Welcome back to the Düsseldorf Diary, we finished the last post at the winter break point of the season. Can Düsseldorf break tradition and avoid the drop? Or will it simply be a swift return back to the 2. Bundesliga? CLICK HERE if you haven’t checked out how the fist half of the season went. Let’s find out how we got on.
8th April 2017
Düsseldorf take on Augsburg at the ESPRIT Arena in this important Bundesliga match. It is a typical April day, with blusterous winds and heavy showers. Let’s hope it doesn’t put a dampener on the tie. Both sides go into the game off of the back of a win and both are looking to gain another 3 points in the race to survival.
Bowen not only fields a strong side but the same side that ran out 2-0 winners at home to Ingolstadt. Düsseldorf line up: Rensing in goal, the back 4 of Bader, Avevor, Uphoff and Schmitz. Bolly and Marin on the wings with Sobottka, Gartner and Helmke as the midfield trio. Top scorer Schröter sitting just in front of the midfield 5 in the pivotal attacking role.
33,500 fans fill the ESPRIT Arena in full support of their sides, building a fortress and creating an enchanting atmosphere. 15:30 and the whistle blows to start the match. The game starts at a steady pace and Augsburg sit back allowing Düsseldorf to take control. Düsseldorf play there usual style of knocking the ball around with pace and purpose, but so far have lacked penetration. Augsburg are being very physical and bully Düsseldorf, conceding foul after foul in the process. Fans and players alike start to get frustrated and the patient, flowing game they are so used to struggles to break through this tough side. Düsseldorf’s passing game is interrupted and Augsburg start to hold onto the ball a little more, frustrating Die Fortuna even more so.
The referee calls for half time and the fans are not happy with the way Augsburg have come to defend. They had given away 12 fouls with 2 yellow cards but only having 2 attempts on Düsseldorf’s goal, non of which were on target. Die Fortuna on the other hand havn’t had much success yet either, they have been frustrated to only 6 shots at goal with only 1 testing Marwin Hitz. Bowen needs to inject some sort of life into the home side before it’s too late and Augsburg frustrate them so much they cause a mistake and punish the home side.
The second half gets under way and it is evident that Bowen has got them pumped. Düsseldorf start pressing the deep sitting Augsburg and start to give them something to think about. Augsburg start to get more and more frustrated as they are starting to make mistakes, more fouls are given away and another yellow card. Düsseldorf are starting to play the football they have shown throughout most of the season, firing more shots on goal, it is starting to rebuild the confidence in the side and the fans.
74 minutes on the clock, Christian Gartner advances with the ball into Augsburg’s half. He plays the ball out to the right hand side where the full back Bader is in acres of space. Bader looks up and plays a quick ball down the line that pacey winger Bolly runs onto. Bolly takes the ball in his stride and darts into the penalty area, the defender approaches and Bolly fools him by turning back onto his left. He plays a whipped low pass along the 6 yard box where Marko Marin appears completely unmarked to tap into the net. Everyone at Düsseldorf show there emotion, there persistence and hard work has paid off.
10 minutes later, Düsseldorf continue to control the game and are knocking the ball about in Augsburg’s half without much of a problem. Sobottka is just outside the D and plays a short pass right to Bolly, who at this point is just inside the area. First time with his left peg, crosses into the danger area. Augsburg are deep and head the ball clear, but only for a moment, as Düsseldorf’s high pressing pays off with Gartner winning the ball back early and playing a quick pass left to Helmke, who is just outside left of the area. Helmke evades his man a plays a beautiful pass straight in between the 2 centre backs, where Schröter has made the run. Hitz rushes out of his goal to try and put off Schröter, but fails, Schröter delicately tucks the ball into the back of the net. 2-0 to Düsseldorf and surely 3 vital points.
The win was vital in Düsseldorf’s relegation battle. Before the winter break, Düsseldorf had only picked up 4 league wins. Since the break, Düsseldorf continued the fantastic form, picking up 7 wins, 2 draws and 1 defeat in the last 10 games prior to the Augsburg match. The Augsburg match watch significant because it meant that we had avoided relegation with 6 league games to go. A fantastic result to my first season in the Bundeliga, and to finally break the habit of dropping straight back down again. We picked up 2 more wins in the last 6, including a revenge 2-1 win against Leverkusen. I grinned like a Cheshire cat after that one, especially as they beat us 7-1 is the reverse fixture.
Results after the winter break and the strikerless system
As mentioned above, we put together some fantastic form and results. The side showed glimmers of it during the first half of the season, perseverance and persistence paid off and all of a sudden the style of play just clicked with everyone. The rest speaks for itself really. The system is still more or less the same strikerless system I designed at the beginning, aside from a few tweaks here and there.
We finished the campaign in a fantastic position, 9 points above the relegation places and impressively only 6 points behind a European spot. That just shows you how close and competitive the Bundesliga is. Bayern of course won the title but they made hard work of it, Köln and Mainz were battling away at the top of the pack for the majority of the season, only to slip up towards the finish line. Bayern being Bayern, snuck in at the last minute to pinch the title.
Expectations for next year will not be too high, I am not going to be setting high targets as I don’t want the dreaded 2nd season syndrome. My only 2 focuses will be improve the squad and avoid relegation for the 2nd year running. I am hoping the board will give me a little more money to play with come the transfer window as we were awarded €58m. My ideal transfer target will be someone who can fill the shadow striker role a little more effective than Schröter, he scored 12 goals which isn’t bad, but I would like a more complete player who won’t squander as many chances as he gets.
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