2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings: Hinrundenende Edition

We are back with the 2014-15 Bundesliga Power Rankings – the Winter Pause edition. Since our last edition, three matchdays (instead of our customary two) have occurred, including an Englische Woche morsel and the end of the Hinrunde. As expected, Bayern is – again – our Herbstmeister by 11 points over 2nd place VfL Wolfsburg. Meanwhile, on the opposite end, Borussia Dortmund greet us in last place. LAST PLACE. And die Schwarzgelben have a month to contemplate the cellar. Finally, the mid-table is a mess: only 11 points separate last-place BVB with 7th place Hoffenheim. Happy Holidays, readers.

The Power Rankings do not necessarily reflect the current table standings, since they account both for form and expectations, all the while acknowledging the fluctuation and random effects riddled through a single match day weekend, yet also acknowledging that the weekly randomness  does something like work itself out over the long run.

Thus, we proudly present our Match Day 17 Power Rankings. Debate. Discuss. Rinse and repeat. Huzzah!

Key: RH = Randall Hauk, TT = Travis Timmons.

Match Day 17 Power Rankings

RANK CLUB  RECORD COMMENTS
1

FC Bayern München

08262012_preview_bayern_header

14-3-0 Unbeaten. Four goals allowed. Eleven point lead over second place VfL. Dominance. (RH)
Huzzah for the Herbstmeister! Bayern went 3-0 in the last three matches, barely scrapping a win out in Mainz on MD 17, yet in the aggregate the picture is lovely for Pep’s crew, who weathered a raft of injuries and World Cup-hangover to reign supreme over the Bundeliga again. (TT)
2

VfL Wolfsburg

VfL Wolfsburg

10-4-3 VfL has been 2nd place since match day ten. With a six point lead over 3rd place Leverkusen, the Wolves look like a good bet for the Champions League next year, especially if they can nick points from both Bayern and Bayer, whom are two of their first four opponents when the league returns to action. (RH)
Subtract those two embarrassing Junior Malanda misses and VfL could be creating a real title race with Bayern. Currently, the Wolves are playing for keeping their UCL slot stranglehold. And why not? Hecking’s squad seems sufficiently deep and Euro-ready as demonstrated by their strong Europa campaign. So far, a gear-upshift-of-a-season for VfL. Well played, Wolves. (TT)
3

Bayer Leverkusen

Bayer Leverkusen

7-7-3 After decimating neighbor Köln 5:1, B04 coach Roger Schmidt happily congratulated himself on coaching an offensive-minded side that fit his philosophy of what the sport is meant to be. Yet in the four matches since, die Werkself have only managed three goals. Anyone can be blanked by Bayern and even Gladbach, but just one goal apiece from the more generous defenses of Hoffenheim and Frankfurt shows there is more to Bayer’s third-place Hinrunde finish than blasting away at goal, especially with primary scoring source Stefan Kießling having had a very quiet first half of the season with just three goals. (RH)
Here we are at 3rd place, yet I have the sense that B04 underperformed during the Hinrunde. Perhaps it’s that Leverkusen doesn’t consistently net goals (unlike VfL and – of course – Bayern), perhaps it’s baffling results, like drawing Mainz 0:0 or losing 0:1 to HSV. Work remains to be done, which is frightening for other Bundesliga clubs to ponder. Yet thanks to the power-vacuum due to BVB’s steep fall, Leverkusen sit nicely at 3rd place. (TT)
4

Borussia Mönchengladbach

Borussia Monchengladbach

7-6-4 The Hinrunde-ending loss at Augsburg dropped die Fohlen into 4th place, but this slip up shouldn’t cast a pall over what was a great Hinrunde for Lucien Favre and Borussia. They posted a club record for matches without a loss at the beginning of the season, advanced in Europa League play, and established themselves as a strong contender for a Champions League place. With all the money spent on offensive talent over the summer, it could be said that the league’s second-stingiest defense should have provided more, but that’s football. (RH)
5

Schalke 04

Schalke 04

8-3-6 Perhaps one of the most underwhelming 5th place sides in recent years? However, don’t fool by narratives: Schalke deserve this slot with the club’s +7 GD and only one loss in their last six matches. S04 might be dead on arrival against Real Madrid in UCL knockout play, but di Matteo’s gang remains very much in the hunt for UCL re-qualification this season. Perhaps the Italian coach’s defensive shell will sink in during the holiday break, since Schalke’s defensive is still quite dodgy. (TT)
6

FC Augsburg

FC Augsburg

9-0-8 Four consecutive victories fueled Markus Weinzierl’s side’s run into 3rd place. Sadly for Augsburg, the timing of this run coincided with hosting Bayern. The FCA followed the 0-4 to the champs with a 2;0 loss at Hannover, which made it seem as if Augsburg’s magic had run out, but then they finished the season with 2-1 home win over Mönchengladbach. Their 27 points is a Hinrunde club record. If you’ve not learned by now about Weinzierl’s Augsburg . . . where have you been? (RH)
Why do I love football? Sheer surprises like FCA, circa fall 2014. While I loved this side a season ago, I displayed by silliness in predicting hardship this season. Somehow, the sum is greater than the parts Weinzierl has assembled, especially in attack, which is anchored an underrated (and amazing!) back four. Join the romance and cheer for these lovely boys during the Rückrunde. Fußball, you are beautiful. (TT)
7

Eintracht Frankfurt

EIntracht Frankfurt

6-5-6 With Alexander Meier running wild, you can’t ever count Frankfurt out, as Hertha BSC learned the hard way when the pony-tailed one scored two late to flip a 2-4 deficit into a salvaged point in front of a wildly appreciative home crowd. Eintracht has 34 goals on each side of their account. Hoffenheim proved last year that posting big numbers in both goals allowed and scored is a good recipe for a mid-table finish. Can Thomas Schaaf, maybe with a return of one of his top-two goalkeeping choices, find a way to stretch it into something more. (RH)
The darlings of the last three matchdays. Err, make that the last six matchdays. Schaaf’s “flying” Eagles provide my weekend entertainment. Eintracht’s 34 goals scored trails only Bayern; of course, their 34 goals conceded is 3rd worst in the league, which is the price of our entertainment. The inventive Stendera, Aigner, Inui midfield fertilizes the potent Meier and Seferovic attack atop. Thomas Schaaf, we missed you! (TT)
8

Hoffenheim

1899 Hoffenheim

7-5-5 In their final five Hinrunde matches, Hoffenheim won three and lost two. The combined score of the victories: 12:5. The losses? 2:0. Something about Markus Gisdol’s club the last 1.5 seasons makes it tough for them to both defend and score on a consistent basis, but only in the most-exaggerated way possible. You can’t ever fully trust a side that can’t defend consistently, but Hoffenheim has the goods on the other end to always give them a chance. (RH)
9

Hannover 96

Hannover 96

7-3-7 Who the hell is this side? H96 definitely wins the “Making Randall and Travis Look Foolish” award. I always doubt Hannover, yet the club always manages to scrap together a good result after a confirmation bias (on my part!) affirming loss. Numbers-wise, H96 has a -6 GD, mostly thanks to lopsided losses to Bayern, Gladbach, and VfL, I really have no idea why H96 was relatively successful during the Hinrunde, yet I can’t help but notice the fine performances from Joselu and Lars Stindl, plus Hiroshi Kiyotake seems to be finally taking off. God only knows what the Rückrunde has in store for H96. (TT)
10

FC Köln

FC Koln

5-4-8 The Billy Goats took a hot Schalke side down a peg in their own building and played Wolfsburg tough before surrendering a game-winner late. Organized defense continues to be the Köln way to success. (RH)
Anthony Ujah is my unsung dude hero MVP for the Hinrunde. He’s saved the Cathedral-City side many times already this season. I’m not sure where to place Köln though with their last-minute goals conceded and strange lopsided losses (e.g. the 1:5 debacle against locals Leverkusen). On a good day, Köln, perhaps, is 9th in the rankings. On a bad day? 14th. Rückrunde truth awaits. (TT)
11

Mainz 05

FSV Mainz 05

3-9-5 Admittedly, I was tempted to put Mainz either first or last just to tweak the people who went overboard on praising them for getting a lead on Bayern. Ultimately, I’ll stick to the story line of nine matches without a win. Hard to get around that one. (RH)
I made an editorial decision (sorry, Randall!) to move M05 up a few slots. Why? Win-less streaks as long as Mainz’s are laced with at least some bad luck and flukiness. And I just don’t believe in any of the sides in spots 12-15th in the rankings. Mainz has a solid core for stabilizing during the Rückrunde: Karius, Diaz, Geis, and Okazaki. In the coming war of lower-mid table attrition, I trust in Mainz to survive. (TT)
12

SC Paderborn

SC Paderborn 07

4-7-6 Paderborn won none of their final seven matches of 2014. Two of the four points snagged in that stretch required late-match heroics to overcome a deficit. With things incredibly close in the table’s bottom half, this type of play is not a sustainable survival policy. Andre Breitenreiter’s team scored at least two goals in six of their first ten matches to become the season’s early surprise, but did so just once since, which is why they’re back where they were always expected to be: in the relegation discussion. (RH)
13

Werder Bremen

Werder Bremen

4-5-8 The first of our three “4-5-8 clubs.” Frankly, Werder is currently playing the best football of the lot. They’re still hemorrhaging a high rate of goals (e.g. to Eintracht and Gladbach recently), but at least they are scoring goals with more competency and confidence. 19 year old Davie Selke is shining and Junuzovic has been splendid in midfield. Hopefully, some holiday break training will help the defense’s woeful coordination improve.  (TT)
14

Hamburger SV

Hamburg SV

4-5-8 Nine goals in the Hinrunde. NINE! Yet, the HSV has turned that into 17 points and avoided a bottom three spot for Christmas. They went goalless their final three matches heading into the winter break, and looked particularly punchless against ten-man Stuttgart, a side that does not feature a stout defense even fully manned. You have to expect there will be money spent in the winter transfer window, but whether the next purchases will provide any more answers than those of the past. (RH)

15

SC Freiburg

SC Freiburg

2-9-6 Freiburg has won only twice this season because they’ve blown a one-goal lead in the final minutes on five separate occasions this season. That’s ten points slipping from their grasp. For 87 minutes, the SCF is much better than any of the other clubs mired in the relegation fight for winter break, but what happens in the last few minutes and in injury time is going to ultimately sink the entire club if they don’t find a remedy. (RH)
I’ll reiterate: don’t be fooled by the only two wins. Focus on the high number of draws and recall the myriad of 87′ minute+ leads SCF have blown. This club is better than two wins. I’d take them in a fight over any of the clubs below right now. (TT)
16

VfB Stuttgart

VfB Stuttgart

4-5-8 Points from three consecutive and four of last five feels like progress for a team that was dead in the water before Huub Stevens arrived. Yet, like Stevens himself said, there are no big steps being taken by Stuttgart right now. He’ll keep the focus on staying out of the bottom three, and the current course would make it seem that’s within reach. (RH)
17

Hertha Berlin

Hertha Berlin

5-3-9 There is a fair chance that Hertha BSC will prove itself the worst team in the league this year. Thomas Kraft snaked them a point from the hapless BVB a few weeks ago, but then there was the gut-punch draw to Frankfurt and the 0:5 laugher to Hoffenheim that made for a bitter Berliner Christmas, especially knowing the BSC has been late-season straggler. (RH)
Another underperformer and victim of some bad luck. Obviously, Hertha’s 35 goals conceded is dreadful, but I’d guess that the Berliners’ number of “unforced” defending errors was quite high. Improved chemistry is somehing HSC supporters can hopefully bank on, as Beerens, Heitinga, Kalou, and Stocker find their way. Plus, keeper Thomas Kraft and Hajime Hosogai will surely progress toward the statistic mean of performance. Surely? (TT)
18

 Borussia Dortmund

Borussia Dortmund

4-3-10 On one hand, ten losses! On the other hand, the BVB doesn’t generally look as bad as the results say they are. On a third hand, they got smoked by a Werder Bremen team that has improved some, but still looked fairly bad before outplaying Dortmund on the final match day of the Hinrunde. I maintain they will pull out of this, but I grow less confident by the loss. (RH)
On form – i.e. the “power” part of Power Rankings – BVB deserve this cellar spot, given the club’s historically bad Hinrunde. Perhaps the same argument could be made about SCF, but things seem very different in Dortmund’s case, who can’t score goals and have conceded many foolish goals during their run of shame. A league-worst ten losses says it all. (TT)
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Travis serves as an editor and regular columnist here. He writes for Howler magazine's website, as well as The Short Pass where he covers the USL and other topics. Born and groomed in Santa Fe, New Mexico, Travis is a college English instructor in Pittsburgh. Coffee, books, and sports are his passions. His writing has also appeared in Bloomberg Sports, the Good Man Project, and his former blog, Sportisourstory.tumblr.com, and elsewhere. He tweets at @tptimmons. Heja BVB!

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