2017/18 Finish: 15th
2018/19 Prediction: 12th
Notable Transfers Out: CB Marc-Oliver Kempf (VfB Stuttgart)
Notable Transfers In: ST Luca Waldschmidt (Hamburger SV – loan made permanent), CB Dominique Heintz (FC Köln), CB Philipp Leinhart (Real Madrid – loan made permanent), CM Jerome Gondorf (Werder Bremen)
Freiburg exemplifies a team that is greater than the sum of its parts. Manager Christian Streich is one of the most underrated managers in Europe, leading Freiburg to two Europa League appearances since he took over in 2011.
The club even stuck by Streich after being relegated in 2015, a decision that paid off as Freiburg bounced right back up the following campaign. However, Freiburg are coming off a poor campaign which resulted in a 15th place finish and -24 goal differential.
Statistically, striker Nils Peterson was more important to his club than any forward in the Bundesliga last season. The veteran bagged 15 goals, earning WhoScored’s man of the match honor six times. Peterson’s 15 of Freiburg’s 32 total team goals was a greater percentage (47%) than any other player in the league by a staggering 15 percent. The next-best number was Robert Lewandowski at Bayern, who scored 29 goals, which totaled to 32 percent of Bayern’s 92 goals.
1. ST Nils Peterson (15 goals)
2. AM Janik Haberer (31 starts)
3. GK Alexander Schwolow (33 starts)
Freiburg often allowed opponents to dictate the tempo of matches, which didn’t really pan out last year as they were too undisciplined and poor defensively to be successful. They averaged just 45.8 percent possession – the lowest number in the Bundesliga – and they were one of just three teams to be red carded at least five times.
‘SCF’ managed just 15 goals from open play last season, the 2nd-lowest in the league and a dreadful number.
However, Freiburg ranks fairly low on this list because of their resiliency over the years under Streich. They have one of Germany’s best goalscorers in Peterson, who has tallied 46 goals in the past three seasons. They also added striker Luca Waldschmidt from Hamburg in an effort to call on someone other than Peterson to bang in goals.
Strengths: manager, striker position, tough to beat at home
Weaknesses: creativity in midfield, creativity on wings, individual brilliance
Aside from Peterson, shot-stopper Alexander Schwolow has been an indispensable player throughout the years for the club located in Germany’s black forest. Schwolow has started 33 or more matches in each of the past three seasons at Freiburg and, despite allowing 56 past him last season, is typically a rock in net.
Despite a complete lack of true class-talent throughout their very mediocre midfield and on the wings, Streich managed to keep Freiburg up last season, which says a lot considering just how poor they were. This squad won just one game in 12 matches from Jan. 27-April 27. But, they remained a strong home team in 2017-18 with a 7-6-4 record at the Schwarzwald-Stadion. They play in a small stadium in front of a passionate crowd in the heart of Germany’s black forest, a truly unique environment in Europe.
Freiburg have made very little noise in the summer transfer window, basically swapping out centre-back Marc-Oliver Kempf for Dominique Heintz and adding Philipp Leinhart to further bolster the defense – which needs bolstering. Making little moves can be a good thing, though, as the board and manager clearly believe in this group of players and that has to give the team confidence heading into a brand new campaign.
Peterson will again bag double-digit goals, but Waldschmidt will chip in as well and Janik Haberer will take another step forward in his career in leading Freiburg to safety and about 40 points in 2018-19. Injuries to any of those trio of players could really derail Freiburg though as they lack depth – up front especially.