Hell's around the corner ⋆ An Old International

Hell’s around the corner

Football is a simple game, it has often been said: 22 men try to kick the ball around and score more often than the other team. Based on this simplicity claim, Magdeburg cannot be but described as being awful at it in this division. As it stands, it looks worse than the last time, they have played at this level.

Stats vs Results

With a quarter of the season gone, it looks Magdeburg and their supporters are in for a repeat of the 2018/19 season. Only this time it may get worse. The first international break of the season sees Magdeburg bottom of Bundesliga 2 with 7 points after nine games and a goal difference of -10. That is relegation form. Yet, on the pitch things look different, very different indeed. Very often Magdeburg dictate play, the statistics showing they have more than 60% of the ball during 90 minutes, they complete more passes than their opposition. However, results and statistics are two sides of the same medal and the other one shows the results; one offering a result based reading of the games so far, the other offering a deeper insight into the machinations of the game. The statistics in terms of possession are impressive: on average Magdeburg have 60% of the ball with the opposition only enjoying 50%. The passing quote is beyond 80% – again a superb figure, considering the spot in the table. One value that may indicate that something is not right are the distances run per game. Here Magdeburg lack 2km behind the teams they have faced so far. The biggest difference came in the games against St. Pauli (108.07km for Magdeburg and 114.93km for St.Pauli) and Hanover (112.32km vs 117.67km). Even against Karlsruhe and Fürth, their only victories to date, Magdeburg made less kilometers than the opposite teams.[^1]

Run, Magdeburg, Run!

This indicates a few things. First, possession is all very nice to look at but is futile if it is not converted into goals. Magdeburg are not playing for the gallery but for points in a multi million business called professional football. Secondly, passing the ball around without movement, without running off the ball will lead to nothing. It is as though three, four players are engaging in a game of piggy-in-the-middle where it is all about possession and keeping the ball in play. Finally, winning challenges is important but winning those challenges in particularly important areas on the pitch, notably the own penalty area as well as further up the pitch, is crucial. The physical frailty of some players under physical pressure from opposing players is scaring.

The stats, as positive as they may largely be, are misleading; the table is not lying and indeed is highly frustrating to look at, particularly with the imposed break which prolongs this sorry state of affairs unnecessarily.

A break to break the negative trend

The break may offer some respite and some urgently required readjustment, however. Magdeburg have acted on the transfer market after its official closing – indicating how difficult it is to sign players for them; something that was emphasized by the sporting director, Otmar Schork in a TV interview. Some of the summer signings clearly have not the capacity to play at this level, or as Schork also indicated, need more time to adapt as was planned. Alas, time is something precious during a season and thus the break may help to work on things that do not go well on the pitch at the moment, of which there are a few: scoring goals and defending set pieces.

The absence of the talismanic Baris Atik for large parts of the season may explain some of the results and the lack of goals. What they do not lack are goal scoring opportunities but a poacher. And height to defend long balls, to win aerial challenges. More often than not this is exploited by the opposition.

It seems that Magdeburg make life for themselves more difficult than it could be, just as the proverb says:

Why make it simple, when it can be complicated

especially in front of goal. This was evident during the last away game at Rostock. Magdeburg simply played Hansa off the park but it was the home side who scored – and did so quite brilliantly. The goals from Pröger during the first half would have been fitting for Magdeburg. Not so long ago, Rostock were slagged off for their playing style under coach Jens Härtel, who once was hailed as the messiah in Magdeburg. And now this style very much sunk Magdeburg without much ado.

The break may just help to disrupt this negative cycle and simply stop the downward spiral for a fortnight. Magdeburg need to get their heads round as otherwise more gloom will be around the corner.

[^1] All stats: kicker.de

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