While the most of us try to make sense of the new year and stick to those New Years Resolutions, FC Magdeburg are warming up to the remainder of the season in North-West England. Before the proceedings of the season continue, a look back to the first half of the season seems appropriate.
This season was eagerly awaited as Magdeburg finished once more on fourth place in 2016/17, thus confirming that their initial exploit after promotion was no one-off.
For most of last season it looked as though Magdeburg were contenders for promotion. The team of Jens Härtel lost their focus for a short period and it has cost them dearly. It has to be added however, that the squad looked thin in some departments, something that has been addressed over the summer. Mainly creativity from midfield has been lacking and in Türpitz, Lohkemper and Ludwig there were three signings that looked promising. Alas, the latter, the most expensive signing in a long time has so far failed to impress while Türpitz and Lohkemper have become important players in their respective roles. Lohkemper, a deep lying midfielder with his vision and passing, Türpitz with his grit and determination.
Upfront there is Beck. Or so many thought. For a long time though the top scorer of the past two seasons was a shadow of his former self. His body language spoke volumes. As long as the team kept winning, there were no worries. Until mid-October he had only one goal to his name. Thankfully, Niemeyer who plays the season of his live and Türpitz have stepped up to rake in the goals. Both have scored six goals each. Beck seemed to have switched roles: from a goal scorer to become a player who creates space for his team mates. His physical size and his record from previous seasons have alerted defenders who have kept an eye on him and let others slip through. With the added goal scoring qualities of Türpitz, this was suicidal and helped to propel Magdeburg to the top of the table just before Christmas. The current form was confirmed when in November and December Beck started scoring again. Until Christmas he has added five, making him the third player to have scored six goals, this has never been the case before with Magdeburg and it proves that the goalscoring responsibilities are now shared by several players. In the previous seasons, Magdeburg lacked this quality.
The Season So Far
Things did not look good on the opening day of the season. Magdeburg got hammered 4-1 by Großaspach. They did not play as bad as the result suggests and the ensuing run of eight matches unbeaten has told a very different story. Never have they been lower than place four. Then came October and the game against Dortmund in the DFB Cup. Although the team appeared to be calm, there was no doubt that the city was buzzing with excitement. The match itself was a sobering affair as Dortmund ran out 5-0 winners leaving Magdeburg not a chance. The stadium was rocking, the team tried hard but were thoroughly beaten. The aftermath was felt in the league. The game before the cup game and the following two must be considered as the drought that everyone feared would come but hoped it wouldn’t. A 3-0 home defeat against Unterhaching and a 1-0 loss at Karlsruhe followed by a goalless draw against Wiesbaden saw the team grounded and in need to re-focus. It has to be said though that Unterhaching and Karlsruhe, both recently relegated, were a different calibre.
After this little drought, there was only one way: forward and upwards. Since November there have been five victories again and on top of that, the Blue-and-Whites are topping the table. Paderborn, almost certainly relegated last season only to be saved by FSV Frankfurt’s troubles could only draw against Halle, which meant that Magdeburg would not only top the table but do so with a two point cushion on Paderborn and a 10 point margin on Wiesbaden who are in third. Magdeburg are now the team everyone has to beat if they want to push for promotion.
This is not the time to get carried away as everyone repeatedly reassures themselves. Rightly so. There are still eighteen matches to be played and none of these will be easy.
Now Or Never
It has to be now, this very season as otherwise clubs like Rostock, Karlsruhe and Unterhaching are strong sides in this division and surely will be dealt as favourites come next season. Therefore, it is now or never for Magdeburg. Another factor plays into Magdeburg’s hands: whenever they had won the league they went up. If there was something of a league reshuffle with places to be played out like it happened in 1994, Magdeburg failed and did so spectacularly. However, the club have come a long way since then and things look better than ever before.
In May we shall know more.