2014 Bundesliga Team Preview: FC Augsburg Can Continue Meteoric Rise
When the 2012-13 Bundesliga season ended, FC Augsburg were two points clear of the relegation zone. Manager Markus Weinzierl took over just before that season began, but he was given a chance to turn it around last year. He did just that as Augsburg finished just a point back of a Europa League playoff spot. They have only been in the top flight since 2011 but have become a tough matchup for everyone in the top tier. Weinzierl has his team heading in the right direction, and players buying in could help continue the rise up the table.
It remained a surprise all season that Augsburg were in the top half fighting to be in the first seven in the table. Die Fuggerstädter were in the hunt for European play until the last day of the season. They were undefeated in eight straight away games from November to March. From Nov. 3 to Mar. 22, they dropped only 14 of a possible 48 points. Augsburg were the first Bundesliga team to beat Bayern Munich in over 18 months. They won their final three games.
Andre Hahn was their best player and the most improved player in the Bundesliga. He scored 12 goals and provided eight assists. However, he has transferred to Borussia Mönchengladbach for the new season. Hahn was part of a midfield that scored 68 percent of Augsburg’s goals last season.
A rigid defense is what Weinzierl has built his team around, so there were not many changes in the offseason on the back line. 20-year-old center back Tim Rieder was brought in from the youth system to provide depth. Ragnar Klavan and Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker played as the center back partnership for much of last season. Center back is a position of great depth for Augsburg.
Captain Paul Verhaegh will hold down the right back position. Matthias Ostrzolek was solid on both sides of the ball at left back. Goalkeeper Marwin Hitz was on the bench for eight of the first ten matches after coming to Augsburg last season. After battling an injury he would start 20 matches, including the last nine games.
The loss of Hahn and Kevin Vogt will require some juggling from Weinzierl. Daniel Baier will remain in a defensive role to help anchor the midfield as they deal with the changes. Baier’s defensive midfield partner could change throughout the season with 18-year-old Marco Schuster as a possible partner.
Tobias Werner will be on the left side, and he added nine goals last season. Hahn’s replacement on the other side will likely be a newcomer. This is where potential USMNT prospect Shawn Parker could come into play. Parker requested a move from Mainz with Augsburg as his top choice.
The forwards did not account for many goals last season, so many of the additions have been attacking players. Along with Parker, Augsburg have added Caiuby and Nikola Djurdjic from Bundesliga 2 sides along with Tim Matavz from PSV. Sascha Mölders was the top choice at forward last season but only added two goals over 23 appearances.
In his return to the Bundesliga last season, Halil Altintop added ten goals from the attacking midfield spot. The Turkish midfielder/striker had a 20-goal season with Kaiserslautern in 2005-06.
Augsburg have shown in the preseason that defense is still the key to success for them. They have been in capable hands with Weinzierl who has not exaggerated expectations. Players will need to continue performing at a high level, but the game plan remains the same. They have replaced Hahn and others with similar players to not take a step back and continue to build a solid foundation in the Bundesliga.
Augsburg’s first five games are difficult but will not make or break the season. One game at a time will be less of a cliche and more of an accurate mindset for Augsburg.
2014-15 Record: 15-8-11, 53 points, Sixth Place