Eintracht Frankfurt’s Bundesliga campaign got off to a winning start this weekend against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim at the Commerz-Bank Arena. Die Adler came into the match looking a bit surer footed after a lengthier and more successful pre-season than Hoffenheim, and the difference between the two teams showed as The Eagles came away with a 1-0 win. Despite the positive result however, Frankfurt’s performance was far from perfect, as Hoffenheim were able to put the ball in the back of the net twice, but their attempts were judged offside by the officials. Let’s take a look at some of the key talking points from a game that proved to be more than a satisfactory test for a Frankfurt side clearly still in the works under head Coach Adi Hütter.
Attack shows sparks of brilliance – but lacks final touch:
Coming into the game, the assumption was that Frankfurt’s attack was well oiled and ready to fire on all cylinders for the coming season. Results in pre-season suggested that the likes of Ante Rebićand Gonçalo Paciênciawere ready to take on the burden once shouldered by Sébastien Hallerand Luka Jović. Against Hoffenheim at least, Frankfurt’s attackers seemed to have a bit of a problem linking up and finding each other in the right areas. In the case of Rebić, the Croatian international seemed out of sorts, with both his passing and finishing not exactly up to his regular standards. There were many instances where the player seemed to be content with having a quiet game, and when he did get on the ball, he wasn’t really able to finish off any of the opportunities that came his way. Of course, it has to be said that head coach Adi Hütter had Rebićplaying as a number 9, which isn’t his natural position.
Last season, Rebićhad the most success cutting in from the wing, and playing a more supportive role, which is why I find it surprising that Hütterhad him playing through the center. This will likely prove the exception rather than the rule for the season as Frankfurt have confirmed that former Wolfsburg striker Bas Dost will join the clubfrom Sporting Lisbon in Portugal, pending a medical. This will allow Rebićto play in his preferred position out wide, which will allow him to be more effective in coming games.
With regards to Paciência, the Portuguese centre forward didn’t start the game, which was perhaps because of the Europa League qualifying game the team had played a few days earlier. He did come on for Frankfurt in the 70th minute however, but also seemed unable to make an impact in the time afforded on the pitch.
Fans will likely be disappointed that summer signing Dejan Joveljić was also not given a run out onto the pitch. I was personally excited to see how the former Red Star Belgrade striker would perform against Bundesliga opposition, but unfortunately the Serbian front man will have to wait some time yet to make his Bundesliga debut. Frankfurt’s other new signing, Daichi Kamada was in fact afforded a start in the game against Hoffenheim and the young winger certainly impressed, delivering quite a few crosses and corners that created threatening opportunities in front of Oliver Baumann’s goal. The youngster showed the Frankfurt faithful his creative side by making a couple of very nice solo runs into the Hoffenheim box. In the 47th minute Kamada was able to dance past the Frankfurt defense and get a stinging shot off that Baumann was just able to save, but it did highlight the promise and talent that Kamada brings to the forefront of Hoffenheim’s attack.
The permanent signing of Filip Kostić to a deal that will keep him at the Commerz-bank arena looks to be paying dividends as well for Frankfurt. The former Hamburg and Stuttgart winger showed last season that he had an immense role to play in Frankfurt’s future, and he once again proved his worth by putting in a relentless performance, running up and down the flank. He was the most threatening of Frankfurt’s front 3 throughout the match, testing Baumann at every opportunity he got. His pace allowed him to make bombing runs forward that put Hoffenheim’s defense under pressure, but he also did a good job tracking back and defending as well. He will certainly be one to watch for Frankfurt in the coming season.
Hinteregger continues to prove his worth:
In what seemed perhaps on paper to be a very open game between both sides was indeed the setting for one way attacking traffic by Frankfurt, but this was not only due to the fact that their attack had brighter moments, but also because their defense was much more resolute in shutting Hoffenheim out than I would have initially expected. In fact, it was the defense, namely center back Martin Hinteregger that put the hosts up in the first half. The former Augsburg man got onto the scoresheet just 36 seconds into the game after he found himself on the end of a very good Kostić delivery. Hinteregger hit the ball first time on the volley, and his strike would prove to be the only (onside) goal of the game. Hinteregger would go on to be a brick wall for Frankfurt, one the visitors could not seem to work their way past. There will be some worry for Frankfurt as their star performer seemed to pick up a knock close to the end of the second half, but there has been no word as to what it’s severity was. Hinteregger finished the game but seemed to be moving a bit more gingerly in the closing stages.
Final thoughts and looking forward:
Overall, Frankfurt’s performance showed that the team have slightly more defensive grit in them than perhaps a couple of the score lines in pre-season gave them credit for. They proved to be resilient against a Hoffenheim team that, while perhaps was lacking a few key pieces due to suspension and injury, still pushed to try and get a result on the road. It would be Martin Hinteregger’s excellent performance that proved to be the difference, but the overall performance showed promise in regard to Adi Hütter’s project for the coming season. Of course, there is still room for improvement, especially in terms of Frankfurt’s finishing. While the team didn’t lack outlets for creativity, that final killer touch seemed beyond them in moments that perhaps should have put the game to bed, but the addition of Bas Dost will give them another option that should help in this regard. Applying that crucial finishing touch will be extremely important in their next fixture away to RB Leipzig in the Red Bull Arena. Leipzig have started their campaign in emphatic fashion by putting Bundesliga new boys FC Union Berlin to the sword with 4 clinical goals. They were also responsible for putting up the best defensive statistics in the Bundesliga last season, which is likely something that will continue to be a strong point for them this year. Leipzig will not allow Frankfurt many chances, so the chances they do create, will have to be utilized if they are to come away with any points in the coming fixture.
By Brian Szlenk.