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Bundesliga Return: Werder Bremen's Unbelievable Season so Far

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Werder Bremen facing relegation for only the second time

Werder Bremen are one of the most widely recognised German football clubs and are one of the most successful in German football history. Bremen have spent more time in the Bundesliga than any other club, only missing one season since its inception in 1964. That calculates to 56 seasons in the top-flight, with their sole relegation coming in 1981.

In truth, the club haven’t had the greatest decade since coming third in the Bundesliga back in 2010, but Bremen have never looked close to relegation. What makes this even more outrageous is how Die Werderaner finished just a point away from Europa League qualification last year, which was promising.

Their form from the 2018/19 campaign stopped right then and there. Now, in what is arguably the story of the season so far, the club sees themselves fighting to remain in the Bundesliga and look doomed for the second-tier.

There have been some moments of optimism for North German club this year, but overall, the campaign has been an utter disaster. Bremen do have a game in hand but even winning that would leave them five points from guaranteed safety with eight more games to go after.

It looks like it will be a difficult run-in for Bremen, but here we will look at everything that’s happened up until now, pinpointing what got them into this mess. 

Problems before a ball was even kicked

The departure of their captain and experienced talisman Max Kruse was a big loss for Bremen. The former German international had a direct hand in 20 league goals last season and played a big part in the club’s push for European football. However, with his contract coming to an end and with no extension signed he moved to Fenerbahçe on a free.

Bremen kept transfer activity to a minimum last summer. The loan signing of Omer Toprak from Borussia Dortmund showed their intent on a push for European football, although that was about it. Former Bremen youngster, Niclas Fullkrug, signed to replace Kruse but that was an accident waiting to happen.

Coming from the relegated Hannover meant that Fullkrug hadn’t enjoyed the most fruitful of seasons with just two goals in 14 appearances, whilst he has missed the second half of the season through injury.

Taking Leandro Bittencourt on loan from Hoffenheim was the final bit of business in what was, on the whole, a quiet summer transfer window for Bremen. The previous season was a good one and so it does make sense that there were no wholesale changes. However, losing their talisman and captain should have inspired something a lot better than picking up an injured striker from a relegated club.

Granted, impressive young striker Josh Sargent was promoted into the first team from the under 23s for his first senior season, but as a team aiming for European places, relying on these two strikers after losing Kruse was a risky move.

Scoring goals in the Bundesliga is no easy feat, and failure to properly replace Kruse meant that Bremen faced an uphill struggle before a ball had even been kicked. 

Barely any goals at one end, a ton at the other

Whilst their summer transfer window may not have been the best, Bremen were a side who were so close to Europa League qualification last year. The team was, by and large, the same as it was last season, other Kruse's departure.

Bremen have clearly missed his goals, a mere 27 scored is a joint-league low with Fortuna Dusseldorf. 31 goals would be needed in their remaining ten games to match last season’s effort and, given their recent form, getting anywhere close looks an impossible task.

Despite Bremen’s goalscoring issues, however, it is at the other end of the pitch where they have really had problems; 55 goals conceded represents an unwanted league high. Bremen only conceded 49 times in the entirety of last season but with the defensive personnel no different from last year, why has there been such a change?

The team has felt disjointed for most of the season, nowhere near the unit from just a year earlier. Regular changes to the side have led to players looking distant from each other. And, in truth, where there was confidence last season, there is now uncertainty. The midfielders haven’t looked confident asking for the ball and any proud style of play has been replaced with nervousness. 

The weight of expectation may have a part to play and Bremen now have the worst home record in the league, with just one win from 11 games in front of their own supporters.

Injury curse

Injuries have arguably been the biggest issue, as Bremen have had to endure an unusually high number of absences this year.

Two of the players who were brought in to continue last season’s push for European football have spent most of the season watching on from the stands. Fullkrug, perhaps not surprisingly, was halted by a reoccurring knee issue just four games into the season but perhaps even more damning for Bremen, has been Omer Toprak’s injury issues. 

The Turkish centre-back, with over 200 Bundesliga appearances to his name, was brought in to apply his experience and tighten up Bremen’s defence. However, just 17 minutes into his second league game for his new side, Toprak suffered an injury keeping him out until late October; two games later he got injured again and didn’t feature until the new year.

Toprak’s injury troubles are partly to blame for Bremen’s defensive woes, but it has been the smaller injuries throughout the team halting any sort of consistency. Constant changes due to injury has meant that any run of form has been tough to come by.

Can they survive?

Good days have been hard to come by for Bremen fans this year. Just four wins from 24 games is a dismal return for any side, nevermind for such a giant of the German game.

The club now truly are in disarray ahead of this Bundesliga return. After just one relegation in their Bundesliga history and boasting the record for most seasons in this division, everything is falling apart for Bremen.

The club are eight clear from safety, with newly-promoted SC Paderborn the only club obstructing them from being rooted to the bottom. Indeed, the club do have a game in hand over the likes of Mainz above them, but even a victory then brings them five points adrift.

As of now, it does look as if Bremen are facing one of the most shocking relegations in German history. And, in truth, it has been quite a trend recently. Hannover 96 and Stuttgart have both been sent crashing into 2. Bundesliga, whilst in 2018, European football was stunned when giants Hamburg were relegated for the first time ever.

Now, Bremen look set to top even that. After 39 consecutive years in the Bundesliga and spending 56 out of the 57 years in the top-flight since its inaugural year in 1963, this German powerhouse is in dire straits.

It's arguably the story of the season so far in Germany, and Bremen already have one foot in 2. Bundesliga. Their only hope now is if the suspension has affected those around them.

By Jak Richardson