Rejoice – The international break is over. Real football is back, and so too is Gute Woche/Schlechte Woche
The Bundesliga returned this weekend with its usual thrills and spills. There were goals galore at Hannover and Frankfurt, while only Ingolstadt’s match with Wolfsburg failed to produce the goods. Meanwhile the party continues to rage on at Thomas Tuchel’s Borussia Dortmund, and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s campaign continues to turn into a very nasty nightmare.
Elsewhere Bayern Munich continue to look shaky and dependent on luck, and the newboys carried on from where they left off before the break.
With 30 games still to go everything remains up for grabs, but the 2015-2016 Bundesliga season is beginning to take shape.
Alexander Meier – Eintracht Frankfurt’s “Fußballgott” is back. The 32-year-old may have had knee surgery and endured a five month break since he last kicked a competitive football, but that was never going to stop him as he returned to action this weekend in Frankfurt’s game with Cologne. Last season’s top scorer took like a duck to water as he once again graced the Bundesliga turf, netting a very impressive hat-trick in his side’s 6-2 victory, in what was the sort of ludicrously exciting game we have come to love the Bundesliga for. Meier may not allow himself to get overexcited too often (after the game he insisted he was still bad at heading, despite two of his goals coming from headers), but the potent trident of Meier-Castaignos-Seferovic is already looking like a real threat. Their link up play was crucial in a win which took The Eagles fourth in the table. Maybe Alexander the Great should be getting excited after all.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga – There were two real surprises as Hamburg destroyed Borussia Mönchengladbach on Friday night. The first was that Lucien Favre’s men have shown no improvement since the international break, slumping to their fourth successive defeat. The second was that Pierre-Michel Lasogga really took a game by the horns. There are real frustrations about the way the forward continues to allow himself to drift out of games while occasionally producing a moment of brilliance. Friday night bucked the trend as Lasogga threw himself into the action, acting as the focal point to everything good about Bruno Labbadia’s unit. His endeavour was rewarded as Hamburg secured another three points and he took home the plaudits, with his effort earning him a brace. Now to repeat this sort of performance on a weekly basis.
Henrik Mkhitaryan – If there is one player who has benefited more than anyone else from the appointment of Thomas Tuchel at Borussia Dortmund, then it is Henrik Mkhitaryan. The midfielder disappointed last season as he struggled to prove his use in Jurgen Klopp’s tired and out of sorts looking side. Under the new manager though it has been a different story, with Tuchel offering Mkhitaryan the sort of freedom that made him such an attractive prospect during his time at Shakhtar Donetsk. His strike in Saturday’s 4-2 win over Hannover was the just the latest in what is already developing into a fine campaign for the midfielder. Whisper it quietly, but he is starting to look like the player Dortmund parted with a large sum of money for.
Bundesliga Newboys – It would be fair to say that when Ingolstadt and Darmstadt secured their respective promotions to the Bundesliga that many saw them as favourites to go straight back down. While there are plenty of games still to go and every chance that they may turn in the sort of season that Paderborn did last year, the omens are currently looking good for both teams. Ingolstadt’s stalemate with Wolfsburg continued their impressive start to the season, one in which they have lost just once despite having experienced a tough opening set of fixtures. Meanwhile Darmstadt continued to show that they will produce the unexpected – securing three points with an excellent 1-0 victory on the road against Bayer Leverkusen. The victory maintained their unbeaten start to the season, which has also seen them pick up points against European hopefuls Schalke and Hoffenheim. Hopefully there is more to come from both sides.
Werder Bremen – It has been a feel good kind of week for Werder Bremen. First they re-signed fans’ favourite Claudio Pizzaro, and then the new oldboy produced instantly as he “assisted” (kind of) Anthony Ujah’s late strike which ended up being Werder’s winner away at Hoffenheim. The win arrived in dramatic fashion and ensured that Viktor Skripnik’s men picked up from where they left off before the short break. Securing six points from their last two games has meant that Werder have largely been able to put a poor first couple of weeks behind them, and they will be hoping to continue this form as they look to battle it out for a Europa League spot.
Knut Kircher and Robert Kempter – Truthfully, Bayern Munich are good enough to romp their way to another title this season by their own doing. They should be able to do it without getting lucky, or without the helping hands of a referee and/or his assistants. Yet that is exactly how they were handed three points at the weekend – after a stoppage time penalty secured a controversial win over Augsburg. Die Roten had been a long way off the pace during the match, as they have been for much of the opening four games, but seemed to have done enough to secure a share of the spoils through a late Robert Lewandowski strike. Enter Douglas Costa and Robert Kempter. Costa tested the metal of the officiating team to find his luck was in as Kempter signalled for a penalty after the Brazilian had gone crashing over Markus Feulner. Thomas Muller dispatched the subsequent spot kick and Bayern marched on.
Klaas Jan Huntelaar – Speaking of penalties, Schalke’s Klaas Jan Huntelaar may soon find himself off spot kick duties. His miss from 12 yards early on against Mainz was the fourth straight Bundesliga penalty he has missed – meaning he has now equalled an unfortunate league record. Taking this a step further the forward has now missed seven spot kicks during his time at Schalke, a statistic which begs the question of exactly why someone else isn’t taking these chances by now. Fortunately for both the Dutchman and his club, Huntelaar found the net in the second half of the game to secure an important three points for Schalke.
The Bottom Five – From 14th to 18th, the Bundesliga’s bottom five currently reads: Augsburg, Hoffenheim, Hannover 96, Stuttgart and Borussia Mönchengladbach. While little was expected of Hannover and Augsburg were predicted to have trouble balancing domestic and European matters, the same cannot be said for the other three sides. There is still plenty of time for them to turn things around, but for Gladbach, Stuttgart and Hoffenheim to have one point between them from four games is alarming. Stuttgart with their array of talent should not be fighting relegation for yet another season and Gladbach and Hoffenheim should be around the European places. Time will tell on how they fare come May, but for now this is very much a case of not good enough.
Gladbach’s Attack – Aside from the simple fact that they are rock bottom and without a point from the opening four games, there will be many things worrying Lucien Favre. Chief amongst those concerns will be his striking options. It would be fair to say that the club are yet to really replace Max Kruse and while there are other options available, they either haven’t settled yet, or they just aren’t good enough. These worries will be compounded by the arrival of Champions League football. In a tough group goals may be very hard to come by, something that will only lower confidence levels among the players. Times are tough, and time is of the essence. Lucien Favre needs goals and needs them fast.
Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen – When Borussia Dortmund are on fire and Bayern Munich are being handed more luck in four games than most sides get over a whole season, you have to be taking your chances and keeping up with the pace. It would be fair to say that at the moment Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen are not. The former found themselves held at Ingolstadt, while there was defeat for Roger Schmidt’s men at home to Darmstadt. Dropping points against newboys tipped for relegation is not good enough, and the same can be said for the majority of the season so far for both teams. They will need to take stock and go again, with opportunities to drop points now few and far between. Otherwise they will have to watch Dortmund and Munich steam ahead in a two team title race.
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