Eintracht Frankfurt: Europe vs Domestic

At the end of the 2012/13 season Eintracht Frankfurt and their fans were in dream land, their first season back in the German top flight couldn’t have gone much better, Armin Veh and his side finished in an impressive 6th place which meant they would have to dig out their passports and eagerly wait for the new season and the Europa League to come around.

Hinrunde

During the summer Frankfurt sold six players, one of those transfers saw Olivier Occéan being loaned out to Kaiserslautern. The club were also busy with bringing players in, Johannes Flum and Jan Rosenthal from Freiburg, Stephan Schröck and Joselu (loan) from Hoffenheim, Marvin Bakalorz in from Dortmund, Felix Wiedwald from MSV Duisburg, Tranquillo Barnetta on loan from Schalke and Václav Kadlec from Sparta Prague.

The first competitive game of the season saw Frankfurt travel to Regionalliga side FV Illertissen for the first round of the DFB Pokal, the Eagles came away with a second round place after goals from new signing Joselu and Rode. However the following week saw them travel to Berlin to face Bundesliga newcomers Hertha BSC, Frankfurt were blown away by the hosts and left empty handed after a disappointing 6-1 defeat, arguably their worst result of the season. Things didn’t get any easier for the Eagles as they had to welcome Bayern Munich to the Commerzbank-Arena, this time they produced a much better performance and only suffered a 1-0 defeat, many would’ve expected the damage to be a lot worse. Frankfurt were able to pick up their first league win of the season when they faced Eintracht Braunschweig, Meier scored the first goal after fifty-three minutes and eleven minutes later Aigner doubled Frankfurt’s lead.

In the remaining fourteen league games before the winter break it showed that Frankfurt were struggling to juggle three competitions, they only won two more games after the Braunschweig win and that was against Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen. They managed to pick up six draws during that time as well as six losses, certainly not the form they were showing in Europe and in the DFB Pokal, in the cup they were able to knock out two 2.Bundesliga sides, Bochum and Sandhausen. Going into the winter break Frankfurt sat in 15th place, just one point above the relegation play-off spot, they won their Europa League group and they were in the in the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal. They were enjoying success in the cup and Europe but the league form was suffering and that needed to change in the Rückrunde.

Rückrunde

In the January transfer window Frankfurt strengthened with the additions of Alexander Madlung (free agent) and Tobias Weis on loan from Hoffenheim. The window also saw Srđan Lakić depart for 2.Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern. The start of the season saw Frankfurt being demolished by Herth BSC, however when the sides met in their first game of 2014, Frankfurt were able to revenge the defeat, Meier’s goal in the 36th minute was enough to secure a 1-0 victory. In their next match they suffered their worst loss of the Rückrunde, Bayern had a field day at the Allianz Arena and Frankfurt travelled back after a 5-0 defeat. Frankfurt recovered by beating Eintracht Braunschweig 3-0 before the small matter of trying to knock out Borussia Dortmund in the DFB Pokal, despite their best efforts Aubameyang’s goal seven minutes from time was enough to send Frankfurt out. On the Saturday, Frankfurt faced faced Dortmund again, but this time they fall victim to a Dortmund side in fully the mood, a 4-0 defeat wasn’t what Frankfurt wanted before their first clash with Porto.

In between the two Porto games Frankfurt were able to draw against Bremen and after their Europe League exit things started to pick up. In the seven games after their exit Frankfurt managed to win four games, two vital wins against sides around them (Stuttgart and Nürnberg) and two against sides chasing a European place (Borussia Monchengladbach and Mainz). In the other three fixtures they drew one and lost two. Despite a good run of form Frankfurt didn’t finish the season well, their last five games saw them lose four and draw one. The Rückrunde saw an improvement in form after exiting the cup and Europa League and this lead to a 13th place finish.

Europa League

The club started their European campaign with a trip to Azerbaijan to face Qarabağ in the Europa League Play-Off round, after two vital away goals from Meier were set up by Aigner, Frankfurt were in command for the second leg. The second leg also saw Frankfurt come out on top against Qarabağ, this time they won 2-1 to win the tie 4-1, goals from Meier and Inui securing their place in the Europa League group stages. The Group Stage draw saw Frankfurt put in Group F alongside Bordeaux, APOEL and Maccabi Tel Aviv. The Eagles did brilliantly in the group stage, five wins and one loss saw them picking up fifteen points, only Ludogorets (16), Salzburg (18), Fiorentina (16) and Tottenham (18) picked up more points.

The opening game of the group saw Frankfurt breeze past Bordeaux, goals from Kadlec, Russ and Djakpa sent the French side packing. Frankfurt’s next test was APOEL and once again Frankfurt came away with a 3-0 victory, the goals came from Alexandrou (OG), Lakić and Jung. Frankfurt made it three wins on the bounce when they defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv 2-0, Kadlec and Meier the players that hit the back of the net. Their only defeat of the group stage came in the away game against Maccabi Tel Aviv, the hosts won 4-2. Maccabi Tel Aviv lead 3-0 at the break and despite goals from Lakić and Meier (PG) Frankfurt weren’t able to complete a comeback, the hosts sealed the win in the 94th minute with Zahavi’s spot kick. One of the highest of the season came in the away game against Bordeaux, there were 12,000 away fans inside the Stade Chaban-Delmas, this was a new group stage record and to top it off in the 83rd minute Lanig scored in front of those 12,000 to secure a 1-0 victory. The last game of the group saw Frankfurt defeat APOEL 2-0 thanks to goals from Schröck and Djakpa, meaning that they managed to win all three of their home matches.

After successfully getting through the group stages the round of 32 waited and Frankfurt were drawn against one of the toughest teams in the competition in FC Porto. The first leg saw Frankfurt travel to Porto and things didn’t go well for them, Quaresma scored just before the break and then Varela made it 2-0 to the hosts with twenty-two minutes remaining, game over?. Well that’s what Porto thought, Frankfurt stunned the hosts as they produced a terrific comeback, goals from Joselu and an own goal from Alex Sandro gave them the advantage heading into the second leg. After a fantastic first leg surely the the second won’t be able to match up to it? Well it did especially for the neutrals and Porto fans. Aigner gave Frankfurt a 1-0 lead going into half time, then Meier made things even better when he doubled Frankfurt’s lead in the 52nd minute, however after 72 minutes the score was 2-2 thanks to two quality headers from Mangala. If it stay as it was the game was going into extra time, but with fifteen minutes remaining Meier put Frankfurt 3-2 ahead with his volley. Frankfurt were on the brink of going through, but it wasn’t to be. With four minutes remaining Trapp couldn’t keep hold of a powerful strike and Ghilas was at the back post to fire into the empty net, sending Porto through on away goals. It was a cruel ending to what was an impressive showing in the Europa League by Frankfurt and one the fans cane be very proud with.

Player of the season

There a few you could argue as player of the season for Frankfurt, Trapp, Jung and Russ have all had solid seasons, another player who’s had a great season is Hoffenheim loanee, Joselu. The striker had a better season than many including myself would’ve expected, scoring fourteen goals in all competitions, he also contributed with two assists. Another player that deserves a mention is Aigner, the winger was one of the top performers last season and he showed this season he can consistently perform at a good standard for Frankfurt. Aigner managed to score four times in the league and like last season he also set up seven goals, Aigner scored once in the cup and in the Europa League he made a good contribution, scoring once and assisting three times, only Barnetta set up more in their European adventure.

The player of the season goes to Meier, he was the star player for Frankfurt last season and once again he performed this campaign. The 31-year-old scored fifteen goals this season, eight in the league and seven in Europe, he also had three assists to his name. One of the most vital goals he scored this season was against Stuttgart, with ten minutes left Frankfurt were trailing 1-0, Rosenthal pulled Frankfurt level before Meier stroked the ball in after some fantastic work from Flum. Meier’s stand out performance of the season was in the club’s Europa League clash against Porto. It was a terrific display from Meier and he played in a part in all three Frankfurt’s goals, he set up the first goal by heading down Jung’s cross to Aigner, the winger was able to hook the ball past Helton. Meier scored his first of the night when Barnetta laid the ball off to him following Zambrano’s fantastic ball over the top, with Helton out of his goal Meier had an easy finish. The second came after a fantastic cross from Oczipka was flicked on by Joselu and Meier’s shot into the ground went into the top corner.

It was mixed season for the Eagles, they failed to perform to their best in the league and that’s partly down to their European adventure. You see this happening time and time again throughout the leagues, a side doesn’t expect to get Europe but they do. Finding a balance between the competition’s is one of the hardest things to do throughout a season, but as we all know Europe is trail and error, so although it seemed Europe was a distraction for the club I’m sure no one would’ve traded it in for a better league position. Hopefully the club and it’s fans enjoyed the European trips, it may be a while before they can test themselves in Europe again. It’s going to be an interesting 2014/15 season for Frankfurt, Armin Veh has joined Stuttgart and Ex-Bremen head coach Thomas Schaaf has replaced him. As well as seeing what impact the new man in charge makes, it’s also going to be interesting to see how well the club do in the league without the European distraction.

Article for VAVEL Bundesliga.

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