Preview: FC Bayern Munich – SV Werder Bremen

Justin Separator August 24, 2016

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.

Neuzugang Max Kruse brachte bereits in der Vorbereitung Struktur in das letzte Drittel. Nun ist er verletzt.(Foto: Joachim Sielski / Bongarts / Getty Images)
New signing Max Kruse already provided structure in the final third. Now he is injured.
(Photo: Joachim Sielski / Bongarts / Getty Images)

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.

Bayern will play their 15th official opening game of the season. The recent history doesn’t provide much hope for their guests from Bremen.

Werder already had some problems in the last seasons. Promoting Viktor Skripnik to head coach only provided a short improvement. A long term development was neither visible in the league table nor from a tactical point of view. With 1.37 points per game after 67 games Werder’s coach is better than his predecessor Robin Dutt (1.02 ppg in 45 games), but way behind club legend Thomas Schaaf (1.65 ppg in 644 games). Werder Bremen’s glory days are a long way back and the coach is not the only reason.

But Skripnik wasn’t able to create a flexible system that fits the squad, enabling sustainable success. The first round loss in the DFB Pokal against Lotte already showed how the team is lacking structure. The player selection does play a part here. Even though a double pivot of Junuzovic and Fritz has often times been inefficient, Skripnik is unwilling to change it.

The only player who could provide some structure to the game was Max Kruse. Repeatedly he dropped back and took over the midfielder’s tasks. He was the only player between the lines. Of all things Kruse got injured and will miss the next three months. The important zones are often not occupied in the Werder game and efforts to overload are also not visible. These problems have not been solved during the last seasons. Not creative with the ball and without structure against the ball.

On Friday Bremen will face an opponent willing to control the game. Thus Werder is expected to show a different face. In the last Bundesliga matches against Bayern they dropped deep into a 5-4-1, waiting for a counter-attack and errors by Bayern, but oftentimes too timid and passive. Especially the distances were a problem. In the DFB Pokal semi-finals Skripnik had his team line up in a 4-4-2 and a bit higher up the field. They also lost this game 2-0, but they played better. Nevertheless it was clear how Skripnik’s team is unable to keep its compactness for longer spells.

If Bremen are able to show a well-organized defence, they would have the best chance in years to leave Munich with points in their pockets. Bayern are still missing automatisms and experience in their new approach, thus currently giving away many chances to score for their opponents. If Werder manages to keep a clean sheet for a long time, it will get interesting. In the game against Jena Ancelotti’s team were at time unable to control the game when they dropped back. Jena had some chances, which they didn’t use. Coming from a compact defence could be the key to success against Bayern, but if Bayern get their offense rolling, Werder won’t be able to fend them off for long.

Viktor Skripnik steht zu Recht in der Kritik. Wie lange wird er noch Trainer bleiben?(Foto: Matthias Hangst / Bongarts / Getty Images)
Viktor Skripnik is rightly criticized. How much longer will he be at Werder?
(Photo: Matthias Hangst / Bongarts / Getty Images)


Last five games against SV Werder Bremen

All-time record

  • Bayern won 59 out of 113 official matches. Bremen won 28 times. 26 draws. Bayern scored 223 goals, Werder 113.
  • Bayern lost their last game against Werder in the 2008/09 season, 5-2 at home in the Allianz Arena. Since then Bayern won 14 out of 17 games (3 draws), winning the last 13 in a row.
  • Historically Werder is Bayern’s bogey team. No other team has more wins against Bayern (26) and only Borussia Mönchengladbach scored more goals (121) than Bremen (119).

Fun Facts

  • Carlo Ancelotti’s AC Milan went out of the UEFA Cup in the round of 32 against Bremen in the 2008/09 season. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Claudio Pizarro scored a brace in a 2-2 that secured Werder’s trip to the next round.
  • Robert Lewandowski had 7 goals and 3 assists in his last 7 games against Werder.
  • Only Clemens Fritz and Claudio Pizarro have ever won a game for Werder against Bayern.
  • Bremen didn’t score a single goal in the last five games against Bayern.
  • Werder lost all seven of their last games in Munich. Before that they were undefeated for five games in the Allianz Arena with one win and four draws between 2007 and 2010.
  • The record champion scored 26 goals in his last five home matches against Bremen (5-0, 6-0, 5-2, 6-1 and 4-1).
  • Bayern were trailing by 0-1 in 42 games against Werder Bremen, more than any other team.
  • Both teams played their 100th Bundesliga match against each other last season. It was only the fourth matchup to reach that count.

Five bold predictions

  1. Robert Lewandowski will score.
  2. Werder Bremen will score one goal.
  3. Bayern won’t score in the first 30 minutes.
  4. Bayern will score at least three goals.
  5. One Bayern goal will come from a dead ball situation.

Two out of five predictions were correct in the debut at the DFL Supercup against Borussia Dortmund.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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