|Head Coach||Heiko Herrlich|
|2019/20 Bundesliga finish||15th|
It was not too long ago that FC Augsburg was defying belief and finishing in the European places. Nor has it been too far removed from memory that we witnessed their magical run into the knockout stages of the Europa League under Markus Weinzierl.
But as the Bavarian-side look to once again embark on a campaign where they aim to climb back up the rungs of the top-flight, it is off the back of a 2019/20 campaign which was not too far off from ending in disaster.
Finishing just five-points above the relegation playoff spot, Fuggerstädter must find a way to channel the small handful of glory years in their young Bundesliga history. In what will be a decade in the German top flight this season, there’s no better time for improvement, even if the outlook is potentially grim.
Ruben Vargas – Winger
It would be far too simple to say Florian Niederlechner here, and justifiably so. The big German target man was unequivocally Augsburg’s get out of jail free card last season when he hit thirteen goals in the league. But FCA are going to need more than just his penchant for finding the back of the net this season if they are going successfully distance themselves from a relegation scrap.
In his place, Swiss international Ruben Vargas gets the nod. Looking to build on a season where he netted six goals in the league in his first campaign in Bavaria, the young wide-man has the complete package of tools to be a key source of goals to alleviate pressure from Niederlechner’s shoulders.
With Philipp Max setting-off to PSV Eindhoven (FCA’s second-leading goalscorer last term), further responsibility down the left of Herrlich’s deployment should befall him. He has all the tools to keep progressing, and I expect he should have a season that eclipses his freshman campaign.
Signing to Watch
Robert Gumny – Right-Back
A transfer coup of note, in securing the signature of Robert Gumny, Augsburg brought in a player of considerable potential.
Once heavily linked with a move to clubs like Celtic, Fiorentina, and Borussia Mönchengladbach, the Poland U21 international comes from a Lech Poznan institution who continue to churn out good young players.
A well rounded full-back, Gumny is a mix of progressive with a touch of grit. Being capable of playing out of the back and breaking a high-press while being confident on the ball, Gumny thrives in being able to get forward as well. Either interchanging with the right-winger, or making late runs into the final third, Gumny could provide a source of unexpected goal output.
He may not start the season ahead of Raphael Framberger, who got the not in the first round of the Pokal, but Gumny has every chance to work his way into Herrlich’s good graces as the season progresses.
Good flank options
Given Augsburg’s questionable amount of genuine creative strength, how Heiko Herrlich’s team contribute from wide areas will be vital to their league campaign.
The aforementioned Ruben Vargas is joined by German youth international Marco Richter, André Hahn, the pacy Noah Sarenren Bazee, workhorse Daniel Caligiuri and Fredrik Jensen as wide options.
Seemingly, there is a player for every potential tactical scheme on every given day. Added to that is the likes of Iago and Robert Gumny (who I expect to win over the starting right-back job over time) as players who can get forward and contribute. Strong play from wider areas would suit Augsburg’s core of target men in Florian Niederlechner, Alfred Finnbogason, Michael Gregoritsch, and Julian Schieber.
Chances may be at a real premium this season, but if the supply lines can be maintained from the flanks, Augsburg may be able to equal or better their goal tally from the previous season.
Consistency at the back
It’s not for lack of options at the back, but Augsburg at times last term struggled mightily and failed to put in consistent performance levels.
A centre-back pairing of Jeffrey Gouweleeuw and Felix Udoukhai is a solid one. Iago, and one of Framberger or Gumny are also decent. The free-transfer of Rafal Gikiewicz from Union Berlin provides a keeper of experience to try to string it all together.
A match-day 1 trip to Berlin to face-off against Union provides a decent enough test against a side that overachieved last term. But the truth of the matter is that Augsburg surrendered five to their opposition last season on for different occasions. Despite that, FCA did manage to allow one goal or less in sixteen outings, signaling that they still have the ability to defend as a cohesive unit. Which level of performance in the defensive third of the pitch turns up will likely define their entire campaign.
Augsburg truly do have potential to be so much better than some of the recent seasons they’ve manufactured. Though they have some talented individuals further forward, and young potential at the back in a few on offer, their level of consistency across all phases of play is an achilles heel they can only shield for so long.
The writing was on the wall last term regarding how close they were to a reality that led to relegation. This season will be much of the same. It really is fine margins with them, and I could easily eat my words come May, but I fully expect FCA to fight tooth and nail to avoid the drip and they may not be successful.