Welcome to part two of this little Frauen-Bundesliga preview series. Today, we’ll take a look at Bremen, Essen, and Freiburg.
I’m more than happy to admit that I was wrong about Werder Bremen last year. I thought they had nowhere near enough quality to stay in the Bundesliga, but alas, they got the job done when it mattered most. But just because they managed to survive doesn’t mean that they were, you know, actually any good; in fact, they were anything but, even if they did occasionally have their moments of promise. Rather, they were well aware of their strengths and weaknesses and realistic about their chances in any given game. And more importantly, they were pragmatic.
They beat the teams they had to beat – Duisburg, Sand, Meppen, Essen, Freiburg – and even pulled off an upset against Leverkusen, yet when it came to facing the big sides, they put up little resistance, which was reflected in the results: 5-1 and 5-0 vs. Frankfurt; 7-0 and 4-0 vs. Bayern; 8-0 and 5-0 vs. Wolfsburg. Bremen conceded a league-worst 67 goals last season (by comparison, dead last Duisburg only shipped 61) and they boasted the second-worst goal difference. They even lost 6-1 to Sand (SAND!!!) at one point! Simply put, they were awful defensively.
They’ve gone down an interesting route in an attempt to fix their defensive woes as they’ve looked to the second division for recruits. So far, Bremen have picked up 20-year-old Michelle Weiß from Bayern II and 19-year-old Emilie Bernhardt from Ingolstadt. That doesn’t really inspire confidence, does it now? They’ve also brought in midfielders Theresa Panfil and Rieke Dieckmann from Frankfurt and Potsdam, respectively, as well as attackers Christin Meyer and Maja Sternad. The latter became a starter for Bielefeld at just 16 and notched three goals in the 2. Frauen-Bundesliga last season.
There have been quite a few departures this summer, but they shouldn’t concern Bremen too much as none of them hit the 1000-minute mark last term. Overall, Thomas Horsch’s squad isn’t terrible, but that defense is such a massive worry. While I do believe that they are, on paper, good enough to once again survive, if they actually decide to persist with that backline and refuse to bring in genuine reinforcements, then they could just as well go down. It’s basically a coin flip, but I think they’ll just about stay up again.
MVP: Margarita Gidion
Gidion is the linchpin of this side, she makes Bremen tick. The 24-year-old is always looking for a bit of space wherefrom she can facilitate play. Naturally inclined to be more of a provider, she did actually chip in with some important goals from midfield last season, finishing the year on four, just one behind top scorer Agata Tarczyńska. Unfortunately, her supporting cast isn’t always on the same wavelength which means that she can be wayward while attempting to thread the eye of the needle, frequently resulting in wasted possession. Nevertheless, she will be key in their survival bid.
Youngster to Watch: Christin Meyer
From new arrivals Emilie Bernhardt, a regular at Ingolstadt, and highly-rated 17-year-old Maja Sternard, to homegrowns Ina Timmermann, who played over 1000 minutes last season, and Tuana Keles, we have an abundance of options to choose from here. Ultimately, though, I decided to give the nod to Christin Meyer. With Keles failing to hit the target when given the chance last season, it will be up to Meyer to provide some much-needed alleviation for Tarczyńska who isn’t getting any younger. The 20-year-old’s haul of three goals for Jena last term was by no means spectacular, but she did impress with her overall play throughout the season and I’d be surprised if she didn’t get plenty of game time this year.
Predicted League Position: 10th
2020/21 proved to be a season to forget for Essen, but was anyone really surprised by that? Their squad was comprehensively dismantled in the build-up to the campaign and their disappointing eighth place was a fair reflection of where they were at talent-wise. They did, at times, show some transient glimpses of promise – like when they beat Hoffenheim – but they were irreducibly a far cry from the side that was taking German women’s football by storm just a few months prior. This season likely won’t be much different.
Inevitably, more of their star players have been snapped up by bigger sides – Nicole Anyomi heading to Frankfurt, Jana Feldkamp joining Hoffenheim – and a fair bit of experience and quality squad depth has also been lost with the departures of Irini Ioannidou, Manjou Wilde, and Eleni Markou. On the incoming front, 30-year-old Julia Debitzki is the only arrival with vast top-flight experience, having racked up north of a century of Frauen-Bundesliga appearances. Maike Berentzen is an intriguing signing, she arrives from relegated Meppen where she was one of the standouts last season.
Firmly in line with the club’s philosophy, several young prospects have also joined, chief among them youth internationals Felicitas Kockmann (16) and Miriam Hils (17). 16-year-old Lily Reimöller from Freiburg and 19-year-old Vivien Endemann from Meppen round out Essen’s transfer business. While it certainly wasn’t as terrible a summer as last year in terms of bleeding talent, it still is quite worrying that Markus Högner’s already insanely youthful team is seemingly only getting younger.
That is not to say that Essen don’t know what they’re doing, they clearly do. I just think that replacing depth players in their prime years with what are essentially high schoolers who have never played senior football before may not be a recipe for success. Obviously, they shouldn’t abandon that practice of developing youngsters – they couldn’t abandon it even if they wanted to due to their lack of resources – but there will unavoidably come a point where clubs with larger financial backing, like Leipzig for example, will come along and slowly force Essen further down the table, and eventually, out of the league.
Now that is the worst-case scenario, of course, and it won’t happen this season. Essen still have enough quality to stay in the division, but it won’t be an easy time for them. As a matter of fact, I think they’ll be worse off than last year and the dreaded Relegationsgespenst will always be an uneasy presence in the back of the players’ minds.
MVP: Carlotta Wamser
Carlotta Wamser is a machine. The forward, who doesn’t turn 18 until November, was an absolute revelation last season, becoming a starter almost immediately after arriving in Essen-Schönebeck and finishing the campaign as the club’s top scorer. Her decision-making still leaves a lot to be desired at times – as is to be expected from, you know, a literal child – but technically and physically, she already has the trappings of becoming Essen’s next superstar. If she can iron out some of her shortcomings and better her tally of five goals, there’s no reason to think a big club won’t come calling next summer.
Youngster to Watch: Laureta Elmazi
I realize that it’s kind of odd to pick someone older than the predicted MVP for ‘Youngster to Watch’, but that’s Essen, baby! Laureta Elmazi, who is a year Wamser’s senior, has a very realistic shot at becoming this season’s breakout player at Essen, which is a bit weird because you could argue that she already had a pretty good campaign in 20/21 – chipping in with two goals, including a stoppage-time winner against Hoffenheim – but she wasn’t actually a proper member of the senior squad yet; she was only officially promoted to the first team this summer! Now that she is a fully-fledged member of the senior side, though, the forward can hopefully build on that decent foundation from last season and feature in more than 197 minutes.
Predicted League Position: 9th
Freiburg are, in many ways, the quintessential mid-table club. More often than not, they beat the teams they are expected to beat, but they rarely trouble any of the stronger sides. The fact that they ended up finishing in seventh is a sign of the times. This isn’t the same Freiburg team from a few years ago, which enjoyed a prolonged spell among the league’s top four; this is now a pretty average side keen on developing players and flipping them for a bit of profit. Be it Klara Bühl and Merle Frohms last year or Sandra Starke this summer, the Breisgau outfit have become accustomed to losing their best performers.
Like Essen, Freiburg, too, usually seek to replace outgoing players with youngsters. Unlike Essen’s signings, however, those youngsters already have some genuine, high-level experience under their belts. Swiss arrivals Riola Xhemaili and Svenja Fölmli, both 18, already boast a few years of domestic top-flight and senior national team know-how. The same applies to Lisa Kolb, who joins off the back of a ridiculous season in which she notched 19 goals in 16 games with Neulengbach; in total, the 20-year-old scored 33 goals in her 32 ÖFB Frauen-Bundesliga outings (yes, you read that right).
On paper, Freiburg should be a better team this year. There are no notable departures other than Starke, and while she is a terrific player, she is far from unreplaceable. The three foreign signings are mightly exciting and with the team moving into the iconic old men’s ground, the Dreisamstadion, there’s much to look forward to this season from Freiburg’s point of view. They obviously won’t set the world alight, but I do expect them to be more consistent this time around. That said, I don’t anticipate there being much in the way of improvement when it comes to their final league position.
MVP: Janina Minge
Minge has matured into a real leader for Freiburg in recent years and she’s undoubtedly one of their most important pieces. She’s made an almost Beckenbauer-esque transition from being an offensive player, who, at the youth level, scored bucket loads of goals, into that of a holding midfielder tasked with retaining possession and circulating the ball. Her attacking past is not only reflected in her shirt number – she still wears the nine – but also in the fact that she does occasionally score the odd goal like back in the old days. Considering how much Freiburg have strengthened up top, though, she likely won’t revert to an attacking role anytime soon, so that position at the base of midfield is now clearly her undisputed territory. She’s the glue that keeps this side together, and she’ll underpin any prospective SCF success this season.
Youngster to Watch: Svenja Fölmli
Freiburg’s business has been exceptional this summer and Fölmli might just be the pick of the bunch. Already a member of the Swiss senior national team, the physically imposing 18-year-old is coming off an impressive season with Luzern in which she racked up nine goals and six assists. While nowhere near as clinical as the other Alpine arrival, Lisa Kolb, Fölmli may have an easier time of acclimatizing to a higher competitive level due to her superior physique. Of course, one has to remember that she is still only 18 and far from the finished product. Her decision-making, in particular, needs work and her first touch regularly deserts her, but the raw talent is there for all to see: she has good close control, decent pace, and she’s unselfish. There are few better environments for young players to hone their skills than Freiburg and Fölmli looks a good bet to become the latest Breisgau-polished diamond.
Predicted League Position: 7th
That concludes part two of this preview series. Part three will be out tomorrow!
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