Team of the Week – Match Day 16

A weekend of cards, penalties and plenty of action all around Germany.  Six penalties and forty two cards were handed out on matchday 16.  Luckily for the awarded sides, all six penalties were converted and only three of those cards were red.  As expected, Bayern Munich prevailed in their derby against Augsburg to further extend their lead atop the standings, helped no doubt by the losses of Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen.  Schalke, Hoffenheim and Greuther Fürth’s slumps continued and Freiburg and Hamburg built on their improving momentum.

Goalkeeper

Kevin Trapp – It was another close call between Trapp and Fortuna Düsseldorf’s Fabian Giefer, two goalkeepers who have been the best alongside Rene Adler this season. Trapp won out in the end because he helped Eintracht Frankfurt get back on track after a series of underwhelming performances.  The 22 year old was calm in one-on-one situations against Bremen and positioned well throughout the match. Having trained as an outfield player in his younger days it is easy to understand how well Trapp handles the ball and how seamlessly he fits into Frankfurt’s style of play.

Defenders

Timothy Chandler – Not the easiest of seasons for the German born American international but this week he played a big role in an important win for his club.  Chandler needed to be at his industrious best to keep up with an in form Düsseldorf whose attacking game has really improved in recent weeks but he more than held his own.  He won a personal best of 15 duels and helped initiate many of Nürnberg’s attacks down the right.  Nürnberg have now kept three clean sheets in their last four matches and Chandler’s improving form is a big reason why.

Naldo – Wolfsburg’s defense started a little shaky and for a moment it looked as though Dortmund would run away with the result but they stabilized and really got back into the game strongly, helped no doubt by Schmelzer’s dismissal.  That sending off also tripled Dortmund’s attack rate though so Naldo and company had to be especially alert.  The Brazilian stepped up though and scored the goal to put Wolfsburg up 2-1 before halftime and did a fantastic job handling one of the best strikers in the business in Lewandowski.

Maza – An outstanding performance from the Mexican defender.  Hard working, brave, not afraid to go into the tackle, always aware of his surroundings and positionally sound, the veteran was a rock for Stuttgart in their big win against Schalke.  Maza won a match high 17 duels.  Whether it was on the ground or in the air, he was unbeatable no matter what Schalke threw at Stuttgart.  Even when Schalke had three strikers on in the end Maza did not flinch and repelled every attack.  Stuttgart are now unbeaten in three consecutive matches for the first time this season and outdid their Hinrunde performance last year.

Midfielders

Diego – The departure of Felix Magath really has brought the best out in Diego again who has been playing his best football in a long time in recent weeks.  His best of all perhaps was his match winning performance against the defending champions on Saturday.  Refereeing controversy aside, the Brazilian playmaker was involved in all three Wolfsburg’s goals, the last of which he set up with one of the best through balls you’ll see this season.  Maybe its his new mustache or the confidence from his coach but we are seeing a more mature Diego who leads by example not only on the ball but also off it.

Markus Feulner – The former Bayern youth product has really become the heart and engine of Nürnberg this season.  His was a much needed match winning performance against Düsseldorf in which he set up a goal and scored one himself.  Feulner was involved in 9 of Nürnberg’s 13 attempts, had the most ball touches and ran a team high 11.8 kilometeres. Thanks to the win and Feulner’s performance, Nürnberg are now unbeaten in their last five home matches and will finish the Hinrunde at least one point better than they did last year.

Szabolcs Huszti – After his outstanding start to the season the Hungarian went ten games without a goal and assist but against Leverkusen he really should be credited with four scorer points.  He won both of Hannover’s penalties and buried them both with deadly precision.  Huszti played like he had a point to prove and was the architect of Hannover’s win against a Leverkusen side who had lost just one of their previous 12 matches.  It was a significant win because Hannover have underperformed following a European match this season and had stumbled down the standings in recent weeks but thanks to Huszti’s performance they will finish the Hinrunde at least as good as they did last year.

Juan Arango – Arango is not made for the dull or monotonous. In fact, it seems as if all Arango is capable of is the spectacular but who are we to complain?  Arguably the best left foot in German football was at it again against Mainz.  His goal from 40 meters out is his fourth from long range and yet another to add to the “Goal of the Season” list.  But as those know who have watched him, it’s not just all about the goals with him but everything else.  His vision and ability to create something out of nothing is the biggest reason Gladbach are where they are this season.

Pirmin Schwegler – Frankfurt are loaded with young talent at the moment but it is the 25 year old captain that is the centerpiece of their fine Hinrunde performances.  It’s not farfetched to say that Schwegler is having the best season of his career this year.  His goal to give Frankfurt the 2-1 lead was another outstanding long range strike that set the pace for the rest of their impressive performance and win.  Frankfurt’s Hinrunde is their best in 19 years and it is hard to imagine that without Schwegler who has really become the metronome of this side.

Forwards

Vedad Ibisevic – There is little to argue with when you have a hattrick speaking for you.  Ibisevic’s three goals now bring him up to 21 in all competitions this season and tied for top goal scorer in the league with 10 in 14 games.  The Bosnian striker has scored 50% of Stuttgart’s goals this season and counting his assists that number goes up to 65%.  Suffice to say, he took his chances brilliantly against Schalke and got his first hattrick since 2009 as a result. Schalke defenders just could not get a hold of him as Ibisevic eluded them all match long with his clever movement and clinical touch.

Artjoms Rudnevs – Hamburg’s search for that elusive consistent goalscorer continues but Rudnevs is giving enough hints that he may finally bring that search to an end. With Hamburg’s meager output up front (only four teams have scored less than Hamburg this season) a clinical finisher is priceless and the Latvian striker certainly made the most of his chances against Hoffenehim.  Rudnevs had three chances all game but scored two to lift Hamburg into 7th in the standings.

Coach of the Week

Lorenz-Günther Köstner – Of course one can hypothesize what the outcome would have been had Schmelzer not been sent off early but Köstner’s reactions and the way he had initially set up Wolfsburg laid a strong foundation for Wolfsburg’s win against Dortmund.  Using Hasebe as a third central midfielder and instructing Naldo to man mark Lewandowski were both good moves from the Wolfsburg coach and a big reason they became only the second team to win in Dortmund in the calendar year.

Honorable Mentions

Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Artur Boka, Tony Jantschke, Fabian Giefer, Simon Kjaer, Pavel Krmas, Martin Stranzl, Sebastian Jung, Bastian Oczipka, Dante, Jan Polak, Lars Bender, Kevin de Bruyne, Takashi Inui, Alexander Meier, Marco Reus, Franck Ribery, Milan Badelj, Ibrahima Traore, Andre Schürrle, Jan Schlaudraff, Thomas Müller, Olivier Occean

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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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