Team of the Week – Match Day 19

Matchday 19 featured the famous Nordderby, the Rhine derby and yet another win from Bayern Munich.   Borussia Dortmund too continued to pick up wins while Bayer Leverkusen dropped two points in a hotly contested match against Freiburg.  Augsburg got a rare 0-0 out of Schalke and Hannover beat Wolfsburg a player down.  Here are the players that stood out on the second matchday of 2013:

Goalkeeper

Kevin Trapp – The 22-year-old goalkeeper needed to be at his best against an improving Hoffenheim on Saturday.  Adding to an already memorable season, Trapp put on another fine showing to help his team to a hard-fought win.  Trapp made four great saves, two of which were arguably world class, denying Firmino and Volland in close proximity. All the while, Trapp gives great security to a back line and team that spends more time attacking than it does defending.

Defenders

Fallou Diagne – Freiburg’s defense is second to only Bayern Munich this season. Against Bayer Leverkusen, they earned their eight clean sheet, remarkable considering where this team was just a year ago.  Fallou Diagne has been a big part of their great defensive performances and his best may have come at the weekend.  The Senegalese defender limited Kiessling to his fewest touches and shots of the season.  Most teams haven’t been able to contain the dangerous trio of Kiessling-Schurrle-Castro but Diagne can proudly claim that he did just that.

Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker – Watching Augsburg defend in 2013 is a complete contrast to their performances before the winter break.  There is renewed purpose and confidence in their play and the back line has benefited from it more than anyone else.  Against Schalke, Augsburg kept Schalke to a 0-0 draw for the first time in 65 games and finally jumped out of a direct relegation spot.  It was one of the team’s best displays and Callsen-Bracker was its start performer.  He won over 80 percent of his duels and limited Huntelaar to just a single shot on goal.

Lukasz Piszczek – Dortmund are now unbeaten in their last three, their longest spell of the season as a matter of fact, and put on another master class against Nurnberg.  Amongst their best performances, one again, was the Polish fullback who, if he was Brazilian, would be linked to just about every club in the world.  For the last three years, Piszczek has been the closest to a Dani Alves type at his peak, rampaging down the right relentlessly and creating chance after chance including Dortmund’s opening goal. You’d certainly be hard pressed to find a fullback who runs and gives more to his teammates than Piszczek.

Oscar Wendt – Captain Filip Daem’s absence was thought to be a big blow to Gladbach early on but Wendt has stepped in and carried the torch to perfection.  Daems then returned but finds himself on the bench thanks to Wednt’s consistent performances.  The Swede was relentless against Fortuna Dusseldorf and linked up well with Arango on the left.  One might even suggest that Wendt provides Arango with a better option than Daems.  Either way, Gladbach will have a good player when Daems finally calls in his Gladbach career.

Midfielders

Ilkay Gündogan – If he wasn’t already, Gundogan is certainly proving to be the league’s best central midfielder this season and it is becoming more increasingly noticeably just what skillful and important player he is for Dortmund.  Against Nurnberg, Gundogan had 147 touches on the ball, a league high this season, underlying his influence and ability to get involved in a game.  Gundogan is the epitome of a modern midfielder.  He’s a great retainer, he can tackle when necessary and distributes the ball better than almost anybody in the league.

Jakub Blaszczykovsi – With his brace against Nurnberg, “Kuba” has already surpassed his personal record of goals in the league this season.  He may not be as flashy as Reus or Goetze but with his direct and powerful attacks on the right he is the perfect foil for the ingenuity of his teammates.  Strong in one-on-ones, a powerful shot and an almost telepathic relationship with Piszczek behind him, Kuba is the ace up Jurgen Klopp’s sleeve, whether he needs him to make an impact off the bench or from the start.  Kuba never disappoints.

Dennis Aogo – Deployed on the left of a midfield diamond, Aogo had one of his best performances yet for Hamburg in their win against rivals Werder Bremen. He scored his very first league goal after 117 Bundesliga appearances and set up Hamburg’s third beautifully.  Aogo used his industry and pace to harass Selassie on the right and help clean up in the middle.  After a negative record in their last couple of games against Bremen, Hamburg finally got the upper hand against their northern rivals and celebrated their fourth consecutive win at home.

Yunus Malli – If I said his was a tremendous hard working performance I would describe essentially every Mainz player under Tuchel but the 2o-year-old definitely deserves to be singled out for praise here.  Filling in for the departed Polansi in central midfield, the young German worked tirelessly against a physical Furth and even got on the scoresheet when he put Mainz up 2-0.  For a player so young it was a very mature performance and one that explains why Tuchel so readily let Polanski go.

Forwards

Adam Szalai – With his brace on Saturday, the Hungarian striker has as many goals as the entire Greuther Furth team, although that might say more about Furth than anything else.  Still, Szalai is in fantastic form this season and continues to put the ball in the back of the net despite being linked with a move away just about every week.  He’s the first Mainz striker to hit double digits so early in a season and if the club qualify for Europe by the end of the season they’ll have him to thank for it.

Mario Mandzukic – Mario Gomez has a better goal record in his first 100 Bundesliga matches than even the great Gerd Muller yet he still finds himself on the bench and Mario Mandzukic’s great form is the reason why. The Croatian striker has now been involved in all of four Bayern goals in 2013 and put in another fine display in Stuttgart.  With 48 points from 19 games, Bayern now have the second best start to a season in league history and extended their lead to a dominating 11 points ahead of second place Bayer Leverkusen.

Coach of the Week

Thorsten Fink – In seven games (both as player and coach) Fink had never beaten Werder Bremen.  On top of that, Bremen had won all three of their previous matches against Hamburg.  That changed in matchday 19’s final game as Hamburg got their sixth home win of the season, twice as many as all of last year.  Fink’s new midfield diamond seems to be working really well and that includes their lack of goals up to this point. Hamburg are now just a single point off a European spot and sitting pretty above their rival.

Honorable Mentions

Ron-Robert Zieler, Alexander Madlung, Vegard Hedenstad, Bamba Anderson, Pavel Krmas, Marcel Schmelzer, Sofian Chahed, Oliver Sorg, Tol Martin Lanig, Gonzalo Castro, Sebastian Kehl, Mario Götze, Heung- Min Son, Mame Biram Diouf, Robert Lewandowski

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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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