Those days now seem like a distant memory. Into their third straight season without European football, Bremen's aim this time around was to claw their way back to within touching distance of the top six. Instead, after a fairly promising start to life under Robin Dutt, much went awry in the first half of the season. However, as bundesliga.com explains, die Grün-Weißen may just have turned the corner on Matchday 17.
In light of the celebrations after the 1-0 win against Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 17, you would be forgiven for thinking Bremen had sealed their return to the UEFA Champions League. Far from it, but there was huge relief at a result which lifted Robin Dutt's men five points clear of 16th place. The sporting ambitions of the northern German side were nonetheless scarcely satisfied by a season-half which delivered more cause for concern than joy.
One goal has sufficed to already cement 's place in Werder Bremen folklore. The winner against Bayer 04 Leverkusen nearly brought the roof down at the Weserstadion, and the Argentinian full back's frantic celebrations showed how much it meant to him, too. The summer recruit from US Città di Palermo is regularly on the rampage, acting as an auxiliary winger and adding extra weight to the attack as and when he can.
With 37 goals conceded, Bremen's defensive woes of last season (66 against – only one fewer than 1899 Hoffenheim, with the division's the leakiest defence) have clearly not been remedied. A change in keeper failed to help either – letting in 14 goals in three games after replacing Sebastian Mielitz, a run which included a 7-0 humiliation at home to FC Bayern.
"One huge problem is that practically every single ball into our penalty area offers the opposition a real chance," said Dutt. "We're still having trouble prioritising what to do when an added scoring threat pops up in the box." Dutt has identified the problem, but resolving it is evidently another story.
did not have the best of starts to life as a Werder Bremen player, with suspension and injury hampering his progress. When he did return to action, he showed glimpses of his potential to set the Weserstadion alight in 2014. Pacy and with outstanding technique, the former Chelsea FC forward now just needs to forge an understanding with and those defensive worries may suddenly be altogether less relevant.