2. Bundesliga 20/21: The Team-Check – Part 1

And so it starts again. Germany’s second division will start on the 17th of September. For us, that’s the time to look a little bit closer on to the other teams and to shed a tiny forecast (if that’s possible at all – due to the transfer window only closing in October this year). The  MillernTon will do so with a series of five articles which will be published step by step during the next couple of days. We’ll start with two teams relegated from the first division and two clubs which almost got promoted last season.
(Cover picture by Stefan Groenveld)

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Signings:
Jakub Piotrowski (CM, 22, KRC Genk), Florian Hartherz (LWB, 27, Arminia Bielefeld), Dennis-Adam Gorka (G, 18, own U19), Nikell Touglo (CD, 18, own U19), Shinta Appelkamp (RW, 19, own U23), Gökhan Gül (DM, 21, SV Wehen Wiesbaden (end of loan)), Emmanuel Iyoha (MS, 22, Holstein Kiel (end of loan)), Kevin Danso (CD, 21, FC Augsburg (on loan)), Brandon Borrello (RW, 25, SC Freiburg (loan)), Edgar Prib (CM, 30, Hannover 96)
Departures:
Kaan Ayhan (CD, 25, US Sassulo), Diego Contento (LWB, 30, SV Sandhausen), Niko Gießelmann (LWB, 28, Union Berlin), Robin Bormuth (CD, 24, Karlsruher SC), Markus Suttner (LWB, 33, Austria Wien), Michael Rensing (G, 36, without club), Kevin Stöger (AM, 26, without club), Oliver Fink (CM, 38, own U23), Tim Wiesner (G, 23, own U23), Aymen Barkok (AM, 22, Eintracht Frankfurt (end of loan)), Zack Steffen (G, 25, Manchester City (end of loan)), Erik Thommy(LM, 25, VfB Stuttgart (end of loan)), Kasim Adams (CD, 25, TSG Hoffenheim (end of loan)), Steven Skrzybski (RW, 27, FC Schalke 04 (end of loan)), Valon Berisha (CM, 27, Lazio Rom (end of loan)), Zanka (CD, 30, Fenerbahce (end of loan)), Davor Lovren (LW, 21, own U23), Jannik Theißen (G, 22, own U23), Johannes Bühler (DM, 23, own U23), 

Past
Four goals and two points. From a sober perspective, that’s all what Fortuna Düsseldorf wasted on the last matchday of the previous season. That was exactly the lead they had compared to the 17th of the league’s table which had to be kept to avoid being relegated to the second division through playing the play-offs.
But as the Fortuna is now mentioned in this article you can all guess the end of the story if you’re not familiar anyway: On the last matchday of the season, Werder Bremen secured a -believe it or not – 6-1 win against Cologne while the Fortuna appeared to play paralysed and lost 0-3 at Union Berlin.
On the final matchday, Fortuna Düsseldorf thus gambled away the chance of a positive end to a season that had been difficult from the start.. Some claim that the relegation was already sealed on the 34th day of the 18/19 season: Due to the cruciate ligament rupture of Kevin Stöger and the last game of Benito Raman (who then had a very unhappy year at Schalke) Fortuna lost all of its offensive power with the exception of Rouwen Hennings.
Fortuna Düsseldorf relegated with the weakest offensive in the league (only 36 goals). So it didn’t even help  to dismiss the extremely popular Friedhelm Funkel after two defeats at the start after the winter break (tantamount to falling to 18th place) and to put Uwe Rösler on the side-lines as new coach. Through six games without defeat, the relegation rank could first be won and then held At the end of the season, however, six winless games followed in series. After two years in the first division, Fortuna now has to play in the 2nd Bundesliga again.

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Present
When up and down the country there were discussions about how hard the corona crisis would hit German football, Fortuna was one of the clubs first to be mentioned by name when it came to possible insolvencies (although club managers claimed the opposite). Fortunately, it didn’t happen this way.
Nevertheless, the relegation of Fortuna Düsseldorf has changed a lot with regards to their squad and their financial plan: The budget naturally had to be shrunk massively  (and since the linked estimate was made before Corona, a considerable sum must surely still be deducted from it).. Also because of this, many players, with whom a back-to-back promotion would be much more likely, could not be kept. On the contrary: With Kaan Ayhan, Kevin Stöger and NikoGießelmannthe club has lost important pillars. Further pillars were mostly those on loan, for example, Erik Thommy or Zack Steffen.
The preparation of Fortuna Düsseldorf must then also be described as “mediocre”. Because two players were tested positive for Corona virus, it hit the two highly talented players Kownacki and Ampomah, which led to the cancellation of a test match and the temporary quarantine of the whole team..
With Florian Hartherz and the loan of Kevin Danso the club reacted to the departures in their defensive. Jakub Piotrowski is to play an important role in the centre, as well as the experienced Edgar Prib, who came from Hannover. Further ahead, Emmanuel Iyoha is likely to go to goal hunting in future. After a loan to Kiel (9 goals) and the season before to Aue (3 goals, 7 assists) he now returns to his real employer, with a lot of second division experience in his luggage. The same is true for returnee Gökhan Gül (defensive midfield), who last season sat on the bench at SV Wehen Wiesbaden a lot. On top of this, with Brandon Borrello Fortuna has strengthened its position on the outer flank. A player who already played extraordinarily well in the 2nd division three years ago, but at that time still played for the 1st FC Kaiserslautern.
Responsible for management and planning of the squad for many years is Uwe Klein, who additionally replaced Lutz Pfannenstiel as Sports Director in June (Pfannenstiel left for “private reasons” and is now with Saint Louis City FC active).

Meet again this season: Kevin Lankford in duel with Florian Hartherz, who moved from Bielefeld to Düsseldorf.
(c) Peter Boehmer

Future
Phew, a back-to-back promotion might turn out difficult for Fortuna Düsseldorf. It’s not really an Uber-squad. Cologne, HSV and Stuttgart seemed more powerful in recent years (which, as is well known, does not mean that a promotion is a sure bet).
The work of coach Uwe Rösler, who could not avoid relegation in his first half year and also could not really give the team a new style of play, might be decisive. Looking at the rising stars of the last few years, it quickly becomes clear that you either need an Uber-squad (Stuttgart, Cologne) or you must have developed a style over the years (Paderborn, Bielefeld, Union, Heidenheim). A good squad, which did not really grow, just take Nuremberg and Hanover as examples, isn’t enough though. If you take this as a benchmark, Fortuna Düsseldorf will probably have a long way to go back to the top this season.

SC Paderborn

Signings:
Pascal Steinwender (RW, 23, VfB Oldenburg), Moritz Schulze (G, 19, RB Leipzig U19), Maximilian Thalhammer(DM, 23, FC Ingolstadt), Chima Okoroji (LWB, 23, FC Freiburg (on loan)), Frederic Ananou (RWB, 22, FC Ingolstadt) Marcel Correia (CD, 31, Jahn Regensburg), Chris Führich (LW, 22, Borussia Dortmund U23 (on loan)), Johannes Dörfler (RW, 23, FSV Zwickau (end of loan)), Ron Schallenberg (CM, 21, SC Verl (end of loan))
Departures:
Klaus Gjasula (DM, 30, Hamburger SV), Felix Drinkuth (LW, 25, Hallescher FC), Marcel Hilßner (RW, 25, Coventry City), Luca Kilian (CD, 20, FSV Mainz 05), Rifet Kapic (CM, 25, Sheriff (loan)), Leon Brüggemeier (G, 22, without club), Ben Zolinski (CS, 28, without club), Sergio Gucciardo (LW, 21, SC Paderborn U23), Mohamed Dräger (RWB, 24, SC Freiburg (end of loan)), Gerrit Holtmann (LW, 25, FSV Mainz 05 (end of loan)), Laurent Jans (RWB, 27, FC Metz (end of loan)), Streli Mamba (after he failed his medicine check at Cologne his future is uncertain)

Past
It would not have been much less than a football miracle if SC Paderborn had held the class last season.. Nevertheless, the chance was there.. And this despite the fact that the first victory could only be achieved on the 9th matchday. Paderborn scored a few points in the winter, including the highlight point in Dortmund, when they, however, gave up a 3-0 lead.
But just when the SCP left the 18th place shortly after the winter break, a series of horrors followed: Paderborn could not win any of the last 14 matches of the season. Consequently, at the end of the season, they were tied for the last place in the table.
The appearance of Paderborn in the division was always special. Because the playing style developed in the 3rd division under coach Steffen Baumgart was not massively changed in order to avoid conceding goals for better or worse. Instead, the SCP continued to act courageously in the first division, focusing on its own behaviour when it came to possession of the ball. This brought a lot of applause, but too few points to avoid relegation.

Embed from Getty Images

Present
Players come and players go, but only one remains: Steffen Baumgart remains with SC Paderborn. Probably despite the possibility of working elsewhere. This is good news for Paderborn, as it is precisely this consistency in the coaching position that will probably ensure a certain consistency in the squad.
And so far the number of departures has been limited. Nevertheless: With Klaus Gjasula the club lost a constant in the defensive midfield and Luca Kilian made remarkable games as the SCP’s central defender before his injury. Also Streli Mamba has wants to leave the club. Actually it was already agreed that he would seek his fortune in Cologne, but there he fell through the medical check. Future uncertain.
However, important pillars of the Paderborn play of the last few years will also wear the shirt of the SCP in the coming season. With Jamilu Collins and the strong pass player Sebastian Schonlau  Paderborn will be well positioned in the defence next to the “old men” Strohdieck and Hünemeier. The midfield is a real showpiece simply because of the presence of Sebastian Vasiliadis. And the front row offers enormous speed with the wingers such as Kai PrögerDennis Jastrzembski  and Christopher Antwi Adjei  and centrally the “tower” Dennis Srbeny  and the difficult to calculate Sven Michel .., offensively the SC Paderborn has a whole arsenal of good players.
In addition, there are, as in recent years, some absolute nobodies from the lower divisions, of whom it is impossible to say in advance whether they will function in the same way. However, the last few years have shown that this can work (Pröger, Vasiliadis, Kilian, Gjasula…). This approach has a system, but is not always successful, because besides some positive examples there are also many players for whom it has not (yet) worked. Therefore you have to see if players like Pascal Steinwerder (came from VfB Oldenburg) or Chris Führich (BVB U23) are also a reinforcement straight away.

Future
While Fortuna Düsseldorf is in doubt about its resurgence, mainly because it may not be possible to develop a consolidated style, the situation in Paderborn is different: They have simply continued the style with which they rose, even in the first division. And presumably they will also use such a style for the project back-to-back promotion.
The trainer is still on board, large parts of the squad were held together. Once again, players were brought in from the lower divisions, and they may well hit again, as so often before. SC Paderborn will play at least amongst the top teams of the division.

1. FC Heidenheim

Signings:
Dzenis Burnic (DM, 22, Borussia Dortmund), Andreas Geipl (DM, 28, SSV Jahn Regensburg), Marvin Rittmüller (RWB, 21, 1. FC Köln U23), Jan Schöppner (CM, 21, SC Verl), Melvin Ramusovic (DM, 19, 1. FC Heidenheim U19), Julian Stark (CM, 19, 1. FC Heidenheim U19), Gianni Mollo (CS, 19, 1. FC Heidenheim U19), Patrick Schmidt (CS, 26, Dynamo Dresden (end of loan)), Oliver Steurer (CD, 25, Preußen Münster (end of loan)), Merveille Biankadi (LW, 25, Eintracht Braunschweig (end of loan)), Christian Kühlwetter (CS, 24, 1. FC Kaiserslautern), Florian Pick (LW, 24, 1. FC Kaiserslautern) 
Departures:

Niklas Dorsch (DM, 22, KAA Gent), Tim Kleindienst (CS, 24, KAA Gent), Sebastian Griesbeck (DM, 29, Union Berlin), Timo Beermann (CD, 29, VfL Osnabrück), Andrew Owusu (CM, 20, Sonnenhof Großaspach), Maurice Multhaup (RM, 23, VfL Osnabrück), Arne Feick (LWB, 32, Würzburger Kickers), Jonas Brändle (LWB, 20, Sonnenhof-Großaspach (Leihe)), Robert Strauß (RWB, 33, Karriereende)

Past
From the FCH point of view, it’s best not to look so closely at how close you really came to get promoted last season. And we are not going to make a fuss and write once again in no uncertain terms that the play-off match mode is only advantageous for the clubs of the respective upper divisions.
What we must hold on to, however: The 1. FC Heidenheim has played a great season. And this although the upheaval before the season was enormous with the departures of Robert Glatzel, Nikola Dovedan and Robert Andrich. After initial difficulties, partly due to late signings, the FCH found its way into the track and was one of the strongest defensive teams in the division. And also offensively the team of coach Frank Schmidt always had something to offer. This was mainly due to the playing principles that have evolved over the years, which have been continuously improved and have developed the FCH over the years from a pure switching team to a team that has been able to create a lot of things even during longer periods of own ball possession.
But the showpiece of 1st FC Heidenheim was not the great ball circulation or the exciting and highly frequented offensive play. No, the FCH stood like no other team in the division for concentrated defensive work (statistically here nicely elaborated), which resulted, among other things, in the club’s second-best defence in the division with only 36 goals conceded. Then, even with only 45 goals scored (only three teams had less!), you can still be in third place.
All this was of no use: After the failure in the play-off (0:0 in the first leg, 2:2 in the second leg), due to an away goal rule, which seemed completely absurd due to the matches behind closed doors, 1. FC Heidenheim has to play in the 2nd division next season as well. Because of the down-to-earth and likeable work in Heidenheim, this annoyed many people even beyond the Ostalb (although many were also relieved that Werder stayed in).

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Present
The upheaval for the 19/20 season is almost nothing compared to the upheaval that came over Heidenheim for the new season. With central defender Timo Beermann, striker Tim Kleindienst as well as the defensive midfield consisting of Sebastian Griesbeck and the incredibly strong Niklas Dorsch, 1. FC Heidenheim has not only lost four regular players but virtually its entire stable structure.. This must now be laboriously rebuilt for the new season.
And of course, Heidenehim has already started: The two vacant positions in the defensive midfield with Andreas Geipland Dzenis Burnic may not be adequate (you can’t afford a player like Dorsch as a second-league player), but they have been replaced with a higher second-division quality. In addition, as in the case of Paderborn, there are also players of the “lucky bag” brand from the regional league. With returnee Patrick Schmidt, who played a very good half-year at Dynamo Dresden, the departure of Kleindienst should at least be somewhat cushioned. The double transfer of  Christian Kühlwetter and Florian Pick from Kaiserslautern should also strengthen the offensive. Nevertheless, it is to be expected that 1. FC Heidenheim will strike very late on the transfer market, as they have always done in recent years.
But despite the departures, the squad is also giving a lot. First and foremost are goalkeeper Kevin Müller and central defender Patrick Mainka . As long as these two make it onto the pitch, the defence in Heidenheim will remain a minor problem. Oh yes, then of course there is Marc Schnatterer. He will then have his annual goal against the FCSP again…

Future
This will be a difficult year for Heidenheim. You first have to cope with such a change. It brings back memories of Brunswick, which suddenly got relegated the following year after their defeat in the 16/17 play-off.  Heidenheim will probably not be hit that hard. Because with Frank Schmidt the most important person for success on the Ostalb remains on the sidelines.
We may be rubbing our eyes in amazement again at the end of the season, as Heidenheim has once again coped with this change far better than expected. Nevertheless, the responsible persons will not declare the 3rd place in the pre-season as the new season’s goal. A place in a secure midfield would be considered a success.

Hamburger SV

Signings:
Amadou Onana (DM, 18, TSG Hoffenheim U19), Klaus Gjasula (DM, 30, SC Paderborn), Simon Terodde (CS, 32, 1. FC Cologne), Toni Leistner (CD, 30, Queen’s Park Rangers), Aaron Opoku (LW, 21, Hansa Rostock (end of loan)), Manuel Wintzheimer (CS, 21, VfL Bochum (end of loan)), Jonas David (CD, 20, Würzburger Kickers (end of loan))
Departures:

Berkay Özcan (OM, 22, Basaksehir), Kyriakos Papadopoulos (CD, 28, without club), David Bates (CD, 23, Cercle Brügge (loan)), Christoph Moritz (CM, 30, SSV Jahn Regensburg), Timo Letschert (CD, 27, AZ Alkmaar), Jairo Sampeiro (LW, 26, without club), Tobias Knost (CD, 20, Hamburger SV U23), Adrian Fein (DM, 21, Bayern München (end of loan)), Martin Harnik (RW, 33, Werder Bremen (end of loan)), Louis Schaub (OM, 25, 1. FC Cologne (end of loan)), Jordan Beyer (RWB, 20, Borussia Mönchengladbach (end of loan)), Joel Pohjanpalo (CS, 25, Bayer Leverkusen (end of loan))

Past
Past – Present – Future. It’s all the same. There is no beginning and no end or better: the beginning is the end and the end is the beginning. The HSV started the 3rd cycle of the 2nd division on 28.6. with the crushing defeat against Sandhausen. Everyone who has watched “Dark” (ATTENTION SPOILER!) knows exactly what comes at the end: The Apocalypse!

The drama with which the HSV let the butter be taken from their bread at the end of last season was truly remarkable. HSV scored only ten points from the nine matches after the Corona break, thus losing the lead over VfB Stuttgart and 1. FC Heidenheim. Memories were brought back to the 18/19 season when, after the derby victory in March, they scored three points from eight games and only won the unimportant last game against Duisburg (also called derby curse, which the FCSP was able to break twice in the following season).
In previous years, HSV had always secured its relegation rank or non-relegation place by a final spurt, but in the two years in the second division, they lost the promotion, which had been planned for both times, almost like a film.

Memories: 22.02.2020
(c) Peter Boehmer.

Present
The HSV is just another normal second division participant now! Such a light grey haze now surrounds the time of HSV in division 1 – children have to listen to their fathers telling them how it happened back then with Waldschmidt against Wolfsburg or what “Tomorrow, my friend does mean! In this respect too, HSV is becoming more and more beaten financially by the teams of the first division.
The effects of the missed season’s goal are severe: Dieter Hecking went, all loaned players as well and the expiring contracts of several players were not renewed. Although the association’s club officials repeatedly point out that the financial situation of the Rothosen is not rosy but also not dramatic, this version can, however, be doubted. The Corona crisis, the withdrawal of the jersey sponsor (1.5 million  € per season) and the loss of income from the sale of the stadium name (Klaus-Michael Kühne had acquired the rights for 4 million  € per year) may have exacerbated HSV’s hardship considerably.
Probably also due to the financial situation, HSV has so far only signed three players with no transfer fees attached. With Simon Terodde Toni Leistner  and Klaus Gjasula , the club relies on experience and not on players capable of development (which is viewed critically) though. With Amadou Onana, whose transfer had already been arranged before the Corona break and thus before the missed goal of the season, you have a player who can develop, but the loss of Adrian Fein (after loan back to Bayern Munich) the club will not be able to compensate immediately.
The most important personnel decision was made on the coach position: Daniel Thioune will from now on lead the club’s fortunes on the pitch and immediately announced that he had identified the defensive as a weak point at HSV and wanted to stabilise it. He is the 16th coach in the last 10 years at HSV. Thioune has proven that he can lead a team to promotion (18/19 with Osnabrück) and was not for nothing always one of the first to be traded in the media when clubs in Germany were looking for a new coach.

Future
Of course, this season, too, HSV has a squad with which promotion must be the goal. With Thioune, one has apparently now also found a really good coach. Last season’s shaky defence now seems a bit more stable (like the 2-0 in the friendly against Hertha recently). But many also thought Dieter Hecking was the right coach. And if you look at the squads for the 18/19 and 19/20 seasons in comparison to the current one, it is clear that the squad has developed from “much too good for the 2nd division” to “upmarket second division level”.
The goal is still clear and HSV will certainly have a say in the promotion. Simon Terodde alone by himself in the attacking department will make the difference in some matches. Only HSV is no longer considered the top favourite, as in recent years. However, due to its financial situation, HSV seems more than ever condemned to promotion. Otherwise the apocalypse might follow…

Tomorrow, we continue with part 2.
// Tim (Translated by Arne)

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