There were a few teams hoping for a positive start to the Rückrunde after falling below expectations in the first half of the season with Werder Bremen being on that list. The Grün-Weißen have responded in near perfect fashion with seven points from nine to awaken the hope that a corner has been turned on the Weser.
With 16 points accrued before the winter break, Werder Bremen were content to be above the relegation places, but fully aware that their six-point cushion offered them only a little protection. Four wins were secured, but eight losses were suffered giving the fans a feeling of slight apprehension going into the second half of the season.
They opened with a 1-1 draw at VfL Bochum secured by a 93rd minute equaliser from Niklas Stark before they travelled to the Allianz Arena on matchday 18 to face Bayern in a match most saw as a foregone conclusion in favour of the Rekordmeister. With good reason, as Werder had not won there since September 2008 and had not won on the road all season.
The 1-0 win secured by Mitchell Weiser’s strike on the hour mark was hugely deserved by Werder, whose game plan worked out perfectly and Bayern were unable to find a way to break down a highly organised defence, while finding the Bremen counter-attacks a problem.
The long-awaited win over Bayern was followed up at the weekend with a 3-1 home win over Freiburg in a game in which the Grün-Weißen took control once again and fully deserved the three points. They have now climbed up to ninth in the table and are closer to the European places (eight points) than they are the bottom three (eleven points).
These are reasons to be cheerful indeed and whisper it quietly, but there is a feeling that Werder may just have turned a corner this season and are more likely to be mixing it amongst the top half of the table than the bottom half.
Marvin Ducksch seems to be revelling in the extra responsibility following the departure of his strike partner Niclas Füllkrug, while Justin Njinmah continues to progress really well and has added a new speedy dimension to the Werder attack. The defence is being marshalled superbly by captain Marco Friedl, and his form is such that a recall to the Austrian national team ahead of the summer’s European Championships is not out of the question.
Ole Werner has found a formation and tactical plan that is paying dividends and the players seem to have enjoyed seeing the fruits of their and the coach’s work. Off the field there has also been very welcome news of an injection of money following the sale of 18% of the shares in SV Werder Bremen GmbH & Co. KGaA. A regional consortium, comprising companies and private individuals with long-standing ties to the club, is making €38 million available to the club as part of a capital injection. The money is not intended to pay debts, but for investment in the team.
The New Year has thus far brought results, points, investment and optimism. Is this really a turning point in Werder Bremen’s season?