What Werder Bremen Can Learn from Dortmund to Get Back to the Top

Stefan Bienkowski@@SbienkowskiFeatured ColumnistFebruary 9, 2014

Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski of Poland, left, celebrates with teammates after scoring during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund in Bremen, Germany, Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Werder Bremen's 5-1 loss to Borussia Dortmund in this weekend's Bundesliga showdown will have raised few eyebrows across the league, yet for many fans of the green and whites, it will go down as just another week in what has been one of the most dramatic demises of any club in Germany.

Of course, Werder Bremen weren't always this bad.

For a club with such a rich history in the Bundesliga we only have to go back six years to this very matchday to see a league table with the famous Die Werderaner in second place, three points from first and plucky Dortmund just five points from a relegation spot. 

Yet, although changing fortunes of one club to the next is exactly what the Bundesliga is all about and undoubtedly one of its grandest appeals, there must be some who watched this weekend's tie between these two yo-yo clubs and wondered just what Bremen would have to do to turn their fortunes around just like Dortmund have done. 

The first drastic contrast between Bremen and Dortmund is, of course, the man who stands on either touch-line throughout each game. The Borussia side are not only coached by Jurgen Klopp, but clearly live through his mantra of how to play football.

Every player at the club would quite happily run through walls for their passionate manager. 

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Robin Dutt - a clueless head coach?
Robin Dutt - a clueless head coach?Martin Meissner/Associated Press

On the other hand, we have Robin Dutt who picked up the role of Bremen head coach following the sacking of Thomas Schaff in May of last year. The defender-turned-coach who guided the Green and Whites through their recent golden period and amassed a dynasty at the club of 14 years. 

Yet, Dutt has managed very little since arriving at the club, with a win ratio of 24 percent after 21 games in the Bundesliga, and with a CV that shows little more than a bright stint at 2. Bundesliga side Freiburg (at the time) and one season at Bayer Leverkusen that did very little to impress fans, as he followed club legend Jupp Heynckes out the door the following season. 

However, it isn't just Dutt's record that stands against him. His personality and style of managing doesn't adhere him to the great unconvinced either. 

Throughout the league we have a number of young, exciting coaches who have took over at certain clubs and made them their own, just like Klopp has done at Dortmund. At Gladbach we have Lucien Favre, Thomas Tuchel at Mainz and Christian Streich at Freiburg. Each has their own personality that is so evident through their teams and what makes their clubs so stable and eager to move up the league. 

Bremen used to have that in the form of Schaff, but they did seem to have justifiable reasons for eventually letting him go. They should have spent more time finding a manager who could then emulate what the former coach had done and work to build upon it.

At this point in time, Dutt doesn't seem to be the man for that job. 

The other pillar of Dortmund's success from zero to hero in such a short time period is, of course, the manner in which they were able to play the transfer market to their beckoning call as well as developing efficient youth players to come through the ranks of the team. 

The latter of these traits is one that we may have to side step for Bremen due to the fact that geography simply does not favour them when it comes to young players to latch onto throughout Germany.

Dortmund reside within the Ruhr area of Germany that has been home to a vast majority of the country's most promising young players. It's a factory floor for German prodigies and exactly why Schalke, as well as Klopp's own side, are continuously stacked in young alternatives on the bench.

Bremen do have a perfectly good youth systemone that is undoubtedly better than most across the U.K.but not the kind of conveyor belt that can take them to the top of the Bundesliga like it did Dortmund. 

Where Die Werderaner can potentially compete is in the transfer market.

In fact, it's the one problem that they must tackle head on. Selling players and refusing to find cheaper alternatives are exactly what has got the club into this mess, and it's something they'll have to deal with if they want to get out. 

Most fans would point to the moment Miroslav Klose was allowed to leave for Bayern Munich in 2008, but as Dortmund have shown time and time again, it isn't through the manner of holding on to your best players that you maintain success, but rather through the effort to constantly evolve and find ample replacements. 

The real demise of Werder Bremen came in the summer of 2010. The club had just sold Mesut Ozil, a talented young midfielder who had just had a wonderful World Cup for Germany, to Real Madrid for a modest €15 million.

This exact point was where they stopped chasing success. 

Marco Reus. An example of Dortmund's efficient transfer policy.
Marco Reus. An example of Dortmund's efficient transfer policy.Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Selling Ozil was no fault alone. He was a young player who was wanted by half of Europe, and when Real Madrid came calling, he simply couldn't say no. Yet, the manner in which the club went about replacing their young prodigy was doomed to failure. 

In came Marko Arnautovic from FC Twente of Holland's Eredivisie and Brazilian attacking midfielder Wesley from Santos in Brazil. Two unproven midfielders who amassed a grand total of four goals and five assists in 45 Bundesliga matches between them that season. Only five goals and 12 assists less than Ozil had single-handedly managed the year before. That season Bremen finished 13th, just three spots above relegation. 

Of course, the terrible transfers don't just end there.

The following season saw Per Mertesacker move to Arsenal with little more than an unknown quantity in Sokratis from Genoa in Italy's Serie A on loan to replace him. Then the season after that, we see young star Marko Marin chance his arm at a move to Chelsea while the club's one good centre back, Naldo, opts for a big-money move to Wolfsburg.

Replacements? Why bother when they can sign Eljero Elia from Juventus and Gebre Selassie from Czech Republic side FC Slovan. Bremen then finished 14th that season. 

When Dortmund lost Nuri Sahin, they signed the young, exciting prospect of Ilkay Gundogan from Nurnberg. When they lost Shinji Kagawa, they had Marco Reus confirmed as a simple replacement. Even now, as Robert Lewandowski looks set to sign for Bayern Munich, Dortmund are working feverishly to sign players such as Kevin Volland or Adrian Ramos.

If Klopp is forced to sell a first-team player, you'll be sure to see him line up a perfect replacement who has already proved himself in the league. 

It's this inability or simple ignorance toward dealing with good players leaving the club, as they do all over the World at big and small clubs alike, that has cost Bremen their spot at the Bundesliga's top table over the past four years.

The Bundesliga is a tight affair with clubs that come and go, but what distinguishes one from the other is the manner in which they can rebuild squads and continue competing. Werder Bremen haven't done that for some time, and it is exactly why they are now three points from relegation. 


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