When the 2019/20 Bundesliga season got underway last August, Werder Bremen officially became the longest-serving club in the German top flight.
Although the opening week saw them lose 3-1 to Fortuna Dusseldorf, that match was their 1,867th in the top flight of German football and saw them overtake Hamburg, who have been plying their trade in the 2. Bundesliga since relegation in 2018, in total games played.
Yet, just five months on, their status as a mainstay of the Bundesliga is now severely under threat.
Where Heart Meets Mind: SV Werder Bremen
Ahead of the Ruckrunde, or the second half of the season, Werder are languishing in 17th position with only Paderborn propping them up from the bottom, and have notched just three wins so far.
The 2019/29 campaign was always going to be an interesting time for Die Werderaner, especially after they parted ways with inspirational captain Max Kruse – who led them in both goals and assists last term – in the summer.
Still, this is a team that finished just one spot and one point away from European qualification in the previous campaign, and still have plenty of quality in their ranks.
The experience is there in the form of Niklas Moisander, Nuri Sahin, Theodor Gebre Selassie and Yuya Osako, while they boast promising youngsters such Milot Rashica, Maximilian Eggestein and Josh Sargent.
Offensively, Werder’s haul of 23 goals is creditable, with Rashica, Osako and Davy Klaassen combining for 14 of the those.
It is at the other end of the pitch where they have had problems, boasting the Bundesliga’s worst defensive record with 41 goals conceded, and that is the main issue coach Florian Kohfeldt has to address if he is to keep Werder a top-flight club.
THE HEART – DAVY KLAASSEN
It is a sign of how highly Klaassen is regarded at the Weserstadion that he has captained the team on numerous occasions in just his second season at the club.
Then again, he has skippered Ajax before and his leadership ability is there for all to see, not just in the way he wears his heart on his sleeve each time he steps out in the green of Werder.
With Sahin usually as the deepest of Werder’s diamond midfield and Leonardo Bittencourt often employed as a roaming playmaker, it is down to Klaassen and his partner Eggestein to do the bulk of the heavy lifting in the engine room.
The Dutchman is certainly the type of player that Die Werderaner need in their quest to move away from the relegation zone, as he strives to do everything he can to drag his team over the line – including stepping up when the pressure is highest with his steely determination from the penalty spot.
THE MIND – YUYA OSAKO
Like Klaassen, Osako is into his second season with Werder but is hardly inexperienced in the top flight of German football, boasting four previous campaigns in his time with Cologne.
Following the departure of Kruse, there was a big void to fill in the final third but it was Osako who was first to step up – netting three goals in as many games at the start of the season to briefly lead his team in the scoring charts before being struck down by injury.
Hardworking on the field but soft-spoken off it, the Japanese can sometimes fly under the radar but closer inspection of his play reveals a forward of real intelligence, as he often drifts from his starting position to draw out defenders and create space for his team-mates, while also having a real knack for exchanging quick passes in congested areas.
With four goals in the league, Osako has already bettered his tally from last season and Werder should be able to rely on a player fast approaching the peak of his powers at the age of 29.