Sometimes success can have negative side effects that essentially could hamper Magdeburg’s progress in the longer term. More can be achieved in taking things easy and a break once in a while.
No one could argue that the first season in professional football for FC Magdeburg after a 25 year hiatus is following a fairy tale script. After 23 games the club sit fourth with 15 matches to go. Relegation is no longer an option, too strong is the club in this season to be a candidate for the nether regions of the table. Within one point of the promotion play-offs, the Greatest of the World could even aim for a higher tier of German football: Bundesliga 2. Anyone who would have muttered these words to anyone before the season which started back in July would have been declared insane and was running the risk of being beaten up or at least verbally abused to an extent that the victim would have required psychological help afterwards. Now with another promotion a real possibility, the club have stated that they are going to complete the papers for the second division. Always a reluctant observer, the author of these lines argues that the club needs a breather and more over, is in urgent need of additional fire power up front.
Take A Break
Since the summer of 2014, since Jens Härtel took charge of the club it has been one hell of a ride on a steep upward trajectory. Indeed, it was so steep that the club are knocking on the door to the second division. The joy about such positive development notwithstanding, there is now the time to take stock and more importantly take a breath. This is not aimed to look back but to simply to sample new strengths, physically as well as mentally. The season 2014/15 finished in early June and barely 7 weeks later it was upon Magdeburg to open the season in late July against Rot Weiss Erfurt. As emotional the return to professional football was, it was also exhausting. Ever since then the club has had a total of 5 weeks break at most. There was a lengthy break in autumn and the Christmas break.
It means the team will have been in action for almost two years come the end of this season. This is unsustainable. Yet, there is no chance for a longer break as the DFB sets the dates for the matches and thus determines the lengths of any breaks before, during and after a season. Adding a cup competition to 38 games in the league, this means some 40-odd games per season for those who are playing without injury or disciplinary suspension. You can do that for one or maybe two seasons without injury or suffering fatigue but you will be lucky doing so a third time in a row. Moreover, in the likely case of Magdeburg finishing third, they will have a play-off to go through with the team placed 16th in Bundesliga 2. This will take another 2 weeks off the break in the summer and regardless where Magdeburg will be playing in 2016/17, it will be another short season which could have severe consequences. In case of defeat, Magdeburg stay put in Liga 3, yet the morale and confidence will inevitably taken a hit. How this will pan out in the league no one can foresee. Therefore, a break, a longer break this summer may be just what the club need in order to keep the momentum and not appear as a flux.
Lacking Fire Power
This season is a miracle for Magdeburg and their supporters. Sitting in fourth place after two thirds of the season are over, is everybody’s dream. Much credit for this performance goes to Christian Beck who so far has scored 15 goals and only against Dresden in late October looked as though he was out of his depth. In any other game before the Christmas break he always had a goal in him and the 15 underline his status as one of the best marksmen in this division and possibly in Bundesliga 2, too. However, there is a hook. Beck may have scored 15 goals but researching the next player in the scorer list takes while, in fact it is a long search until Mario Sowislo, Captain Braveheart of Magdeburg appears with 4 goals to his name. That is a huge gap and highlights the over-reliance on Beck and his goal scoring instincts. There are a few players on 3 and 2 goals respectively that make up the 33 scored so far this season. Yet, this gap needs addressing. During the break for the new year, the club have reacted and signed Sebastian Ernst, a youngster who demonstrates that the youth academy of Hanover works well, who made the perfect start to his career in Magdeburg by scoring twice against Halle, thus securing the derby win and showing his potential. A back-up was needed; Mario Sowislo as well as Lars Fuchs, two of the squad that helped getting promoted are in their 30s and possibly won’t have many goals in them in future games wearing a blue and white dress. Both have indicated at post-playing careers in management or coaching. Therefore, attacking talent such as Ernst are very welcome as they take the burden off Beck to score in each and every game and will close the gap between Magdeburg’s top scorer and his team mates.
The return of hero Nico Hamann will surely bolster the squad for the hard times that are surely to come. His prowess of goal scoring will be a welcome one. In the promotion season he scored eleven goals, mostly from free kicks and penalties. Thus, he was a vital back-up for Beck whose 20 goals fired Magdeburg up into Liga 3. Sebastian Ernst has shown what he is capable of and the third new recruit David Kinsombi is a player for the future. Also trained in a Bundesliga Academy from Eintracht Frankfurt, he has the defense of Magdeburg to grow into and flourish. Surely, Jens Härtel knows what he is doing, otherwise Magdeburg would not sit in fourth position at this time of the season. Likewise, Mario Kallnik has made his homework on signing players with a future that could help the club to establish themselves in this division and maybe in a few year’s time push for the second tier of German football. For the time being though, we enjoy the ride and take in the views and the points and are happy where we are.