To get you in the mood for the Bundesliga again, we restart our preview format. For the first match-day we spoke with Werder supporter Joey about the current state of affairs at his club, as well as the start into the season for Bayern.
Hello Joey, could you please introduce yourself and tell us how you became a Werder supporter. What makes this club so special for you?
Moin! My name is Joey and I’m 22. I have a bachelor’s degree in psychology, worked for the DRK (German Red Cross) in a refugee camp and will start my master is business psychology next semester.
Since I was a small boy I was a supporter of Werder Bremen, well actually not… For many years I preferred video games and such over football and my active career in a football club lasted only three weeks. I was a little, slightly overweight boy without any talent and then the indoor season was about to start. Growing up in Bremen it is nevertheless impossible not to get in touch with Werder. Especially with my family and most of my friends supporting the boys in green and white. At some point in time my cousin and then a friend of mine took me to a Werder game and with the world cup 2006 my interest in football intensified. Since the 2008/09 season I would call myself as being an active fan. I closely follow every game, with only a few exceptions. Lately it has been rather dissatisfying, but that’s the way it is.
What makes Werder Bremen so special is hard to put into words. I personally can’t stand the talk about the oh so special club to be honest. Werder is as much a middle class business as other clubs and there are a couple of things to criticise. Nevertheless the connection between the city and the club is remarkable. It’s not just the special supporter’s events like “Allez Grün” or “#greenwhitewonderwall”, it’s even a basic walk through the city on a match-day.
The slogan “Werder needs Bremen, needs Werder” may sound pathetic, but it’s spot on. Werder and Bremen – that is a symbiotic relationship.
Last season many voiced their discontent with Skripnik’s system. Did you see changes in the tactical approach in the preseason?
Skripnik’s system wasn’t the actual problem, his lack of continuity was. He lacked a clear plan, changed the line-up all the time, but held on to the wrong players, e.g. Lukimya. During the season some problem areas kind of disappeared, thanks to Grillitsch and the good centre-back transfers. Skripnik’s problematic player selection and lacking tactical set-up remained. When he was under pressure, he became even more limited, predictable and counterproductive in his reactions. As the relegation came nearer the expectations for the own style of play declined with each game, leading to growing tactical deficits. In the end it all came down to individual actions.
This trend was also visible in the preseason. The intention to strengthen the defence never worked out. I wasn’t able to see the first games, but the matches against Ingolstadt and Chelsea didn’t inspire any hope. The change to a 4-4-2/4-2-3-1 with Kruse behind/around Pizarro and a double pivot with Fritz and Junuzovic didn’t work out. Fritz is lacking some kind of tactical overview and Junuzovic next to him was always storming heedlessly up field. This is not enough to compete in the Bundesliga. And then there is Yatabare, who doesn’t convince in offense nor in defence, but always is among the starting XI.
The idea is clear: high and aggressive pressing combined with a fast vertical ball movement after getting the ball. Occasionally this looks good, because the offensive players fit together (especially Kruse, Bartels and even Junuzovic and Grillitsch), but they leave too much green open in behind their backs. The team moves to much to the ball near side, but without covering the passing lanes into the free zones. The pressing is not coordinated, giving the opponent the chance to break free and even to create numerical advantages against Werder’s backline. During their build-up Werder pushes very high, but doesn’t cover the defensive centre or the half spaces accordingly, thus lacking control and penetration in the ball recycling.
How do you feel about the transfers? What are the most important players coming in or leaving?
Actually, pretty satisfied. Kruse is a real improvement offensively. He can provide structure in the final third and is a good fit with players like Kainz, Bartels, Pizarro and Grillitsch. This offers some options for the future, for example with Johannsson instead of Pizarro. Kruse’s injury is a major setback, especially since Skripnik build the system around him.
It’s hard to evaluate the other transfers. Kainz has some interesting assets and could become an important player on the left wing, with his clear cut combinational play and his drive towards the goal. He didn’t impress in the DFB Pokal against Lotte, lacking the necessary speed and concentration which is needed for the Bundesliga. Petsos wasn’t able to create confidence in him as an improvement for the Bundesliga, but with this build-up play and his defensive mind-set he could be a potential partner for Grillitsch in the centre.
Moisander and Sane are interesting, because they bring some experience and organization to the central defence. Especially Moisander wasn’t able to show it, yet. I cannot say much about Bauer, but in the scouting videos he looked decent defensively and reliable. We will see whether he can give Gebre Selassie a fight for the place in the first XI.
Thy and Eilers probably won’t have a big chance for the first team, but both could become very valuable coming from the bench. We’ll see.
All in all Werder did a decent job. I would be even happier, if the sell Junuzovic to bring in a number 6 to partner with Grillitsch. Vestergaard and Djilobodji have left the club. Both had strong individual talents, but didn’t always work out together. It comes down to the ability to create a better defensive structure, but I doubt Skripnik can provide that.
The season starts this weekend. How well prepared is Werder and that are their short, mid and long term goals?
The squad is ok, despite some deficits especially in central defence and central midfield, and should be able to stay in the Bundesliga. That’s the short term goal. The mid-term goal is to move up the table and to have a realistic chance to qualify for the European competitions again. Due to the improved financial situation, this should be possible. But the most important figure in the process will be the coach and I doubt Skripnik is even good enough to keep the team in the league.
How do you feel about these goals and the road the club is taking?
Again: Actually yes. The goals are realistic, even lacking ambition. I’m rather impatient and a perfectionist, thus I miss the drive for “more” in the club. Werder’s goals are often to uninspiring, shy and cautious. At the same time one has to acknowledge that the financial drought seems to be over, finally. Werder seems to be able to act again (see Kruse) and even willing to make bigger transfers. I like that.
Now only the coach remains a rather pragmatic and not idealistic coach. If the club find a better solution here, I would be satisfied, for now.
In the first game Werder will face Bayern. How do you think Werder will approach this game?
Rough, alternating between confident and shy and utterly outgunned. Just like in their last DFB Pokal game the distances between the lines should be very small and the counter attacks should be used, but I don’t think this will be successful.
Still: To me Ancelotti is not as good a coach as Guardiola and a team is always more vulnerable during times of transitions. If we really want to beat you once again, now is the best time, despite our injury list.
Thank you for your time. What’s you prediction for the final score on Friday and where will Werder be at the end of the season?
4-1 for Bayern and Werder will run in between 10 and 12, after changing the coach and gaining some momentum.