Werder Bremen had an up-and-down first half of the campaign but three wins on the spin have given them renewed hope of bouncing back to the top flight.
The story so far
Relegated for only the second time in their history at the end of 2020/21, Bremen began life in Bundesliga 2 with a 1-1 home draw against Hannover. USA striker Josh Sargent then scored his final two goals for the club in a 3-2 victory at Fortuna Düsseldorf, hinting that the Green-Whites would as expected be challenging at the top end of the table. A 4-1 home loss against Paderborn on Matchday 3 was a concern, but that was the northerners' only defeat in the first six games. After that, though, things started to go badly wrong. Markus Anfang's team slipped to a 2-0 home loss against Hamburg in the Mathchday 7 Nordderby, the start of a run of three losses in four matches and one win in six. The sudden departure of Anfang in November didn't help matters, and Bremen were as low as 10th - with five wins, five draws and five defeats - after the Matchday 15 reverse at Holstein Kiel. Former Kiel boss Ole Werner took charge the day after that defeat, however, and he won his first three games before the winter break. Bremen scored 11 goals in those victories over Erzgebirge Aue, Jahn Regensburg and Hannover, suggesting they have what it takes to stay in the promotion mix. They will resume their season in seventh place but only one point off Hamburg who are third.
Summer signing Marvin Ducksch has been leading the charge for Bremen, coming into excellent goalscoring form towards the end of 2021. He got 31 league goals over the last two seasons for Hannover, and the 27-year-old is on course to provide a similar haul for Bremen. His first goal of the campaign actually came against his current club, when he levelled for Hannover on the opening day of the season. Switching clubs a month later, Ducksch got two goals on debut during a 3-0 win over Hansa Rostock on Matchday 5. He got another in a three-goal victory in Ingolstadt a week later, and further strikes followed in a win over Heidenheim and a draw with league leaders St. Pauli. The former Borussia Dortmund attacker than scored in each of the final three games of the year. Ducksch was on target in the 4-0 home success against Erzgebirge Aue, a 3-2 win at Jahn Regensburg and a 4-1 away triumph over his former club Hannover. With eight goals and three assists in 14 league games for Bremen already, he could well drive them on to promotion.
Watch: Check out Ducksch's double against Rostock
Best game so far
Five of Bremen's eight wins have been by three goals or more, but a couple of narrow victories late in 2021 stand out. Late goals from Niclas Füllkrug and Leonardo Bittencourt gave Bremen a vital away win over fifth-placed Nuremberg on Matchday 13, and another come-from-behind success on the road has given the new coaching ticket some real momentum. On Matchday 17 the Green-Whites were 1-0 down at Jahn Regensburg, but Bittencourt, Marco Friedl and Ducksch all scored as they saw off another promotion rival.
Watch: Bremen turned it around in Nuremberg
One to watch
Füllkrug is another former Hannover attacker who could be key for Bremen in 2022. The 28-year-old is a proven goalscorer at top-flight level, although injuries limited his chances to demonstrate that for the Green-Whites in the past couple of years. Having helped Hannover to promotion in 2016/17, he could well do something similar in his third year with the four-time German champions. All five of Füllkrug's league goals so far this season came in a six-game spell between late October and early December, and he has also contributed four assists to the cause. A similar return in the second half of the campaign could make all the difference for Bremen.
Watch: Füllkrug got a clever goal in Kiel
The view from inside the camp
"That's exactly what we wanted to achieve in the last three games of the year - to stay within touch of the top. We've done that brilliantly and you can see our continued improvement week-by-week." – Bremen striker Marvin Ducksch after the win at Hannover on 19 December
Fortuna Düsseldorf (h) - Matchday 19
Hamburg (a) - Matchday 24
St. Pauli (a) - Matchday 29
Bremen restart on 15 January against midtable Düsseldorf, which is an important match not just because it will be a test of whether the positive trend under Werner can continue. His side have only won three of their eight home games so far, and that record will have to improve significantly if they are to get promoted. Bremen visit Hamburg for the second Nordderby of the season on 27 February, while a trip to high-flying Pauli will come with six games to go in April.