By Mark Bennett
A 5-1 win against RSC Anderlecht on Matchday 4 showed that SV Werder Bremen are masters of the art of stretching an opposition defence to breaking point with their wing play.
In winning a famous Bundesliga and German Cup double last season, defences throughout Germany were made only too aware of what Bremen were capable of. With the ball being played through playmaker Johan Micoud, the champions were frequently able to exploit the pace of strikers Ailton and Ivan Klasnic.
Ailton went on to score 28 goals, and was the Bundesliga's top scorer, while Klasnic scored 13 to make the Bremen duo the most feared attacking pairing in Germany. However, following Ailton's move to FC Schalke 04 in the summer, Bremen have had to adapt their winning formula.
They can no longer rely on Ailton's blistering pace to unsettle defences, but as they showed against Anderlecht, coach Thomas Schaaf has come up with an alternative attacking model which has the potential to be every bit as devastating as the original.
With Miroslav Klose now partnering Klasnic up front, Bremen strive to get the ball out wide and drill crosses in for their two tall strikers. Strong in the air but technically gifted too, Klose and Klasnic can cross as well as finish, and Micoud has also thrived in his new role further out on the wing.
"It is true that we have changed our system slightly, but that is not uncommon after losing a player like Ailton," said sporting director Klaus Allofs. "None the less, I think that Klose has done an impressive job of filling the gap and his partnership with Klasnic is improving with every game."
Klasnic hit a hat-trick against Anderlecht and Klose also got his name on the scoresheet, with four of the five goals Bremen eventually racked up, created from wide positions.
Klasnic's opening strike on two minutes came after a cleared Micoud free-kick fell kindly for the Croatian international. The striker's second goal of the evening was from a Micoud corner. When Klose made it 3-1, Micoud once again provided the delivery from the left and Klasnic's third and final goal of the game was the product of another Micoud pass, this time from the right.
Micoud was not the only player eager to run at the Belgian defence. Christian Schulz, Ludovic Magnin, Paul Stalteri and Daniel Jensen also tried to get to the touchline as often as possible and send crosses into the area. A predictable tactic perhaps, but unquestionably an effective one.
However, Bremen are still not completely happy, with Klose insisting: "
We needed a few matches to find our gameplan and we dropped some unnecessary points as a result. Now we have improved considerably and I believe that we will get even better as the season goes on."
Should their wide men earn them a win against FC Internazionale Milano on Matchday 5, Schaaf's side will be certain of stretching defences with their remorseless wing play in the last 16.
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