So, just what has been going on so far this season out in the forest in the South of Frankfurt? With enough time at hand during this miserable winter break, you think one would have sufficient time to come to terms with and reflect on the team’s performances during those first 17 matchdays.
Not a day goes by without Eintracht players being part of some team of the first half of the season, topping mid-season rankings or being named amongst the best in the league in varying positions. This time last year SGE were ranked third in 2. Bundesliga. 12 months and 18 wins later they are in spot four —of the top flight. They’ve taken the league by storm.
How? Manager Armin Veh and Sporting Director Bruno Hübner have put together an ensemble of young, aspiring and capable players that seems to be of good character and team spirit. Six of the summer signings have been regular starters right from the beginning and they contributed massively to the success of the season so far: Kevin Trapp (joined from Kaiserslautern) was THE goalkeeper of the running campaign next to HSV’S Adler, Stefan Aigner (1860 München) and Takashi Inui (Bochum) enlivened Eintracht’s midfield with plenty of goals and creativity.
Bastian Oczipka (from Leverkusen) meanwhile is amongst the top creators in the league (7 assists)—as a left back —and Carlos Zambrano (St. Pauli) made a big impact in central defense. Amongst those six, Olivier Occéan (Fürth) has yet to meet the expectations. Last year’s Bundesliga 2 top scorer (17 goals) had a tough first season half.
In addition to all this great new talent coming into the team, some of the Frankfurt regulars have also taken their game to the next level. Team captain Pirmin Schwegler is a true leader of the pack with vision and skill. He is building a powerful defensive midfield alongside Sebastian Rode, one of the league’s shooting stars surely on the shopping lists of some big German and most likely European clubs (contract at Eintracht until 2014).
Ever so impressive is Alex Meier who has scored 11 goals so far, already a personal Bundesliga record only halfway through the season. And right-back Sebastian Jung was called up by Jogi Löw in November to join the German national side for their friendly against the Netherlands, the first Eintracht player on national duty since Horst Heldt in 1999.
After the euphoria of promotion to the Bundesliga in May, the newly assembled squad suffered a first blow when the team got knocked out in the DFB Cup round one in August away to 2. Bundesliga outfit Erzgebirge Aue. In hindsight one could say this was a well needed wake-up call but it could have also been the trigger of a miserable start to the season. But on matchday 1 the team showed great morale and did well to overcome a one goal deficit against Champions League contenders Bayer Leverkusen winning 2-1 in the end.
The Eagles won the following three matches (4-0 v Hoffenheim away, 3-2 v HSV and 2-1 in Nürnberg) to achieve an all-time Bundesliga record, no other promoted side had ever managed a 100% record in their first four matches. This was followed by one of the best matches of the whole campaign so far, a thrilling end to end encounter with German champions Borussia Dortmund. This time SGE came back from being 2-0 and 3-2 down to clinch the 3-3 equalizer by Bamba Anderson after all—it was a cracking game, especially in the second half.
Clash of the Sebastians: Dortmund's Kehl (left) and Eintracht's Rode during THE match of the first season half
The results were outstanding and so was the way the team achieved these results. Those were no lucky or ugly wins. The team performed as a unit, taking plenty of risks defensively but also showing a highly entertaining style attack-wise. Left-back Oczipka as well as Jung on the right side usually stand very high up the pitch with the double-six consisting of Rode and Schwegler roaming back to collect the ball from central defense.
They then act nearly like quarterbacks, dispensing the ball towards the wings or to the front, and once the Eintracht attack is going it is hard to get hold of them. The speed and technical abilities of Inui and Aigner, their rotation with Oczipka and Jung and the killer instinct of Alex Meier—all backed up by the vision and guidance of Schwegler and Rode—made for an irresistible mix in the offensive powerhouse of The Diva of the River Main.
After six wins in the first eight matches the Eagles then had a dry patch of seven games with only one win, of course this unfolded in the month of November—a long going Eintracht tradition. It included a 2-0 defeat away to Bayern and hefty beatings from local rival Mainz at home (1-3, the first ever home defeat v FSV) and Düsseldorf away (0-4). But with another sublime performance at the start of December, SGE sent Werder Bremen back home to the river Weser (4-1 win) and a week later they managed their first away win ever against VfL Wolfsburg (2-0).
A thrilling first season half came to an end with Eintracht in spot four of the standings on 30 points and 33 goals (only Bayern and Dortmund scored more). It is their best Bundeliga campaign in 19 years.
Relegation should be out of the question pretty soon. This team seems to be too stable to suffer a downfall such as the one two years back. Whether it will be enough for European competition remains to be seen. The opponents will adjust to Armin Veh’s tactics and the question of injuries and the availability of the key players will also be important. Marco Russ has rejoined from VfL Wolfsburg already as a back-up for the central defense, another signing might follow to strengthen the depth of the squad. Much will depend on the restart of the season also (Bayer Leverkusen away who are ranked 2nd).
It is nearly impossible to pick one. Trapp, Schwegler, Rode, Meier, Jung – they all had a tremendous season so far.
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(bundesligafanatic.com - 14.01.2013)