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WERDER BREMEN FLOURISHING UNDER ALEXANDER NOURI

Last season, Werder Bremen finished just two points above the relegation play-off under Viktor Skripnik. Three games into the 2016/17 campaign and no wins, the former player was relieved of his duties. As is the norm with many Bundesliga clubs, Bremen’s hierarchy turned to second-team head coach, Alexander Nouri. A relatively mid-table side for near enough the previous decade, the Werser outfit last challenged for the Bundesliga back in 2009/10 where they finished third, just nine points behind Bayern Munich.

Fast forward, it looks as though Bremen are taking a step in the right direction under Nouri. At just 37-years-old, the Bundesliga coach is one of the youngest in the league.

 

Torrid start to Nouri’s tenure

When a new coach takes the helm, sometimes it can lead to an instant resurgence. A prime example being that of then 28-year-old Julian Nagelsmann at TSG 1899 Hoffenheim last season – steering them clear of relegation, and now cementing a place in the Champions League. Unfortunately for Nouri, it wasn’t like that.

A narrow 2-1 defeat at home to 1. FSV Mainz 05 kicked things off for the German before picking up seven points from the next available nine. What followed almost led to his dismissal before he could even implement his style of play at Bremen. Three successive 3-1 defeats to RB Leipzig, SC Freiburg and Schalke followed a defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt making it four losses on the bounce. No cohesion in the team, Nouri’s 4-1-4-1 formation wasn’t working.

A 2-2 draw away in the Nordderby against arch rivals Hamburger SV followed which saw Bremen then remain five games without a loss. A pick-me-up came just when Nouri needed it most. Defeats against Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich followed, but only by one goal. Slowly, Nouri got his players structured style of football, which involved a double six formation.

The results that followed has propelled Werder Bremen from battling relegation, to moving up into seventh, which is good enough for a place in next season’s Europa League, should Borussia Dortmund or Bayern Munich win the DFB Pokal.

 

Can they become a European force?

Undefeated in their last nine games, Werder Bremen would be sitting fourth in the Bundesliga, considering the games they’ve played in 2017 – just five points behind Bayern Munich. With Zlatko Junuzovic and Thomas Delaney in midfield, they’ve got a strong double-pivot, whilst they also welcome Ludwig Augustinsson from Copenhagen in the summer. Nouri and sporting director Franck Baumann are certainly making moves that can challenge in Europe, without breaking the bank.

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As mentioned, Bremen have been a mid-table side at best for the past number of seasons. Perhaps forgotten finalists of the 2009 UEFA Cup, Bremen lost out of Ukrainian side Shakhtar Donetsk in extra-time. Back then, that team consisted of stars such as Tim Wiese, Franck Baumann, Torsten Frings and Mesut Özil – now, the next generation of stars in Bremen are coming through, with the likes of Gnabry, Maximillian and Johannes Eggestein as well as Niklas Schmidt.

Should Nouri keep up this form, then we could well be seeing Bremen in Europe a lot more often.

 

Thomas Delaney & Serge Gnabry the star duo

Both in their debut seasons with Werder Bremen, there’s no doubt that both Thomas Delaney and Serge Gnabry have revived the 2004 Bundesliga winners. Arriving from Arsenal, Gnabry enjoyed a spell with the German Olympic Team that won silver at Rio 2016. The 21-year-old has scored 10 league goals in 22 appearances, with nine of them coming away from home.

Although currently out injured, if Bremen can hang on to the youngster, then he could become a Bremen great are really propel them to success.

Something that Nouri and previous coaches had been missing was someone to partner Junuzovic in midfield. In came Delaney from Copenhagen for just €2 million in January. In the eight Bundesliga games he has played, Delaney has scored four goals, recording one assist and with a rating of 7.51 on WhoScored, he’s been one of the Bundesliga’s best midfielders in 2017.

Without even mentioning Max Kruse, the likes of Maximillian and Johannes Eggestein coming through the youth ranks, then the next plethora of Bremen talent could well make Die Grün-Weißen an established force in Europe.

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