FC Augsburg have carved an interesting niche for themselves in the Bundesliga—they’ve managed to stay up for five seasons and turn themselves into a lower table side with the occasional potential for greater things. 2014-15 was a landmark year for the Bavarian side, placing fifth, their highest ever league finish, and securing a spot in the UEFA Europa League. While they were stretched a bit thin battling on two fronts last year, Augsburg managed a 3-1 come-from-behind win against FK Partizan to advance to the knockout rounds. They were promptly dispatched by Liverpool in the Round of 32 and finished in 12th place domestically. This didn’t stop Schalke from luring away Markus Weinzierl and Augsburg countered by hiring former Darmstadt skipper Dirk Schuster, a shrewd hire given Schuster’s talents in shepherding the Lilies to a mid-table finish despite being widely pegged for relegation. So which Augsburg will show up in 2016-17? The 2014 side, which secured European qualification? Or the 12th place side from last year? Read on to find out.
Transfer summary (prices from transfermarkt.com)
Jeong-Ho Hong – JS Suning (€6 million)
Ragnar Klavan – Liverpool (€5 million)
Tobias Werner – VFB Stuttgart (€1 million)
Alexander Manninger -Liverpool (Free)
Nikola Djurdjic -Partizan (€400,000)
Thoughts: The losses of Klavan and Jeung-Ho Hong in the centerback position could leave a bit of a gap for Schuster’s side and it is possible Augsburg will look to plug the hole with another addition before the transfer window slams shut. Manninger was used only to spell an injured Simon Jentzsch, so his departure for Merseyside shouldn’t trouble the Fuggerstädter.
Alfreo Finnbogason -Real Sociedad (€4 million)
Takashi Usami – Gamba Osaka (€1.5 million)
Marvin Friedrich- Schalke (€1 million)
Gojko Kacar -Hamburg (Free)
Georg Teigl -RB Leipzig (Free)
Thoughts: Bringing Finnbogason back permanently is a big boost for Augsburg: the Icelandic striker scored seven goals after arriving from Sociedad in January. He is an adept finisher who doesn’t wow with his pace or technical ability but can simply bang home goals. He is joined by Usami, who comes aboard from Japanese side Gamba Osaka but this is a tad misleading—the 24-year-old previously played for Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim before returning to his boyhood club. Finally, adding Gojko Kacar from Hamburg on a free will bolster the midfield. A hero for Hamburg in their relegation threatened 2014-15 season, Kacar’s tackling and strength will be a welcome addition for Schuster.
Adding Schuster to lead Augsburg was a stroke of genius, with the former Darmstadt man bringing his strong defensive tactics to Bavaria. He will need it, as his side starts a bit thin at the back but make no mistake, this Augsburg side has the potential to better where it is being predicted to finish. Koo Ja-cheol should be back from injury and ready to repeat the form that saw on net a hat trick against Leverkusen last year. Finnbogason will look to continue the goal scoring prowess that saved Augsburg’s season last year and Raul Bobadilla and Caiuby will also look to chip in as well. This is not a side that wows, with a distinct lack of big names, but it has the capability to deliver a mid-table finish. And if the stars (and Schuster’s tactics) align, the potential for more could be there as well.