Frankfurt: New hope, same old Alex Meier | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 21.08.2016
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Frankfurt: New hope, same old Alex Meier

Frankfurt are embarking on a fresh start under Niko Kovac, after narrowly avoiding relegation last season. Despite plenty of personnel changes, much of Eintracht's fate could ride on the state of Alex Meier's health.

After a rollercoaster of a season last term, that resulted in the Eagles avoiding relegation at the last possible moment, there is renewed hope at Eintract Frankfurt. The club have a promising young head coach in Niko Kovac and former Stuttgart and Dortmund striker Fredi Bobic has come in as the club's board member responsible for sport. So the SGE faithful are starting to get their hopes up . Living up to those expectations may not be so easy, though.

Transfers: Bobic and Kovac show that they mean business

The club has been rather active during the summer break, confirming eight new additions so far, albeit four of them on loan. Most of the additions are attacking players. Captain Alex Meier, who is number five on the all-time list of goal scorers at Frankfurt, missed much of last season through injury, and Eintracht found it hard to score without him. Branimir Hrgota, 23, moved to Frankfurt on a free transfer from Mönchengladbach, and Ante Rebic, 22, has been brought in on loan from Serie A club Fiorentina. Frankfurt hope the two can go a long way towards ending the team's ineffectiveness. Winger Danny Blum has been brought in from Nuremberg after as second division season in which he scored four goals and assisting on eight.

Other newcomers include two prospects from Europe's top clubs. Defenders Guillermo Varela and Jesus Vallejo have joined on loan from Manchester United and Real Madrid respectively, while midfielder Omar Mascarell, who spent time on loan with the likes of Sporting Gijon and Derby Country, has joined on a permanent basis from last year's Champions League winners. Left back Taleb Tawatha was brought in from Israeli side Maccabi Haifa.

Notable departures over the summer include defender Carlos Zambrano (Rubin Kazan) and winger Stefan Aigner ( 1860 Munich). Defender Aleksandar Ignjovski has moved south to newly promoted Freiburg.

Head coach: Niko Kovac

The former Croatia head coach is going to his first full season in his new role in the Bundesliga. After being appointed to replace Armin Veh in March, The no-nonsense Kovac managed to turn the team's fortunes around and keep them in the top flight.

"When the opponent is technically superior to my team, it's something that takes a lot of time to change, so we have to be physically stronger," said Kovac in a recent interview with the "Frankfurter Allgemeine" newspaper. In fact, new signing Taleb Tawatha is reported to have had to leave a couple of training sessions early because he was simply not up to their intensity.

Kovac's biggest task in rebuilding the squad will be finding the proper balance between new and old. While most of the club's recent signings are young, rather unproven players in the Bundesliga, five of Frankfurt's established players are 30 or older. But while young players can be expected to inject energy and enthusiasm into the squad, the presence of the more experienced players to guide the youngsters is vital.

Niko Kovac

Niko Kovac is entering his first full season on the River Main

Key Man: 'Footballing god' Alex Meier

Eintracht may have a new management team and a hoard of new players, but one thing will stay the same on the River Main this season. Captain Alex Meier remains the team's most important player. The 33-year-old forward is a prolific goal-scorer, reaching double figures in four of the last five seasons, while finishing as the league's top scorer two years ago.

Obviously, though, Meier isn't getting any younger and the mand described by Eintracht fans as a "footballing god" has been injury prone in recent years, and he missed much of last season with a knee injury. A healthy Alex Meier would be Kovac's biggest asset as he seeks to keep Frankfurt away from the relegation zone. Another injury-riddled season could cause major headaches for Bobic, Niko Kovac, as well as his assistant and brother, Robert Kovac.

What to expect: A mid-table finish

It's doesn't look like it will be an easy season in Frankfurt. There have been major changes to the squad and a new management team is in place. While the fans may be feeling optimistic, it could all end in tears. It will be vital for Kovac to get the most out of the reinforcements that he has brought in. If the summer signings work out and Meier stays healthy, a mid-table finish could be on the cards. On the other hand, it wouldn't come as much of a surprise if Frankfurt were to find themselves in another relegation battle.

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