The start of the season has not gone to plan for Augsburg. FCA lost out to Regional League side SC Verl in the first round of the DFB Cup and a week later they suffered a 5-1 thrashing at Borussia Dortmund in spite of taking the lead after 31 seconds. The international break at the start of the month appears to have done Augsburg good: The team coached by Martin Schmidt (pictured above) clocked up the first win of the season against Europa League participants Eintracht Frankfurt, and last weekend Augsburg secured a 1-1 draw against in-form SC Freiburg. With five points from five games, the Bavarian team are mid-table – a position the management at the club would be thoroughly satisfied with at the end of the season as that would mean the tenth season in succession in Germany's top flight. However, the next few weeks could prove to be a challenge for FCA. After the game against the Werkself, Augsburg play Borussia Mönchengladbach, Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg and Schalke 04.
After the FCA defence was taken part by a rampant Dortmund side on matchday one, the top management led by CEO Stefan Reuter reacted by bringing in three players for the back four by the end of the transfer window. In addition to U21 international Felix Uduokhai (on loan from Wolfsburg) and the Switzerland international with 105 caps, Stephan Lichtsteiner (last at Arsenal), versatile defender Tin Jedvaj also arrived from Bayer 04. The Croatia World Cup runner-up was not a first choice at the Werkself. The 23-year-old has joined Augsburg on a one-year loan from Leverkusen to gain match practice. That appears to have paid off: Since Jedvaj arrived at Augsburg, he's played the full 90 minutes in every game. After teething troubles against Union Berlin and Werder Bremen, the 23-year-old has settled in – and has brought stability to the FCA defence. That should gradually mean the end to the weak point at the start of the season. Augsburg have top players in attack – and new signings are having a whale of a time: Ruben Vargas and Florian Niederlechner have scored six of Augsburg's seven goals this season. Niederlechner has been involved five out of the seven goals with the 28-year-old providing a lifeline for FCA in the early part of the season. Across the Bundesliga, only Bayern striker Robert Lewandowski plus the two Dortmund players Jadon Sancho and Paco Alcacer have more goals and assists.
The reason for bringing in new defenders, including Jedvaj, is due to a personnel issue: the injury to Jeffrey Gouweleeuw. The Dutchman has proved indispensable in leading the FCA defence over the past two years and this year he has not played a single game due to a persistent groin problem. Gouweleeuw has now returned to training but he is probably not an option the game against Bayer 04. And even with the introduction of extensive international experience with Jedvaj and Lichtsteiner filling some big gaps: The required stability in the Augsburg defence will probably only return when the main man in the back four is back on the pitch.
It would be a true milestone: If they succeed in staying up then that would bring the tenth season in Germany's top flight for Augsburg. A whole decade where FCA have been in relegation battles nearly every season but have ended up ahead of teams with much better finances. FCA can look back to that achievement with pride – and that has been evident in their transfer activity over the summer: The fact a World Cup runner-up like Jedvaj, a seven-time champion of Italy like Lichtsteiner or a Czech Republic goalkeeper like Tomas Koubek are playing for Augsburg, while domestic and internationally targets like Philipp Max, Michael Gregoritsch and Marco Richter have been retained, demonstrates that Augsburg has become an attractive proposition for pros in the Bundesliga.
The team have been prepared for another relegation battle from the start of the campaign. The last two matches have not only raised FCA from the bottom end of the table but also helped them believe they can avoid returning there. The attack has sufficient penetration to score a goal against any opponent. If, as expected, the defence becomes more solid with the return of key player Gouweleeuw then nothing should stand in the way of the tenth season in the Bundesliga for Augsburg.
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