Werder Bremen 2020/21 season preview: Can the Green-Whites survive more comfortably this time around?
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Werder Bremen, all things considered, should not be a Bundesliga team right now.

They were absolutely tragic at times last season, and really should have gotten relegated as a result of their performances. The Green-Whites went into the final day in the bottom two, but only crawled out after they somehow smashed FC Koln 6-1 and Fortuna Dusseldorf lost to Union Berlin.

That put Bremen in the relegation-playoff, where they barely sneaked past FC Heidenheim on away goals after tying 2-2 on aggregate. Far from convincing over the course of the two legs, the Green-Whites greatly benefited from the opposition giving away an early own goal, which was the most crucial moment of the matchup.

Despite all that, Bremen will expect this campaign to go much more smoothly. A club of their size shouldn’t be anywhere near the bottom three, and they know that. They’ll look to return to the top half of the league standings, with a midtable finish serving as a realistic expectation. However, that ego has cost them before, so don’t be surprised if the Green-Whites are fighting for survival once again.

Pre-season recap

The good news is that Bremen’s preseason preparations have been perfect.

They’ve played seven games, and they’ve won all of them. The scorelines have all been stellar as well, as the Green-Whites have scored 24 goals in that stretch while only conceding three.

Bremen began by beating 2. Bundesliga side Eintracht Braunschweig before then defeating LASK, who made the Europa League round of 16 this year. The most important result came midway through the run, as the Green-Whites smashed FC Groningen 4-0, with all of the goals coming in the first half. It was a ruthless attacking performance against decent Dutch opposition, which should give fans hope that the team will be much improved going forward.

Plenty of teams in the past have looked strong in preseason before falling apart when the games started to matter, of course, so Bremen knows there’s plenty of work left to be done. However, these wins will improve the confidence of the players, which should help the club start the campaign on the right foot.

Transfer business

This article was published on September 11th, and considering how fast things happen in football, a lot could change by the time the season starts. With that in mind, the Green-Whites have had a relatively quiet summer on the transfer front.

In terms of arrivals, the most marquee acquisition has been Tahith Chong, even if he’s only come in on loan. The Manchester United man will spend the upcoming season with Bremen, where he’ll be under pressure to prove he’s good enough to play at the highest level.

The 20-year-old was a star in the youth leagues and quickly became one of the hottest prospects in all of Europe. However, he’s suffered since becoming a professional, barely getting any minutes with the Red Devils the last few years.

That’s why this move benefits both him and Bremen. Chong will get to play more, while Bremen have gained a new attacking threat. They didn’t score many goals last season, with their lack of wide support being a big reason why. With the Dutchman now on board, they’ll have someone who can get the ball on the wing and attack opposing players, using his pace and dribbling ability to open up space for himself and others.

If all goes well, the Green-Whites could even buy him outright at the end of the campaign.

Bremen have only made one other signing, and even though he’s not as well known as Chong, that doesn’t mean he won’t be as impactful. The player in question is Patrick Erras, who joins the club from second division side Nurnberg on a free transfer.

Able to play both as a center back and as a defensive midfielder, Erras will give the Green-Whites crucial defensive depth. Standing tall at 6’5”, he’ll be a physical presence on the field, able to win headers and hold off opponents on the ball. The German isn’t bad going forward either, able to hit a long pass while serving as a constant threat on set pieces.

In terms of departures, Bremen haven’t sold anyone just yet, but they’ve had a number of older players leave the club at the end of their contracts.

Nuri Sahin, Fin Bartels, Sebastian Langkamp, and Philipp Bargfrede have all gone since the end of last season. None of them got too much playing time, but each served a purpose at times over the course of the campaign, so their absences will likely be felt eventually. The Green-Whites have also lost the services of club icon Claudio Pizarro, who retired during the offseason.

Lastly, the defensive pairing of Michael Lang and Kevin Vogt are no longer with Bremen, as their loan deals were not made permanent following the end of the campaign.

There is a transfer saga surrounding star man Milot Rashica. It’s clear he wants to leave, and the Green-Whites seem willing to let him go for a fair price. However, no one in Europe has expressed genuine interest in the player. Aston Villa, AC Milan, and RB Leipzig have been rumored to be after Rashica, but a proper bid still hasn’t come in. There’s still time, of course, but Bremen might be able to keep their best player after all.

Key player

If Rashica stays, then he’ll certainly be the most important player on the team. If he does go like everyone expects, then the pressure of carrying the club will fall on the shoulders of Davy Klaassen.

Formerly of Ajax and Everton, Klaassen has been a key part of the Bremen midfield ever since joining the club in 2018. A proper box-to-box player, the Dutchman gets things done on both sides of the ball. He can drop back and support the defense if the Green-Whites are trying to hold on to a lead late on, able to intercept passes or slide in and win the ball with a lunging tackle. He can also surge forward when need be, with his late runs into the penalty area making him a reliable goalscoring option from deep.

His influence goes beyond the stat sheet as well. A true leader on the pitch, Klaassen organizes everyone and helps them get better. With Niklas Moisander likely to be benched this season, Klaassen will often be given the captains armband for most games, which is a responsibility he’ll be more than ready to handle.

Anything Bremen does this season will go through Klaassen, so he’ll have to be at his best if the team wants to finish in the top half of the table instead of the bottom half.

Breakthrough talent

This season might be Johannes Eggestein’s last chance to prove himself at the Wohninvest Weserstadion.

An absolute star during his time with the youth teams, Eggestein was simply scoring goals for fun as a youngster, even grabbing a handful with the Germany U17’s. That led to an eventual call-up, but he’s been unable to carry that form with him as a first team player.

Eggestein hit rock bottom last year, only grabbing one goal over the course of the campaign as his playing time was severely limited. He featured in the Green-Whites’ first game back from the coronavirus pandemic, but was then kept on the sidelines for their last 11 matches of the season. The forward just couldn’t be trusted under the pressure, despite how poor everyone else in the attack had been.

Thankfully, Eggestein has done well during the Bremen’s preseason campaign, scoring three goals in seven games. He might not start, but he’ll certainly be turned to off the bench. If Eggestein can find the back of the net early on and regain some confidence, then there’s a chance he can become a crucial part of the team this season.

If he doesn’t, then the Green-Whites might have to move on from their academy product.

Key dates

Bremen officially start their season on September 12th, as they’ll take on Carl Zeiss Jena in the first round of the DFB Pokal. Their Bundesliga campaign begins the following weekend, with the Green-Whites set to host Hertha Berlin at the Weserstadion.

Games against league powerhouse Bayern Munich are always very interesting, and Bremen will play them on November 21st and March 13th. Fans will hope the Green-Whites can keep it close, but there’s always the chance they get blown out considering how good the Bavarians are nowadays.

Since Bremen don’t have any European obligations, the only other really important date is May 22nd, where the Green-Whites will host Borussia Monchengladbach to end the year.

Writer’s verdict

It’s impossible to predict how this season will go for Bremen.

There’s a chance that everything clicks and the team makes a push for a Europa League qualifying spot. They’ve certainly got enough talent to pull it off, so if they can pick up some wins early then they’ll be a very dangerous team for the rest of the Bundesliga campaign.

However, it’s just as likely that the Green-Whites fall apart once again, and are forced to fight for survival for the second straight year. They’ve still got issues at the back, and if they can’t score going forward, then they’ll be in big trouble.

There’s also the very boring possibility where Bremen end up being just another average midtable side.

That unpredictability may be bad for the hearts of supporters, but it’ll certainly make the Green-Whites a team to watch out for this season.