By Heiko Lütkehus
During the winter break, the majority of the Werder Bremen supporters might have caught themselves indulging in reminiscences. Approximately five years ago, the team from the northwest of Germany was on the rise to the top of European football with high quality players such as Miroslav Klose, Johan Micoud, Diego, Mesut Ozil (photo) or German midfielder Torsten Frings. These key players helped reaching the Champions League five years in a row as well as winning the German cup twice. Back in the days, Werder Bremen was said to be the perfect stepping stone for talents to level up their career.
Nowadays, there is nothing really left to raise hopes.
Currently, Werder Bremen experiences a devastating crisis. The era of Thomas Schaaf, who is the longest-serving coach in the German Bundesliga, is threatened to end after nearly twelve years of success. However, the success of former days of glory cannot distract attention away from the alarming status of the team. In the Bundesliga, four tiny points separate the team from the relegation spots. Additionally, the ridiculous performances in the 2010-2011 Champions League campaign have embarrassed the German football. Finally, the team has been knocked out of the German cup in the second round. Especially the defense performance of experienced players such as Per Mertesacker has done its bit to leave experts as well as fans perplexed and frustrated.
What are the reasons for the crisis of Werder Bremen?
First of all, the injured key players have influenced the team negatively, because central back Naldo, who is threatened to become a chronic invalid player, and goal getter Claudio Pizarro, who suffered from three torn muscle fibers in a row, obviously cannot be replaced adequately by the substitutes.
Secondly, the atmosphere within the team as well as the missing social cohesion between the players have a negative impact on the match performances. Marko Arnautovic, the Austrian prodigy, has been more likely to provoke scandals in public than to help the team with goals and assists, and surely he is not the only player to create the impression of being undisciplined and egocentric.
The third factor of influence is the strange transfer policy of manager Klaus Allofs. A few years ago he was known to be a clever negotiant, who has managed to replace several key figures of the team with surprising transfers of ambitious talents. In doing so, Allofs followed a basic rule of the Hanseatics: Never invest more money than you actually possess. Unfortunately, it seems like Werder Bremen has become victim of its own principle. It is praiseworthy to rebel against the modern tendency of using the help of patrons. However, this cannot justify the transfers such as of Mikael Silvestre, which could be called a symbol for the transfer policy of Allofs since 2007. Most of the Arsenal fans still die of laughter when they remind themselves of the fact, that Werder Bremen really signed the player, who had been elected being the worst Arsenal player of the past Premier League season, for two years.
Slow but steady, the quality of the team has dropped and right now the management faces the problem, that the remaining squad is entirely inexperienced in hard relegation battles. Many fans cannot understand, why the management has decided to allow the transfer of striker Hugo Almeida, who scored nine goals during the first half of the campaign, to Istanbul. As a matter of fact, the Portuguese player already had announced his willingness to meet a new challenge in the past summer. This could be the next weakening for Werder, but this time Klaus Allofs already reacted by signing a new striker. Denni Avdic, the 22-year old top scorer from Sweden, is the new hope for the second half of the campaign. Now Allofs needs to find a solution for the lack of creativity in the offensive of Werder Bremen.
Up to now, Klaus Allofs continues to bolster Thomas Schaaf up, which probably is the right way to keep up the principle of consistency in Bremen. Yet the time for excuses and rallying calls has finally expired. There is no high exertion due to the knock-outs in the cup matches, and there is also no time left to wait for talents to find their form again. Finally, Werder Bremen has reached crossroads and the first six matches of the upcoming campaign will surely answer the questions about the development of the entire club. Hopefully, Schaaf and Allofs can prove the critics wrong by leading the team back into calmer waters.