2017-18 Finish: 11th
2018-19 Prediction: 10th
Notable Transfers In: CAM Davy Klaassen (Everton), FW Yuya Osako (Köln), RB Felix Beijmo (Djurgarden), CF Martin Harnek (Hannover 96), CAM Kevin Mohwald (Nürnberg)
Notable Transfers Out: CM Thomas Delaney (Dortmund), CM Jerome Gondorf (SC Freiburg), CAM Zlatko Junuzovic (RB Salzburg)
It was yet another frustrating campaign in 2017-18 for Werder, who were near the bottom of the table for much of the opening two-thirds of the season before a strong finish. It also marked the seventh consecutive season the club finished in 9th-place or worse and below 46 points.
The Green-Whites actually went winless in their opening 11 matches, but became one of the best clubs in the league after November, going 9-7-5 in their final 21 matches. That will give manager Florian Kohfeldt and his squad a big confidence boost heading into the new campaign that they can achieve a strong, top-half of the table finish.
Unfortunately, Werder lost their now-former best player Thomas Delaney to Borussia Dortmund, and they so far have failed to find a replacement in central midfield. Additions Davy Klaasen and Martin Harnek play higher up than Delaney did, who was more of a true central, box to box midfielder.
What has been the achilles heel for Werder in recent seasons has been mental mistakes and slow starts. There’s a lack of depth in their back-four, so a long-term injury to one of their top two defenders Milos Veljkovic or Ludwig Augustinsson would be devastating.
There is talent defensively in their starting XI, as those two and Selassie are solid players as well as centre-back Niklas Moisander. However, often there has not been enough protection up front at holding/central midfield, allowing opponents far too many scoring chances at times.
Their solid attack, goalkeeping and mental resiliency will be what keeps Werder in the Bundesliga for a 39th-straight season. Forward Max Kruse will be joined by club legend Claudio Pizarro up front this year, who may be past it on the pitch, but will definitely be a boost in the dressing room and help the younger forwards develop. Kruse led the team in both goals and assists last season but still looks to improve as he bagged 15 goals in the 2016-17 campaign.
Strengths: experience, never-say-die attitude, goalkeeping
Weaknesses: questions at midfield, lack of talent on wings, depth in most positions
This team really lacks talent on the wing, proven by averaging just 6.0 dribbles per game last season which was second-lowest in the Bundesliga. Again, they did very little to address this problem.
Talent-wise, Werder Bremen aren’t too much stronger than many teams in the Bundesliga, but other factors such as a fantastic home-pitch advantage, having plenty of proven Bundesliga players and a phenomenal final two-thirds of last season prompts me to have them as a mid-table side rather than near the bottom.