Our next opponents: Arminia hit their stride

DSC Arminia Bielefeld have settled down after tricky first months at the start of the season. On Saturday 26 February (15.30 CET), the Werkself will again face an opponent at the BayArena who have one of the strongest defences in the Bundesliga.


Arminia Bielefeld had to wait almost three months for their first win of the campaign: a 1-0 victory at home to VfB Stuttgart on matchday 11. And the outlook for the team from East Westphalia was looking pretty dire in the middle of December 2021. Following the 2-0 defeat away to Hertha Berlin on matchday 15, they were six points adrift from the play-off spot and seven behind fifteenth in the table. And today? Bielefeld are currently fourteenth with a three-point lead over FC Augsburg in sixteenth. What happened at Arminia Bielefeld on those two months?

Arminia picked up seven points from the last three matches up to the end of 2021 and the team coached by Frank Kramer have clocked up another eight points in the last five fixtures. The record from the last eight games: four wins, three draws, just one defeat (2-0 at TSG Hoffenheim). The Squirrels – that appears to be the nickname for Bielefeld this term – have gradually improved. They are the Bundesliga kings of draws with ten so far. They have moved up the table point by point. But Arminia have also won some games – and all five up to now without conceding. As last weekend when the Kramer team beat Union Berlin 1-0 at home at the SchücoArena.   


When club legend Fabian Klos announced two weeks ago that he was going to leave Arminia in the summer, the news caused a stir in the otherwise quiet East Westphalia. The Bielefeld record goalscorer has found the back of the net 162 times in 383 games over eleven years at the club. The departure of the 34-year-old centre-forward will bring an era to a end. Klos has not started in any of the last three matches as Frank Kramer has opted for the 23-year-old Janni Serra to lead the attack. But the former skipper still has a very high standing in the team.

The current captain Stefan Ortega Moreno also has that. The 29-year-old goalkeeper has made the third highest number of saves in the Bundesliga (73.4 %) behind Mark Flekken (SC Freiburg) and Manuel Riemann (VfL Bochum). The usual back four are central defenders Amos Pieper and Joakim Nilsson plus full-backs Cédric Brunner and Jacob Laursen. But Kramer also has other decent options in defence in Guilherme Ramos, Andres Andrade and Nathan de Medina. “We are now so settled that we can decide according tactical points or what is required against the different opponents,” said Kramer.

Central midfield is generally occupied by the Greek Sebastian Vasiliadis, the Austrian Alessandro Schöpf and the Bielefeld-born Fabian Kunze. And winter signing Gonzalo Castro has also brought a lot of experience. ‘Gonzo’, brought through the ranks at Bayer 04 and later with 370 appearances for the Werkself, has played for Arminia in all six matches so far this year. The creative maestro of the team and also top goalscorer is the Japanese Masaya Okugawa (8 goals) and he often set up Patrick Wimmer. The Austrian, Bielefeld’s best provider with eight assists so far, laid on Okugawa’s winner in the 1-0 victory against Union Berlin.


As in last weekend’s game at Mainz 05, the Werkself will also face a compact and extremely solid defence against Bielefeld. Arminia have only conceded 29 goals, and that is only three more than the top teams Bayern, Freiburg and Leipzig (26 each). Bielefeld lead the way this season with seven clean sheets.

An expression of their physical approach is the average of 115 challenges made by Arminia per game – that is also a top number in the Bundesliga. Since Frank Kramer took the helm at Bielefeld almost exactly a year ago on 2 March 2021, his team have kept more clean sheets than any other side with 13 in 35 games. The 15 draws since then also significantly represents Kramer’s priorities.


While the East Westphalians have kept it tight at the back, there is often a lack of penetration up front. Arminia have notched up a meagre 22 goals so far this term. Only bottom of the table SpVgg Greuther Fürth have scored less (21). By comparison: Bayer 04 have scored almost three times as many goals this season (60). The Arminia attack is very reliant on the duo of Okugawa/Wimmer who have netted half of all the Bielefeld goals.


The trend favours Arminia Bielefeld. The fact the club was so slow out of the blocks was due to the upheaval in the summer according to sporting director Samir Arabi. “The team needed a bit of time to find their feet. Now you can see how they are developing day by day.” Arminia have been able to gain some ground in the race to avoid relegation with 15 points from the last eight games. And their relatively good goal difference (-7) could be important at the end of the day in comparison with their significantly weaker rivals.

Frank Kramer from Upper Swabia has given the East Westphalians new confidence – “They were hiding their lights under the bushel a bit more than they had to” (Kramer). And Fabian Klos, the departing iconic striker, has promised: “All I want for my farewell is for us all to be able to celebrate staying up in the Bundesliga again on a sunny day in May. I will do all I can to achieve that final joint target and I will wear the DSC shirt with pride.”


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