"Be nice, we have a guest!" Welcome to Fresh off the Gegenpress Alex Howell and here is our guest's preview of his favourite side in Bundesliga, FC Ingolstadt.
‘Die Schanzer’, or to translate literally for our English readers ‘The Trench men’ is the colloquial pseudonym of FC Ingolstadt 04. The etymology of this comes from Ingolstadt’s history as an important, perhaps impenetrable fortress (as Swedish forces, sorry Axel, found out in 1632). This pseudonym, quite aptly, perfectly depicts the industrious style that the Bavarian side became synonymous with during their rise through the German football pyramid. The only problem being, and perhaps a large one at that - the main architect of that style and of die Schanzer’s ascent from 2. Bundesliga strugglers to First Division overachievers is gone; as Ralph Hasenhüttl plumped for the Leipzig project after coming to the opinion his work in Ingolstadt was done.
For a club formed only twelve years ago, Ingolstadt have achieved a great deal. Often labelled as a plastic club, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. The input from Audi is overstated; in-fact there was no major financial sponsorship from the automobile giant until 2013. Formed as a merger between ESV and MTV Ingolstadt, both having played in the 2. Bundesliga, the new side quickly rose from the Oberliga Bayern into the Second Division some four years after the merger in 2004. After some years of mediocrity, Hasenhüttl transformed the fortunes of the club and the dramatic ascent was complete; although tipped by many for an immediate return to the second tier, die Schanzer outdid all expectations and finished in a very respectable 11th. In short, despite misconceptions Ingolstadt show a real fairy-tale story and if anything is to be sure, expect the unexpected from the plucky Bavarian club.
Markus Kauczinski was quickly snapped by Ingolstadt as their new manager – the 46 year old with plenty of experience with Karlsruhe in the 2. Bundesliga. Yet most importantly, he does not deviate from that very same style that the Austrian, Hasenhüttl, made so successful and therefore shows some good continuity from the chiefs at the Audi Sportpark. That’s what it boils down to, despite losing key figures along with Hasenhüttl, die Schanzer have been quick to replace them with players equally adept, or so one would think, to that highly effective system that they seem so keen to hang on to.
Three of Ingolstadt’s usual starting eleven last season have all bid farewell to Bavaria. Benjamin Hübner quickly jumped at the opportunity to join Hoffenheim, although was replaced in almost like for like by young Hauke Wahl. Wahl has followed the same career path as Hübner from the 3 Liga, to the 2. Bundesliga and then Bundesliga with Ingolstadt, although for Wahl that took the shape of Kiel and then Paderborn, rather than Wiesbaden and Aalen like the new Hoffenheim man. The other two big names both taken by Bayer Leverkusen – Ramazan Özcan and Danny da Costa. The Austrian saw the chance of one last pay day, or maybe success, it depends on your outlook whilst da Costa unfortunately for Ingolstadt had his buyback clause operated by the Werkself. Özcan’s understudy last term, Norwegian international Ørjan Nyland, will become first choice whilst Swiss starlet Florent Hadergjonaj was signed to compete with fan favourite Tobias Levels for the right back spot.
Whilst they were very effective last season, there was one aspect of Ingolstadt’s play that was lacking. Scoring goals. Only relegated Hannover 96 scored less than the Audi Sportpark side. The signing of Darío Lezcano somewhat alleviated that problem in the Rückrunde, but if Ingolstadt were to challenge again this season they needed to further address that problem. The answer came in the form of Robert Leipertz, a familiar face for those who take an interest in the Second Tier. The former Heidenheim man, via Schalke, arrived in Bavaria for little over €1 million. With 12 goals, and ten assists, the aim is for Leipertz to ease the strain on the aforementioned Paraguayan striker as well as Moritz Hartmann and if he can do that die Schanzer should be in good stead.
The way Ingolstadt are run, can draw huge comparisons to their primary sponsor Audi. German efficiency is the stereotype of Audi, and Teutonic car manufacturing on a whole, and it is this very same efficiency that the board of Ingolstadt owner, Peter Jackwerth, have shown. Problems have been addressed quickly, and if Ingolstadt are successful this season it will be in no large part because of the management of the club.
They are a realistic bunch in Ingolstadt, and after such a good first season in the Bundesliga you may have been forgiven for believing that they would want to push on. However it remains simple – stay in the division. Kauczinski and co will endeavour to recreate that industrious style, recently compared to the brutal Olympic Water Polo by editor Ali Haggis. Effective, but not always pleasing on the eye, if Kauczinski can replicate it with his new signings, die Schanzer will be placed well to achieve their ambitions of survival.
So whether Ingolstadt will epitomise the efficiency of Audi, or crash and burn like a Volkswagen emissions test remains unclear, but what is clear is that it’ll be a rollercoaster ride, along the bumpy Bundesliga Autobahn for the club that has defied the odds in its short history.
Key player: Marvin Matip
The importance of the Cameroonian cannot be understated. The media face of the club in public, the well-spoken defender is an equally capable stopper in defence. He also pops up with a number of important goals too, and will be key in Ingolstadt are to succeed this season.
Surprise player: Robert Leipertz
Already mentioned, Leipertz makes the step up to the Bundesliga. Whilst he many not recreate the same figures he did with Heidenheim, the pace and power of the winger may set the Bundesliga alight and provide Ingolstadt with a real asset.
Falk's prediction: 12th
Ali's prediction: 13th
Alex' prediction: 14th
guest writer and Ingolstadt fan.
NB: We are worried however that the world will implode if we have three writers whose names begin with "A"
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