mistakes that keep getting punished. All of these things can be dealt with in practice.
Second, an alignment of the coaching and office staff. This simply means that both parties need to be on the same page. When the left talks with the right, things (transitions, goals, communication) run smoother. With new faces in town, of course it takes some transition time – but it shouldn’t take 3 months. Watching Werder gives you a sense that the club is not sure of the direction it should be moving in. No signings during the winter break is a big clue, and means that either the front office vetoed it or Schaaf is far too comfortable. It is common knowledge that German football clubs are tight with the purse strings, but that does not mean there aren’t shrewd dealings to be made. I can already hear your voice in the background saying, ‘Werder made big signings in the summer, why should they make more now?’. Again, it goes back to goals. If Werder’s goal was to reach European play, the club should be taking further actions to help progress that goal forward. Nothing happened. I for one find it hard to believe that the club can be comfortable with where they are now, and if they are they shouldn’t be.
Let’s hope that this weeks win over Hannover is a sign of things to come. Let’s also hope that we never stay comfortable for too long in our own skin. Otherwise, it is time to refresh what we are aiming for.
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