Weinzierl exit heralds new era for Augsburg | Bundesliga | DW | 17.08.2016
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Weinzierl exit heralds new era for Augsburg

Since promotion to the Bundesliga five years ago, Augsburg have punched well above their weight, defying the critics in the process. But with a raft of changes in the close season, can they keep it up?

It’s a new era in the history of FC Augsburg. The underdogs of the Bundesliga have gone through a summer makeover and will be under new management following Markus Weinzierl's move to Schalke after four years in charge.

Weinzierl has been replaced by Dirk Schuster, the mastermind of Darmstadt’s survival last season, who has been handed the task of keeping the southern German club in the top flight for the sixth consecutive season.

Transfers: Disappointing departures, exciting arrivals

A new dawn is upon Augsburg, with a number of experienced players heading for the exit door in the close season. The often outstanding central defensive partnership of Ragnar Klavan (Liverpool) and Jeong Ho-Hong (JS Suning) has been broken up, while Alex Manninger, Sascha Mölders and Nikola Djurdjic have left the club.

But the biggest loss for Augsburg is that of left-winger Tobias Werner, who has joined Stuttgart in the second division. Far from the club's best individual player, he embodied the Augsburg spirit and played for the southern Germans since 2008. Despite his departure, the club has retired the number 13 shirt, and will continue selling it in the club shop.

Deutschland Fußball Bundesliga Jeong-Ho Hong und Ragnar Klavan

Defensive duo Jeong Ho-Hong and Ragnar Klavan have both been sold

Augsburg's transfer business is unlikely to captivate their supporters, but the club has some smart additions given the relatively low resources at the disposal of sporting director Stefan Reuter.

After an impressive stint on loan last year, Alfred Finnbogason's contract has become permanent, costing the club around four million euros ($4.5 million). Gojko Kacar has joined on a free transfer from Hamburg, whilst Marvin Friedrich has come in from Schalke.

But the most exciting signing has been from the Far East in the form of Japan international Takashi Usami, who returns to German football from Gamba Osaka. The 24-year old landed at Bayern Munich at the age of 19, and then moved on to Hoffenheim, but couldn't secure a long-term deal.

Augsburg are on a strong financial footing after European exploits last season, coupled with the sales of Klavan, Heong and Abdul Rahman Baba, a year ago. Schuster and Reuter will be doing everything to add to the basis of their squad ahead of the Bundesliga kickoff.

Head coach: Dirk Schuster

Schuster's rapid rise to the top with Darmstadt has seen his reputation prosper. The 48-year-old left the Bundesliga’s fairytale club this summer, filling huge shoes left by Weinzierl in the close season.

Darmstadt and Augsburg finished level on points last season, yet started out with very different targets. The Lillies were roundly expected to return to the second tier, while many thought Augsburg would be a comfortable bet for a top half finish. Five points off automatic relegation is tight, but both sides avoided the dreaded relegation battle in the final weeks of the season.

SV Darmstadt 98 Trainer Dirk Schuster

Head coach Dirk Schuster joined Augsburg from Darmstadt

Following Weinzierl's exit, it's clear the club is facing a difficult challenge to survive the drop. Schuster, though, a coach who knows how to keep his team alive, is exactly what Augsburg believe they need for a potentially turbulent season ahead.

Key man: Daniel Baier

The midfield playmaker has been a stalwart for Augsburg in recent seasons. He has been key to everything good that Augsburg have produced in the Bundesliga and keeping him fit, in-form and fighting will be vital in their push to survive.

The 32-year-old struggled with the demands of last season - as did the majority of players - with an ankle injury curtailing his efforts to be the center piece of this side. Baier's experience and know-how this season, should he remain physically fit, will be pivotal to staying in the Bundesliga.

What to expect: Relegation scrap

Fighting against the established powers, Augsburg have been adopted by many as their favorite German club. The club has gone from a miraculous promotion, to fending off relegation at the first time of asking. to reaching European football, which culminated in a double-header with giants Liverpool last season. Their progress has been like a fairly tale.

In that time frame, players have come and gone and that can always require time to settle. Weinzierl though has been the main constant during the last few years, but this time round it marks the start of a new era for the club. Where Weinzierl has gone last year, Schuster won't be expected to follow in acheiving European qualification.

The short-term forecast doesn't look positive for Augsburg, who are ever more likely to be embroiled in a battle to beat the drop. The problem last year was that the European campaign took its toll on an already limited squad. Now the challenge is settling under a new leader with a new vision.

Schuster's time at Darmstadt shows he knows how to get the best out of a group of players, but can he steer Augsburg away from potential danger?

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