15 years of exile, and they are back. Fortuna Dusseldorf is a team, not many recent fans would be aware of after spending the last decade in the lower divisions, before ultimately climbing out of the wilderness. Five games played and still unbeaten Fortuna look ready for top flight football at last. Till now atleast. Despite their undefeated start to the season, they have only found the net in two of the five matches played and are yet to concede. That stat is juvenile in it’s foundation though, as Dusseldorf have scored only in away matches and have yet to meet a team with some serious attacking potential. Their toughest opponent so far has been Gladbach, a team that is yet to hit top gear themselves. Norbert Meieir’s conservative football has paid dividends so far, and a couple of good results in the coming weekends and Dusseldorf can stop worrying about relegation dogfights. So what exactly have been the key ingredients to this resilient work force of Dusseldorf that is yet to see Giefer concede a goal? TheHardTackle looks at some of the major factors:
Counter attacking football
Dusseldorf started their campaign against Augsburg and were fairly cautious in their approach. What followed was not foreseen by many. Augsburg dominated proceedings on home turf for most of the game, till some excellent breaks lead to a brace from Dani Schahin in the second half. Fortuna went on to win 2-0 in a match where they barely deserved it. The hit and run scalp of matchday one led to further strengthening of Meier’s faith in an already conservative mindset. A pattern followed thereby, with Fortuna repelling an array of attacks against Gladbach, Freiburg and Stuttgart, each of the games ending in stalemates. Despite being a boring nightmare for most neutrals, Dusseldorf have done themselves no harm with their defensive minded approach and a continuation of the same should see them sitting safely, distant from the relegation zone.
Resolute defending and poor finishing
A good attack wins you matches, a great defence will win you titles, they say. Meier seems to have based his philosophies on the same ideal, just with a different target in mind. The Fortuna backline has been watertight to say the least, especially the center backs Malezas and Langenecke have held firm against tides of attacks in all their matches so far. Add to that, some awful finishing and profligacy in front of goal from their opponents and the reason for their unadulterated run becomes clear. The defensive organization has been astute, with a visible opening and closing pattern from the players like that of a spider’s legs when not in possession making Fortuna a difficult team to break down.
Support from midfield
Midfield plays a crucial role in the protection of the backline and that is where Oliver Fink comes into the picture. With almost 5 tackles per game, he has been one of the most impressive defensive midfielders in the league this term. He shields the defence and protects the back four with interceptions, strong tackles and is easily one of the first names on the team sheet. The support from the wings doesn’t go unnoticed either as Kruse and Lambertz, both attacking midfielders, track back and cover the fullbacks. The added number of bodies at the back only adds to the defensive security for the defenders. The work rate from the midfield has been a key factor in Fortuna keeping their sheet clean this season.
Difficulty of opponents
The teams that have faced Dusseldorf to put it politely, have not had the most potent attacks. Stuttgart are struggling with goals, Augsburg are miserable themselves, Gladbach have yet to find their flow. Bigger tests lie ahead for Meier and his men as his team can’t expect to only focus on keeping teams out. With the difficulty of opponents rising hereafter, the attack will have to take more responsibility. A strong and stable defence should definitely be priority, but getting over reliant on the same won’t be the best idea for the newly promoted side. The defensive record, however impressive, will not win them matches and perhaps a more balanced approach would suit them better in the long run. Meier has identified his team’s strengths and Fortuna have benefited from the same, but the fixture list has played it’s part too.