Five matches into the Bundesliga season and we are already starting to see some surprising trends develop in certain teams and players. Five matches might not be a lot but some teams are not performing as they were predicted to (positively or negatively) and this has added an element of uncertainty to the league. Here are some of the league’s positive and negative surprises so far.
Borussia Dortmund’s new-look attack
On this one, I have to raise my hands and admit it: I was wrong. When the season started and after losing Mario Götze and seemingly Robert Lewandowski in August (didn’t happen) or at the end of the season (might still not happen), Dortmund’s signings of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan for a total of 40.5m€ did not fill me with confidence. It was a huge sum of money for two players who were unproven in a top league (sorry Ligue 1 fans but that’s the harsh reality at the moment) and replacing a player like Götze or adding to an already strong Dortmund attack was a tricky task ahead. But, like many times in my life, I have been proved wrong. After winning the DFL-Supercup against Bayern, Aubameyang had a tremendous season debut against Augsburg, scoring a hat-trick in a 0-4 rout. Contributing pace and constant threat, we’ve had to wait another 4 weeks to see him score again but his double in last weekend’s 6-2 thumping of HSV sees him top the goalscorers chart with 5 goals in 5 games.
Mkhitaryan missed the opener but has scored 3 goals in 4 games, 4 weeks in a row, putting in excellent performances that have surely put down any doubters (like myself) to shame. Lastly, a player that cost absolutely nothing has also been making the news; Jonas Hofmann’s incursion into the first team has been a breath of fresh air and his goal against Eintracht Braunschweig and his posterior penalty gain showed Dortmund and Bundesliga fans a sign of what’s to come for Dortmund and Germany.
The eternal relegation favourites have gone and started the season well! At the same stage last season, Augsburg were bottom with 1 point and after 5 games the season before, Augsburg were 16th with 2 points. This season, after two defeats in the first two games, three spirited performances have returned 9 points and sees them move to 6th in the table after wins against Stuttgart (2-1), Nürnberg (0-1) and Freiburg (2-1). New arrival Halil Altintop has contributed with two important goals so far in those three games and whilst nobody expects Augsburg to stay there for long, it’s a definite improvement on their season start in the last two years.
New striking arrivals
Nobody except our very own Gerry Wittmann expected Hoffenheim’s new striker Anthony Modeste, signed from Girondins Bordeaux for 3m€, to have much of an impact this season, never mind notching 4 goals in 5 games and lifting Hoffenheim up to seventh. Under Markus Gisdol’s tutelage, Hoffenheim have ditched that negativity from their play and have only lost once this season so far (6-2 against Stuttgart). Still, should Modeste retain this form, Hoffenheim should find themselves playing just 34 matches this season and Dietmar Hopp might just start growing his nails again.
It was a late one but Václav Kadlec’s arrival to Eintracht Frankfurt from Sparta Praha boosted the Eagles’ attack. With only the misfiring Joselu and Srđan Lakić, Armin Veh needed a proven goalscorer as relying on Alex Meier to score all the goals this season was unconceivable. Kadlec made his debut against the other Eintracht, Braunschweig, and scored. He added a goal in his next two games to make it a 1 goal per game average and, despite Frankfurt’s inconsistent start to the season, it seems like the young Czech striker will have plenty to offer and perhaps use Eintracht as a stepping stone to bigger things.
HSV (and their awful defence)
For most HSV fans, the less said the better about the season so far. Their thrilling 3-3 opening-day draw against Schalke 04 brought hope to die Rotenhosen but questions were raised about their defence. These questions became exclamation marks the following week after their 4-1 home defeat to Hoffenheim. Lasse Sobiech and Heiko Westermann seem not to have an understanding and Dennis Diekmeier is still not as reliable as Thorsten Fink might want him to be on the right flank. Fink tried out Johan Djourou in their 4-0 victory against Braunschweig but, despite the scoreline, the home defence seemed dodgy in the second half against what is probably the league’s weakest attack. The honeymoon (or whatever it was) didn’t last long and the international break seems to have done more damage than good to HSV. Dortmund’s 6 goals against them last weekend brings their total of goals conceded to 15, an average of three a game and the worst record in the league. Despite averaging 2 goals a game, the result of 2-3 is clearly 0 points. Something has to change or HSV will endure another season of disappointment and another reason for Oliver Kreuzer to mention famous Italian fashion brands in the media.
Luiz Gustavo’s discipline
Luiz Gustavo’s signing for Wolfsburg represented a major coup for Dieter Hecking and his team. Signing a player of such calibre, who was reportedly chased by Europe’s elite, was nothing short of a masterstroke and his excellent work rate and quality was meant to be one of the final pushes that Wolfsburg needed to get into Europe. His debut was fantastic against Schalke, with Wolfsburg winning 4-0 and Gustavo putting in a sterling performance. However, he was sent off in his next game in the 2-0 defeat at Mainz for two yellow cards, leaving his team one man down just after they’d gone a goal down. After serving his one-match suspension against Hertha Berlin, Gustavo was back in the team for the trip to Leverkusen. At 2-1 and with 10 minutes to go, Gustavo got his first yellow and he was off just five minutes later, denting his side’s chances for an equaliser. First of all, Gustavo has to realise that his presence on the field is a huge lift to Wolfsburg and that even if he’s missing for 5 minutes or 90 minutes, it will affect his team. For 15m€, you can’t afford to miss every other game and he’ll need to level his head sooner rather than later.
Alexander Baumjohann’s injury
Anyone (except Eintracht fans) who watched the season opener between Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt will have been marvelled at the slickness of Hertha moving forward. The orchestra director of that attack was Alexander Baumjohann, a new arrival in the Haupstadt after a transfer from 1. FC Kaiserslautern. At FCK, Baumjohann was instrumental to their finish in 3rd in the 2. Bundesliga (5 goals and 11 assists in 25 matches) and was one of the few who didn’t let the team down in the Relegation Playoff. His arrival at the Olympiastadion meant that Hertha’s top player last season, Ronny, was benched by Jos Luhukay in favour of Baumjohann. Despite his torrid time at Schalke, Baumjohann seemed to be adjusting to life in the Bundesliga as an important part of a team. His serious injury sustained in the defeat at Wolfsburg will keep him out of action for up to six months.
Agree with them? Probably not entirely or not at all. Feel free to add your own positive and negative season surprises (so far) below.