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Sports

Opinion: Frankfurt feeling the Schaaf impact

Another weekend, another day when Frankfurt throw away three points late on. But DW's Ross Dunbar reckons the numbers could be helpful going forward.

Ifs and buts could change football profoundly. What if Argentina had scored first in the World Cup final? What if Borussia Dortmund had won the Champions League in 2013? But what about the penalty they were denied at home to Bayern on Saturday? The facts have been written. There's no going back.

But let's pause for a minute and look at Eintracht Frankfurt - 8th in the Bundesliga on 35 points, four points off European places and with the highest goals scored column in the table. New coach Thomas Schaaf has smashed his targets as emphatically as he could have in his first season. Yet there's a sense that Frankfurt might have done just a little better - but it's a game of narrow margins.

Frankfurt's 2-2 draw on Saturday was the club's season in a microcosm - two goals up, then Schaaf's men proceeded to throw two points down the drain as Hannover recovered to snatch a point at the Commerzbank-Arena. Frankfurt has lost 23 points from winning positions this season.

What's more alarming is that Frankfurt has crumbled against teams they should be brushing aside with ease - 2-2 versus Hannover on Saturday, 3-1 at Stuttgart the week before, 3-1 defeat at Mainz and 4-1 loss at Freiburg. That's before you dig deeper into a 5-4 loss at home to Stuttgart, then a 4-4 draw at home to Hertha Berlin.

Had Frankfurt learned to close out games, either through a more compact defense or with shrewder game management, then the story could be so different - five more points would see them level with Schalke, for example.

But overall, this season has been one of plus-points for the Eagles: the emergence of Marc Stendera from autumn onwards has been an outstanding development for the club. The 19-year-old is a diligent runner in midfield and loves to break beyond the strikers. Sonny Kittel has also returned from injury to become a key part of the squad, adding poise and guile with that excellent passing range of his.

On top of that, Schaaf has resurrected the fine combinations of previous seasons between Bastian Oczipka and Takashi Inui on the left-hand side. Meanwhile, on the right-flank Stefan Aigner continues to contribute his share of goals and assists when roaming inwards from the touchline.

We haven't even got to the front-two of Haris Seferovic and Alexander Meier, the top scorer in the division with 19 goals this season. From middle-to-front - not to forget Kevin Trapp in goal of course - this is a good group of players who could turn themselves into a slightly more glamorous Augsburg, or even Mönchengladbach.

There's no magic formula for progression - but Frankfurt's problems are clear and can be resolved in the summer with two or three smart signings.