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2.02.2023Bundesliga

Our next opponents: New players for mission to stay up

FC Augsburg were the 2-1 winners at the BayArena in the Hinrunde when they secured their first victory against Bayer 04 at the 23rd attempt. This Friday night, 3 February (kick-off: 20.30 CET), FCA will be looking for a first ever home win against the Werkself – the team differs almost completely from the start of the season thanks to seven new signings in the winter transfer window. The lowdown on our next opponents…
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Position

They made a frenetic start to the new calendar year in the 4-3 defeat in Dortmund when they showed their ability to take blows as they got back into the game three times after going behind. It was annoying for FC Augsburg that they lost the game but does not take anything away from the impressive overall impression the team left behind. They followed up this performance a few days later with a 1-0 home win against Borussia Mönchengladbach. After eight games in succession without a win, FC Augsburg were once again finally able to pick up three points against the Foals. It was their second win on their home ground this season – the first was in September of last year when they beat Bayern Munich 1-0.

FCA were impressive again last weekend in spite of losing 3-1 at SC Freiburg. "Their play was smart and impressive," said Freiburg coach Christian Streich in praise of the opposition. Mergim Berisha cancelled out the lead for SCF from the penalty spot. But Lucas Höler restored the lead for Freiburg at 2-1 a minute later. Augsburg midfielder Arne Maier said, "Conceding the goal so quickly after our equaliser was the turning point." His coach Enrico Maaßen was annoyed by the defeat but very happy with the performance of his team: "We played well over 90 minutes. The fact we didn't pick up a point is due to us not taking good chances and making too many mistakes with the goals conceded." Looking forward to the game against the Werkself, Maaßen demanded: "Now it's time to produce a committed performance against Leverkusen and win the game. We showed we could do that in the Hinrunde." Quite true. FC Augsburg earned their first win in the Bundesliga against Bayer 04 at the 23rd attempt with a 2-1 win at the BayArena on matchday two. The team currently lie fourteenth in the table are now looking to clock up their first home win against the Werkself on Friday night.

Personnel

FC Augsburg were very busy in the winter break with seven new signings announced in January. Five of them made their debuts in the first game at Borussia Dortmund – and immediately set a record. For the first time in over 30 years four of the debutants at a club were involved in goals in their first outings. Striker Dion Beljo (from NK Osijek) and holding midfielder Arne Engels (from Club Brugge) were in the starting line-up and each provided an assist. Central striker Kelvin Yeboah – the nephew of the former Bundesliga top goalscorer Anthony Yeboah on loan from Genoa – provided the assist with a shot against the post for left-back David Colina (Hajduk Split) to score with a tap-in at 3-3. Only the fifth new player, striker Irvin Cardona (Stade Brest), was not involved in a goal and he was also unlucky as the substitute for the injured Ruben Vargas when he too had to be replaced. "The new signings all made a good impression and that makes us feel very positive," said Enrico Maaßen. And striker Ermedin Demirovic is also impressed by his new teammates. "We strengthened our squad superbly." There are also two talented youngsters in addition to the previously name players.

This week, FCA presented Nathanael Mbuku as the sixth new signing. The technically gifted winger has joined from top-flight French club Stade Reims. Augsburg also achieved a coup on deadline day: Renato Veiga was brought in on loan from Portuguese side Sporting Club on loan with an option to buy. The 19-year-old defensive midfielder is captain of the Portugal U20 team and is considered to be a great talent. A familiar face from Leverkusen brings a wealth of experience: Julian Baumgartlinger joined Augsburg in August 2022 after leaving Bayer 04 but he has only made one brief appearance this term.

The Red, Green and Whites will have to manage without their top scorer this season (six goals): Ermedin Demirovic is suspended after picking up a fifth yellow card. The 24-year-old striker is the only player to have started all 18 games this season. André Hahn is out of action for even longer. The midfielder, scorer of the winner in the 2-1 victory for Augsburg in Leverkusen, has been sidelined for several months due to a knee injury. The loss of Ruben Vargas also weighs heavy. The Switzerland player injured his ankle in the match against BVB and will miss the game against the Werkself. Another key player made his first appearance of the season against Borussia Mönchengladbach after a long injury lay-off: The defensive midfielder Niklas Dorsch is fit again after two metatarsal injuries. No longer in the FCA squad are midfielder Carlos Gruezo, who left the club after three and a half years to join San Jose Earthquakes in the MLS, plus Florian Niederlechner, now playing for Hertha Berlin, and Lukas Petkov (on loan at SpVgg Greuther Fürth).

Performers

Five of the seven winter signings have already been able to show what they can do although none of them have experience of the Bundesliga. "They have fire, desire and good quality," said Enrico Maaßen about the urgently required reinforcements. It remains to be seen if Mbuku and Veiga can get off to a good start like the other new signings. Above all, FCA look set to improve their penetration up front with the new players. The coach now has a lot more options in that section of the team. Maaßen said more depth in the squad was required based on the intense style of play. More possession, more action rather than than reaction have clearly been seen in FC Augsburg’s game recently. Augsburg have applied a lot of pressure in the last three matches. The support – and competition – through Beljo, Cardona, Yeboah, and probably also Mbuku in the future, is good for the two top strikers Demirovic (6 goals/4 assists) and Mergim Berisha (5/4). Maaßen believes "things are more solid, we've moved forward a lot because we've obviously changed personnel."

Problems

There was a clean sheet for the third time this season against Gladbach. But FC Augsburg do not really have a solid defence. Four goals conceded in Dortmund, three in Freiburg: In both games, the Maaßen team made some simple errors that led to goals. Only Werder Bremen, VfL Bochum and bottom-of-the-table Schalke 04 have conceded more goals than Augsburg (33) this term.

Of all Bundesliga teams, FCA have the second most challenges per game but have the league's worst return of successful challenges. An expression of a physical approach are 52 yellow cards – more than any other team. The team from Swabian Bavaria have by far the worst numbers of all clubs in terms of passes and pass completion. Particularly at home at the WWK Arena they often find it difficult to assert themselves. There have only been two home wins so far this season. But the 1-0 win against Borussia Mönchengladbach could mark a positive trend.

Prediction

Enrico Maaßen took over the helm in the summer with the aim of giving the club a new identity. The 38-year-old coach wanted to convey a more attractive style of play to his team. Up to matchday eight it was looking very good for FCA sitting in tenth place after four wins and they were just two points away from a European spot. That was followed by a weaker phase up to the winter break. The club management including sporting managing director Stefan Reuter have ensured a revamp and improved quality in the squad with the signing of seven players in January and despite losing certain players. FCA appear to be in good shape in terms of personnel for the mission to stay up.

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