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There was once a time where Dresden was a center of art and achievement. Founded by Augustus I in 1560 and further cultivated under the reigns of Augustus II and Augustus III, the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden remains one of the oldest and most notable art institutions in the world. Through this, Dresden became a leading city in art and technology.
With their famous 2.Bundesliga triumph and promotion to the German top flight, Dynamo Dresden, under trainer Andrew Thompson, have set their sights on re-establishing the city as an influence on the domestic and continental landscape. This time, through football.
Celebrations of their historic campaign during the 2018-19 season continued long into the summer months. All around the Aldstadt, at the foot of the Frauenkirche, in the Altmarkt (and Neumarkt) Square, and down the Prager Straße and Postplatz, you could find jovial fans reliving their favorite moments weeks after the event. But for Thompson, his staff, and the players, work began immediately in preparation for what would be their toughest obstacle yet.
Without running the risk of turning into a proverbial task-master, Thompson decided to put his troops through their pre-season paces with a more demanding approach. The aim was simple; hit the ground running as quickly as possible, with the aim of better fitness levels early on coming into play for an opening month of the season that was sure to test their limits.
An introduction to life in the Bundesliga was to be provided by Borussia Dortmund, now under the guidance of former RB Leipzig and FC Ingolstadt headmaster Ralph Hasenhüttl. Dates with Hertha BSC, RB Leipzig, TSG Hoffenheim, and Bayern Munich would follow over a period of a month and a half. Hard truths would have to be met with hard work if Dresden was to avoid being blown clear out of contention for safety by the Winterpause.
With the help of an experienced fitness team and a now-expanded physio department, a heavy three-a-day training regime was implemented for the entirety of pre-season; one that would carry over into the first weeks of the league campaign.
Most importantly, Thompson and the backroom staff were pleased to observe how the squad handled the heavier pre-season workload. Not only were the squad enjoying the new program, but there was an actual decrease in injuries suffered in comparison to last season. The risk certainly paid off.
Collective over sentiment
Despite promotion and the clubs increased financial capacity, it was always a worry that some of Dresden’s key first-team assets would demand larger wage packets. At the tail end of the promotion campaign, this is something that Thompson had to negotiate to the detriment of the clubs wage structure, and, unfortunately for him, he would have to part ways with two of his best assets on the back of it.
Moussa Koné was one of the difference makers during the second half of the promotion campaign. After losing his starting place at center forward to youngster Dejan Joveljic, Koné found a new lease on life on the right flank of Dresden’s forward line. After ending the season level with Joveljic for the team lead in goals, it didn’t take long for the Senegalese international and his delegation to begin overtures for a new deal.
The meeting was happily entertained by Thompson, who saw Koné as a key to help avoid relegation, but after demands of a fresh ₤25k/week deal with heavy bonuses came across his desk, all talks were suspended and Koné was immediately placed on the market. The same can be said of Brian Hamalainen, a player whose influence on Dresden’s approach when in position was vital. He too demanded a bumper deal that could not be accommodated, but the acquisition of Zlatan Sehovic during the winter transfer window, and his performances during the remainder of the season made Hamalainen’s departure easier to cope with.
Showing himself to put the team and club before the personal financial demands of a player – no matter how important – was unanimously supported by the fan base and board alike. The eventually agreed fees for both players would allow Thompson greater maneuverability in the summer market after the board had become increasingly closed-off to the ideas of additional investment.
Summer investment and long-term planning
Coming into the summer it was always the intent for Dresden to look at improving squad-depth, improving on the clubs’ youth intake, and ensuring a deal could be struck for Dario Dumic. Despite the nature of the departures of Koné and Hamalainen, fans can be confident that Dynamo goes into the league campaign with a squad capable of fending off relegation.
The deal for Dumic ended up going through without a hitch, with the pre-agreed ₤1.3m fee included in the loan agreement triggered, and the player was more than happy to make Dresden his new home. In addition, an unexpected upgrade in the heart of the defense came when a surprise deal worth ₤2.7m was struck with Partizan Belgrade for highly-touted Serbian international Svetozar Markovic.
Further deals were agreed for Croatian goalkeeper Marko Malenica (NK Osijek), Slovakian international David Ivan (Free Transfer), loan deals for Palko Dárdai (Hertha BSC) and Erkan Eyibil (Mainz 05), and multiple deals for U19 players with the future in mind.
Dresden’s commitment to localized recruitment has also remained going into Thompson’s second season in charge. Incapable of truly competing in the larger markets, Dynamo’s current ability to peg players off clubs from surrounding nations or in eastern Europe has genuinely paid dividends.
The affiliate-club relationship with Puskas Akademia was retained going into the new season and players from their academy continued to supplement the youth pipeline in the Dresden area. Stronger ties with fellow Hungarian clubs MTK Budapest and Ferencvaros also took root, as Dynamo scouts could regularly be found keeping tabs on their youth sector. Much the same can be said for clubs in Serbia and Croatia, as the success of the deals for Joveljic, Hasic, and Sehovic was deemed to have provided ample evidence to continue to monitor matters there.
Moving forward, it is assumed that recruitment centers will continue to be established in the areas in question, as there is no guarantee that the club will look to pump its own financial resources into homegrown youth recruitment past a certain standard. This could be seen as a potential point of contention, however, as Thompson has insisted that the future of the club be firmly placed in its ability to cultivate young players, especially domestically.
The run-up to the Bundesliga campaign
As pre-season progressed the air around Dresden was one of caution. Sometimes fans succumb to that until they have something tangible to hold on to. Once the preparation fixtures began in earnest, however, everything was back to normal.
Dynamo kicked-off the final weeks with friendlies against affiliate clubs Borea Dresden, Dresden 06, and Bautzen with 8-0, 4-1, and 2-0 wins respectively; though the Bautzen scoreline flattered their opponents. Those would be followed up with clashes against SK Dynamo České Budějovice and Post SV Dresden, before a much bigger and more important face-off with Schalke 04.
As an acid test, there are few better sides in the Bundesliga than Schalke, and though Thompson’s side was eager, they ended up scraping out a 1-1 draw while debuting a new back three setup that the Dresden headmaster had been toying with in the weeks before. The ability to set his team up away from home and limit quality chances, against much tougher opposition, would be a potentially valuable asset in the bid for point generation.
Against the Gelsenkirchen-side, it showed promise. Schalke generated more chances but failed to carve out a single clear-cut chance or half chance after 90minutes, relying on a brilliant 25-yard curling effort from Leandro Trossard. Still and yet, Thompson took the result back to the drawing board for tinkering in the hope that he could confidently set up his team in this manner when it was prudent to do so.
To close out the pre-season program, Dresden labored to a 0-0 affair with Rapid Vienna, and then a 3-0 win away against Zrinjski Mostar, having only surrendered 2 goals in 8 matches in the process.
After one last team meeting, in which it was unanimously agreed upon that the squad was more than capable of staving off relegation, Dynamo Dresden started down a path many dream of but only a few are lucky enough to experience. First up, the first round of the DFB Pokal and minnows SSVg Velbert 02, before the Rudolph-Harbig would once again welcome Dortmund to Saxony.