Despite being fourth in the table, the Eagles had most definitely been in a rut before Saturday's emphatic 4-1 win over Werder Bremen, having won just once in their last seven games. All the more encouraging then that they managed to turn their fortunes around so impressively, with a display that combined steeliness with the attacking flair they have shown in spades this season.
"What I like to see"
“This was the right answer to all those who were making us out to be in a bit of a crisis,” said Sebastian Rode. Among the Champions League qualification places with 27 points from 16 games is a more than satisfactory haul for a promoted side, but it was the nature of this latest conquest which augurs well for the second half of the campaign. “I was delighted to see how we hit back again after conceding the equaliser to make it 1-1,” said coach Armin Veh. “I was impressed by how the team then continued pushing forwards. That’s what I like to see.”
Veh would doubtless be pleased to see even more of that fight in 2013, but unlike at the start of the season when four wins in a row had the 2007 title-winning coach dreaming of silverware, his focus is now on avoiding a repeat of the 2010/11 season. Frankfurt seemed all but safe at the halfway stage with 26 points and in 7th place, yet capitulated after the winter break and were relegated in May. “We all hope for more,” he said. “We've taken another step away from the teams below us.” Veh also made sure to highlight the positives so far, acknowledge that his side had delivered “a fantastic first half of the season.”
All for one and one for all
Ten goals from Alexander Meier have undoubtedly played a major part in Frankfurt’s successful adaptation to life back in the big time, but it is Frankfurt’s team spirit that has been the most prevalent feature of their play this term, and that was evidenced superbly in the Commerzbank Arena on Saturday. When Stefan Aigner made it 3-1 with a far-post finish, the majority of his teammates went raced over to celebrate with Olivier Occean, the creator of Aigner’s goal. “I’m particularly happy for him,” said Rode of Canadian international Occean. “He’s had a tough time of it lately, but he fought his way through sensationally to set up the goal for 3-1.”
Heiko Butscher is another case in point. “He had a decent game,” commented Veh after giving the 32-year-old his first slice of the action since the first-round DFB Cup defeat to Erzgebirge Aue back in August. “I am there when it matters,” quipped Butscher, who is destined for a place among Veh’s backroom staff when he hangs up his boots at the end of his contract June. “It was a great feeling [to be involved].”
It was an altogether different set of post-match emotions for Bremen, for whom the defeat negated their 4-1 hammering of Hoffenheim a week ago. It was the latest result in what has been a rather inconsistent season for the Hanseatic outfit, but after losing experienced individuals such as Tim Wiese, Naldo and Claudio Pizarro last summer, this is precisely what the Bremen coach expected.
“You could see again today that we have a team who can play football, but they're still young and it’s only normal that they make mistakes,” he said. “We’ve been punished badly for them today. If we win next week, then things will look a lot different for us again.” 1. FC Nuremberg are Bremen’s guests in their last Bundesliga fixture of 2012 and Schaaf will be keen to see how his young side respond. Taking a leaf out of Frankfurt’s book might be a good way to get back on the horse.