Last season, Werder Bremen managed on averaged just 12 crosses per game. Only Hertha Berlin managed less. It was a good job then that their top striker, Franco Di Santo needed so few chances to score.
The Argentine took a fraction over two shots per game during the 2013/14 season and collected 13 goals from his 26 appearances. Di Santo is right up there with Bas Dost, Shinji Okasaki, Patrick Herrmann and Max Kruse as Bundesliga strikers that don’t take many chances to score. It is no wonder that the player’s agent is playing it cool regarding his future and that at the moment Di Santo is holding off signing that new contract.
Werder are trying to restructure their squad on a shoestring budget. A series of unwise investments in the transfer market and the continued legacy of the redeveloped Weserstadion have forced the club to downgrade its expectations from being Champions League hopefuls to happy to settle for a place in the Bundesliga.
It is likely that Nils Petersen and Eljero Elia will be shunted off the wage bill this summer. The club also got as hefty transfer fee for the 20 year old Davie Selke who has moved to RB Leipzig. The transfer is both a loss and a win given how talented yet unproven is the German Under 20 international.
Since Thomas Schaaf left the club in 2013, Werder have appeared without purpose. In truth, this was the case before Schaaf left but his sheer longevity exuded a degree of certainty, much like the old man sat in his office meticulously preparing a ledger that, in truth could have been committed to spreadsheet years earlier.
While Schaaf's departure after 14 years as coach at the Weserstadion may have seemed like a necessary decision to rejuvenate the club, the opposite happened. Football under Schaaf's replacement, Robin Dutt, was moribund.
Dutt tried to change the playing style from the gung ho all out attack under Schaaf which was no longer appropriate for a club that lacked the attacking élan to pull it off. The result was a season of yawn stifling football as he tried to introduce a more defensive approach. After one season it was hoped that Werder would kick on with a new found sense of stability at the back. They didn't. In fact they were rubbish and Dutt was sacked in October 2014.
Under Viktor Skrypnyk, Werder have found some shape. They're hardly the swashbucklers of old but more pragmatic. Skrypnyk has been at the club since 1996 and he has developed a compact style of play. Clemens Fritz may not be at the peak of his powers but has responded to a more disciplined system of play. Fin Bartels who transferred from St Pauli last summer has taken full advantage of his opportunity to play in the first division and does so with great energy and vigour.
Then there is the jewel in the Werder midfield, Zlatko Junuzović. The Austrian had a breakthrough campaign, last season and his six goals and 12 assists have helped Werder keep away from the relegation trap door. The prodigious dead ball specialist has signed a new contract and his set to be at the centre of the action next season.
But their best player is probably the January centre half signing, Jannick Vestergaard from TSG Hoffenheim. The occasionally error prone defender moved to Bremen with the intention that he would be a regular in the Werder back line. He has risen to the challenge and been a stand out player. The Dane is only 22 so has his best years ahead of him. He should make up the third in a triumvirate that can form the back bone of the Werder side, next season along with Junuzović and of course, Di Santo.
Should the Argentine choose to stay then Werder have a platform. If not then sporting director Thomas Eichin will be on the look out for a replacement without a great deal to offer by way of compensation. If he fails then they may come to regret letting Selke go to Leipzig and Werder are in for a tough season.