Sunday, April 11, 2021

It's time to believe.

 



Dear friends and loved ones, tell one tall all, spread the message to the four corners of the globe: The Diva has taken a year off.  She's been scared away by 2020.  She won't be rearing her ugly head this year.  If she does, I have full faith that Andre Silva will kick her headfirst into the back of the net.  Eintracht Frankfurt, nur die S.G.E., Die Adler will be Champions league qualifier this year and there's absolutely no stopping it.  Off the heels of back-to-back wins over Borussia Dortmund and Wolfsburg, they've earned it. With six games left and seven points clear of 5th place Dortmund, it's not a mathematical certainty, but it's a stone-cold lock.  This team is different.  

Now....hear me out.  I already see some of you sitting back in uncomfortableness.  I see the protests from the pragmatists through the computer screen.  I see you too my clenched jawed friends, and you too Eye Roller Reader.  I can already hear it: "We've been down this road before"  My answer is......No we haven't.  Not this road, and not this team.  This team, with Champions League on the line, just beat Dortmund and Wolfsburg.  This team has only lost 3 games all season.  This team has picked up at least one point in 13 of their last 14 games.  A team like this we haven't seen since before there was a Champions League, and some of us Eintracht Internationale Members weren't privileged enough to see those teams.  Some of us weren't even born yet.


Yes....I'm aware of the long history of this club.  But in 2020 (and the rolling start to 2021), can't we at least have this?  With the turmoil of Bobic and Hubner leaving, and the rumors now swirling about Adi Hutter, this team won't let us down.  It's time for us to believe.

Andre Silva is the best goal scorer we could have asked for, and he's been paired with multiple terrific playmakers (Kostic, Kamada, Younes) a terrific defensive midfield and backline, and the deepest level of talent that has been here in recent memory.  We had so much talent, that we just gave away 4 really good players (Ronnow, Paciencia, Kohr, DaCosta).  We have more talent coming in (Salazar), and we have pretty talented players (Barkok, Chandler, Willems) that are having trouble simply getting on the pitch.  Can I mention how Erik Durm has just quietly and steadily gone out and done his job week in week out?  

Is Hutter leaving us for Monchengladbach?  Probably.  Does Bobic see greener pastures in Berlin?  Most definitely.  Will Silva be sold for a guh-zillion Euros, Kamada bring a splash of cash, and Jovic return to Madrid?  Yup, Yup, and Yup.  We can worry about what's next in the offseason.  In this year, we have something we can believe in.  They won't let us down.

FORZA SGE

Thanks for reading.
Brian









Monday, March 15, 2021

Eintracht vs. Leipzig: What can we take away from a 1-1 draw.

 


CoachAdi Hütter: “I can live with the point very well. Leipzig played very well in the first half, we didn't do a lot well and we weren't able to provide relief. In the second half, Leipzig also had their chances, but I had the feeling that with a little luck we could have won. But that would not have been deserved. We fought for over 90 minutes and are happy to take the point with us."



Hutter's starting eleven displayed an apparent plan: put every defensive body you can on the pitch and hope to break through.  With Erik Durm and Almamy Toure out due to injuries, and Martin Hinteregger a late scratch due to a thigh bruise, Hutter threw everything at defense to open the game, and it was a wise move.  With Hasebe slotted at right back at the start, Rode filled in to the midfield.  The lineup made it difficult to create an attack, but it also allowed for Rode to roam free and create an unexpected pressure from all over the attacking third. Adding Rode helped Hasebe sit a little deeper than usual, and the back line of N'Dicka, Ilsanker and Tuta held shape.  With Hasebe defending the right wing, Kamada was slotting outside to try to push the ball down the field.  The plan worked but put Kamada in a difficult matchup against Marcel Halstenberg, and it was one that Kamada wasn't winning.  “That sometimes didn't work at all,” said the trainer about the experiment with Kamada. But Hütter explicitly protected the 24-year-old and made himself responsible: “That is more my fault and not Daichi Kamada's.”  Acting like a mashup of a 3-4-2-1, a 4-2-3-1, and a 5-4-1, it kept Leipzig's combinations at bay in the middle and threw them off balance constantly. 

The First half went to Leipzig

The first half showed Leipzig as definitely the more dangerous team.  Eintracht couldn't build anything in the form of attack, and Leipzig's pressure was overwhelming.  Even though Leipzig was the better team, they also couldn't break through the defense.  It started from the opening kick.  Tuta turned the ball over :02 in the the game on his first touch. Only seconds later, Kamada fell on a turn and gave the ball back to Leipzig on the left wing at the :17 mark.  Luckily, both times Trapp was on point, gobbling up passes that seemed more dangerous than they actually where. Rode, Hasebe, and Sow did a tremendous job chasing down balls and making it very hard for Leipzig to build anything from the midfield.  No matter how many times Leipzig won the ball back in their attacking third, they ran into a brick wall, with Sow and Rode chasing all over the field. The right side Frankfurts defense looked to be under serious trouble for much of the first half, and Justin Kluivert was causing lots of problems.  Without his usual defensive support from Erik Durm, Tuta spent lots of time on Kluivert Island.  But Tuta was up to the task, and for the entirety of the first half consistently turned him away. When an unfortunate bounce led to a Kluivert breakaway 6:09 into the game, Trapp turned him away with a tremendous kick save. Outside of one nice run of play and an excellent combination between Younes and Filip Kostic at the 11:00 mark in the first half, Eintracht never posed a threat.

Emil Forsberg's chance around the 17:00 off of a set piece was Die Roten Bullen's second biggest threat, and if it wasn't for a heads up play by Evan N'Dicka catching him offside, Alexander Sørloth would have put Leipzig up 1-0 off the rebound. Chances for both teams where hard to come by, as Eintracht managed just one shot (0 on target) in the first 45 minutes of play.  Leipzig managed to pop off on four shots, 3 of which where on target, but Trapp was on point on each of them.  Leipzig had a narrow margin in Possession, and challenge percentage, but their defense was making it hard for Eintracht to get the ball out of the midfield.  Ilsanker was the star of the show for Die Adler.  The oft maligned CB played with fire and intensity, and his two legged tackle on Joseph Paulson stopped a key attack late in the first 45. Ilsanker played with his hair on fire, and made several diving tackles inside the box to turn back Red Bull counter attacks.  Both teams had one excellent chance that they didn't capitalize on.  Kamada sent a 10 yard attempt wide right in Eintracht's only attempt of the half.  It was one that showed a lack of composure and concentration, and could have easily put Eintracht up 1-0.

The Second Half was a much different story.

With Kamada opening the second half dropping deep to help Tuta on the right flank, Leipzig opened up on a flurry of attack.  Leaving Younes alone in a vortex of Red Bull defenders to try to build the attack was highly ineffective.  It was just :56 in to the second half when a Djibril Sow turnover deep in his own third led to Leipzig rebuilding the attack.  Kluivert, cutting back to his right, fired a dart that Trapp just knocked away.  The only person on the pitch chasing the rebound was Emil Forsberg, who picked it up and lofted it just passed Trapp as he was trying to recover.  Things where looking dire, as Eintracht could not get out of their own half. With the back line defending with constant desperation, Red Bull kept the pressure on.  Time and time again N'Dicka and Ilsanker would turn them away, and time and time again the midfield would give the ball back.  An uncommon poor touch by Makoto Hasebe led to a Paulson chance right in front of the net.  The scorching header was fired just over the post, which was fortunate because Kevin Trapp had no chance.  N'Dicka, Sow, Ilsanker, Hasebe and Tuta all gave the ball back on the ensuing five possessions before the ball even crossed midfield. 


This run of play however, saw Eintracht start to make adjustments.  Sow, Kamada, and Rode all began to rotate through the midfield, seeing each make a run down the right side, and with the right flank now a threat, the middle began to open up. Younes was finally getting the ball in space to operate, and Die Adler looked far the more dangerous between the two. Eintracht won back to back corners off balls played to Silva on the run.  Younes finally got a shot on target with an awkward back heel attempt off a cross from Kostic.  
At the 55:00 mark, things began to change.  Sow, Rode, Kamada and Silva all started to fill the right wing and stretch the Leipzig defense.  It was at th 60:00 when Kostic finally found Kamada on a low deflected cross for the equalizer.  Kamada didn't hit it square, but got enough on it to get it past Péter Gulácsi and tie the score 1:1.  Stefan Ilsanker had pushed high right, and it held Halstenberg just enough to give Kamada the gap he needed.  Red Bull continued to probe and push forward, and if it weren't for N'Dicka matching Yousef Poulsen step for step at the 66:00, Sugar Drink University might have gone ahead.  N'Dicka just punched away Kluivert's cross to turn the counterattack away keeping the score square.  With his squad looking completely gassed, Hutter finally made substitutions at the 71:00 bringing on Aymen Barkok and Luka Jovic and some much needed fresh legs and a tactical change that almost won the game.


Barkok began filling the RWB position, giving Tuta much needed support and also giving Halstenberg a threat to finally have to cover consistently.  Poulson had one more rocket attempt from just inside the 18 yard box, which luckily fell right into Kevin Trapp's lap.  An Emil Forsberg interception and missed tackle at the midfield line by Sow led to another counter attacking opportunity: a low left footed blast by Christopher Nkunku to the near post.  Trapp was positioned perfect and turned the shot away with ease yet again.  A knee to the back forced Ragnar Ache to sub in for Kamada, and Eintracht immediately found their first counterattacking opportunity of the game.  Rode blasted a volley downfield that hit Kostic in perfect stride.  Eintracht had a 3 v. 2 break, and Kostic put the ball just off the mark to a streaking Jovic who didn't handle it clean and drilled a left footer wide left.  It was their best opportunity of the game, and Jovic had a clear path to the goal.  Jovic looked a little surprised to get the ball, and took a poor first touch before rushing off his shot.  He had time, and if he collected himself that's one he puts away 9/10 times.  

As time wore down, you could tell two gassed teams where taking their best punches, completely unable to land that knockout blow.  Barkok and Kostic both found the ball in space on the wings, only unable to connect on the cross several times.  Ache and Jovic looked a bit off, unable to find the ball.  Julian Nagelsmann must have sensed it too, because at the 85:00 he subbed in Tyler Adams for Emil Forsberg and dropped him deep.  With their playmaker gone from the middle of the field, Leipzig seemed resigned to park the bus and play the ball deep down the left side.  The game began to resemble a Tennis match, with vollies and deep balls played back and forth, fouls and unforced errors.  You can't help but think that Leipzig have to feel they held on to a draw, despite the comments coming out of the locker room after the game.  Eintracht was the most dangerous team over the final 20 minutes of play, but just couldn't connect on the key pass that would lead to a goal.  While they were outshot 14-5, the five Eintracht chances where all quality chances they just couldn't put away.  As the final whistle blew, you had to sense the Red Bulls were breathing both frustration and relief.

Ilsanker loves to play against his former club:



Stefan Ilsanker was simply brilliant.  He was making diving tackles, winning aerial duels, turning passes, shots and dribblers away.  It was his best performance of the season, and one of his best in an Eintracht uniform.  

Tuta and N'Dicka's emergence continues:



While Tuta had the unenviable job of holding down the right side mostly by himself against a very talented player in Justin Kluivert, he held his own.  He wasn't perfect, and he got beat a couple of times, but Tuta continued to show himself as getting better every week.  N'Dicka was awesome.  He was turning away Leipzig attacks with ease, and without him and Ilsanker defending with the tenacity that they did, this would have been a very different game.

Hasebe's initiating was greatly missed:

One of the reason Eintracht couldn't get anything built was there was too much congestion often times in the middle, and it found Hasebe often trying to make plays on the run.  Eintracht's attack is much more fluid when Hasebe is at the helm, getting the ball in open space and spraying it up ahead to Kostic, Younes, or Kamada. The formation didn't help him any, but Leipzig did a good job taking this away until later in the game when Hutter balanced out the lineup and moved Kamada back inside.

Erik Durm's importance on the right flank:

If you needed any evidence of just how good Durm has been on the right flank, just go watch all the times Tuta was left completely unprotected in this game.  Durm has limitations, but he's always where he's supposed to be, is a solid defender, and helps balance out the formation.  He was largely missed yesterday.

Jovic is visibly frustrated:



Jovic was extremely animated on every mistake.  Pointing, throwing his hands up, and it really showed in his effort off the ball.  Jovic looks slightly lost, very frustrated, and flat.  The one chance he got was a great one, but he didn't seem to expect the ball and rushed his shot.  He hasn't had a good performance in a few weeks and maybe the pressure is starting to get to him.

What's next?

The next few weeks are huge for Champions League positioning.  With Eintracht only 2 points ahead of Dortmund for the final Champions League spot the next two weeks look like this:
Eintracht controls their own destiny, but needs a win at a minimum next week, and needs to pull points off of Dortmund on Matchday 27 to maintain their position. Of the 4 teams left fighting for Champions League spots, Eintracht has one of the more difficult schedules.  The next two weeks will tell if they have enough left in the tank to finish off this run.  Getting Hinti and Durm back would be a huge help, but Eintracht should have enough to complete the Champions League run and finish the season in the top 4.



Thursday, March 4, 2021

Filling a front office void: Can SGE replace their two most valuable members?



Bruno Hübner arrived in 2011 as Sporting Director after a successful stint at Duisburg.  Eintracht, having just been relegated and going through a season in which the head coach was sacked and his interim went winless over the final seven weeks was looking to shake things up at the top of the Club.  Hubner's prior team, HSV Duisburg, had just made the DFB Pokal Final as a 2nd division side beating top tiers FC. Koln and 1. FC Kaiserslautern along the way.  Although Duisburg had become an elevator club of sorts, Hübner was performing well in his role there.  In a recent interview, Hübner said: "When I came to Eintracht from Duisburg in 2011, I was really looking forward to this task. As a Hessian living in a total Eintracht environment, that's something special. The past few years have been marked by successful cooperation and strong development of Eintracht Frankfurt. It makes me proud to have been able to be a part of this. Above all, I will always remember the fantastic fans and the great atmosphere. At every stage, we were able to rely on them." Hübner masterfully architected the success over the last 5 years with shrewd negotiation and masterfully crafted deals.  Enough credit cannot be given for the very Eintracht friendly "Loan with an option to buy" deals of Amin Younes, Kevin Trapp, Marius Wolf, Ante Rebic, Luka Jovic, Martin Hinteregger, and Andre Silva plus many others. While his colleague received much of the credit recently, Bruno Hübner has always been there working deals. The bargain basement agreements he made to get Makoto Hasebe and Lukas Hradecky in the Schwarz-Weiss. Look at this season, sending Goncalo Paciencia to Schalke on loan (which almost paid Eintracht back for Paciencia transfer fee alone), and piggy backing that move with Schalke by sending Frederik Ronnow for Markus Schubert. He also got Danny Da Costa and Dominik Kohr off the books which helped  wages down during the COVID crisis and in a year without compensation from European competitions.  While others may be responsible for locating the talent, Hubner is the one responsible for getting them into an Eintracht uniform.  Hubner has a reputation as crafty pitch man.  He has been known to meet with a player and immediately go to the nearest gas station for a coffee and a newspaper.  After an hour, he'll call the player back saying he'd thought it over on his drive back, and wanted to turn around and meet back with the player.  Native to Hesse, and a former Wehen Wiesbaden player, nobody new the landscape of Frankfurt better than him.  A big personality from a small club, he jumped at the chance to move to Die Adler and one has to expect that he met all expectations, if not exceeded them.  Reportedly, Hubner made a stand for Niko Kovac and Armin Veh, went to battle for Adi Hütter, and helped the Launische Diva dig out of relegation battles on a cash strapped budget.  Under Hübner, the Diva got a little more relaxed.

The success of recent years can largely be attributed to him, although he has taken reduced role with the emergence of Bobic and Chief Scout Ben Manga.  The club has been financially and competitively stable and should continue to be for the next coming years.  He has been crafty and thrifty enough to reportedly leave Eintracht in a healthy financial position despite not having fans in the stands.  While Eintracht is in the red, they aren't about to go solvent and had enough money in reserves through the Haller and Jovic deals to make Jovic's return to Frankfurt possible over the winter break.  Hubner is said to be a man that loves projects, that loves to tinker and build, and at 60 years of age he's earned the right to do that from his couch instead of the office at Mörfelder Landstraße 362.  He has tinkered, toyed, gambled, a won with what he's done in Frankfurt.  Hopefully, he remains close enough to help mentor the next Sporting Director in line.

June 1, 2016.  This was the day Fredi Bobic was appointed the Chief Executive Officer of Sport at Eintracht Frankfurt. What Fredi Bobic has done over the last (almost) five years as been transform a rudderless club that has been up and down into a steady mid-table Bundesliga performer, with back to back runs in Europa League and a DFB Pokal final.  And while Bruno Hübner built the foundation for the success that Eintracht has found, Fredi Bobic took it to the next level.  Bobic (accompanied with Ben Manga) have done a masterful job finding underutilized and and undervalued talent.  The list isn't only contained to the players on the pitch, but the managers and trainers beside it. The job he's done on the transfer market (getting these players and selling them on for a good profit) has allowed Eintracht to gradually build it's talent base into a competitive squad that made it to back to back DFB Pokal finals (beating Bayern - THERE'S NO ONE IN THE GOAL!!!), back to back Europa League competitions, and making it to the Europa league semi-finals.  This year, Eintracht currently sets in a Champions league qualifying position and has played toe to toe with the best in the Bundesliga every single week.  Bobic has the Eagles soaring to new heights and progressively moving up

Bobic has transformed the club into one the Eintracht faithful can be proud of.  It's an team that's built in the image of the fanbase, with lots of sizzle combined with hard nosed blue-collar workers. The team is Concerto and Rock N' Roll, it's bankers and construction workers. N'Dicka, Tuta, Rode, Sowe, Hasebe, Hinteregger and Durm are all very talented grunts, who's effort level, grit, and aggression set a nasty tone for anyone lining up on the opposite side.  Even Silva and Kostic are hard charging bulls in attackers clothing.  This team has the ability to do things that weren't imagined when Bobic arrived: compete.  They can compete with Europe's finest every single day of the week.  They have depth, they have talent, they have enforcers and skill players.  This team has speed, and most importantly this team plays for each other.  All of that is a credit to Bobic, who understands the club as well as it's fanbase. Under his tenure, both have grown.  Eintracht's supporters group has swelled to over 100,000 since he took over 5 years ago.  Coupled with President Fisher's message about equality and inclusion, Eintracht has become an attractive club for many both on and off the pitch. Bobic is a known work-a-holic who still gets glowing reviews from the people in Stuttgart and pours himself into his job.  He has a keen eye for talent, and has swindled two separate clubs for Filip Kostic.  The first, bringing him to Stuttgart from FC Groningen, and the second when Eintracht pilfered him from Hamburg. Bobic scrounged up a need for Jovic, whom Eintracht acquired for a $200,000 loan fee and turned into a $65 million dollar transfer.  But possibly the best talent poaching that took place were the signings of Niko Kovac and Adi Hutter.  

While both of them deserve credit, the real credit goes to the actual Buffalo Herd in the front office.  The hard charging trifecta added to Axel Hellmen have put the Eintracht ship on a proper course. More importantly, hopefully this regime has set up an organization level that can be easily replicated and expanded by their replacements.  The key to the front office in Frankfurt isn't just their talent, but their ability to work in (a word that my Google translation often mistakes for Eintracht.....) harmony.  The rumors have been there about Gelson Fernandes and Christoph Spycher (head of sport at Young Boys Bern) plus a few others.  While Axel Hellmen has vowed that it's not over yet, word has spread about Bobic's possible future destination and his possible replacements.  The question is not necessarily can their successor's replicate what they have done, it's can they continue to expand on it?  Eintracht should be a perennial contender for Europa League.  The size of the city, the size of the fanbase and the supporters group should put them as a top 6 finisher year over year.  It should be the exception to not qualify, not the rule.  Hopefully, whatever happens, Sportgemeinde Eintracht will be in capable hands. Hopefully, the remaining duo of Hellman and Manga keep the machine intact.

Thanks again for reading:
Brian


Monday, February 22, 2021

No Silva? No Problem.

 Younes sets tone against F.C. Bayern




It wasn't an ordinary shot attempt.  It wasn't even a successful shot attempt.  When Amin Younes wound
up and fired one at Manuel Neuer from just beyond the midfield line, it was a statement: We Are Here To Win.  The shot landed about 12" off the mark, but had announced loud and clear to everyone watching that Eintracht Frankfurt were bringing the punches, not just sitting back and taking them.  After having a hand in the previous goal just moments before, and on his way to landing a knockout blow just a few moments later, the diminutive midfielder terrorized the Bavarians for the entirety of the first forty-five minutes of play.  With that supersonic  warning shot, Younes announced "Game On!"


The buildup to goal #1
Whether it was the "#SayTheirNames" honoring of the victims of last year's tragedy in Hanau, or Eintracht's current run of form, Eintracht came into this game with immense focus and readiness.  S.G.E. attacked Bayerns defense from the opening kick.  They came out pressing high, determined to take advantage of Filip Kostic's matchup against Niklas Sule.  Makato Hasebe's high pressing led to Younes' first chance directly in front of goal just 3:14 into the game.  If not for a brilliant block by David Alaba, the game would have been 1-0.  After the untimely pause due to a Sideline Official's ankle injury, Eintracht went right back to work. Daichi Kamada finally game through with 11:35 in play.  Set up by Younes, who took a throw in from Filip Kostic, and stretched the Bayern defense with his ball handling, Younes the found Kostic with a nice through ball on the left flank, capitalized by a pinpoint cross that found not one but two open Eagles in front of the net.  Eintracht kept the pressure up, and despite having problems breaking through, they continued to create chances.  Almamy Toure created several chances, just missing twice.  Just after the thirty minute mark, Younes found the mark again.  Younes hit an unbelievable bender in the backside upper corner to put the score at 2-0, and while his celebration (acknowledging the name of Fatih Saraçoğlu ), but the shot was just as memorable.  Leaving Neuer with no chance, Younes put the insurance goal in just the right spot.  From there, it was time for Kevin Trapp to take over.

Trapp spent much of the first 30 minutes unscathed.  Eintracht's stifling defense was swarming the field in the early going.  Playing mostly a man marking with the back line, with Toure and Tuta matching Coman and Davies step for step.  Their marking allowed Rode and Hasebe to roam high up the field and attack both the passing lanes and chase down loose balls. Eintracht also bottled up Lewandowski, with Hinteregger slowing him down while help came from the flanks.  With the exception of one threatening run from Lewandowski, and a hapless shot that Leroy Sane punched through, Frankfurt's defense had snuffed up the Bayern attack.  The man marking, and the midfield's aggressive ball winning created large gaps in the midfield for Younes to play in to.  Immediately after Younes' goal, that begin to change.  Coman flipped in a brilliant cross, that would have been a goal if not for Trapps flying tip over the bar.  On the ensuing corner, Trapp set himself up perfectly to catch Sane's headed attempt.  When Sane found Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in front of the net, the attempt went just wide. Trapp's double save at the thirty-nine minute mark kept Bayern off the scoreboard, and maintained the 2 goal lead going into the half. Eintracht would need every inch of that lead, because the second half would be a much different story.  Eintracht had spent the majority of the first half attacking Bayern, and Trapp and company had shut down Bayerns flanking attack.  


The first half stats where nearly identical except the for the score.  The second half, however, would be a much different story.  They dominated possession, the shut down every passing lane.  They came out like a team determined to make up the two goal difference.  Bayern won every ball and attacked in a flurry that generated 14 shots, but only getting one on target.  The defense, spear headed by Martin Hinteregger was locked in and on point.  As Eintracht found no footing in attack, the defense set in.  Sebastien Rode and Hasebe controlled the midfield. N'Dicka, Tuta, and Hinteregger set in deep, and rarely lost Lewandowski.  Trapp was there when he needed to be.  And with the exception of a world class play by LeRoy Sane, who found Lewandowski in the sweet spot, they never gave ground.  
The addition of Leon Goretzka at the half changed the dynamic of the game.  Goretzka matched Younes, and the balls that Rode and Hasebe had gobbled up in the first half began falling to Bayern.  While Bayern won the second half by a landslide, it wasn't enough to catch Die Adler and win the game.  Younes' brilliant play, and the ability to execute the defensive gameplan and maintain shape allowed SGE to hold on to their lead.  Trapp was also magnificent when he needed to be.  Trapp was in position to not only stop shots, but win balls inside the box. While Bayern where the most dangerous team in the second half, Eintracht never broke.  Eintracht now sits 4th on the Bundesliga table. Winners of five straight, and unbeaten since the Wolfsburg game on December 11th, Eintracht have earned their way to a champions league position.  While fans are weary that the Launische Diva will make what is an almost yearly appearance in the Ruckrunde.

The next five games are vital in Eintracht's quest for the Champions League.  While Adi Hutter has recently waxed poetic
about a run at the Bundesliga title, the next five games are vital towards the run towards a top 4 finish.  With Leipzig, Dortmund, and Wolfsburg upcoming (two of which being away from Deutsche Bank Park), Eintracht can either drop out of or entrench themselves into the top four.  The beautiful thing about it is, their future is in their hands.  









Monday, January 25, 2021

What Lies ahead for Luka Jovic and Eintracht Frankfurt?


 A strong run, a perfect spot, a lobbed cross, a right foot.   Just like that, Filip Kostic found Luka Jovic roughly 8 meters in front of the net.  Just like that, Luka Jovic found the back of the net to put the Eagles up 2-1 against Schalke.  It seemed old hat, like 18 months had never disappeared between the pairing playing meaningful minutes together as if they were picking right up where they had left off the previous week. With that moment, the revitalization of Luka Jovic began.  Adi Hutter is now tasked with the reanimation of a once promising striker's form, after once lifting it to heights no one expected.  When Luka Jovic last graced the pitch of Der Waldstadion (yes, I am aware of the official name), his 27 goals and 6 assists across all competitions earned him a shot at Real stardum (see what I did there?).   As both he and Sebastien Haller have found out, the football life can be a cruel, cruel world.

Luka fell into striker purgatory.  Earning nothing much more than spare time in a system that didn't fit his style of play, for a coach who didn't want to play him. The hope is that Luka and Hutter reform a mutualistic symbiotic relationship (two organisms who benefit each other).  Luka helped propel Eintracht to back to back European competitions.  Hutter helped propel a 20 year old striker to one of the most prolific in Europe.  So far, results are encouraging.  Jovic equaled his goal total from the previous 18 months at Real Madrid.....in 29 minutes of action.  Scoring after being subbed in, Jovic blew the doors open against Schalke and provided the finishing touch that had escaped the Eagles for the first 70 minutes of play.  The first (described above) came from a perfect cross that Jovic blew past keeper Ralf Fahrman without even letting it hit the ground.  Eintracht had repeatedly created lethal chances directly in front of the net, and with the exception of a fortuitous bounce off of Aymen Barkok's face that found Andre Silva in front of the net, Eintracht continually came up empty.  That has been a story for the Eagles this year.  Creating chances that go fruitless.  


Why this deal, and why now?

Eintracht, at the time of the deal, was only sitting 2 points behind the Europa league spots, and 5 points clear of Champions League positions. After the 5-1 drubbing at the hands of Bayern Munchen on October 24th, Eintracht went 0-5-1 pulling only 5 points in the next 6 contests.  Since the gut wrenching 3-3 performance against Borussia Monchengladbach, Die Adler have pulled all three points on 5 out of 6 matches, and haven't lost a game since the 1-2 defeat to the hands of Wolfsburg.  And, as brilliant as Andre Silva has been this year, when you have a chance to pair him with a dynamic goal scorer such as Jovic, you do it. Although Jovic was a disappointment in Madrid and was labeled as a bust, the entire Bundesliga knows how effective a player he is in this system.

For all the opportunities he was given, Bas Dost was never what Eintracht needed.  He was a square peg in a round hole.  While Dost wasn't categorically horrible, he just never seemed.....you know.....good.  Granted he was trying to fill the shoes of Sebastien Haller, who's arial success was a huge driving force in Eintracht's Europa League run in 2018/2019.  Dost managed 12 Goals and 4 assists in 36 league games.  Dost was first in the Bundesliga in Arial Duels won at the time of his departure to Club Brugge, and still sits 4th despite missing the last 4 games.  Dost had trouble finding space, had even more troubles creating on his own, and was often missing his teammates with those headers won, which became increasingly closer to the defensive third than the attacking third.  He was, at times, serviceable.  He was never a dependable or dynamic player that Eintracht hoped he would be upon coming over from Sporting.  And while his productivity had definitely been in sharp decline in Portugal over the 3 previous years, the thought was he still had enough goal scoring and bounce to fill the role of (then) West Ham's newest acquisition.  They needed another threat.  Filip Kostic needs players that can finish off his runs.  He thrives in space created by Jovic or Silva. This year that space has been hard to find, as behind Jovic there has not been much threat.  Daichi Kamada has struggled mightily yet again just finding his footing, and although Amin Younes has played well, he's not a goal scoring threat in the box.  

In 79 minutes total, Jovic has vaulted to third on the team in goals.  It will be safe to say he will pass Bas Dost's total of 4 in the the next couple of weeks.  But, while the promise of added scoring isn't the goal, the goal is playing in Europe next season.  Behind Bayern, the Bundesliga is wide open and without the added pressure or taxation on players legs Eintracht has a legitimate shot to finish in the top four this year with Jovic in tow.  Currently sitting 6th, and only 2 points clear of the top four, Eintracht could make a serious push for the Champions league.  The question is, if they can hold off Dortmund in their quest, all while passing Gladbach, Leverkusen, and Wolfsburg.  This is easier said than done.  Eintracht holds their own future in their hands currently, with the Ruckrunde matchups coming early in the second round of play.  Eintracht must also hold off teams like Union Berlin. Union is in a similar position as Eintracht, and are a scrappy squad. Despite recent losses at the hands of RB Leipzig, and a feisty Augsburg squad, Union Berlin will give you a battle every single match day.  Other questions remain at the other tenants of Berlin.  Hertha is perpetually a sleeping giant, and made several moves this summer in hopes to propel themselves into a European spot.  There is something at Hertha which just doesn't click, but maybe in the search for a new manager they find just the right conductor.  Eintracht has enormous opportunity this year, and the Jovic move was an aggressive act in order to seize their position.

What to expect.

Goals.  Lots and lots of goals.  Silva is currently sitting tied for second in the Bundesliga with 14 goals scored.  He's been excellent in front of the net this year, finding open space and finishing with clinical precision.  Silva is not a goal creator to the magnitude of Jovic.  He's very dependant on finding open spaces and teammates finding him.  Jovic can score in a multitude of is.  As seen by his second goal against Schalke, Jovic can just flat out beat defenders with one key pass.  The question to most of us isn't how the pairing of Jovic and Silva will eventually work, but who is playing behind them.  Younes has been playing really well, and has been a constant threat advancing the ball in the final third.  He's been making excellent decisions, and constantly exploring gaps in the opposing defenses.  While his statistical numbers (2 goals, 1 assist) don't necessarily reflect how well he's played, he's going to continue to get opportunities.  The Eintracht attack is simply better with him on the field.   His movement without the ball is just as important as his movement with it, and he's holding defenders in the middle of the field which opens up the flank for Filip Kostic to have more space to create.  The right flank is currently the teams biggest weakness.  Erik Durm has been solid, but not spectacular.   His defending is holding down an entire side of the pitch, and his crossing has been surprisingly accurate.  Durm always seems to be about 1/2 a second, or 1/2 an inch off, and has just missed Silva at the near post several times the last few weeks.  Almamy Toure has also been spectacularly average while holding down the right side, especially early in the season.  With Danny DaCosta now crossing the river to play for Mainz '05, Durm seems to have the inside track at the position.

Look for Hutter to deploy one of several options.  The 3-4-1-2 that he's run most frequently since he took over the reigns.  He's modified it slightly the past few weeks to a 3-4-2-1, with Silva playing up top as a lone striker and Younes and Barkok finding the space behind him.  The team has performed extremely efficiently both on the attack and holding shape defensively.  Hutter could also turn to a 4-4-2, utilizing Kostic and Timothy Chandler on the wings, and allowing Durm playing as a more traditional right back. He has toyed with this formation in the past, and this might be the perfect time to slowly incorporate it.  However, the 4-4-2 would limit the usefulness of Jibril Sow and Sebastian Rode.  Sow has began to really control the midfield, winning balls and zipping the ball back to the offensive end.  His emergence has been a big reason for Eintracht being unbeaten and pulling 18 out of a possible 21 points over the last seven.  I would look for Hutter to continue using the familiar 3-4-1-2 once Jovic gets on track.

What's next?




 Eintracht's next ten match days are full of opportunity.  The next three against Hertha, Hoffenheim, and Koln provide plenty of opportunity to hold position at a minimum.  On paper, Eintracht is the better of all three squads, but all fans of the Launische Diva know better than to employ too much faith in the strength of our squad.  The last four matchups of this stage are pivotal.  Leipzig, Union Berlin, Dortmund and Wolfsburg are all teams fighting for those European spots.  Mix in the matchday 21 clash with Bayern Munich at Deutsche Bank Park, and the next ten should hold plenty of fireworks.  Eintracht will drop points in at least one of these matches.  Teams like Bremen or Stuttgart perpetually bring out the Diva in Frankfurt.  While there will undoubtedly be a gut wrenching loss in this span, and a stabbing late game draw or two, Eintracht could very well also win seven or eight of these matches and put Champions League squarely in their sights.  Let's all hope the Fussball Got is smiling on us, from his perch on the youth squad sideline.