Things were looking so promising for Werder Bremen.
They had rebounded very well from an ugly defeat on opening day, going on an unbeaten run that spanned seven games and included two impressive victories. Their most recent result was by far their best, though, as the Green-Whites were able to get a 1-1 draw on the road against reigning German and European champions Bayern Munich.
However, things have gone quite poorly ever since. Bremen have lost two straight, falling 5-3 to Wolfsburg and 2-0 to Stuttgart. As a result, they find themselves in 13th, only four points off the relegation-playoff spot. Things aren’t going to get any easier, as Werder travels to RB Leipzig this weekend before hosting Borussia Dortmund a few days later.
With all that in mind, there’s reason for fans to worry that the club might find themselves in trouble once again.
Bremen’s performance against Stuttgart was borderline insulting and was certainly their worst of the season.
The strangest thing is they actually started the contest on the front foot. Werder were passing and moving the ball around very well, playing with more confidence than usual. They were able to carve out a solid chance during that time as well, but just couldn’t finish it off. That would cost them, as things went bad immediately after.
In the blink of an eye, Bremen looked completely lost going forward. Players were unable to make the simplest of passes and could only run straight into opposition defenders whenever trying to dribble past them. The few shot attempts they had either went miles off target or straight to the goalkeeper.
Even when Stuttgart sat back and gave up all possession, Werder just couldn’t do anything with it. The one goal they managed to score was a consolation one that came in the final minutes while the result had already been decided.
Now, it is important to remember Bremen’s two main attacking threats are both out with injury. Top scorer Niclas Fullkrug won’t be back for a few more weeks, while star man Milot Rashica has been sidelined until late January.
However, those absences show just how weak the team’s depth is in the final third. Josh Sargent has been good this season, but he still isn't a natural goalscorer and needs support to maximize his potential. Davie Selke is a decent aerial threat, but he might just be the slowest player in any of the top five leagues.
Yuya Osako isn’t really good at anything, while Manchester United loanee Tahith Chong hasn’t gotten used to life at the highest level just yet. The most disappointing attacker has been Leonardo Bittencourt, though. He has so much ability and experience, but he just constantly disappears during games.
The tactics from manager Florian Kohfeldt haven’t helped. His focus is on staying solid defensively, which is fair considering how many goals his side conceded last season. However, that means the Green-Whites just don’t have enough numbers going forward, as midfielder Maximilian Eggestein is the only one making late runs into the area.
Bremen aren’t going to be back to full strength anytime soon, so they’ve got to make the most of what they have now. The concerning thing is they don’t have much to work with, so scoring goals will continue to be a struggle.
A return to normalcy
There would be less reason to worry about the attack if the team were better defensively.
It seemed like they had improved this campaign after opening day disappointment, not giving up more than one goal in a game for more than two months.
However, those same issues that haunted the team last season have reared their ugly head once again.
The Green-Whites are giving opposing players way too much space in important areas, whether it be on the wing or in the penalty box. That leads to crosses being whipped in under no pressure and strikers being left unmarked only a few yards out from goal. The centerbacks in the team aren’t that good in the air either, so all those factors result in them conceding way too many headed goals.
Bremen are also making simple mistakes again. The penalty they gave up against Stuttgart was a weak one, sure, but it was still the result of a foolish challenge from Tahith Chong. The goal sealed the result at the end was especially ugly, as a miscommunication from defender Omer Toprak and goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka allowed the opposing forward to steal the ball and eventually hit it into an empty need.
Moments like that kill the confidence of a team, and only lead to more and more errors, continuing a vicious cycle. It’s not like the manager can just add additional bodies back there either, as the Green-Whites are already playing a very defensive lineup as is.
It’s up to the players to take responsibility and improve. They’ve got two incredibly tough tests ahead of them, as they go against 3rd place RB Leipzig and 4th place Borussia Dortmund in consecutive games. Those are two of the most threatening attacks in all of Europe, and if Bremen don’t get their problems sorted soon, they risk getting embarrassed.
What the future holds
Assuming those games go how everyone expects them to go, Werder will have lost four straight and will likely find themselves near the bottom three. They’ll be in dreadful form, and their manager will be back on the hot seat.
That’s when we’ll see the true colors of this Bremen team. Can they recover and go back to being the solid and efficient side that got results earlier in the campaign, or will they fall apart like last season's outfit?
Only time will tell, but until then, supporters should start preparing for another relegation scrap.