SGS Essen is flying high: This is where Essen’s best start to the season in four years comes from

As of: November 17, 2023 2:00 p.m

When TSG Hoffenheim plays against SGS Essen on matchday 8, the third-placed and fifth-placed teams meet, Essen has 11 points. The club from the Ruhr area, in its 20th Bundesliga season in a row, is currently the only club in the league without a connection to a licensed club. The SGS hasn’t been as good as it is at the moment after seven match days: in the 2019/20 season it was fourth place in the table and 15 points.

Annika Becker

At the end of that season they finished fifth in the Bundesliga, while in the cup they reached the final against VfL Wolfsburg. The squad included some national players who are now under contract with larger clubs, such as Marina Hegering, Lena Oberdorf, Lea Schüller, Nicole Anyomi and Jana Feldkamp, ​​who is now facing her former club with Hoffenheim once again.

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Best start to the season in four years

Only three players in the current Bundesliga squad were already at the club in 2019/20. In recent years, the club has had to cope with a major upheaval every summer because the talents introduced to the Bundesliga by the club are sought after by other teams, move on and then new young players have to be brought in again. For the moment, at least, this cycle seems to have been slowed down.

Overall, there were far fewer transfer movements this summer (six departures, six additions) than in recent years – which is also similar to the 2019/20 season (seven departures, four additions). Above all, the fast Vivien Endemann (21, VfL Wolfsburg) and the two defenders Ella Touon (19, SKN St. Pölten) and Nina Räcke (21, RB Leipzig) had to be replaced.

Wolfsburg’s Vivien Endemann in action

Important players extended their contracts over the summer: regular goalkeeper Sophia Winkler (20), captain Jacqueline Meißner (29), assist provider Natasha Kowalski (20) and striker Ramona Maier (28) all signed until 2026. Lena Ostermeier (27), after leaving Touon has been a permanent left defender since this season, even until 2027. These are long terms in women’s football and for a club like SGS.

New assistant coach

Compared to similar times in previous seasons, the team is noticeably more coordinated. This is also because new additions are slowly integrated into the squad through substitutions. Only Lilli Purtscheller (20) has already been placed in the right wing position, which Endemann previously played. In addition, head coach Markus Högner (56) has always used almost exactly the same starting eleven with detailed adjustments depending on the opponent. Against Nuremberg, for example, it was noticeable that the pass from the wing into the backcourt was sought more often because FCN offered a lot of space there, especially in the initial phase.

The staff was also expanded before the season: Robert Augustin, who came from MSV Duisburg, is another assistant coach. This allows the training tasks to be distributed over more shoulders and a more detailed approach, including in terms of tactics. Against Leverkusen (0-0), Essen was so well prepared for Robert de Pauw’s game that more than a draw would have been possible. The surprising win against Eintracht Frankfurt at the start of the season provided an additional cushion of points. Because even if the SGS is currently close to the Champions League places, the club’s goal is clearly to stay in the league as early as possible.

The second best defense in the league

Since the SGS, together with VfL Wolfsburg, has the second-best defense in the league behind Bayern Munich with only six goals conceded so far, the comparison with the competition in the bottom of the table looks good even beyond the pure points. Nuremberg and Duisburg have both conceded more than 20 goals. Defensively, Essen often manages statistically this season to prevent their opponents from even getting into their own penalty area.

A guarantee for this is captain Jacqueline Meißner, who has been in outstanding form since the last second half of the season. She leads the back four with a lot of overview and even repeatedly joins the offensive with quick runs through the center. Another player who strongly combines defense and offense and protects Meißner in these situations is Katharina Piljić (20), who, however, suffered an ankle injury against Nuremberg. Their precise long balls on offense will likely be missed in the next few weeks.

In attack, the SGS had to be accused this season of not always using their own chances well enough. There was a big 5-0 win against Nuremberg last weekend, but there were still one or two problems in converting chances despite the many goals. On paper, Essen is once again in the role of the underdog in the away game against TSG Hoffenheim.