Frankfurt - There can't have been many better success stories than that of Eintracht Frankfurt this season. As a newly-promoted side, the Eagles defied all the odds to finish amongst the top six, thereby securing European qualification, something not even the most ardent fan would have hoped for at the campaign's outset.
Bouncing back stronger
Head coach Armin Veh, the mastermind behind their success, summed up the season fittingly when he beamed: “This is an amazing story for us - something quite extraordinary.”
A multitude of factors played their part in Eintracht's comprehensive and stylish climb of the Bundesliga ladder, but one of them was certainly the development of their new recruits.
Relegation two years ago was, in many ways, a blessing. Coach Veh admits that he would probably not have discovered former 1860 Munich forward , or from VfL Bochum, had Eintracht not spent a season in the Bundesliga 2. Yet it's not just Aigner and Inui who have stepped their game up to the next level under Veh.
Midfielder and defender each performed so well that their names found a way onto the notebook of national team coach Joachim Löw. ’s name has also been scribbled in following his arrival from Bayer 04 Leverkusen.
Goalkeeper , who arrived from 1. FC Kaiserslautern, also played his part with some sensational saves, and when injury ruled him out towards the end of the season, reliable ‘oldie’ , a club legend, showed he can still tough it out as he nears the age of 40.
What was important for the entire season was the way in which the euphoria garnered from promotion, accompanied Frankfurt throughout the campaign. Early wins consolidated belief in their ability and the first half of the season was practically flawless. Frankfurt demonstrated the attacking football their coach preaches by taking 30 points from their first 17 games. Indeed, they had as good as already secured their top-flight status with only half of the season gone.
There may have been a minor 'coffee break' in the second half of the campaign, but setbacks such as Trapp’s injury did not knock them off course. In the end, with 51 points, they deservedly secured their berth in the UEFA Europa League after coming from behind to secure a 2-2 draw with VfL Wolfsburg on the season's final day.
Challenges on the horizon
Experienced captain Pirmin Schwegler played a fantastic season, as did attacking midfielder Alexander Meier, on whom Veh lavished special praise: “This is the best Meier there has ever been.” With 16 goals, he was their top goalscorer, while Srdjan Lakic, who joined in the winter, was equally incisive when push came to shove with four goals of his own.
Above all, an excellent team spirit within the camp has propelled Frankfurt to long-forgotten heights. However, Veh is fully aware that the success of the 2012/13 season could weigh heavily on his team in the famously difficult second season after promotion. “We’re not yet an established contender for the European places,” he remarked.