Rückrunde begins in Bundesliga and editor Axel Falk reviews Eintracht Frankfurt's season so far. Ups and downs, pros and cons, what has worked and what hasn't?
As an avid supporter of the Eagles from Mainhattan, I have been both impressed and distraught by Eintracht Frankfurt this season. The seldom high-flying eagles are placed 13th after 19 games, but still haven’t lost in the Rückrunde if that’s any kind of comfort to us frustrated fans. After a blistering start, nah not really, to the season, Frankfurt’s form dipped heavily and the recent months have been filled with the usual nonsense from the fans. While the fans of Eintracht are fantastic, sometimes they can be a bit too aggressive and are prone to sending death threats to the club officials. This has been avoided this season however, but their aggressive nature has shown itself from time to time. Of course Alex Meier (Fussballgott) has been great once again, managing to score ten goals in a squad without any real creativity. Meier, Stendera and Hradecky are perhaps the only comforting things this season and the fans have been left feeling unamazed and uninterested. It has been a season full of ”what-if” and questions put in subjunctive tense. A few wins here and there and a few truly spectacular ones have made the fans feel hopeful, only to be disappointed come the next weekend.
I can’t help but feel frustrated. Veh has done well, but after being blessed with Schaaf’s ”go for it”-mentality, the negative, almost pessimistic, formation and style that Veh has come to represent feels nothing more than frustrating. The man himself is a truly sympatic man, good with players and has produced some truly great quotes. The signings of the January transfer window have certainly shown positive signs as well, with Eintracht bringing in Marco Fabian, Anis Ben Hatira, Yanni Regäsel and Kaan Ayhan. If they will make the team better and how they will do that is hard to answer. Regäsel is one for the future, while Ben-Hatira and Fabian are expected to contribute directly with speed and precision in attack. Armin Veh has worked with Anis Ben-Hatira before and knows what to expect. However, creativity hasn’t been the only problem that Eintracht has had to struggle with this Hinrunde. Apart from injuries, the defence has been abysmal at times and while they can defend, as shown against Bayern Munich, it is a seldom phenomenon. Therefore, the signing of Kaan Ayhan might bring new energy and strenght to the defence, as can Regäsel. While Ayhan is on loan, Regäsel has signed a long term contract to keep him at the club until 2019. Defensive talents are rather hard to come by and Eintracht seem to have struck quite a deal with Hertha. It remains unanswered whether the defensive signings will improve the team on arrival, but at least Regäsel will be seen as a future option as right back.
Who have been they key players for Frankfurt this season then? There have been a few fantastic results, for example the recent home win agaisnt Wolfsburg and the smashing of Cologne and Stuttgart in the back-to-back wins in September. In these games, and in others, one player apart from Alexander Meier has stood out; young talent Marc Stendera. If you have supported the club from Main a long time you would have heard of him for quite some time so it has been thrilling to finally see him blossom and flourish for the first time and his contribution this season shows clear signs of greatness. Two goals versus Hannover 96 and a few assists have made him a key in the Frankfurt attack and together with Marco Fabian and Alex Meier, we supporters can expect and hope for brilliance a’la Fussballgott once again. Another player that has performed well is goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky who had a ridiculous task when he was signed to replace Kevin Trapp, one of the best goalkeepers of Bundesliga last season. He rose to the challenge and took it on without showing any signs of crumbling under pressure. The Finnish goalkeeper had an amazing game against Bayern Munich at home where he managed to keep a clean sheet against arguably the best attack in the world. With a few mesmerizing saves he kept the Eagles in the game and was praised afterwards, both by the fans and the experts.
What's next for Frankfurt? What can be the target for the Rückrunde? After the mediocre Hinrunde, the realistic target should be to advance in the table. Perhaps Europa League might be too much to demand, but if the possibility comes, I hope Eintracht manage to take it. Otherwise a mid-table finish is realistic and would satisfy most supporters.
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