MatchDay 6 ended with Bayern Munich alone in first place on 14 points, two ahead of another undefeated team, Borussia Mönchengladbach — Mainz and Hoffenheim have also not suffered a loss thus far in league play. On the other end of the table, Stuttgart climbed out of the relegation zone with their first victory, while SC Freiburg, Werder Bremen and Hamburger SV still are looking for that elusive first win. Mainz’ Shinji Okazaki failed to score a goal Friday against Hoffenheim, but still leads the Bundesliga with five goals, with a hot Mario Götze second in scoring with four. Wolfsburg’s Kevin De Bruyne, Stuttgart’s Christian Gentner and Thomas Müller of Bayern are tied for the league lead in assists with three apiece.
Good in Gladbach
Lucien Favre’s Foals continue to roll, and are now undefeated in ten competitive matches, including Europe League and Pokal play. On MatchDay 6, they had a quick 2-0 lead at Paderborn before a quarter of an hour had passed, on goals from Patrick Herrmann and Raffael, and held on for a 2-1 lead despite being outshot by their hosts, 24-11. Yann Sommer, who replaced Marc-André ter Stegen this summer in goal for Gladbach, made seven saves, only being beaten in the 70th minute by Paderborn defender Jens Wemmer, who volleyed in a cross from Moritz Stoppelkamp. Paderborn pushed for an equalizer, but the Foals withstood to take the three points.
There are several reasons for Gladbach’s success thus far. First, their squad hasn’t been decimated by early season injuries like other top Bundesliga squads in Munich, Dortmund and Gelsenkirchen. Secondly, Favre’s team has been feasting on the league’s lesser squads, as all six Gladbach opponents thus far this season are in the bottom half of the table. Thirdly, Favre has built a very good squad, with quality depth. The roster isn’t filled with All-Stars, but does contain a group of players who are experienced and proven performers, giving the Swiss coach good options for both roster rotation and second half substitutions. And finally, the play of goalkeeper Sommer once again validates Favre’s acuity in judging talent.
Ter Stegen became Gladbach’s starting goalkeeper shortly after Favre arrived in Gladbach in February, 2011. The young German’s installation as the starting keeper was a crucial decision that helped Favre save from relegation a Gladbach side that had only earned 10 points in the Hinrunde under Michael Frontzeck and displayed an atrociously leaky defense. Ter Stegen’s success created many suitors, and finally this offseason he signed with FC Barcelona. Favre brought in Sommer on a five-year deal from FC Basel, where he started every Swiss league match for three consecutive seasons as Basel won three consecutive titles, At age 25, Sommer not only had the experience of almost 200 senior squad matches in Switzerland but also over 50 games as a Swiss youth international and seven Swiss national team senior squad caps as understudy to Wolfsburg’s Diego Benaglio. Thus far this season, Sommer has only allowed three goals in league competition and made 33 saves, making the transition from ter-Stegen seamless.
Favre and his side will attempt to keep their undefeated streak rolling Thursday when they play away to FC Zurich in Europa League competition, and then host undefeated Mainz next Sunday.
Schalke on a Roll
The Royal Blues of Schalke began the season in poor form, but have bounced back and have now won their first two games of the Bundesliga season. Saturday’s game was especially satisfying, as Schalke beat their Ruhr valley rivals, Borussia Dortmund, 2-1, on an early goal from defender Joel Matip, with former Mainz striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting providing what proved to be the game-winner midway through the first half. Speedy Pierre-Emerik Aubamayeng scored three minutes later, but that was all that Jurgen Klopp’s side could come up with in the 145th minute of the two rivals. Although Dortmund had 55% of possession, Schalke were level on shots taken with the visitors.
Coupled with their midweek shutout of Werder Bremen, Schalke are now undefeated since their September 17 Champions League draw with Chelsea in London. The seven goals scored by Die Knappen since their London date have come from six different players, showing that Jens Keller’s squad aren’t so reliant on Dutch star Klaas-Jan Huntelaar to provide goals, and that they can function without injured winger Jefferson Farfan.
Two consecutive wins takes some pressure off of Keller, who isn’t quite trusted by many to be a quality Bundesliga coach.Like Dortmund, Schalke came into the match banged up, but Keller has done a good job working a makeshift backline combination of Astuto Uchida, Dennis Aago, Roman Neustädter, Matip, Christian Fuchs, Marco Höger and teenager Kaan Ayhan with captain Benedikt Höwedes and fellow defenders Felipe Santana and Sead Kolašinac injured.
Schalke host NK Maribor in their Tuesday Champions League Group G matchup, with all four teams tied on one point. A win against the Slovenian club would put Schalke off to a good start in Europe with their road match against Chelsea now out of the way. Schalke then will play at Hoffenheim next Saturday before another international break week, and once again, the Royal Blues can anticipate a good run during the remainder of the Hinrunde having already played Bayern, Dortmund and Gladbach, and earning four points against that tough trio.
Quietly Effective Eintracht Frankfurt
A book on the life of current Eintracht Frankfurt coach Thomas Schaaf would be dominated by his time at Werder Bremen. The 53 year-old from Mannheim was at the club from 1978 through 2013 as a player, youth coach, assistant coach for the senior squad and eventually the club’s sideline leader from 1999 on, a period in which he led the club to a Bundesliga title, three Pokal championships and a great deal of excitement in Europe as his team’s played in an entertaining, attack-oriented mode. After a year off, though, Schaaf returned to coaching, taking over in the offseason from departed Armin Veh at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Thus far, Frankfurt have thrived under Schaaf’s tutelage. The club has only lost once after six matchdays, although their three draws leaves them one point outside a European berth in the Bnndesliga table following a 13th place finish last year in which they ended with a -7 goal differential. On Sunday Frankfurt travelled north to Hamburg to face a club starving for its first goal, and first win, of the season. Schaaf was without his regular goalkeeper, Kevin Trapp, who was injured late in last week’s draw with Mainz.
Understudy Felix Wiedwald, 24, got the start for Die Adler, marking only the third appearance of his Bundesliga career, and although HSV did end their record scoreless drought when Nicolai Müller equalized in the second half, Schaaf and his club were able to take all three points when young Brazilian substitute Lucas Piazon launched a golazzo free kick four minutes after entering the match. The Chelsea loanee fired from 40 yards, as his audacious strike froze Jaroslav Drobny in the HSV goal, denying the red-shorts a point in a match where they had a huge advantage in possession (63%), shots taken (14-7), CKs (8-3) and crosses (10-3), although Schaaf’s team did have the edge in tackles won. Lucky, perhaps, but Schaaf has assembled a pretty good squad.
With Trapp sidelined for at least 12 weeks, Schaaf has brought in veteran Timo Hildebrand to provide depth in goal for Die Adler. Frankfurt host FC Köln next weekend, and after the international break travel to SC Paderborn before returning to the Commerzbank-Arena on MatchDay 9 while finishing up October against Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Header photo courtesy of bild.de