For the best possible gauge of what the upcoming opponent is like, we’ve invited an expert. Markus Herwig is a journalist and works for Sportschau and Telekom Sport, among other things. He is part of the sports programme “Sport im Osten” on MDR, which is why he is well-acquainted with Chemnitzer FC.
Hello, Markus. This weekend, Chemnitzer FC will play against FC Bayern. What was your initial thought when you heard about it?
I was very happy for the fans in this part of Germany who follow Chemnitz. For a lower-league team, there are two scenarios in the DFB Pokal: either you hope for an opponent who might just be beatable if the circumstances are right, or if you have to exit in the first round, you at least want to go out against a proper big name team from the first division. There is no bigger name in German football than FC Bayern, so I think all fans are happy about the draw, and I’m glad about that. In addition, the club will have a full stadium and generate good income. That might be enough to become active on the transfer market.
Many Bayern fans won’t know what to expect. In your opinion, who are Chemnitz’s key players?
Maurice Trapp, Marc Endres, and Laurin von Piechowski. The new three at the back need to become more stable. After losing their opening game 1-0 to Zwickau, CFC conceded eight goals in three games. That’s too much. The old saying of defense beginning all the way up the field is true, but even so the three guys at the back need to become secure, otherwise it seems possible that the game against Bayern will be decided very early on.
In offense, Chemnitz has players that have proven to be dangerous in front of goal this season. After top scorer Fink left, Daniel Frahn has had to step up to close that hole in attack, and he seems to be handling the increased responsibility well. Dennis Grote has scored against FC Bayern in the Bundesliga, and new signing Florian Trinks has played Bundesliga 14 times for Bremen and Greuther Fürth. He recently won the Hungarian Cup with Ferencváros. If these players play up to their full potential against Bayern, CFC can be a threat in front of goal.
There was a change over the summer, with a new coach and several new signings. Has there been a noticeable change this season?
The most obvious change is the switch from a back four to a back three. This is to strengthen the midfield and develop more force offensively. Six goals scored in four games is not bad. On the other hand, the defensive gaps are much bigger this way if opponents bridge the midfield with quick counters. Offensively, there are several players carrying the load, with Florian Hansch supporting Daniel Frahn. They still need to learn how to work together, but both have the potential to score a double-digit number of goals. Whether it will be enough to score against Bayern will remain to be seen.
You already mentioned it: defense was the biggest problem last season, too, now it’s another eight goals conceded in the first four games. Is the offensive style too dangerous, or are there other causes for the lack in balance?
The switch from back four to back three isn’t completed yet. Counterpressing is very popular in the 3. Liga and to do that, it’s important to own the midfield to be able to put pressure on the opposing player who has the ball. To achieve that, one player is taken from defense and when the opponent attacks, the wingers need to help with the backtracking. Paderborn is an example where this works really well. Chemnitz still needs a couple more training sessions to achieve it.
Which are the club’s short, medium, and long term goals? And what do you think would be realistic?
Every club would like to be better than they were in the previous season. Short term, the goal has to be to internalise coach Horst Steffen’s ideas and to improve the playing style with a back three and five in midfield. This should lead to fewer goals against, and therefore more points overall. Medium term, Chemnitzer FC should become a team to be reckoned with in the top third of the 3. Liga table. The stadium is wonderful, the atmosphere is great, but the inconsistencies in performance in the past have wiped away all dreams of promotion.
Long term, the direction of ambition has to be upwards. After five years in the third division, it would be important economically to get access to the TV money available in the 2. Bundesliga. I don’t know how much clubs will profit from the new TV contracts that were agreed on for the 2018/19 season, but football in a higher division will always be more attractive from an economic point of view.
If Chemnitz does plug into its full potential of performance, I think the top third of the table can be realistic, and then anything could happen – even in the fight for promotion. CFC is not an overbearing team, however.
Big FC Bayern will come to play this weekend. How can Chemnitzer FC achieve the best result, and is there a scenario where you think a win for Chemnitz is possible?
The back three need support. Maybe Horst Steffen should line up his starting eleven in a back five, where the wingers go forward in possession. The basic formation would stay the same, but defense would have more manpower. And if there is a chance to go forward, the back five turn into four defenders, not three. That makes the game easier to read, but I wouldn’t expect too many changes from side to side anyway. But at least that way there is an additional player when the ball gets lost.
Winning against Bayern as a third-division team is like winning the lottery. Of course it’s possible, the probability is just not very high. If CFC’s conversion of shots were at 100%, and that of Bayern at 20%, it might become interesting.
Thank you, Markus Herwig!