The final scene from Monty Python’s film ‘Life of Brian’ sees Brian the Messiah on the cross singing the ironic song ‘Always look on the bright side of life’. Following their loss to Bayer Leverkusen on Monday, this is advice that Werder Bremen fans will find extremely hard to follow.
Is there any hope for Werder this season, or are they going to follow fellow North German giants Hamburger SV into the second tier?
It wasn’t so much the loss to the Werkself that caused so much dismay for fans of the Grün-Weißen, but the manner in which they succumbed at the Weser Stadion. Peter Bosz’s side are impressive granted, a and many Werder supporters could have lived with a plucky 2-0 loss, or a 3-1 defeat that saw Bayer’s quality edge them out.
What they got (although watching from home) was an insipid, lacklustre display with obvious defensive and attacking frailties exposed and a lack of any real glimpses that would cause optimism for the immediate future.
“We went into this game fully convinced that we could get the win. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get it done, and today we feel disillusioned,” explained Werder’s sporting director Frank Baumann after the game. “The team acted too carelessly at crucial points in the game” he added.
Thank-you for summarising the entire Werder season in one line Herr. Baumann.
Trainer Florian Kohfeldt also went through the motions saying all the right things at the final whistle. “One positive for me is that we created more chances than we were doing before the break. We said before today that tonight’s game wasn’t a final. It’s not a knockout blow. We will stay positive and get this game out of our system. It’s key that we maintain confidence in our attacking game.”
Let’s look at that attack, both against Leverkusen on Monday and in general terms. On Monday evening Werder only managed one effort on target during the whole 90 minutes from their nine attempts (Gebre-Selassie’s goal). Conversely Leverkusen had six on target from 13 efforts scoring four times.
Davie Selke, the central striker, only managed one blocked header all night, while a quiet Milot Rashica also only contributed one effort (off-target). Leonardo Bittencourt wasted Werder’s clearest chance in the 39th minute rushing his shot when clean through.
Scoring goals has been a big issue for the club all season. Aside from Fortuna Düsseldorf (27 goals) Werder have the worst scoring record in the entire Bundesliga with a paltry 28 goals scored, with only nine of those goals having been scored at the Weser Stadion! Milot Rashica is the leading scorer with 7 goals. They have a season Xg of just 27.26 so you can see that Bremen’s goalscoring record is pretty much where their created chances should have them. The fact that Gebre-Selassie’s goal against Leverkusen was the first at home since November says it all really.
Personnel-wise, you have to question the club’s transfer policy across the board, but particularly in the forward area. The January signing of Davie Selke smacked of desperation- was a failing striker at Hertha Berlin really going to save the day for the Grün-Weißen?
Yuya Osako has been disappointing, and Claudio Pizarro, while a legend, at 41-years-old was never going to lead the scoring charts. The youngsters Josh Sargent and Johannes Eggestein haven’t had the playing time, while Niklas Füllkrug has been injured all season.
If the attack against Leverkusen was blunt, the defenders didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory either.
Kai Havertz is a tall player, but the marking for both his headers was appalling- especially his second which had Selke static and just watching his man glide past him with ease to nod in. Kevin Vogt was then completely unaware of Mitchell Weiser’s presence behind him when Moussa Diaby hung the ball up for the third goal- the 14th header conceded by Werder this season!
A one-off? Rust after the lockdown lay-off? No, this has been going on all season long. If Werder’s attack is ‘only’ the second worst in the league, their defence ranks as the worst. They have now conceded 59 goals this season.
Werder’s xGA (Expected goals against) this season is 45.25 which means that they have the worst negative difference in the whole Bundesliga, (59 conceded) so -13.74. In layman’s terms they are conceding too many goals they really shouldn’t be.
Hope or Hopeless?
Because of the cancelled fixture with Eintracht Frankfurt, Werder have nine games left to save themselves from their first relegation since 1980. Currently they uncomfortably lie in 17th with 18 points just a solitary point above bottom side Paderborn. Werder are five points adrift of Fortuna Düsseldorf in 16th, with Mainz and Augsburg both on 27 points.
Much depends on Werder in the forthcoming games, but with a nine-point gap to absolute safety, much will also depend on the results achieved by those directly above Werder. It could be that things are taken out of their hands should the likes of Fortuna, Mainz and Augsburg start picking up points.
So, nine matches to save things.
|(h) Borussia Mönchengladbach|
|(h) Eintracht Frankfurt|
|(h) Bayern Munich|
So, five matches at home, but behind closed doors this probably won’t provide much of an advantage to Werder. Not that having the passionate home fans has made much of a difference this season with Werder’s home form only bringing them five points (a solitary win over Augsburg on matchday 3). They have very tough visitors in Bayern and Gladbach, and it will be difficult to imagine them getting any joy out of those fixtures.
You would have to think that Werder need maximum points from their games with Freiburg, Paderborn, and Mainz to have any chance of survival.
‘Always look on the bright side of life’. That’s easy enough for messiah Brian to sing, but not so easy for Werder fans to follow right now.