The fact that Freiburg were disappointed to finish fifth tells you all you need to know about the highly successful season they enjoyed. Despite trainer Christian Streich always maintaining their season goal was Bundesliga survival, the Breisgauer never had any worries on that front and spent the entire season at the top end and were only denied a top four finish right at the end of the campaign.
They made an excellent start with four wins from their opening five matches and the only defeat came against Borussia Dortmund, who needed three goals in the last quarter of an hour to win. They went the next four unbeaten before getting a reality check with a 5-0 loss at the Allianz Arena to Bayern. They bounced back with four wins out of five before the Winterpause losing to RB Leipzig, but beating highflyers Union Berlin 4-1.
Freiburg went into the World Cup break sitting second in the table just four points behind leaders Bayern. They had also breezed through their Europa League group unbeaten and could be highly satisfied with the Hinrunde overall.
The Rückrunde though started with a rude awakening when they were thumped 6-0 away at VfL Wolfsburg. A draw with Frankfurt and three points against Augsburg followed before another heavy loss, this time 5-1 at the Signal Iduna Park to BVB. They recovered to win three and draw four of their next seven, but fell to Juventus in the Europa League.
They were still in the top four, but in a real battle with Union Berlin and RB Leipzig for the Golden Ticket to the Champions League next season. They stunned Bayern in the DFB Pokal winning in late, dramatic fashion at the Allianz Arena, but were defeated days later when the two sides met at the Europa Park in the Bundesliga.
Werder Bremen, Schalke and Köln were all beaten before they were eliminated by Leipzig in the cup in ruthless fashion with a 5-1 home loss in the semi-final. When Leipzig beat them again in the league and the following week saw a 4-2 defeat in the crunch game with Union, their top four hopes were shrinking.
They gained revenge over Wolfsburg with a 2-0 win, but a defeat to Frankfurt on the final day saw Union grab fourth. That however doesn’t detract from the fact that Freiburg performed superbly across the season and blew Christian Streich’s insistence that survival was the ambition out of the water.
The 4-1 win over fellow highflyers Union on the final weekend before the mid-season break saw them take second spot in the table for the Hinrunde. The match saw four penalties and a red card with Vincenzo Grifo scoring a hattrick inside the opening twenty minutes. The first half of the season as a whole surpassed all expectations.
Knocking Bayern out of the Pokal at the Allianz Arena was a highlight as was testing themselves against the might of Juventus in the Europa League (even if they were eliminated).
The final home game of the season was also a highlight with the emotional send off for Nils Petersen made perfect by a typical goal from the bench from the veteran striker.
The heavy losses to Bayern (5-0), Wolfsburg (6-0) and Dortmund (5-1) hurt as did the thumping that saw Leipzig end their dreams of a second consecutive DFB Pokal final appearance.
The defeats however in the season run-in against Union (4-2), Leipzig (1-0) and Frankfurt (2-1) ultimately saw them denied a top four finish.
Tale of the Tape
Record: 17-8-9, 59 points (1.74 per game), 5th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 34 points (10-4-3) Away Record: 25 points (7-4-6)
Goals: 51 (1.5 per game), Goals Against: 44 (1.29 per game), Diff: +7
xG: 48.0, xGA: 48.8, Diff: -0-8
Freiburg’s 51 goals put them as the tenth highest scorers but was seven fewer than they scored in the 2021-22 season. Vincenzo was their top scorer with fifteen with Michael Gregoritsch getting into double figures with ten. The season began with a 4-2-3-1 the predominant formation but it changed in the latter part of the season to a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-2-2.
Lucas Höler scored all five of his goals in the second half of the season while Ritsu Doan also scored five and added four assists. Rolland Sallai’s serious eye injury curtailed his season while Daniel Kofi Kyereh also saw his season cut short.
The Breisgauer had the joint fourth most miserly defence with just 44 conceded. The return of Matthias Ginter played an important role as did the goalkeeping of Mark Flekken. The Dutch keeper made the third highest number of saves and had the fourth highest save percentage (74%). Only Union Berlin made fewer tackles in the defensive third.
Philipp Lienhart was Ginter’s main partner with Christian Günter and Killian Sildillia taking the fullback roles. Matthias Ginter ranked joint top overall for clearances. Lukas Kübler made 17 starts, while Manuel Gulde made eight.
Christian Streich wasn’t short of midfield combinations this season. Maxi Eggestein, Ritsu Doan, Vincenzo Grifo, and Nicolas Höfler were the key men with Woo-Yeong Jeong, Yannik Keitel, Roland Sallai and Noah Weißhaupt also getting plenty of game time.
As befits their means, Freiburg ran a transfer surplus again this season spending just under €16 million and bringing in €21.3 million. Japanese attacker Ritsu Doan was signed from PSV for €8.5 million after impressing during his season on loan at Arminia Bielefeld. Daniel Kofi-Kyereh arrived from St. Pauli and he impressed before a cruciate ligament injury ruled him out from February onwards.
€2.9 million was paid to Ingolstadt for midfielder Merlin Röhl but the 20-year-old made just three short substitute appearances. The best business however came with the signing of two players on free transfers. Former player Matthias Ginter came home after his time at both Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Mönchengladbach, while Augsburg striker Michael Gregoritsch was signed with Ermedin Demirovic going the other way. Ginter was an ever-present while the Austrian finished as the second top scorer with ten goals.
Despite the burdens of European football to contend with Freiburg weren’t active in the January transfer window and the only addition was highly rated youngster Kenneth Schmidt, who was promoted from the second team.
Player of the Season
Vincenzo Grifo enjoyed his best-ever goal scoring season with fifteen goals and five assists. Seven of his goals were penalties and his best individual performance came against Union Berlin when he hit a hattrick within the opening twenty minutes. He came withing one goal of sharing the Bundesliga leading scorer award and added two more in Freiburg’s Europa League campaign.
The introduction of homegrown young talent is an integral part of Freiburg’s DNA and this season saw Killian Sildillia, Robert Wagner, Merlin Röhl and Noah Weißhaupt all getting minutes, but perhaps the most exciting newcomer was Kenneth Schmidt. The Freiburg-born central defender was promoted from Freiburg II in the Winterpause and definitely looks set for a bright Bundesliga future with Christian Streich the ideal coach to bring him through.
Just missing out on a top four finish makes it an A- for Freiburg, but then we are splitting hairs really. The side from the Black Forest over-performed yet again and there are plenty of supposedly ‘big’ clubs, who would do well to follow the Freiburg recipe. Missing out on a first Champions League qualification was disappointing, but at least Christian Streich will be happy to have achieved the 40-point mark and achieved survival for another year. Don’t expect the mercurial trainer to be publicly upping the ambition stakes next season (although inwardly it must be the target).