FEATURE | The gradual decline of Werder Bremen

Werder Bremen are a staple of top flight football in Germany. They are four-time Bundesliga winners, but face relegation to Germany’s second tier of football for the first time in 40 years.

Bundesliga has been postponed until at least April, a decision owed to the coronavirus outbreak. Werder Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt will be hoping he now has enough time with his players to recuperate and for them to return against an in-form Bayer Leverkusen side with a completely fresh mindset. Die Werderaner have won just four games all season, and their last win came all the way back in January, with the side losing 8 of their last 10 games. Now, four points off Fortuna Düsseldorf, who are in the relegation play-off as it stands, and 8 points of Mainz in 15th, Bremen will be relegated to 2. Bundesliga unless their form radically changes.

If the football season returns and is played out in June and July in place of the European Championship, Bremen have an almost impossible battle to survive and cling on to what is an impressive long-standing record. The last time Werder Bremen were relegated was in the 1979/80 season and is the only time the club has been relegated from the Bundesliga. A record not shared with many clubs at all.

Bayern Munich were not given a place at the table when the Bundesliga was formed in 1963, and were then not promoted until 1965, having failed on the first attempt in the Bundesliga Aufstiegsrunde, a competition in which eight teams from the Regionalligas across Germany battled it out to gain a spot in the Bundesliga. Bayern lost out in ‘64 to Borussia Neunkirchen – a club now in the 6th tier of German Football, who went up with Hannover 96. The next season Bayern would eventually go up alongside Borussia Monchengladbach. Since then, the Bavarians have not played football in Germany’s second tier.

Borussia Dortmund have been relegated only once from the Bundesliga (1971/72). Eintracht Frankfurt were not relegated all the way up to the 1995/96 season, but since then they have been relegated three times to the 2.Bundesliga.

Of the teams in the inaugural season of the Bundesliga in 1963 currently playing in the Bundesliga; Borussia Dortmund, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hertha BSC, FC Koln, FC Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen – all have been relegated at least once.

Hamburger SV up until last season (18/19) had the most impressive record. Die Rothosen were not relegated for 55 years, however their symptoms of failure were becoming apparent in the years leading up to their historic relegation, the club becoming a custom to poor results, much like Werder Bremen. Die Grun-Wiessen had a very strong start to the millennium, being crowned champions of the Bundesliga in 2003/04 and enjoying success right through the noughties, with some familiar names in their roster.

The likes of Diego, Torsten Frings, Per Mertesacker, Claudio Pizarro and of course Mesut Ozil. It is only in the current decade Bremen’s form has been waning, going from European football regulars to having an average league finish of 10th in the past 10 seasons. Neighbouring Hamburg had an average league finish of 11th in their last 10 seasons as a Bundesliga team. Bremen have not been scraping the barrel like Hamburg did – finishing 16th twice in two consecutive seasons, surviving by the skin of their teeth, but the signs are there that Bremen are now a busted flush.

Currently around Werder Bremen in the league are: SC Paderborn, Fortuna Dusseldorf, Mainz and Augsburg. Bremen suffered a heavy 5-0 loss to Mainz at home before the Christmas break, but still have a trip to Opel Arena to play Die Nullfunfer in what is a must-win game, as well as a trip to Paderborn which is an equally important game for Werder, having also lost to the current-bottom club at home earlier in the season. Other than those two crucial games, Bremen will no doubt target wins against Freiburg and Koln in their quest for survival.

Bremen also need to start scoring more goals, and conceding less, having scored the joint least and conceded the most in the Bundesliga this season. Most of their goals have come from star man – Milot Rashica, the Kosovan finding the net 7 times. But by not having a consistent or conventional striker up top, goals have been a rarity for Bremen, Yuya Osako only scoring four times in 18 appearances, and American Josh Sargent only three goals in an equal number of appearances. Maxi Eggestein is a shadow of the player he was last season, scoring no goals and only grabbing two assists all season.

When, or if, the current Bundesliga season returns, Werder Bremen have an almost impossible task to survive, but with 9 games left and 27 points still up for grabs, it is not over yet, and Bremen could still maintain their impressive Bundesliga status.

By Cameron O’Mara.


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