"The overall position is critical," declared Stefan Reuter. The sporting managing director at Augsburg has seen his club’s former comfortable position disappear in recent weeks. Before Christmas, Augsburg were in ninth place with a nine-point advantage over the play-off spot. After losing 2-1 at RB Leipzig last week, that gap is now only four points. It was the third successive defeat for FCA. However: The opponents in those games were Borussia Dortmund, VfL Wolfsburg and RB Leipzig – and the Bavarian Swabians were able to compete during certain periods. "What should give us courage is the end of the game," said Reuter after FCA almost succeeded in taking a point from the second-placed team from Leipzig in the final quarter of an hour. In the weeks before, Augsburg were on level terms in Dortmund for a long time and even against FC Bayern they sensed the chance of a point, which went begging due to a missed penalty. Augsburg have yet to play a team from the bottom half of the table in the second half of the season. So, the situation could soon improve.
Heiko Herrlich was keen to vary his formation during his time as the Werkself coach from July 2017 to December 2018. The predecessor of Peter Bosz now plays with a back four or sometimes a back three at Augsburg. In the home game against Wolfsburg, Herrlich played a classic 4-2-3-1 line-up and, in Leipzig, he opted for a more defensive 3-4-2-1 formation that changed to 5-4-1 when not in possession. Regardless of the particular formation, the only winter signing for Augsburg already has a regular slot in the team: László Bénes joined on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach and he is expected to ensure more creativity in FCA's game. The Hungarian started in both league games since his arrival at Augsburg.
At the centre of the attack, Herrlich has opted for an unorthodox solution in the shape of André Hahn – partly because striker Alfred Finnbogason is again sidelined. The Icelander is struggling with a calf injury and will probably not be an option for the game against the Werkself. Definitely ruled out is the usual left-back Iago who had to undergo an operation on his ankle. But his replacement, Mads Pedersen, has recently produced some decent performances and now counts as one of the most impressive players at FCA. The other full-back position could also be changed as Raphael Framberger is set to return. The home-grown defender has not played a single game in 2021 due to a muscle problem but he was back in the squad for the Leipzig game. The first choice right-back at FCA is about to take the next step and he could replace Robert Gumny.
Augsburg have a very well organised defence. Behind the two ball-winning holding midfielders Tobias Strobl and Carlos Gryezo, the central defence and the goalkeeper are doing an excellent job. Captain Jeffrey Gouweleeuw is the disciplined organiser, the recently sidelined Felix Uduokhai was called up to the national team in the autumn with his ability to win the ball in the air on the ground, and the keeper Rafal Gikiewicz, who arrived from Berlin in the summer, has not only strengthened FCA as a leader but he has already won a number of important points for his team with his reflex saves. The Augsburg defence is particularly strong in the air. FCA have only conceded four goals from headers and only one from corners. Only one of the team in the league has a better record: Bayer 04.
Loanee Bénes is supposed to solve a problem that has plagued the Bundesliga side all season. FCA do provide threat through their quick wingers but they have lacked a playmaker in midfield – and thereby another dimension to the attacking game that is still proving difficult even after Bénes's arrival. At Leipzig, FCA pulled a goal back some 15 minutes from the end of the game – it was the first chance on goal for Augsburg. Only Armenia Bielefeld have had fewer shots on goal in the league. And: As strong as Herrlich's team is defensively at corners, there is need for improvement up front. They have not scored a single goal from a corner so far this term.
After this game for Augsburg against a team from the top third of the table in the Werkself, the fixture list appears to offer easier matches for the Bavarian Swabians. Then Herrlich's team should be able to clock up the necessary points to stay up. That would be the next milestone in the club's history: FCA will have been in the Bundesliga for ten years in succession in the summer of 2021.
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For the 17th time, Bayer 04 Sportförderung gGmbH has awarded the Volunteers Award for outstanding commitment to football in Leverkusen and the surrounding region. The three outstanding clubs in 2023 are BSV Roleber 1919, TuS 05 Oberpleis and SV 1924 Glehn. They will each receive prize money of €5,000.Show more