They started this season in a sensational manner. Florian Kohfeldt managed to create a team that not only scored goals, but one that also tended to not concede any at all. This team quickly became a sensation in Bundesliga, a league that has got used to Werder Bremen being a club that concedes fewer goals than they’ve scored. But that changed with Kohfeldt’s tactics and Jiri Pavlenka’s brilliance in goal. To me, it all seemed like it would stay put, like this team would manage to keep that form up. However, we’ve now seen that it was a slight fluke. Bremen have now come back to Earth, welcome back!
They flew high but have now come back to where they belong. It hasn’t been a surprise to see but let us analyse why they’ve started to show their true colours. Bremen have for a few years been one of the comical features of every season. They tend to start the season off in horrible fashion, but then manage to go on to beat everything and everyone in a rush of form under a new manager. Kohfeldt seems to go toward a season of reasonable strength, more than any of his predecessors may have done and has thus managed to create a cult following at the club and among the fans. He has shocked, broken the whole bad circle and has created a squad and club in form.
With Maximilian Eggestein and Davy Klaassen, Bremen have a midfield worthy of their name. And with Pavlenka, their goaltending problems of past seasons are but a memory to forget. Their attack has been reformed and improved with the acquisition of Martin Harnik and Milot Rashica, who team up with Max Kruse to create a potent attack that can hurt you in any way they like. However, some problems have arisen in the last few weeks that need to be attended to if this autumn is going to end on a happier note than the past ones. We’ve seen the failing defence of past seasons once again, we’ve seen at times calamitous transitions between defence and attack and we have seen the arguable attack that seems less than capable to score goals. Bremen seem to be back where they belong and the reason to this seems quite blurry.
The same material is there, the same players that performed amazingly before are now performing with mediocre results. The same tactics that before produced magic on home and foreign turf has now begun to produce not more or less than pure mediocrity. Why is this? Well, Bremen’s ways have always been difficult to describe and determine. They’ve been a strange club in the last few years and have had a clear tendency to do well and poorly in different sections of the season without a clear reason. It’s a club and a squad that acts on momentum and this might be the reason to why they’ve started to struggle.
The difficult questions lie in the squad dynamics and the difficult answers as well. Is this squad as good enough as the start of this season suggests? Has Kohfeldt proven himself enough to warrant great expectations? Or is the current form the form they should have been keeping all along? Has the beginning of the season just been a fluke? Many questions have arisen and most of them can’t be answered by this article alone. However, if we look at the last few games, we can see a real drop in self-belief since that odd loss against VfB Stuttgart and this could have damaged their momentum and with that their whole season.
Werder Bremen have been based on momentum for as long as I can remember, while often relying on the brilliance of certain players, the momentum of the game and their form has tended to become even more important and has taken a bigger role than the tactics of the coach, unwillingly and involuntarily. Momentum is a big piece in the jigsaw for many teams and no team or manager can eliminate the psychological factor completely. However, it is never good to be overly reliant on the unpredictable power of momentum. Bremen is a good example of just that, as they have experienced first-hand the clear pros and cons of it.
The beginning of this season has showed us how good Bremen can be when they’re on form and when they possess the fabled momentum. The second half of this season, thus far, has shown us the liabilities and weaknesses of the very same team and club. It can be a club with an amazing goalkeeper, a well-rounded and productive midfield and a great attack that sends shivers down spines all around the league. But it can also be a shaky defence with a leaky midfield that sits behind an unproductive, but needy attack. Momentum controls the transitions between these two and the momentum is up to the coach to control, something Kohfeldt has failed to do.
How can it be done? Can it even be done? Can the force of momentum be controlled by one single man? Well, it can be steered and managed, but the power is way too strong to handle. Steering the ship in the right direction, grinding out victories without playing well is one example of this, one way to direct momentum on the right path. Kohfeldt hasn’t done this and has instead experienced the extreme natures of both parts of the powerful spectrum. It can be amazing, but it can also be sensationally calamitous.
By Axel Falk.