Need to catch up on the countdown? Read part one of our annual Top 25.
We continue our countdown of the top 25 players of the 2014/15 Bundesliga season, highlighting the performances of two keepers, one goal-scoring gem, a team captain who should take great credit for his team avoiding relegation, and a holding midfielder who reads the game better than most other players in the league.
20. Lars Stindl (Hannover 96)
The fact that he has scored more than half of his goals for Hannover this season alone tells you a thing or two about the season Stindl has had. Of the 19 goals he has scored for the club since 2010, ten were scored this season. The former KSC player scored some of the most-important goals of his career towards the back end of the season, while Hannover were struggling in the dog fight against relegation.
These numbers are even more impressive when one considers that Stindl was out injured for the first ten weeks of the season. In their final three matches, Hannover took an impressive seven points, and their captain contributed three of their five goals. His ability to slot seamlessly into all three positions behind the striker, his nose for goal, and a knack for finding the right solutions in attack have made him one of the best players of the season.
It’s not a surprise that bigger teams have noticed Stindl’s development over the last few years. Borussia Mönchengladbach have once again shown that they are excellent at finding talented players with an upside that don’t cost a fortune. After the season he has had, Max Eberl must be laughing all the way to the bank given that he didn’t need to pay Hannover 96 more than 3 million Euros in order to buy him out of his contract in Lower Saxony.(Niklas Wildhagen)
19. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich)
There’s little doubt that no keeper in the world is better than Neuer when it comes to reading the game itself. The way he can prevent an attack from getting dangerous by simply being in the right place at the right time has been mind-blowing over the last few years. Most fans of the German national team are probably going to remember how the keeper thwarted many promising attacks of the Algerian national team during last summer’s World Cup by reading the game so well and taking action based on what he saw.
Neuer has redefined the goalkeeper role and how it has to be interpreted. His nomination for the Ballon d’Or certainly speaks to that fact. However, there was never any doubt that sports journalists would consider such an achievement to be less vital than five goals scored against Almeria.
This Bundesliga season has seen Manuel Neuer keep a record 20 clean sheets. His stats, as always, have been brilliant. 79.8% of the shots coming towards his goal have been kept out, and even managed to save a penalty kick this season. Among the 71 saves he has made, the statisticians at Opta have considered 11 to be “vital.” No keeper in the Bundesliga has such a high percentage of “vital saves.”(Niklas Wildhagen)
18. Ralf Fährmann (FC Schalke 04)
“Except Ralf Fährmann, all of you can leave” sang the Schalke fans after the team once again had lost another game during Roberto Di Matteo’s ill-fated stint at the Veltins Arena. Schalke’s season was a disaster from start to finish, with most of the Royal Blues players lagging far behind their potential.
Fährmann, though, cannot be counted among those underachieving players.
The keeper is one of the main reasons for Schalke’s somewhat flattering sixth-place finish. Fährmann kept out 77.1% of the shots coming towards his goal, and he made 13 “vital” saves. Even though Schalke played horrendous football throughout most of the season, their keeper managed to save them a few vital points along the way.
Right now, Germany has another great generation of keepers competing in the Bundesliga. Given the way Roman Weidenfeller and Ron-Robert Zieler have performed over the last few months, one wouldn’t be surprised if Jogi Löw and Andreas Köpke are taking a closer look at Fährmann in order to give him a chance in the national team.(Niklas Wildhagen)
17. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
One could legitimately argue that Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was the Bundesliga’s most-valuable player this season. With the BVB stuck in the relegation zone as late as February, Dortmund’s resurgence correlated with a goal-scoring explosion from Aubameyang. Following the season low-point, their first-ever home loss to FC Augsburg, Dortmund went on a four-match winning streak, fuelled by five goals from the Gabonese speedster, lifting the club from 18th to tenth in the table.
“Auba” would score six more goals in league play, as well as one in each of his remaining three DFB Pokal appearances, including the final Borussia Dortmund goal of the Jürgen Klopp era.
While almost every other player on this list will have either accomplished less or have had a lot more support, Aubameyang’s season was unquestionably a powering force behind the salvation of a season that once teetered on the brink of disaster. (Randall G. Hauk)
16. David Alaba (Bayern Munich)
If it wasn’t for a season-ending injury in early April, David Alaba might have cracked our top ten players, or even (dare I say?) top five.
The Austrian international was on a pace for a career-defining season, as he became Pep Guardiola’s newest Bayern experiment, with the Spaniard moving him into die Roten‘s midfield. And like Philipp Lahm a season ago, Alaba’s skill set and footballing acumen touched new horizons I didn’t know was possible for him.
And he’s only 22.
The roots of Alaba’s evolution were planted last season, as documented in Marti Perarnau’s excellent Pep Confidential. The results? After Arjen Robben, Alaba became Bayern’s next-most-valuable player. Additionally, Alaba’s absence was a key reason Barça knocked Bayern in the UCL semis. This season, Alaba’s versatility was breathtaking: central defender (9 apps), central attacking midfield (8 apps), left back (5 apps), defensive midfielder (3 apps). Although he scored *only* two goals, he created 23 chances in 19 appearances. Moreover, his passing volume and accuracy were a central piston in Pep’s passing engine. Alaba averaged 89 passes a match with a 91% completion rate. Working in the midfield allowed Alaba to showcase his mastery of the short passing game. From this perch, Alaba dictated tempo, direction, and link-up play as Bayern’s midfield hub. Without Alaba, Bayern’s midfield dominance diminished, as Bayern can’t live on Thiago alone. My god, can you imagine an Alaba-Thiago midfield for Bayern’s next season? Mouth-watering. Get well, David! (Travis Timmons)
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