Eintracht Frankfurt is back to winning ways ahead of a crucial Champions League game against Serie A leaders Napoli. On Saturday, Frankfurt beat Werder Bremen 2-0 in the Topspiel 2-0 thanks to an own goal by Marco Friedl (8′) and star striker Randal Kolo Muani (52′). It was an important win after Frankfurt lost against Cologne last week (3-0).
The game further emphasized Eintracht’s home strength. Frankfurt have now won their last five home games, scoring 16 goals in the process. Not surprisingly, there was hope and anticipation when Napoli visited on Tuesday.
“I am very happy with our performance,” Frankfurt head coach Oliver Glasner said after the game. “A lot of credit to my team for how alert and disciplined they were today. Every win helps us and gives us confidence.”
Goalkeeper Kevin Trapp stressed the importance of getting the better of Werder ahead of Napoli. “It was a great win,” Trapp said. “We controlled the game from the first minute to the last and scored a nice goal. Bremen never really threatened, which is a testament to our game. That should give us a lot of confidence. We wanted a boost of confidence today for Tuesday, which will be a very different game. We have a tough task coming our way – we are ready.”
It was indeed a dominant performance. Labeled as the duel of Bundesliga super-attackers Kolo Muani (10 goals and 12 assists) and Werder’s Niclas Füllkrug (13 goals and 3 assists), visiting Bremen never seemed to enter the game, and Frankfurt would finish the game with an xG of 2.07 to 0.24 – reflecting the actual result on the field.
The game against Werder highlighted what Frankfurt have become a problematic side to play against. The Eagles outscored their opponents, collecting 127.4 kilometers, 7.4 kilometers more than their opponents Werder. Four of the five players with the most kilometers covered during the match were Frankfurt players, with Daichi Kamada leading the field with 12.9 kilometers covered during the full 90 minutes.
Speaking of kilometers covered, Frankfurt’s most important player is still Mario Götze. Playing mainly in the no.8 role, the German national team player is in the form of his life and leads all Bundesliga players with 238.6 kilometers run this season.
In other words, Frankfurt is at its best when it can beat its opponents and do so by happily giving away possession. Werder dominated the game with 53% possession and completed 82% of their 602 passes. In comparison, Frankfurt played just 479 passes, completing 81%.
Instead of relying on possession, Frankfurt tries to keep its opponents on the ball in non-dangerous areas, quickly switching to the attack when the ball is won. Then the likes of Götze and Kamada release fast players like Ansgar Knauff or the newly signed Philipp Max.
Max had a great game against Werder, and the former PSV Eindhoven winger could fill the void left by Filip Kostić, who joined Juventus last summer. “In Philipp Max, we’ve got an extra footer on the left,” Glasner said after the game. “He showed what he is capable of, but Ansgar also did very well on the other side.”
Knauff was also pleased with the performance against Werder and admitted that it was important for the club to add a quality player like Max in the winter. “We have a high level of quality in training, and in the squad, everyone is in perfect form, so everyone has to be at 100% to get into the team, which encourages working even harder,” said Knauff.
That extra depth is necessary because Frankfurt’s high-speed game comes with a price of sorts. The Eagles have shown over the past few years that it is difficult to go deep in more than one competition, with the club abandoning the Bundesliga at one point last year to focus on the Europa League, which they eventually won.
At one point, the club may have to make a similar decision this year. Champions League football will be key to keeping the squad together next season, and Frankfurt could soon shift their full focus to the Bundesliga.
That doesn’t mean Napoli will be given a free pass at Deutsche Bank Park on Tuesday. However, the Italians are the favorites in their current form, which Frankfurt will be delighted with as it would probably favor their style of play.
Manuel Veth is the host of the Bundesliga Gegenpressing podcast and the USA Area Manager at Translation mark. He has also been published in the Guardian, Newsweek, Howler, Pro Soccer USA, and many other outlets. Follow him on Twitter: @ManuelVeth