Bundesliga MatchDay 22: What Did We Learn?

Bundesliga MatchDay 22 saw Bayern Munich take out their MatchDay 21 frustrations on Hoffenheim as Die Bayern crushed Hoffenheim 4-0 Saturday,  Bayer Leverkusen took advantage of a recently punchless Eintracht Frankfurt side by the score of 3-0, while 1. FC Nurnberg beat up on relegation zone VfB Stuttgart 4-1 and St. Pauli did the same to last-place Borussia Monchengladbach 3-1.  Hamburg SV eked out a 1-0 victory over VfL Wolfsburg, while Manuel Neuer authored another clean sheet for FC Schalke against SC Freiburg in their 1-0 win.  Determined 1.FC Kaiserslautern battled league leading Borussia Dortmund, taking everything the Yellow-Blacks could dish out, and came back in the closing moments to split points 1-1.

On Sunday FC Koln proved that their big comeback win last week against Bayern Munich was no fluke, as they dismantled FSV Mainz 05 at home 4-2, with Prinz Poldi and Milvoje Novakovic leading the charge, each scoring twice.  Hannover 96 had to settle for a point against Werder Bremen, as Hannover native Per Mertesacker leveled for Werder Bremen early in the 2nd half and the teams drew 1-1.  And another Bundesliga manager lost his job this weekend, as Gladbach’s Michael Frontzeck was dismissed.  His replacement, former Hertha Berlin boss Lucien Favre, inherits the daunting task of leading the Foals out of the relegation zone, which would be a miraculous achievement at this point.

Besides again being reminded that being employed as a Bundesliga manager is less than a secure position (unless you are Thomas Schaaf), what did we learn on MatchDay 22?

FC Koln Enjoying the New Year

How things can change in a matter of days.  A little over a week ago, FC Koln suffered an embarrassing loss to newly promoted FC St. Pauli, a fellow relegation-competitor that every Bundesliga club looked forward to taking points from.  Fast forward two weeks and FC Koln find themselves in 13th place and out of the relegation zone for the first time in months.  Their 4-2 win over Mainz this weekend was the first time Koln have achieved back to back victories during the 2010-2011 campaign.  All in all, 2011 has been good for the Billy Goats.  They have collected 10 out of a possible 15 points in their five 2011 fixtures, which is quite a turnaround considering it took them 13 matches in the Hinrunde to accumulate 10 points.

There is a feeling of fresh beginnings in Koln with Frank Schaefer on the sidelines.  Novakovic and Podolski are rounding into form (9 goals each) while young stars Christian Clemens and new signing Slawomir Peszko are growing week by week.  Together they have renewed the hopes of the Koln faithful.  For a team that packs its stadium week in and week out and that has such a rich history and tradition, it is the least the fans deserve.  The question now remains whether they can maintain their new confidence and momentum.  The Billy Goats face a tricky set of fixtures in the coming weeks with trips to Hoffenheim and Dortmund.

FSV Mainz 05 Have Lost their Way

While FC Koln followers have reason to celebrate, frustration could fairly describe the mindset of Mainz supporters after experiencing the unexpected euphoria of the club’s 2010-2011 start.  The new year has been abysmal for the Hinrunde’s Cinderella team.  In their five 2011 matches, Mainz have only garnered four points, a stark contrast to the season’s perfect seven wins in seven games start for the coach Thomas Tuchel’s men.  To compound worries, Mainz’ influential striker Adam Szalai has for all intents and purposes been ruled out for the remainder of the season following his double injury in the Kaiserslautern match.  This weekend Mainz looked hapless against a revitalized Koln side, and not even the tactically prepared Tuchel had a response.

Journalists and supporters were universal in their praise for Tuchel’s high energy pressing football in the Hinrunde.  His player rotation policy also worked wonders but, always in the background, lingered the question of sustainability.  Mainz poor run of form is currently providing the answers.  As if losses to bottom-dwelling Koln, Kaiserslautern and Stuttgart aren’t enough, Mainz will be playing the top three teams in the Bundelsiga over the next five matchdays.  The next five weeks will likely define Mainz season,  (Cristian)

Good Times at St. Pauli

The ‘buccaneers of the league’ have certainly taken another huge step in the right direction this weekend.  Their 3-1 victory over Borussia Monchengladbach at the Millentor was the first time the club had gained successive home victories in the current campaign.  Veteran Gerald Asamoah has found his form and scoring touch and has given St. Pauli a needed boost.  While most Bundesliga experts predicted that the club from the sinful side of Hamburg would go down, the team’s fighting spirit have kept their heads above water.

St. Pauli lack depth in their roster, and their performances vary from week to week, but beating their direct rivals Gladbach, combined with Stuttgart’s home loss this weekend, gives the buccaneers a great chance to stay in the top flight for next season.  Another three or four victories, along with perhaps a few draws, should be enough to secure Coach Holger Stanislawski’s side for 2011-2012.  And remember:  St. Pauli do have a game in hand following the postponement of the Hamburg derby.

VfL Wolfsburg Going Down?

During the last few weeks, one thing has become clear:  at least one, if not two, of the Bundesliga’s “big” clubs will be unable to avoid the relegation drop to 2. Bundesliga status for next season.  The Wolves have shown poor form throughout the season, and the departure of leading scorer Edin Dzeko has seen the club go from bad to worse.  Patrick Helmes struggles to find his way with his new club, while fellow January transfer window acquisition Jan Polak doesn’t seem quite ready to cope with the pace of the Bundesliga.  The return from injury of German international Arne Friedrich has yet to stabilize the team’s woeful defense.

What is even more disturbing is that the dismissal of English coach Steve McClaren didn’t result in the “bump” that teams often experience when there is a coaching changeover.  Instead of surging upward, Wolfsburg delivered another lackluster performance against Hamburg SV this weekend.  Without the suspended Diego, the team seemed to have fewer ideas than ever.  New coach Pierre Libbartski has much work ahead of him, and must certainly work on the team’s ability to create more scoring chances.  A frightening statistic for club supporters is Wolfsburg’s inability to score before the 75th minute in their last ten matches since Dzeko netted a 54th minute goal against St. Pauli on November 21.  Helmes, Grafite and company need to find their scoring boots immediately if Wolfsburg is to avoid disaster.  (Niklas)


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Gerry Wittmann

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