Team of the Week – Match Day 12

Goals goals goals….at least in the first 15 minutes of Saturday’s matches.  A total of eight to be exact, a league record so far this season that made for one of the most turbulent matchdays yet.  Bayer Leverkusen continued their fine home form against a lukewarm Schalke while Nürnberg got the surprise result of the weekend with a hard fought point against the seemingly unstoppable Bayern.  Hannover lost at home only for the second time this season while Gladbach continued their historic slump when hosting Stuttgart.  On Sunday Wolfsburg picked up another three points under Günther-Köstner and Bremen came from behind to beat Düsseldorf.  Here are the best of the best from this action packed matchday.

Goalkeeper

Diego Benaglio – Hoffenheim had 25 attempts on goal against Wolfsburg on Sunday, a league high for them this season and their second highest total since they were promoted, but still only score one in the end.  One of the biggest reasons for that was Benaglio’s performance. His short range reflex save on Salihovic’s header was one of the best saves of the season and whenever Hoffenheim threw something forward, Benaglio was always there to deny them. An outstanding performance from a reinvigorated goalkeeper.

Defenders

Timm Klose – There is a reason Bayern committed a record number of fouls against Nürnberg on Saturday.  Nürnberg took the game to Bayern on Saturday and the league leaders looked as uninspiring as they have all year thanks in large part to Klose’s defensive performance.  The Swiss international won 78% of his duels and did a formidable job to keep Mandzukic out of the game.

Philipp Wollscheid – Not only has Wollscheid helped considerably improve Leverkusen’s defense this season but he has also turned into their defensive leader and organizer.  Schalke may not have been at their best on Sunday but that was also partially due to Wollscheid’s performance at the back.  The 23 year old center back was always alert, won many important tackles and interceptions and simply marked Huntelaar out of the game. Top performance from a top prospect.

Simon Kjaer – Kjaer had a lot to live up to since moving to Germany and in a sense still does.  While he has showed signs of his abilities sporadically he has not been as consistent but with Magath out of the picture this might be his best chance to finally prove his critics wrong.  Against Hoffenheim Kjaer completed 93% of his passes, won 12 duels and was instrumental in Wolfsburg’s build up play.  Under Günther-Köstner Wolfsburg have now picked up double the amount of points they did under Felix Magath.

Midfielders

Markus Feulner  – Teams seldom take points off Bayern Munich nowadays.  Even more seldom when Bayern come to visit, having won all their away games this year and conceded zero goals in the process.  The task was tall to say the least for the struggling Nürnberg but they clawed their way to a deserved point thanks to the performance of Feulner.  A Bayern youth product ironically enough, Feulner covered more ground than any other player apart from Simons, won a match high 14 duels and scored the all important equalizer, all in his first start of the season.

Mario Götze – Surprising everyone midweek, Germany coach Joachim Löw tried Götze in a “false 9” role and watching his goal against Greuther Fürth it is not difficult to see why.  The way Götze took the ball, rounded the goalkeeper and faked the Fürth defender was as smooth and clinical as any top striker.  Götze also set up Lewandowski’s opening goal and was a constant thorn in Fürth’s side.   Creative, intelligent and always in motion, Götze is finally back to his best and his team is benefitting from it quite notably.

Kevin de Bruyne – How Bremen wish they could make the Belgians’ loan move permanent at the end of the season but it is unlikely Chelsea will allow that considering how well the 21 year old has played.  He was Bremen’s best on Sunday as his team got his third consecutive win at home against Düsseldorf.  De Bruyne was the star man as Bremen clawed their way back from being a goal and man down.  He not only scored the all important match winner but was involved in 11 direct shots on goal, a league record this season.

Daniel Caligiuri – Another player who has gone under the radar but has been one of the most consistent players in the league in the last 12 months.  Freiburg’s midfielder  has been one of the stars of Christian Streich’s dynamic team and had another strong outing in Hannover.  He scored the opening goal and, was involved in more attempts than any other player on the pitch (7) and was a nightmare to deal with for Sakai on his side of the pitch. The last time Freiburg had this many attempts (21) on goal in an away match was over ten years ago.

Forwards

Andre Schürrle – The young attacker continued his fine form this season with another standout performance. In fact, it was quite possibly his best of the and one of the finest individual performances from a player yet this year. Schürrle orchestrated almost every Leverkusen attack.  He had 4 great scoring chances and created another 6 for his teammates.  His stunning long range goal put the game beyond doubt and he also won his team a penalty.  Schürrle also set a season record for himself in terms of sprints and dribbles.  The German international is a big reason Leverkusen remain unbeaten in 9 matches at home now.

Robert Lewandowski – In the last month the Polish forward has finally rounded into his best form and the return of Kuba will only improve that. Against Fürth Lewandowski was again the difference maker up front.  He showed his instincts in front of goal with two good finishes and constantly being in the right position at the right time.  Dortmund have now won back to back matches for the first time this season and Lewandowski’s back to back braces have been a big reason for it.

Alexander Meier – Meier is at the peak of his powers this season.  With 9 goals from 12 games he has had the best start to a season in his career and is currently tied atop the goal scorers standings with Mario Mandzukic. Against Augsburg he scored his third brace of the season, matching his total in the eight preceding Bundesliga seasons. His form has been vital to Frankfurt’s historic season and certainly merits a look from Jogi Löw at this rate.

Coach of the Week

Lorenz-Günther Köstner – From a player manager perspective it may not be difficult to follow in the footsteps of Felix Magath but it’s not easy to manage a squad as large as Wolfsburg or one with as many expectations.  All things considered, Köstner has done very well since Magath’s departure and gotten 9 points from 12 in the last four matches.  Even though it wasn’t the most exciting performance, he set his team up well against the offensive Hoffenheim.  They used the three chances they created well, scoring three goals from them, and defended well for much of the match. More importantly, Köstner is finally getting the best out of his players again.

Honorable Mentions

Oliver Baumann, Sven Ulreich, Lukasz Piszczek, Hajime Hosogai, Daniel Carvajal,  Martin Stranzl, Pavel Krmas, Jan Kirchhoff, Xherdan Shaqiri, Ja-Cheol Koo, Sebastian Rode, Lars Bender, Jakub Blaszczykowski, Stefan Aigner, Takashi Inui, Diego, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Max Kruse,  Stefan Kiessling, Martin Harnik

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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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