Welcome to part three of this little Frauen-Bundesliga preview series. Today, we’ll take a look at Frankfurt, Leverkusen, and Potsdam.
Expectations in Frankfurt were sky-high heading into the 20/21 season. The attempt to revive beleaguered giant FFC by means of a merger with men’s Bundesliga side Eintracht and the fresh investment it engendered meant that the pressure had been turned up to eleven. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite turn out to be the renaissance they had hoped for. Simply put, they couldn’t handle the heat.
It was perhaps premature to consider them challengers for a European spot, but their season should never have played out as poorly as it did. Frankfurt were wholly unconvincing – injuries played their part, mind – until it was basically too late to salvage the campaign. The players looked like they had the weight of the world on their shoulders and even their late resurgence between the end of March and the beginning of May couldn’t prevent them from slumping to a disappointing sixth-placed finish.
Rather surprisingly, head coach Nikos Arnautis and legendary sporting director Siegfried Dietrich have opted to mostly stick with their roster instead of looking to really go out and strengthen. The only notable arrivals are Dutch defender Siri Worm and talented young striker Nicole Anyomi, someone Frankfurt didn’t even really need since they’re already stacked up top, but who could nonetheless prove to be quite a savvy pick-up in the absence of the injured Géraldine Reuteler.
While I do believe that they will have a better time of it this year – even without any statement signings – their inertia has still left me quite baffled. Don’t get me wrong, they already have a good, balanced squad with a pretty high floor and some real potential, but they still lack a proper X factor in midfield in my opinion. Fifth is probably a realistic target, but they could just as well finish sixth yet again seeing as though Potsdam and Leverkusen both look more than capable of getting the better of Eintracht once again.
MVP: Laura Freigang
This one’s pretty straightforward. Laura Freigang is the undisputed MVP of this team. The 23-year-old was one of the few bright spots of Frankfurt’s turgid campaign, scoring an impressive 16 goals, and the only way seems to be up for the charismatic striker. It will be interesting to see what happens going forward because if she matches or even exceeds last season’s goal tally but Frankfurt again fail to make it into Europe, she’ll surely be forced to reconsider her future at the club. It’s not an exaggeration to say that she should be playing for one of Europe’s top sides.
Youngster to Watch: Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir
Widely regarded as one of the biggest prospects coming out of Iceland, 21-year-old central midfielder Alexandra Jóhannsdóttir arrived in Frankfurt in January to the tune of considerable fanfare. Unfortunately, she found assimilating and breaking into the team tough going in her first few months in Germany. The early part of this season could, however, offer her a real shot at redemption as captain Tanja Pawollek will be nursing the unfortunate ACL injury that she suffered in the DFB-Pokal final for the foreseeable future. The upcoming months could make or break Jóhannsdóttir’s Frankfurt career. She clearly has the talent, but now it’s up to her to really convince coach Niko Arnautis that she’s ready to stake a claim to one of those starting spots in the center of the park. Perhaps she can be that X factor I was talking about earlier.
Predicted League Position: 5th
Leverkusen shocked me last season. After an absolutely terrible 19/20 campaign, they managed to turn their fortunes around and they ended up being one of the biggest surprises in recent memory, finishing in a very impressive fifth. They were far from the most attractive side to watch, but they were efficient and seemingly always got the job done against the smaller teams. Getting the better of the likes of Potsdam, Frankfurt, and doing the double over Freiburg also helped their cause.
Kurtekotten witnessed a fair bit of personnel turnover this summer: mid-season arrival Mina Tanaka returned to her parent club, Henrietta Csiszár, who had perhaps outgrown Leverkusen, decided to trade the Rhineland for the blue side of Milan, and veteran Isabel Kerschowski is now back with Potsdam where she enjoyed so much success in the past.
Losing Csiszár and Tanaka definitely isn’t ideal, but Werkself fans shouldn’t be too discouraged by these departures because Achim Feifel and Co have done some excellent business in the transfer market. Two players were brought in from Switzerland, with Amira Arfaoui joining from reigning champions Servette and striker Irina Pando arriving off the back of a 16-goal season with Luzern. Friederike Abt, formerly of Wolfsburg, is an upgrade – an Abtgrade – in the goalkeeping department. Dina Blagojević is a decent replacement for Csiszár in midfield. Caroline Siems is back in Germany after a brief WSL adventure. And they also managed to snap up a few intriguing youngsters: Julia Pollak from Bayern, U-17 international Clara Fröhlich, and Lisanne Gräwe from Wolfsburg.
That’s a very solid transfer window as far as I’m concerned. I’m quite excited to watch this team, and evidently, so are my Twitter followers. When asked who’ll finish fourth this season, the majority picked Leverkusen, which I’m happy to go along with.
MVP: Irina Pando
It’s hard to bet against someone as established as Milena Nikolić, whose more than respectable 13 goals contributed massively to the Werkself’s cracking campaign, but I’ve fully bought into the Irina Pando hype. The Swiss star is a showstopper, someone who’ll put bums on seats. Good in the dribble and deadly in front of goal, she also offers something a bit different, a bit more versatility than Nikolić. There’s no disputing that she’s at her most devastating through the middle, but she can be utilized out on the wing to great effect, too. I’m sure Achim Feifel will figure out a way of getting the most out of both of his key forwards.
Youngster to Watch: Lisanne Gräwe
“She [Gräwe] has all the skills necessary to quickly acclimatize to the Bundesliga, she is a good tackler but also possesses the technical ability needed in midfield.” I was quite surprised by this comment from Achim Feifel at Gräwe’s unveiling. Not by the fact that he thinks she’s a good player – would be weird if he didn’t think that – but rather that he explicitly mentioned the Bundesliga. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to make such a remark facetiously, solely for the purpose of giving the press officer a nice little quote that they can put in a tweet; he’s clearly convinced that she can do a job for the first team. Gräwe has looked good in preseason, and now that Csiszár’s gone, there actually exists the very real possibility that the 18-year-old will see a decent amount of game time this year.
Predicted League Position: 4th
This Turbine Potsdam team is a bit of an enigma. After losing several key performers in the build-up to last season, naturally, I predicted them to struggle, yet they somehow ended up in fourth buoyed by a mightily impressive start to the campaign. They were, I thought, at times quite lucky – and sometimes even wholly unconvincing – but there were also plenty of occasions where they looked legitimately good. This year, I genuinely don’t know what to expect.
As mentioned already, Isabel Kerschowski, one of the last remaining vestiges of Potsdam’s glory years, has returned to the club. They’ve also brought in D1 Féminin veteran Teninsoun Sissoko following the departure of defensive stalwart Johanna Elsig. Other than that, there hasn’t really been any movement, so they won’t need time to bed in players. Furthermore, they’ve been really impressive so far in preseason, destroying Jena 5-0 in their first friendly before lifting the Kaif-Trophy following shutout wins over Austria Wien, Benfica, and Real Madrid. And yet, I don’t think that Sofian Chahed’s side will be as good as last year, weirdly.
Despite this, let’s not lose sight of the fact that this is a fun team with plenty of young talent. Merle Barth is a solid, perhaps somewhat underrated player in this league, Selina Cerci and Nina Ehegötz are good to great forward options, Dina Orschmann is coming off a fantastic year, and Gina Chmielinski still has plenty of unfulfilled potential. They’re a decent side, but I think it will ultimately come down to the teams around them – Frankfurt and Leverkusen – being just that little bit better and more consistent, that’s why I expect the two-time European champions to slip down to sixth. I could be way off the mark with this one, though.
MVP: Dina Orschmann
There are a few candidates here, like Selina Cerci and Merle Barth, but I think Dina Orschmann is probably the best choice. The 23-year-old winger is coming off a breakout season that came completely out of the blue. She made the absolute most of her first campaign featuring consistently at the senior level, scoring seven goals and notching two assists in ~1100 minutes. Since Turbine haven’t reinforced their side much, she’ll be expected to pick up where she left off.
Youngster to Watch: Marie-Therese Höbinger
Höbinger is by no means an unknown quantity, she’s not an obscure youngster from Potsdam’s reserves anymore. On the contrary, she’s actually been something of a regular for a couple of years now. Yet I can’t help but feel that, like Chmielinski, there’s still plenty of unrealized potential in the 20-year-old. I’m sure the energetic Austrian midfielder is intent on retaking her spot in the team after getting pushed onto the bench as the 20/21 season progressed.
Predicted League Position: 6th
That concludes part three of this preview series. Part four will be out tomorrow!
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