Going into the season, many had seen Augsburg as prime candidates for the drop. However, coach Manuel Baum's team, which combines hard work with pace and flair has turned out to be one of this season's surprise starters.
Tuesday night's 1-0 victory over last season’s runners-up in the Bundesliga, RB Leipzig, was Augsburg's third win on the bounce – the first time the team has done so under coach Manuel Baum, while capping off the club's best-ever start to a top-flight campaign.
The Fuggerstädter – so named due to the influential Fugger family who lived in the city in the 16th century – only avoided the relegation playoff on the final day of last season and began this campaign unconvincingly too, getting knocked out of the cup by third-division Magdeburg and starting their league campaign with a 1-0 defeat away at Hamburg.
But a hard-fought 2-2 draw at Borussia Mönchengladbach suggested that Baum’s insatiable work ethic might be starting to rub off on his players. In the convincing wins over Cologne (3-0) and Frankfurt (2-1) which followed however, Augsburg demonstrated that they are more than just a hard-working team.
In Alfred Finnbogason, Michael Gregoritsch and Caiuby, Baum has assembled a dangerous front three with pace, experience and an eye for goal - and the trio combined in devastating fashion after just four minutes against the Red Bull-backed club.
Breaking quickly from their own half, they worked the ball out to Caiuby with a string of quick, one-touch passes. The Brazilian used his immense pace to stroll past Marvin Compper before crossing just behind his strike partner Finnbogason. But the Icelandic international, who scored a hat trick against Cologne in Augsburg’s last home game, kept his cool to find the on-rushing Gregoritsch who scored a clinical first goal for his new club.
Preying on weakness
RB coach Ralph Hasenhüttl made nine changes to the team that had drawn at Gladbach at the weekend, but despite their superior individual quality, the unfamiliar lineup struggled against Augsburg’s well-drilled 5-3-2 formation – which quickly transformed in to a fast-paced 3-4-3 once in possession.
Finnbogason and Gregoritsch combined again 10 minutes later, the Austrian firing just wide before, in the second half, Caiuby pounced on a sloppy dummy from Marcel Sabitzer and launched another rapid Augsburg counterattack. This time it was left back Philipp Max who was denied by RB's second-choice goalkeeper Yvon Mvogo.
Despite some unsavory scenes at the end of the game, Augsburg are currently in a place in the table that would see them qualify for Europe again, and without the distraction of the German Cup, they are free to focus on extending their impressive start to the Bundesliga season. With Finnbogason, Gregoritsch and Caiuby on form, they will fancy their chances away to newly promoted Stuttgart on Saturday.