The Hinrunde has finally come to an end and as we reach the midpoint of the season and there was no shortage of action and talking points. Borussia Mönchengladbach prevented Bayern Munich from finishing with the strongest Hinrunde record in history by holding them to a frustrating draw on Friday while Eintracht Frankfurt reached their best Hinrunde finish in 19 years with a win in Wolfsburg. Leverkusen added to their unbeaten home record with another strong win against Hamburg while Mainz and Freiburg continued to impress and go into the winter break in European spots. The battle of relegation candidates Augsburg and Greuther Fürth ended in an unsatisfying draw and Schalke’s miserable form resulted in a coaching casualty.
Marc-Andre ter Stegen – You won’t see many teams taking points off Bayern at home this season. Borussia Mönchengladbach did and it would not have been possible without Ter Stegen’s outstanding performance. Not only did the 20 year pull off world class saves against Ribery and Schweinsteiger he also made important interceptions when Bayern took over the game in the second half. His distribution was also excellent and helped with Gladbach’s quick attacks that troubled Bayern throughout the game.
Dante – Some players save their best performances against their former clubs. Sure, Dante has been one of the league’s best defenders this season but he was at his absolute best against Gladbach on Friday. He won 72% of his duels, a match high, and was dominant on the ground and in the air. The Brazilian center back nearly scored twice against his former club and was rock solid from start to finish. In Dante Bayern finally have an equivalent to Dortmund’s Hummels on their squad, a complete modern defender.
Lasse Sobiech – One of the few bright spots in an otherwise forgettable Hinrunde for the newly promoted Greuther Fürth. The Germany U-21 international scored the all important equalizer against fellow relegation candidates Augsburg and won a match high 21 duels. He was also Fürth’s most dangerous threat in front of goal, which probably says more about their attack than anything else, but Sobiech made a good case for becoming a first team regular for the remainder of the season and is showing the promise Borussia Dortmund were counting on when they loaned him out at the beginning of the season.
Zdenek Pospech – It is hard to believe Pospech is 34 years old. The way he runs and fights for the ball every weekend as if at his physical peak is a great example for every young player coming up. The Czech full back made the right side his own against Stuttgart. He assisted Mainz’s first goal and was defensively sound and always dangerous going forward. Mainz’s defensive performances have been very underrated this season and Pospech has been a big part of creating the fourth best backline in the league.
Daniel Caligiuri – One of the most underrated footballers in Germany, Daniel Caligiuri topped off a very impressive Hinrunde with possibly his best performance under Christian Streich. He completed 91% of his passes, a simply incredible percentage for an attacking player, and was involved in just about every dangerous Freiburg attack. He set up one of his team’s goals and could have scored three himself but more than anything, his defending on both ends, relentless energy and fine movement has really made him an invaluable part of Christian Streich’s team.
Nicolai Müller – The lesser known of the “Müllers” in the league but a player who has been steadily improving since he joined the club last year. When the chips are down you can always count on Müller to give his all until the very last minute. He is always up there in the distance covered percentages and defends very well from the front. The game against Stuttgart was no different. Müller was Mainz’s most dangerous attackers (team high 4 shots), won a match high 17 duels and scored the two decisive goals that will keep Mainz in a European spot going into the winter break.
Mario Götze – The prodigious playmaker made sure Dortmund finished the Hinrunde on a good note. Götze scored Dortmund’s opener against Hoffenheim and had a hand in many of their dangerous attacks. His creativity, sublime first touch and vision was again on display as he reached a new personal best with his sixth goal. The 20 year old has also been more prolific from a playmaking perspective, creating more chances than any other Dortmund player.
Sebastian Rode – Rode finished the Hinrunde the way he started it, in superb form. Against Wolfsburg, he reaffirmed why so many singled him out as one of German football’s most promising rising stars. The 22 year old epitomizes the modern box to box midfielder, not only strong physically and full of energy but with a sophisticated football palette at his disposal. Rode is just as capable of finding a key pass in the tightest of spaces as he is making a last ditch tackle. This weekend he won 74% of his duels and was the most involved player on the pitch.
Stefan Kiessling – The Bundesliga’s top goalscorer going into the winter break and the most prolific striker in Germany in the calendar year. It has been a year to remember for the Leverkusen striker as his fine form seems to show no signs of stopping. In usual Kiessling fashion, he was everywhere on the pitch, scoring two great goals, one a fantastic opportunistic finish and the other showing the skill few give him credit for. Kiessling is in the form of his life at the moment.
Jan Rosenthal – Rosenthal may have been sent off at the end but that won’t take away from his outstanding match winning performance at Schalke. The 26 year old is thriving in Streich’s interchangeable system. Schalke’s defense could not deal with Rosenthal’s movement and his finishes on both goals were some of the best you’ll see anywhere this season, particularly his second, a half volley into the far corner from outside the box. The former Hannover man is like a player reborn under Streich this season.
Andre Schürrle – You could make the claim that Schürrle is the unluckiest player in the Bundesliga considering he has hit the post more than any other player in the league (5 times) but that also speaks to his ability to create chances for himself. He also creates chances for others though like his great dribble and cross that led to their opener against Hamburg. And his great chemistry with Kiessling resulted in his fourth goal this season. He could have easily had a hattrick but hit the post twice. Overall, another fine performance from a much improved player.
Coach of the Week
Christian Streich – His team led at the break but still there was an obvious disatisfaction on Streich’s face. Being the perfectionist he is he tweaked the details brilliantly at half time and Freiburg came out with as perfect a performance as we’ve seen from them this season. They exploited Schalke’s weaknesses well and looked dangerous every time they went forward. All the tactical planning would not be complete though without his player management which is up there with the best in the league.
Fabian Giefer, Sebastian Boenisch, Martin Stranzl, Mats Hummels, Bo Svensson, Oliver Sorg, Roel Brouwers, Javi Martinez, Elkin Soto, Kevin de Bruyne Pirmin Schwegler, Julian Schuster, Cedrick Makiadi, Simon Rolfes, Lars Bender, Franck Ribery, Jonathan Schmid, Gonzalo Castro, Stefan Aigner, Takashi Inui, Ken Ilso, Max Kruse, Alexander Meier
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