OstDeutscher Sieg | Part 5 | Zwickau #4: Second Season Syndrome

Ruprecht Prusseit massively enjoyed his first season as a Football Manager. But it took him some time to get over the carnage that unfolded at its conclusion in one of the tightest league finales ever, which you can read about in Part 4.

His FSV Zwickau massively exceeded all expectations in 2022/23, coming within one goal of promotion to 2. Bundesliga. But it wasn’t to be and now a daunting rebuild awaited Prusseit in his first proper summer transfer window – especially considering he didn’t sign a single player in his first season!

Massive Summer Rebuild

The summer break saw Prusseit take the first step towards becoming a proper manager as he gained his National C Licence. But on 1 July, a real test of his abilities saw 20 players leave the club on free transfers, two more retired and two were sold for minimal profit.

However, Prusseit did make his first-ever signings as a Football Manager. The first players in were end-of-contract deals for strikers Daniel Kalajdzic (brother of Wolves striker Sasa) and Marvin Pourié, who scored 15 league goals for Meppen last season, and Dortmund centre-back Antonios Papadopolous. He took a bit of a gamble on Brazilian holding midfielder Adriel before adding winger Alexander Nollenberger, who should obviously be a right-winger, full-back Marco Muller, backup centre-back Tobias Weber, holding midfielder Lars Holtkamp and right-back Yanni Regasel. Then, just as the season had kicked off, the board agreed to grant Prusseit a senior affiliate and duly delivered Bayern Munchen, which could be a game-changer in the future!

In total, 24 players left the club and 11 arrived, without spending a single penny. Prusseit also promoted several youngsters, including last season’s youth intake prospects goalkeeper Feisal Ali and centre-back David Bangura, while 16-year-old Luís Júnior starts the season as first-choice in midfield. And the tactic for this season remains very similar to last, with the holding midfield role switched from a Regista to a Segundo Volante. Edgy.

Into The Unknown In Season 2

The media predict nothing to have changed, again saying Zwickau will finish 13th with odds of 33/1 to win 3. Liga. Ingolstadt are 5/6 favourites followed by Dynamo Dresden (13/8), Holstein Kiel (13/8), 1860 Munchen (2/1). Magdeburg (10/1) and Erzebirge Aue (11/1). Magdeburg and Energie Cottbus joined Zwickau in the third tier, meaning six of the 20 clubs in the division are from East Germany – and Prusseit had half an eye on how Dresden and Magdeburg performed, in case an opportunity arose.

In truth, Prusseit didn’t quite know what to expect from his Zwickau side this season. He was fairly sure they were stronger in attack and defence, but he was worried about the midfield and lack of strength in depth. His new-look team, which included six debutants starting on opening day, began season two with a trip to Waldhof Mannheim. A poor game saw little happen until Júnior sent Pourié through to slam home the opener on his debut after 75 minutes, only for the hosts to equalise immediately. But two more debutants had the last laugh as Nollenberger created the winner for substitute Kalajdzic five minutes from time.

Their first home game saw Wehen Wiesbaden come to town and dominate the first half only for striker Noel Eichinger to convert Johan Gómez’s cross just before half-time. The same combination combined again in a devastating counter-attack just before the hour mark. And Zwickau strolled to a 2-0 victory.

A dire run of form

Gómez was at it again in the next game at Bayreuth, creating the opener for Nollenberger before Papadopolous also scored his first goal just after half-time, then scored the third. But Gómez and goalkeeper Johannes Brinkies picked up injuries, which saw Ali make his 16-year-old Ali debut at Energie Cottbus. The perfect start unsurprisingly ended with a 1-0 defeat after Adriel missed a penalty and the same result followed for an exhausted team at Osnabruck. They got back on track with a 3-1 win over newly-promoted Lubeck thanks to goals by Eichinger, Kalajdzic and his replacement Pourié, but the away struggles continued with a 2-1 loss at favourites Ingolstadt.

Next up was a first clash with fellow East German side Magdeburg, who absolutely dominated with 26 shots to 10 but found Brinkies in inspired form. However, they eventually broke through after 85 minutes and won 2-0. And it didn’t get any better with a 3-1 loss at 1860, which took them to three consecutive defeats and five in the last six.

That forced Prusseit into a change of formation, switching to a 4-2-3-1 ahead of a big game at home to local rivals Dresden. And it at least stopped the rot with a 0-0 draw. What they didn’t need next was Dortmund II, who battered them twice last season, and another goalless 90 minutes saw a 1-0 defeat. This was not looking good!

But it got even worse as they conceded inside 30 seconds at Meppen and lost 2-0 then scored early but threw it away to lose 2-1 at home to Elversberg. Prusseit was getting desperate and switched to a 3-4-3 formation that started well at Dusseldorf II as Pourié scored after half an hour. And this time they held on for their first win in eight games!

They backed that up by conceding in the 95th minute to lose 2-1 at home to Freiburg II, which set up a crucial trip to fellow struggling East German side Hallescher that the fans dubbed “season-defining.” You’d think that’d fire the team up but it didn’t as they conceded after 20 minutes. Pourié dragged them level but they immediately conceded again and looked to be drifting to yet another defeat. But in the 94th minute, Nollenberger curled in a delicious free-kick to claim a vital point.

A 15-day break gave Prusseit a chance to rest players then drill them in training as he reverted to his preferred 4-4-2. It nearly worked as they led 2-1 at home to Unterhaching only to yet again concede in injury time then led twice at Holstein Kiel but also drew 2-2. That took them into another crucial rival clash in the Sachsen Derby at home to Erzgebirge, which saw 16th play 17th and it showed in a terrible game. But it swung on a special moment as young striker Luis Cortijo-Lange, who signed on a free transfer mid-way through October – scored his first senior goal to nick all three points.

The year concluded with a 2-2 draw at home to Mannheim and a massive 2-1 win at Wiesbaden thanks to a brace from new hero Cortijo-Lange. That took them to six unbeaten and two wins in three to arrest a really shaky spell that saw the media speculating Prussiet would be fired.

But as they headed into a month-long winter break, Zwickau looked relatively safe in mid-table. They had 26 points from 21 games and were seven points clear of the relegation zone and were just three points behind 8th position. But any chance of a surprise playoff push this season was well and truly out of contention. Nollenberg has the second-most assists in the league (8) and Adriel leads the way with bookings (10).

Big East German cup clash!

Zwickau beat a team from a higher division for the first time as they beat Eintracht Braunschweig 2-0 in the DFB Pokal first round. That set up a massive clash with East German giants Union Berlin, who finished 14th in Bundesliga last season, in their first game against a Bundesliga side. The game was also chosen for live TV, which saw Zwickau given £475,000! Union obviously dominated the game and scored a screamer, but Zwickau did well to hold them to just a 1-0 defeat.

Could Prusseit continue to drive Zwickau up the table? Or was a relegation battle on the cards in season two of OstDeutsche Sieg? Join us next time to find out!

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