Augsburg - The second season after promotion is traditionally the toughest to navigate and so it proved for FC Augsburg in 2012/13 as they barely scraped the nine-point mark in the first 17 games of the campaign.
A magnificent turnaround after Christmas helped the Bavarians avoid the drop, but even that is no guarantee of a less trying third term in the Bundesliga.
“All we're thinking about is avoiding relegation,” confessed sporting director Stefan Reuter, refusing to get carried away with the team's superb displays in the final four months of last season. His sober attitude is understandable following the departures of South Korean duo Dong-Won Ji and Ja-Cheol Koo, two of the club's 2012/13 heroes.
Instead, the emphasis now centres around grassroots level, the foundations for which rest with their new youth academy. “We’re delighted to be able to begin with the construction work and that we’ve managed to do this as part of our zero-debt philosophy,” said club president Walther Seinsch as work commenced on the new project.
Until the first harvest is ready, Augsburg have been shopping carefully in the summer transfer market, a policy which has already led to the arrival of Halil Altintop from Trabzonspor on a free transfer, while Raphael Holzhauser and Panagiotis Vlachodimos have both joined on loan.
Blending youth and experience was evidently the club's aim, with Reuter
adding: “Altintop is an experienced player, Vlachodimos has already played internationally and Holzhauser has already clocked up more than 20 Bundesliga appearances.”
The signs in pre-season have been positive and after an impressive 1-0 friendly win over Monaco, coach Markus Weinzierl is optimistic that Augsburg's upward curve can carry over into the new Bundesliga campaign: “We’re going to try to build on the performances from the second half of last season, and then we'll make it."
Yet it was Reuter who summed up the club's target for the season most succintly: “If we're playing in the Bundesliga again in 2014/15, then we'll all be happy in Augsburg.”