Veljkovic: National team appearances, Werder armband – and yet a shortcoming

The international matches were successful for the only Bremen national team player Milos Veljkovic, and he also rose in the hierarchy at Werder. But statistically, the central defender delivers negative values.

Lately even wore the Werder armband: Milos Veljkovic (left).

imago images / Joachim Sielski

When Milos Veljkovic returns to Bremen on Wednesday, he should be satisfied that coach Markus Anfang has given the Werder professionals a day off. On Tuesday evening, the defender for the Serbian national team was on the pitch for another 90 minutes in the game against Azerbaijan (3-1). He is currently the only qualified national team player from Bremen.

On Saturday he had already appeared for the full season and also as a preparer for the goal for the 1-0 win against Luxembourg. The fact that Veljkovic is now again a constant for the Serbian selection was at least not the case for a long time: In November 2018, he played two international matches in a row for the last time.

Veljkovic’s rise in the hierarchy

At SV Werder, for which he has been active for almost six years since he moved from the U23 from Tottenham Hotspur, he has now also climbed the hierarchy. In the Bremen team council he took the last vacant place from Maximilian Eggestein, against Hamburger SV the central defender even took over the captain’s armband after Christian Groß was sent off. Most recently against Heidenheim, he wore this for the first time from the start.

With Ömer Toprak, Groß, Leonardo Bittencourt and Niclas Füllkrug, none of the other members of the team council were available due to injury. As a result, the team “naturally lacked a bit of experience,” explains Clemens Fritz, Bremen’s head of professional football. So Veljkovic took over the command – the Serb is not really a loudspeaker. “He doesn’t have to be,” thinks Fritz and says of the 26-year-old: “He’s such an experienced player, even though he’s still relatively young.”

Fritz: “We hope that he will continue to grow into this position”

Veljkovic has been playing “for years at a certain level” and wants to take on the role as a leading player, according to Fritz: “We hope that he will continue to grow into this position.” Of course, this works primarily through performance. After missing the first two games of the season due to a COVID-19 infection, the Basel-born player recently played six games in a row over the full distance – four times Werder played to zero.

Fritz: “You shouldn’t give so much to such statistics”

However, two individual values ​​do not fit this picture at all: With a rate of 46.3 percent, Veljkovic is the worst duel in the league so far (in the Bundesliga preseason: 55.6). In addition, no other player in his position has a lower top speed than 30.11 km / h. “He also had a few problems with injuries, he wasn’t really fit in preparation. But I have the impression that he’s on the right track,” replied Fritz, “and you shouldn’t give that much to such statistics.”

Coach Anfang also knows these values, but points out that a duel is also considered lost if the ball is straddled out – but the opponent cannot get past the defender. Basically he is satisfied with the central defender, not least in the build-up game – although there are always things that can be improved.

Toprak is still not available

According to Fritz, Veljkovic gives the team “a certain stability”. Otherwise Ömer Toprak is mainly responsible for it. But the captain and defense chief has been unavailable for three games due to calf problems. He has been continuing his rehab in Leverkusen for a few days. “Especially if you are absent for a longer period of time, it is also very good to come out,” explains Fritz, “you have more peace and quiet, you can only concentrate on yourself.” In the meantime, Veljkovic will have more opportunities to improve his personal statistics.

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