Die Bundesliga ist züruck!
Matchday 26 may not have had the usual tifos and fan chants we are used to in Germany, but there was no shortage of goals and drama. However, the true Geisterspiel was played out between Fortuna Düsseldorf and S.C Paderborn. The relegation six-pointer was not only absent of fans, it was also absent of goals. In the end, a 0-0 draw suited neither side.
For Fortuna, this was a game that fans had pinned on the schedule as a must-win. Despite hitting the post twice and the crossbar once, Fortuna were unable to make the breakthrough. In the end, it was Paderborn who had the best chance to win the game, but Chrisopher Antwi-Adjei was unable to finish from close range.
Thankfully for the home side, dropping points was not as costly as it could have been. Mainz 05 escaped with a draw from FC Köln after coming back from 2-0 down, while Werder Bremen looked woeful in their 4-1 hammering at the hands of Bayer Leverkusen. This means Fortuna remain four points from safety, but five points above Werder. Up next is the derby, which although may be lacking the atmosphere, is a perfect chance for Uwe Rösler and his team to prove a point to the fans that they believe they can stay up.
In order to do this, the team needs to find a way to score. Fortuna are the worst scoring side in the league with only 27 goals this season. Saturday’s team selection may have hinted at why this was the case. Rösler opted for a 3-4-3 with Marcus Suttner and Matthias Zimmerman operating as wing-backs, while Valon Berisha, Erik Thommy, and Kenan Karaman operated up top and were given flexibility to change positions.
While it is difficult to criticise player performance after such a long period of uncertainty, we can have a look at a problem that has been persisting for Fortuna. Zimmerman has been one of Fortuna’s best players this season, and the fans appreciate the work rate and effort he brings every match. However, going forward he and Suttner offer very little. In a system where they are supposed to be offering width, they are defensively minded and lack the attacking quality when it comes to going forward.
Both would usual play as full-backs and it is clear to see in how the team performs. Between them they only attempted three crosses and three dribbles in the entire game. Suttner attempted two dribbles, and neither was successful. Therefore, Fortuna end up with more of a back five than a back three, as the wing-backs aren’t pushing on in support of the attacking players, or when they are, they aren’t effective.
Last season, Fortuna were fortunate to have both Benito Raman and Dodi Lukebakio. Both were effective in the attacking phase of the play and opened the game for those around them with their direct running. Replacing such talent was always going to be difficult, and their absence has really been felt this season.
There are certainly options to rectify this, but it will take some bravery from Rösler. Kelvin Ofori had begun to feature more off the bench over the past few matchdays for Fortuna before the break. He made an appearance against Mainz following impressive performances in the cup and looked an instant threat. His energy and ability to beat a player was evident from the start. Fortuna need to create more attacking chances, and while Ofori is still a teenager, he looks ready to make an impact at this level.
Having a player like Ofori out there alongside Thommy will help the rest of the team. Thommy is Fortuna’s most-direct player and willing runner. He has shown this season he can beat his defender and open the game up for the likes of Hennings and Karaman upfront. However, he is usually the only player on the pitch able to do this and therefore the burden falls on him to do so. Adding a similar player in Ofori could add more balance to the side and create more opportunities.
If Rösler is understandably cautious about going with such a young and inexperienced player, he has the likes of Steven Skrzybski and Bernard Tekpetey on loan from Schalke 04. Neither has had a real chance in the side, and if Fortuna have any thoughts on signing either on a permanent deal in the summer, now is the time to see what they can do. Neither is likely to feature back at their parent club, so you would expect them both to be desperate to prove a point.
One final option for the manager is to look at Nana Ampomah, the summer signing from Waasland-Beveren in Belgium. The 24-year-old Ghanaian winger was signed for around £3.6 million and has featured in 12 matches this season. He has shown that he can beat his man and looks lively in attack. However, his final ball has been lacking, which appears to be the main reason why he hasn’t featured much. It may well be time to go back to Ampomah to see if he can be the spark.
Whatever Rösler decides to do in Sunday´s game against Köln, the Paderborn game should certainly have convinced him that in order to stay up he cannot persist with the same tactical setup. He has attacking options in the squad and may well need to throw caution to the wind and take the game to sides.