Team of the Week – Match Day 1

Timo Konietzka will forever be remembered for scoring the first ever Bundesliga goal back in 1963.  Likewise, many players were able to carve their names in the memories of viewers worldwide as the 50th Bundesliga officially kicked off this past weekend.  The opening matchday saw a strong Bayern performance as well as a winning start for the defending champions.  The newly promoted teams were a pleasant surprise and a few teams saw early alarm bells ringing.

Here is our Team of the Week for the first matchday of the new season:

Goalkeeper

Raphael Schäfer – Many goalkeepers get better with age and that is very much the case with the Nürnberg captain.  The 33 year old has been a rock for his club for many years and played another big role in his team’s big opening day win at Hamburg.  Two world class saves and several others kept the Hamburg attack out and preserved the team’s first win there in 20 years as well as only their 8th opening day win in their 30 year Bundesliga history.  Only 90 minutes into his new season and Schäfer already has two candidates for saves of the season.

Defenders

Dante – The Brazilian defender’s first league appearance in a Bayern kit was a winner both for the team and as an individual effort.  The former Gladbach man had 135 touches in the Bavarians 3-0 win over SpVgg Greuther Fürth while completing 95.2 percent of his 125 passing attempts.  One can see why Bayern managment were willing to plunk down 4.7 million euros for his services, as he also won over 66% of his challenges and 58% of his tackles.  Dante even managed to draw three fouls while only committing one.  Dante’s 43rd minute header off a corner  brought about the Bavarians opening goal, as its deflected clearance off the goalline provided came right to Thomas Müller, who parked the ball in the net.

Naldo – Coach Felix Magath must be very pleased that former Werder Bremen man Naldo resisted the siren call to return to Brazil to play his club football, as several other Brazilian players have been wont to do recently.  The 29 year-old beanstalk had played over 165 league matches for Thomas Schaaf’s Bremen side over 2005, and was quite impressive in his debut for their rivals.  If VfL’s opening day match in Stuttgart lacked drama for the first 85 minutes, that is much a result of the resolute defending of 6’6″ Naldo.  He won all five of his aerial challenges and seemed to stifle every Stuttgart buildup in Wolfsburg’s defensive third of the field,  The Brazilian also won 65% of his tackles while completing 83% of his pass attempts.  His efforts were a big part of Wolfsburg’s shutout of their Swabian hosts as they captured an important three road points in their first step towards earning a European berth for next season.

Bastian Oczipka –  The newly promoted Frankfurt took somewhat of a gamble starting six new players in their first match against Bayer Leverkusen but it was one that paid off handsomely and a big thanks for that goes to one of those new signings, Oczipka.  All the talk in the summer was about rightback Sebastian Jung but it was their new left back that impressed perhaps more than any other.  The 23 year old played like he had something to prove against his former club and created their equalizer as he took one half of the Leverkusen defense himself.  He was also solid defensively and always provided great support wherever needed.

Timm Klose – Nürnberg may have lost their best defender Wollscheid over the summer but if Klose’s performance against Hamburg on the opening day is anything to go by they will not have to worry too much.   The center-back started a bit shaky but grew stronger as the game progressed and his positional discipline, strength in his challenges and in the air helped close out a great result.  It was important for Nürnberg to bounce back after their disappointing German Cup exit midweek and Klose’s efforts went a long way to ensure that.

Midfielders

Marco Reus – Last season’s player of the year started this year the way he finished the last, with a bang.  Reus not only scored the opening goal but was the most dangerous player on the pitch.  Whenever Dortmund had an attempt on goal, Reus was either involved or on the end of it.  His dynamism and willingness to take players on made him a nightmare for the Bremen defense.  He also provided Lewandowski, Grosskreutz and Kuba with a great outlet, always moving wherever needed to receive or play the ball.

Arjen Robben – The Dutch winger professed last season a “catastrophe”.  Sure enough, it was a forgettable one for both his team and the player, something he admittedly is very eager to put behind him.  His opening matchday performance will be a good start in that healing process.  Determined and deadly, Robben seemed to be enjoying himself out there against Greuther Fürth.  He was involved in two of Bayern’s three goals and displayed the dribbling and runs that make him such a renowned player.

Juan Arango – There aren’t many Bundesliga players more talented at delivering lethal free kicks than Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Juan Arango.  The Venezuelan international booted two set pieces Saturday that gave the Foals all three points in a tight match with Hoffenheim.  His 33rd minute free kick found forward Mike Hanke, who headed in to break a scoreless deadlock, while his second, with ten minutes remaining in the match, broke a 1-1 scoreline to make Lucien Favre’s men winners on MatchDay One.  The 31 year-old midfielder, who played professionally in Venezuela, Mexico and Spain before becoming a Foal in January, 2009 won two-thirds of his nine aerial challenges while winning 61% of his 26 tackles opening day. His vision, creativity and technique are a big reason why Gladbach have been so successful under Favre and he very much continued that into the new season.

Lewis Holtby – Perhaps the most complete player amongst his peers, Holtby has played in nearly every attacking position imaginable in the last couple of years.  His versatility is definitely a strong suit and his role will only grow following the departure of Raul.  Big shoes to fill indeed but shoes he is wearing quite nicely so far.  Holtby was the central figure in Schalke’s second half comeback against Hannover, setting up a goal and scoring another.  Everything went through Holtby, displaying the kind of ability and influence that made Raul such an invaluable part of the team in the last two years.

Forwards

Dani Schachin – The Ukrainian born youngster couldn’t have had a better debut in the top flight then what he experienced Saturday in Fortuna Düsseldorf’s win at Augsburg.  Coming in off the bench at the hour mark to replace Nando Raffael, the 23 year-old broke the scoreless game open eight minutes later when he notched his first first-division goal.  He doubled his pleasure (and Coach Norbert Meier’s too) when he scored again in the 79th minute, leading F95 to their first Bundesliga win in 15 years against an Augsburg side that held a higher percentage of possession, number of shots and corner kicks than the Meier’s newly promoted crew.  Completing 82% of his passing attempts, one would imagine that the former Greuther Fürth forward, who had such a positive impact on Dynamo Dresden’s fortunes while on a 2011 loan there, can look forward to seeing increasing playing time next week when F95 meet Borussia  Mönchengladbach.

Max Kruse – Not the most glamorous name on the billing but you’d be hard pressed to find a more effective and energetic performance on the first matchday.  The new Freiburg striker not only scored his side’s all important goal in the draw against Mainz but was also the best player on the pitch.  Always willing to make runs, receive the ball and create chances, the 24 year old made a lasting impression in his first match for his new club.

Coach of the Week

Norbert Meier – One of the most eccentric managers in the league, Meier is never shy to speak his mind.  In his team’s opening day match against Augsburg though, he kept things simple.  Many wondered how the team would fare after making a record breaking 16 new signings over the summer.  The result?  Their first Bundesliga win in over 15 years.  The Düsseldorf coach managed his squad well and dealt admirably with his new environment, keeping the team focused and making the all important substitution that won his side the game.

Honorable Mentions

Diego Benaglio, Carlos Zambrano, Philipp Wollscheid, Takashi Inui, Hanno Ballitsch, Xherdan Shaqiri, Karim Bellarabi, Stefan Aigner, Jan Schlaudraff

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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