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2020/21 Bundesliga Season Preview | Werder Bremen


Nickname

Die Grün-Weißen

Manager

Florian Kohfeldt

Stadium

Weserstadion

Bundesliga 2019/20 finish

16th (Relegation play-off)

 

For Werder Bremen, another season of Bundesliga football is a blessing that even their most ardent of fans wouldn’t have predicted a few months ago. Heading into the final few games of the 19/20 campaign, Florian Kohfeldt’s side were languishing at the bottom of the table, cut adrift from safety. A minor miracle, including a final day 6-1 victory over FC Köln, saw Werder live to fight another day in the relegation play-off.

The clash with Heidenheim went right to the wire, as, in typically Werder fashion, they conceded twice late on to make the finish as stressful as possible. As one of the true remaining giants of German football, this was their closest skirmish for decades with relegation to Germany’s second tier. However, with the club struggling financially, and having to face the prospect of selling Milot Rashica in the near future, just what can we expect from the North German entertainers?

Likely starting XI

Key Man

Davy Klaassen – Midfielder

The former Everton and Ajax midfielder has become something of a talisman for Werder Bremen since arriving at the club in 2018. The Dutchman was one of the very few bright sparks from last season’s dreadful showing, as he chipped in with seven goals and six assists – crucial contributions indeed as it would turn out. Interest from former club Ajax, as well as a handful of other clubs around Europe, almost saw Klaassen leave this summer. But much to the relief of all involved with the club, he opted to stay put for another year at least. Werder are very likely heading towards another tricky campaign in the bottom half of the Bundesliga.

Key senior figures such as Klaassen and Niklas Moisander are going to be crucial by the time of the run in. The 27-year-old chiefly operates as a box to box midfielder, having to contribute at both ends of the pitch, even if his main strengths are very much in the attacking third. Players of Klaassen’s ilk choosing to remain at the club, in spite of their troubles last year, could well make the difference if Werder are dragged into yet another relegation dog fight.

Signing to Watch

Tahith Chong – Winger

With Milot Rashica expected to depart Werder Bremen at some point in the near future, speculation was rife as to who might replace the prodigiously talented Kosovan. Numerous names were floated by media outlets, but in the end, the club plucked for Manchester United youngster Tahith Chong, whom they have signed on a season-long loan. It’s an interesting deal for many reasons – not least of them being the fact that he is largely unproven at a senior level. Chong has been a highly regarded prospect for a number of years now, lighting up the U23 Premier league and various international tournaments for both club and country. Be that as it may, with the Dutchman recently turning 20, now is the time for Chong to deliver on the biggest stage of all.

A winger by trade, Chong is explosive with the ball at his feet, and is very capable of contributing with a goal or two, as his record in youth football demonstrates. Standing at 1.85m, he’s not exactly easy to stop, boasting great speed and strength. The early signs are promising for Chong, who has already impressed in a Werder shirt whilst playing in a series of preseason friendlies. He has a long way to go before he can truly replicate the impact of Rashica, but it’s the perfect start to life in Germany, ahead of what could be a vital loan stint for the club and indeed the player.

Strengths

An explosive counter-attacking team

For large periods of Werder’s 19/20 campaign, you’d be hard pressed to find much that was worth writing home about. Nevertheless, towards the end of the season, when results and performances began to really improve, some positives did begin to emerge. For starters, Florian Kohfeldt, the clubs often maligned young manager, showed glimpses of tactical shrewdness, as his decision to pair Yuya Osako with Josh Sargent up front unleashed their true potential. In different circumstances, Kohfeldt would be flying high, as prior to Werder’s struggles, the 37-year-old looked destined to follow a similar trajectory to that of Julian Nagelsmann. He masterminded a great escape last season with a squad that looked doomed for the drop midway through the campaign. For that, he must be commended.

Furthermore, Werder most certainly pose a threat on the counter, where players like Sargent, Osako and Leonardo Bittencourt thrive. Adding Chong to this mix of exciting talent surely means that Werder will pose a threat on the break – a tactic that could be enough to ensure survival once again. In a 4-4-2 system, Sargent can be utilised best, as the American works the channels and presses the opposition very effectively. The 19-year-old isn’t prolific, but in this system, he seldom needs to be. With a young, attacking core, Kohfeldt has a squad and a system to develop over the coming months and years.

Weaknesses

Inability to hold out for victories

Only Paderborn conceded more goals in the Bundesliga last season than Werder Bremen, a fact that won’t come as a surprise to anybody who saw their defensive efforts after the restart. Bremen were incredibly vulnerable defensively, especially so to crosses, where an inability to track runners and man mark undid much if their good work going forward. However, with Omer Toprak signed this summer from Borussia Dortmund, they may finally be able to plug what has been a glaring weakness over the past few years.

Additionally, Werder’s inability to hold out for victories and draws at the end of games will also be a point of concern for the clubs coaching staff. While the club did ultimately survive relegation last term, they very nearly threw it away on a number of occasions, by conceding sloppy goals late on. If Kohfeldt’s side are to improve on last season’s showing, they will surely need to rectify this issue, and figure out an effective way of closing out games.

Verdict

Don’t expect too many miracles at the Weserstadion this year, as the squad is still fundamentally lacking in a number of key areas. For all the effort and talent that Osako and Sargent bring, neither have a proven track record of scoring goals, while the absence of Rashica will surely exacerbate the need for output from the forwards. Chong could prove to be a masterstroke signing, but he is largely unproven at senior level, and therefore, caution must be exercised.

A relegation battle looks likely once again for Bremen, and with the newly promoted sides having already improved their ranks, survival could prove to be even trickier than last term. They have a good coach and a number of very good players, but without a true talisman going forward, the club look set to struggle. Rashica remaining at Werder for one more season could tip the scales in their favour, but if he doesn’t, I predict that relegation beckons for Die Grun Weisen.

Tom Fenton

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