The fourth game this month and Magdeburg seem to be on a roll. Two wins in a row, seven from a possible twelve points so far. That is pretty good going but it is still a long way to safety. However, the signs are looking good.
Was this the game that turned the season around? Was this the moment when the team, the coach clicked? Finally, clicked? The away match at Duisburg could prove to be such a moment. It is the second away win in a row and after 14 (F-O-U-R-T-E-E-N) months the first time that Magdeburg bring home back to back wins!
Was it the team?
Coach Hoßmang made NO changes to the starting XI, thus trusting the team that convinced at Unterhaching on Saturday. It paid off. Magdeburg started bright but conceded after 22 minutes. It took some wind out of their sails but after 55 minutes they drew level. Normally, this is the period during which Magdeburg themselves concede regularly. Uerdingen und Rostock come to mind immediately. Unterhaching also came close to equalise but could not profit from their good work in midfield. Therefore, the time span when Magdeburg normally doze off, they were wide awake and scored. And added a second fifteen minutes before the final whistle.
People often enthuse about tactics and how players move about on the pitch. Indeed, tactics has become an art and discussing it often has the touch of interpreting the immaculate conception. At this level, the third division, playing around with tactics mostly messes with the players heads. Magdeburg have tried too many systems, which has not yielded any rewards. For the second consecutive match they played with a 3-4-3 and it worked. At this level, all you need is a plan. This may sound too simplistic and condescending but how else can you explain the success Jens Härtel has had at Magdeburg? Because he mostly applied one set-up and only varied it minimally. Has, therefore coach Hoßmang simply had an epiphany and stuck with one formation?
Did it finally click?
This may be the case. Up until Christmas the performances were often disjointed and nervous. It was as though the team did not dare playing anything risky, i.e. vertical passes and adding some pace. Too fragile seemed the confidence to allow such things. Normal business was possession with many square passes and only a slow forward movement. This has changed dramatically over the course of the last three games. The game against Saarbrücken was rather unfortunate but Unterhaching was to show that there is more to this team than many would have expected. The away win at Duisburg confirmed the trend. Will it be enough, though?
It is important to note that the two signings in early January, Sané and Granatowski have so far made the difference. The former has now set up two goals and scored twice while the latter has convinced with his bulldog physique and mentality. Both bring experience with them and seem to be the parts that make this team run smoothly. Though they are still miles away from smoothness but the stuttering is beginning to fade away.
There is but one constant factor. Magdeburg have now five wins from 19 matches – an abysmal record by any standard! However, in four of these five wins, Daniel Steiniger was in the starting XI. Is he the one who silently directs Magdeburg’s game? That would be too much for a player who for most of the time remains almost invisible. It is however an interesting fact. Should he ever score, Magdeburg supporters will dream of promotion again. You heard it here first!