Florian Niederlechner – FC Augsburg’s late-blooming talisman
With the return of the first and second tiers of German football injecting a breath of fresh air in these extraordinary yet unprecedented circumstances, we take a look at a late-blooming yet dependable centre forward Florian Niederlechner who is commandeering the steer of a rattled ship in FC Augsburg away from the relegation places towards safety.
“I never thought I’d be playing in the 3. Liga, let alone the Bundesliga, when I was kicking about in the Bayernliga 10 years ago. It was pizza or kebabs in the afternoon, and there was always a party on a Thursday night I’d go to.” – Florian Niederlechner on his youth days
In this modern era of teenagers breaking into first teams in the Bundesliga, the story of Florian Niederlechner is one of taking small steps at a time to reach the top. Aged 15, Florian was released by the 1860 Munich U17s after which he spent two years in the youth sections of his hometown club, TSV Ebersberg. In the space of one year, he achieved a step up from the U17s to the U19s before securing a free transfer to FC Falke on July 1, 2008. He then went on to represent Falke, a sixth tier club in the German Football hierarchy. In 2010, he climbed one step up to FC Ismaning on a free transfer where he scored 19 goals in 34 appearances.
This stint was enough to earn him a move to a then 3.Liga team Unterhaching, who signed him for a fee of 20K Euros in the summer of 2011/12. He registered 16 goals in a season and a half. In 2014, he made a move across to league rivals Heidenheim for a fee of 300K Euros, where he scored fifteen goals and assisted ten which were crucial in helping them earn promotion.
His performances caught the eyes of Mainz, who signed him in the summer of 2015/16. However, the striker struggled to find his feet in the most competitive league in German Football, which led to his dropping down a tier to Freiburg after just half a season. He turned things around at Freiburg, scoring eight goals in 14 outings. This was valuable in securing promotion back into the top tier from which they were relegated 12 months ago.
Would lightning strike twice? Absolutely not! The centre forward ended up on the right side of the wheel of fortune as he registered an 11-goal haul in 2016/17. Sadly, the following two seasons were plagued by injuries for the blossoming striker, during which he scored a mere six goals.
In the summer of 2019, Florian came back home to Augsburg. Since then, the striker has found his mojo back, which has been instrumental in his team’s endeavours.
“What also makes him so important for us are his runs, especially in the opposition half and at the opposition’s central defenders. He’s our first defender. There’s also his mentality and the way he pulls the team along. If someone upfront never tires, then no one behind can raise their hand and say they’re done.” – Martin Schmidt (Former Augsburg FC manager)
The 6′ 1″ striker is a workhorse of a forward who meticulously fulfils his duties at both ends of the pitch. The 29-year-old uncapped German forward thrives in quick transition play with his speed and dribbling attributes.
The types of goals scored by the Augsburg forward are very similar to the ones he registered during his time with Freiburg – tap-ins from close range. Florian was often the sole striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation employed by Freiburg in 2016/17, where he was given the sole duty of putting the ball in the back of the net. This helped him to achieve the personal feat of scoring 11 goals (amongst which were 3 penalties) in the top tier of German Football – one of promise and hope.
The achievements of the striker quickly faded when he fractured his kneecap on November 2, 2017, an injury which ruled him out for the season. The striker was out on the field after 242 days but managed to stay there only for a couple of months before he did his ankle on October 8, 2018. Although he was back after a couple of months, he could not hit the ground running and was often a part of the subs bench. Scoring just 6 goals over 2 years made him look for a fresh start, seeking which he secured a move to Augsburg in the summer of 2019/20.
This time around, Florian started to play a little deeper compared to his average positioning in the 2016/17 season. This unravelled a different dimension to his game, as the number of key passes shot up by a considerable amount. In the ongoing 2019/20 season, the role of a deep-lying forward has helped him register a passing accuracy of 76% with 26 key passes, as opposed to the passing accuracy of 68% with 17 key passes in the entirety of the 2016/17 season.(Stats from fotmob) A natural reflection of this improvement is evident in the match against Hoffenheim where he registered 3 assists and won a penalty.
The critical ability to briskly analyse the state of play on the pitch, coupled with the talent of arriving at the right place at the right time makes him one of the smartest goal-scoring forwards. His knack for picking out an excellent run made by a teammate is as good as his eye for goal. As of this moment, Florian is the highest scorer and maximum provider for Augsburg with 11 goals and 6 assists respectively. This has resulted in a staggering total of 17 goal contributions for a 14th placed team in the Bundesliga.
A Resilient Warrior
If the rise of Jamie Vardy from Fleetwood Town to lifting the Premier League is one of the most decorated fairytales of English football, then the case of Florian Niederlechner stands out as one of German Football’s own fantasy. The climb from the sixth rung in the ladder of German Football to its summit has helped shape the mentality and personality of a late-blooming bounteous forward with a never-say-die attitude.
“He’s doing a great job, we’re working really well together. Perhaps it’s because we eat porridge together twice a week.” – Augsburg teammate, Philipp Max
With just 4 points away from the relegation places, Augsburg face a tough battle from teams around them and look to their leading goal scorer for providing inspiration both on and off the field. With the Bundesliga putting up one of the most competitive title races in many years, the feats achieved by Florian Niederlechner has been overshadowed by the lights of Marcus Thuram, Kai Havertz, Jadon Sancho and Erling Haaland. However, the dedicated and resolute Augsburg forward steadfastly goes about his business with the numbers backing his growth and maturity over the years.
By becoming just the fourth player to reach ten goals in 2019/20, Florian Niederlechner of Augsburg makes a strong case for the signing of the season award!
Written by Varun Kumar | Feature Image by Sebastian Widmann/Bongarts/Getty Images)
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