Magdeburg half way review ⋆ An Old International

Magdeburg half way review

Football is a simple game, it has often been said: 22 men separated into two teams 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, just before the second leg of the season is about to start, Magdeburg find themselves in 17th. spot with a huge task before them.

Not too bad, not too good, either

As it stands, Magdeburg are second from bottom with 17 points from as many matches and a goal difference of -13; they have scored 20 but conceded 33. However, hope should not be lost as three teams are on 17 points and it takes a minor run of positive results to settle in mid-table. This of course will be more difficult than it is said.

How did Magdeburg fare during their second stint in Bundesliga 2? Not too bad admittedly, but their approach is worrying as they were outplayed way too easy by the opposition. Very often Magdeburg dictated the rhythm play, the statistics show 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 are 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, two matches Magdeburg managed to win, they made less kilometres than the opposite teams.1 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.

The break may have offered some respite and some urgently required readjustment, however. Magdeburg have acted on the summer 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, needed more time to adapt as was planned. Alas, time is something precious during a season and thus the break may just have helped to work on things that did not go well on the pitch during the first leg of the season, of which there are a few: scoring goals and defending set pieces.

The absence of the talismanic Baris Atik for large parts of the early 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 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 home game in late August against Hannover 96 is another case in point. Magdeburg almost gifted their visitors the game

The interruption of the season was long and for spells, there were no news at all from Magdeburg – only after Christmas did news trickle through about the training camp in Turkey which up to 10 players missed for several reasons. Since mid-January there have been three signings: one striker Luc Castaignos who was without club and who scored four in four test matches and two defenders: Daniel Heber from Rot-Weiss Essen who is considered as one of the favourite players of head coach Christian Titz and Maximilian Ullmann from Venezia FC, who is on loan.

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