Contingency Plans ⋆ An Old International

Contingency Plans

How important a player is, becomes apparent when he is missing. Magdeburg are learning this the hard way, losing two games in a row and looking very average in the process.

It is late September and the third division in Germany has seen ten matches played so far, which equates to a quarter of the season. How have Magdeburg fared so far? They have recorded six wins, one draw and three defeats. It is particularly the last two matches which still grate as these two defeats have highlighted an issue which the coach Christian Titz has to address rather sooner than later.

The pattern of play for Magdeburg has been set this season: score early to unsettle the opponent. In their opening match of the season against Mannheim the goals came within the first 30 minutes. At home against Wiesbaden the only goal came after seven minutes. Further, Magdeburg play a high line defensively. This is absolutely OK as long as the team does not ship goals. It requires an attentive defence including the keeper to keep the ball away from their own goal. Without that, it could lead to disaster. Through the absence of Thomas Müller due to a Corona infection the defence looked shaky but held on to secure points. His return has stabilised the defence but almost simultaneously Magdeburg have another issue to deal with, one that has had a much graver impact on their game: the injury to Sirlord Conteh who has ruptured his exterior ligament in his right knee. This has slowed their game down significantly. His pace, his blistering pace has always put the opponent’s defence on the backfoot. Without him, the pace has gone and little or no openings can be created. The best example are the goals Magdeburg conceded against Würzburg – a team without a win until they came to Magdeburg. Needless to say the goals came from two defensive blunders simply because Würzburg shut down any possible path for Magdeburg’s forwards to run into and to speculate for a pass, mostly from Baris Atik. Without these Magdeburg were suddenly looking blunt, indeed very blunt. Jason Ceka has been excellent in one-on-one’s but the results from these are zero. Since football is a result oriented game, the beauty of play is often neglected as it counts for nothing.

The second defeat came against Halle and Magdeburg were simply beaten by the sheer will of their hosts that evening. The goals conceded were clownish; a cross from the right that hung in the air for a long time and should have been cleared by the keeper or at least by the defender. Crucially, the role of the keeper must be scrutinised in more depth since he often appears to be glued to his line thus inviting opposing forwards to head or shoot – see the game against St. Pauli. The second is a free kick and the wall was just as the Berlin Wall on November 9, 1989: it was porous. Their last goal was a borderline foul play. The Halle forward Terence Boyd ran in behind Müller and brought him down without extending his arm but Müller may not have been aware of Boyd or at least not aware how close he was and was simply brushed aside.

Whatever comes next, Titz and his team must find a plan b, a contingency plan to address this situation. A defence that leaks goals at this rate is just not acceptable unless of course, the club aim for another great escape at the end of the season.

Good writing does not come by chance, so consider this:

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