By Matias Bengolo@scpaderbornen

Werder Bremen: Their big 2. Bundesliga preview

There's no hiding now. How will Werder Bremen do in their first 2. Bundesliga season since their participation in the old 2. Bundesliga Nord in 1980/81?

Key information

Manager: Markus Anfang
Stadium: Weser-Stadion
Founded: 4 February 1899
Nicknames: Die Werderaner (The River Islanders); Die Grün-Weißen (The Green-Whites)


Pre-season start: June 19th
Training camp: July 1st to 8th in Zell am Ziller, Austria
Friendlies: June 27: Blau-Weiß Lohne 7:0, June 30: VfB Oldenburg 4:0 , July 4: ZSKA Sofia 1:0, July 7: Zenit St. Petersburg 2:2, July 13: FC Oberneuland 12-0, July 17th: Feyenoord Rotterdam

Werder Bremen have had a mixed start for pre-season, a nice draw against Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg has been the best result.

Summer signings and departures

Additions: Lars Lukas Mai (FC Bayern Munich, loan), Nicolai Rapp (1. FC Union Berlin), Anthony Jung (Bröndby IF), Kyu-hyun Park (was previously loaned), Kebba Badjie (own U23), Johannes Eggestein (LASK, loan ends), Stefanos Kapino (SV Sandhausen, loan ends), Niklas Schmidt (VfL Osnabrück, loan ends), Thore Jacobsen (1. FC Magdeburg, loan ends),

Departures: Benjamin Goller (SV Darmstadt 98, loan) Yannik Engelhardt (SC Freiburg II, loan), Ole Käuper (SV Meppen), Milot Rashica (Norwich City), Luc Ihorst (Eintracht Braunschweig, loan), Davie Selke (Hertha BSC, Loan ends), Niklas Moisander (Malmö FF), Theodor Gebre Selassie (Slovan Liberec)

The most important signings that Bremen have made so far is defensively. Lars Lukas Mai and Nicolai Rapp come from FC Bayern and Darmstadt 98 respectively, but both were with new Bremen coach Anfang at Darmstadt last season. They already know the ideas of the coach and should fit in straight away with Anfang's methods. As for departures, there's no disguise that the loss of Milot Rashica is big but he needed to go and keeping him in the 2. Bundesliga would've been wasted profit and actually a hindrance as he is just too good for the level. Suddenly Bremen may have had to up their already high expectations and make this campaign a 'must promote' season with Rashica and there's no guarantee that this will happen - especially with the crazy, unexpected season.

First six matches

Matchday 1 - vs Hannover 96 (H), Saturday 24th July, 20:30 local
Matchday 2 - vs Fortuna Düsseldorf (A), Saturday 31st July, 20:30 local
Matchday 3 - vs SC Paderborn (H), Sunday 15th August, 12:30 local
Matchday 4 - vs Karlsruhe (A), Saturday 21st August, 12:30 local
Matchay 5 - vs Hansa Rostock (H), Sunday 29th August, 12:30 local
Matchday 6 - vs Ingolstadt 04 (A), Saturday 11th October, 12:30 local

Key player

There are a couple of arguments for a few Werder players. I've gone for Jiri Pavlenka. There are talks within Kicker that Bremen will extend the contract of the 29-year-old and the keeper is clearly better than 2. Bundesliga level. He is the best goalkeeper in the 2. Bundesliga on paper, I think better than Ralf Fährmann who has been shaky and has never been trusted as the real number 1 in Gelsenkirchen until now. The fact Bremen have had to bolster significantly in the defensive positions also highlights their clear fragility at the back. All in all, Jiri Pavlenka will need to be the best goalkeeper in the 2. Bundesliga this season to keep Bremen defensively strong and he will be the most important cog in Bremen's machine.

Possible tactics

Markus Anfang usually plays a 4-1-4-1 formation with his teams, he's used the formation in Kiel, Köln and also his last job, Darmstadt. He has shown tactical changeability as he played a 3-at-the-back sparsely and will change formation depending on the opposition and players available.

Anfang was clearly coaching a mid-table written side in Darmstadt last season so the best example for possible Bremen tactics will be looking at his tactical side in Köln. He coached a newly-relegated Köln as it were and was very successful, he basically got them promoted as champions before he mutually agreed to leave just weeks before the end of the 2018/19 season. In Köln, Anfang used his classic 4-1-4-1 until a change to 3-5-2 against Dynamo Dresden made him switch drastically. An 8-1 win with three-at-the-back persuaded Anfang to stick with it and ironically his job was pretty much over after a 3-0 loss to Dresden on matchday 30.

The writer's opinion

Werder Bremen are going to have high expectations. Not just from the fans or the Werder bosses, but also from the league. They have been given the Saturday 'Topspiel' spot for the first two matchday's and will continue to be. They are in the 2. Bundesliga to entertain, be on free TV more than many other second division clubs. Markus Anfang has a tough job on his hands, no doubt about it. I think what edges Bremen over some other clubs is their coach, he has done it before in an almost identical situation with 1. FC Köln, and knows how to win. Bremen will score for fun, be entertaining and win a lot of football matches in the 2. Bundesliga, whether that's enough to go straight back up to where they belong, I don't know. But I think they will.
Writer's prediction: 1st

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