Dino Toppmöller didn’t make the mistake of sugarcoating what was obviously bad. The defeat in Cologne hit Eintracht hard. Because it came unexpectedly, but was completely deserved. “In terms of football,” the coach admitted, the performance in the 2-0 defeat against “Effzeh” didn’t even begin to match his own intentions.
In the past few days, it has been made clear to him in many ways by club grandees, who used a number of opportunities around the election of Mathias Beck as the new president to vent their disappointment with the team’s recent sporting performance, which was a performance like the one a week ago in the Rhineland is also considered unacceptable internally – and Toppmöller has a duty to ensure that the players’ abilities develop more consistently and that he sets them up as a group in such a way that the second half of the season does not promise to be a joyless, frustrating experience.
The 43-year-old said on Thursday that he would do everything in his power to ensure that the team made “amends” against VfL Bochum this Saturday (3:30 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky). He fueled expectations of a “good reaction” on the 21st Bundesliga matchday. “We want to show from the start that we want to win,” said Toppmöller, who wants to “take the audience along with us with the first action.” It won’t be easy – for many reasons. On the one hand, the suspended Tuta and Niels Nkounkou are missing. The defenders both saw a yellow-red card for repeated foul play in Cologne.
The personnel situation is made worse by the absence of Dina Ebimbe, who cannot be called up because of “muscular problems,” as Toppmöller said. In addition, the nominations of Sasa Kalajdzic and Aurelio Buta are question marks; Both the Austrian attacker and the Portuguese defender will soon become fathers, and their partners are about to give birth.
Toppmöller said that in the future, regardless of individual names, it will be important to have a more convincing work attitude overall. He made this clear in discussions with the professionals afterwards. Against Bochum, he demanded more “intensity” and a higher “energy level” in order to consistently give the opponent a feeling of dominance. “We can’t waste half time,” he said, looking back on the first 45 minutes in Cologne, in which the Frankfurt team were collectively following the action.
“Beacon of hope for the next few weeks”
Toppmöller said he plans to have Omar Marmoush as a striker in the starting lineup. The Egyptian was last in action at the Africa Cup and returned to Frankfurt sick after being eliminated with the selection of his home country. The health problems are now over. He expects the 25-year-old, who is Eintracht’s most accurate player in all competitions with twelve goals, to gain more activity. Toppmöller called him and the Tunisian Fares Chaibi “bearers of hope for the next few weeks”. At the same time, however, he asked that “expectations be adjusted to what is currently possible.” The 43-year-old said that none of the most recently signed professionals, whom he basically described as “super newcomers”, are currently at the peak of their creative potential. “You’re in no shape to shoot the stars out of the sky.”
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In the case of Hugo Ekitike in particular, the description of the situation did not sound very promising. For the Frenchman, who was initially on loan from Paris Saint-Germain until the summer (with a purchase option), the fitness diagnostics in Frankfurt revealed a pitiful level. “He’s behind, we have to be very careful,” said Toppmöller, describing how the 21-year-old recently had to slow down after 45 minutes in an intensive training game because otherwise there would have been a risk of “the muscle flying away.” The club doctors made an urgent recommendation to build Ekitike carefully. He had received “no team training for four months” and recently had “no individual training for six weeks,” said the coach, who did not go into more detail about why PSG pushed aside the ideal candidate who was previously signed by Stade Reims for 28 million.
Ekitike needs to be nurtured
He didn’t want to take part in speculation, said Toppmöller, who added that “under other circumstances we wouldn’t have gotten it.” After his substitution in Cologne, Ekitike at least “hinted” at his potential. It takes time and patience. “I can take hope that he will take us from one win to the next over the next three months,” said the coach with brutal candor that left no room for more pleasant interpretations.
Ekitike first needs to be “buffed up a bit” in order to be able to really strike in the “crunch time” at the end of the season. At best, a short deployment against VfL is an option. However, he is “one hundred percent” convinced of the potential of the youngster, who deals with the difficult situation “very humbly, hard-working and understanding”. Ekitike is “a player for the future” for Eintracht. The fact that the present is likely to turn gray for the time being if we fail against Bochum increases the pressure this weekend. Not least on Toppmöller.