Bundesliga is tight. Extremely tight. Only seven points separate second from tenth. One of these clubs was part of the race for Europe last Hinrunde as well, Eintracht Frankfurt. While Eintracht themselves have gone under the radar so far, one must argue that they’ve coped with their circumstances quite well. Having lost Bastian Oczipka and Jesús Vallejo beforehand, they should have struggled this autumn. However, their form has taken a turn for the better and they sit eighth, just four points behind Schalke in second.
Frankfurt’s form is down due a few key factors. Firstly, their defence is truly astonishing and is in fact the second best in Bundesliga with 18 goals conceded, a bit more than one per game. While their defence has been fantastic, their attack has seemingly improved as well having scored 20 goals so far this season, with newcomer Sebastien Haller being the main man with six goals to his name.
Other people who have found themselves on the scoresheet at Eintracht are Ante Rebic, Marius Wolf and Kevin Prince Boateng with four, three & three respectively.
Eintracht is the second-best team away in the league. Only Bayern Munich have picked up more points (19) than they have in away games in Bundesliga. Eintracht have picked up 18 points in their eight away fixtures this season and while their home record isn’t what kit was last Hinrunde, they are still a force to be reckoned with at their Commerzbank-Arena in Mainhattan. Eintracht’s away form and their great defence and tactically astute manager Niko Kovac has moulded Eintracht into one of the big contenders for European places and they will most certainly be looking for more wins both homw and away come the Rückrunde.
Eintracht Frankfurt & their scouting system
As a fan of the eagles from Frankfurt, I’ve been very intrigued by their continued scouting of lesser leagues. They have recently been active in rather unknown and minor markets apart from their rivals in Bundesliga. For example, Mijat Gaćinović, one of the best players at the club, was bought from Vojvodina Novi Sad in the Serbian Superliga. Reliable left-back Taleb Tawatha was brought in from the Israeli club Maccabi Haifa. Add Lukáš Hrádecký, from the Danish League, Anderson Ordoñez, from Barcelona SC Guayaquil in the Ecuadorian Ecuadorian Serie A, and Carlos Salcedo, Liga MX, to the equation and you get a rather good picture of the advanced level of scouting that seems to exist at the club from Main.
Eintracht’s scouting network is what this piece will focus on primarily, due to both my interest in Eintracht as a club and to enhance my, and your, understanding for both German mid-table teams and their actions off the pitch.
When Eintracht Frankfurt signed Gaćinović from Vojvodina, not many took notice. Gaćinović wasn’t a star at the club and he wasn’t extremely young like Hamburg’s Alen Halilović either. Mijat was a 19-year old Serb with some minor experience from the Serbian Superliga. However, because many didn’t take notice the brilliance of the move was forgotten. A club like Eintracht, which has always been a club with some minor pluses on the annual fiscal results, needs to look further than the hyped-up players in the best leagues. This move was a brilliant example of just that, it was an example of a club understanding the need to punch under their own weight. They had no real contestants in the race for Gaćinović who was signed for less than €1 million in 2015 and is now worth just over €3m, according to Transfermarkt.
This was no isolated move either, it seems to be the current transfer behaviour of Eintracht Frankfurt and a brilliant behaviour at that. Their choice of market has heavily influenced both their fear factor and their international status of the club. I had no idea that this was possibly intentional as well.
Two years later Eintracht waltzed into the odd markets again, but this time looking for an attacking midfielder. They found one in the Japanese J-League. Daichi Kamada was no superstar, he wasn’t coveted by the super clubs. Heck, he wasn’t even coveted by the other mid-table clubs in Bundesliga. He went under the radar for some time and Eintracht Frankfurt like to sign players under the radar. Kamada is now seen as one of the biggest talents at the club and even though he’s only been at the club for about six or seven months, he’s already left his mark on the club due to his growing popularity in his homeland. By signing Kamada, Eintracht grew as a market in Asia, which was no doubt intentional as well.
Let’s look at Timothy Chandler. Born and bred in Frankfurt am Main to an American father and a German mother. He plays for the American national team and speaks both German and American English fluently, albeit the latter with a slight Hessian touch. Chandler played for the club for many years, in fact from the beginning of his career as a footballer until he was 20-years-old in 2010. He left to play for 1. FC Nürnberg, but was brought back in 2014 by Thomas Schaaf when Nürnberg were relegated to the second tier. It seemed like Eintracht had sold him, let him develop and then followed his progress closely to bring him back four years later. A very clever move and even though he cost about €1 million in 2014, he’s now worth more than four times that.
In 2016, Kovac had to strengthen. He had inherited a lame squad by Armin Veh and had barely managed to keep them afloat in the spring of 2016. He recognized that Oczipka was more than capable of being the dynamic left-back his system needed, but due to the physically damaging role of a dynamic wing-back, he needed a back-up in case the stalwart German defender got injured or needed to rest. He chose to look at the Israeli league, for some odd reason and managed to unearth the 24-year-old left-back Tawatha from Maccabi Haifa. He soon grew into a proper wing-back and is now often used as a defensive compliment for the attacking wing-back Jetro Willems. Since his arrival, Tawatha has become one of the most liked players at the club and is continuously applauded all around Mainhattan due to his tremendous work rate and marvellous left foot.
The Eintracht Scouting Network has proven itself to both be fantastic and pivotal. Without these great signings, Eintracht would be stuck where they were, trying to grasp some hope of keeping themselves afloat. Eintracht Frankfurt has always been international, in fact I showed in an article a while back that Eintracht Frankfurt was and still is the team with most players from Asia and America in the history of Bundesliga. This is mainly due to the city’s status as an international city, but also due to Eintracht’s understanding for their own requirements to keep themselves afloat and well.
But since Fredi Bobic and Bruno Hübner took charge at Eintracht, there has been a clear change in tactics. Eintracht are still very interested in bringing in players from these two continents, but they seem to be extra careful and extra sure. The scouting at Eintracht has certainly improved and their form as of the last two seasons is a great example and monument of just that.
By Axel Falk.