Bundesliga MatchDay 23 kicked off with a bang last Friday, as 1. FC Nurnberg had an easy time at EasyCredit Stadion, dispatching Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0. On Saturday, Borussia Dortmund got back to winning ways with a 2-0 win over an in-form St. Pauli side, while Hannover 96 toppled 1. FC Kaiserslatuern 3-0. Bayern Munich had little difficulty with FSV Mainz on the road, winning 3-1, while Hamburg SV and SC Freiburg showed that they are serious about European competition for next season, with Hamburg slapping hapless Werder Bremen 4-0 and Freiburg downing VfL Wolfsburg 2-1. Hoffenheim and FC Koln played to a 1-1 draw.
On Sunday, Bayer Leverkusen beat an energetic VfB Stuttgart side with two unanswered goals, 4-2, while FC Schalke 04 slept through a 2-1 loss to Borussia Monchengladbach as Lucien Favre debuted with the first home victory of Gladbach’s season. What did we learn this matchday?
Once Potent Werder Bremen Punchless
The green and whites have certainly forgotten how to score this season. Their 4-0 defeat against Hamburg was another display of a side that isn’t able to create chances. Bremen managed to create one clear cut chance in the course of the 90 minutes against their arch rivals from Hamburg.
This season has shown that Allofs´ and Schaaf´s gamble on replacing Mesut Özil with Marko Marin and Aaron Hunt hasn´t paid off. Furthermore, Per Mertesacker has looked like a zombie version of himself and has had his worst season in the Bremen jersey since he joined the club in 2006. All four goals had one thing in common — all of them came after Mertesacker had made a vital mistake.
It is apparent that central defender Naldo is sorely missed. Bremen´s second choice defenders, Pasanen and Prödl, have so far this season been far away from what is required from a Bundesliga defender. Left back Silvestre has probably had the worst season of all defenders in the league, and has constantly enraged the Bremen fans by not creating any danger when going forward, and constantly being out of position when going backwards.
Bremen looked, yet again, like a side that is heading for relegation. Considering how old some of the key players are in the side, a season in the 2. Bundesliga would give them a chance to rebuild their team with young and exciting players. However, the fans do not like the thought of being relegated for the first time in 30 years, and staged a protest when Bremen arrived back home. According to Klaus Allofs the conversation between the fans and the club was civil and productive. Bremen will have a hard time trying to retain their place in the league, but they most certainly have the fans to get them through this period.
Hannover 96: The Fairytale Continues
The reds continue their fairytale season with a strong 3-0 victory at home against Kaiserslautern. Now that Hannover have gathered more then 40 points they have reached their goal for the season, avoid relegation. Mirko Slomka is still the coach that has gathered the most points per match according to the stats. The question is, will Slomka be able to take Hannover to the next level? The Reds have gathered mid-table finishes for the last 8 years, and now is make or break time. Will Hannover be able to get into the top half of the table, or will they be stuck in mid-table for the next years?
The team around captain Steve Cherundolo can now start to focus on reaching a a top-table finish. However, what is worrying for the team from Lower-Saxony is that Didier Ya Konan has been on the pitch in all their victories. Without him the team doesn´t seem to be able to win their matches. Ya Konan was again vital in Hannover´s success against Kaiserslautern, being involved in all three goals. If Hannover aims at being a top-side for the next years, they certainly will have to find a way to retain Ya Konan, or replace him with someone equally effective when the bidders come along this summer, or they will fail. (Niklas)
Schalke got off to a fast start against Gladbach Sunday, as Peer Kluge blasted a shot past Logan Bailly in the 2nd minute of the match. Unfortunately for fans of the Royal Blues, that was Schalke’s only shot on goal during the match. Perhaps they were overconfident, given Gladbach’s last place spot in the table and their winless home record this season. Perhaps they were fatigued from their midweek come from behind draw against Valencia in Spain. Perhaps they didn’t care enough.
Give full credit to Gladbach’s new coach, Lucien Favre, who had his team energized and attacking to the end. But Schalke? It was disconcerting to see the final minutes tick away with Die Knappen down a goal, and passing the ball laterally across their back line. No sense of urgency whatsover. Felix Magath was caught smiling several times by TV cameras on the bench as the match melted away. He must have heard a good joke from one of his assistants, or perhaps was laughing to hide the tears from his team’s somnolent performance. Either way, after an effort like Sunday’s, Schalke’s up and down season looks to end on the down side, with no European play next year, if they muster no greater urgency in the final eleven league games.
Der Club Are on Their Way Up
1. FC Nurnberg are undefeated in league play in the last month, winning four times and drawing once. That is a best performance over the last five matchdays of any team in the Bundesliga, including runaway leaders Borussia Dortmund.
During this five game streak, Nurnberg have scored eleven goals while only allowing two. Goalkeeper Raphael Schaefer has three clean sheets to his credit in the last five matches. But what’s has caused the turnaround in Der Club’s fortunes?
Since their December 11 clash with Hoffenheim, Nurnberg have improved their form and are getting numerous more shots on goal consistently than their opponents. In the last five matches they have outshot their opponents 64-39, but, more importantly, they have tallied 24 shots on goal to only nine for their rivals. Nurnberg have gotten their fair share of shots all season long, but their ratio of shots on goal taken to shots on goal allowed has increased dramatically in the last months.
Nurnberg generally have less than 50% of possession in most matches, so their ability to strike fast and get off quality shots while denying opponents quality scoring opportunities is paying dividends. Nurnberg’s next five games are against clubs in the bottom half of the table, so Dieter Hecking and company should be able to continue their winning ways and perhaps force their way into European competition. (Gerry)