Bundesliga This and That: Random Thoughts on our Favorite League — MatchDay 5

Only 17 goals were scored on MatchDay 5, almost 50% less than last week’s 31.  Even Thomas Muller failed to score, although Yunus Malli had a hat trick, and Bas Dost his first brace ever in a substitute’s role.  It’s a quick turnaround for Bundesliga clubs, as MatchDay 6 fixtures are played on Tuesday and Wednesday (Englische Woche in Germany), but there was still much to consider from this just-completed weekend of football.

Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich both continued their winning ways on MatchDay 5, rekindling a title duel familiar to fans of recent years that was absent the last two seasons. Wolfsburg are the only other club that have yet to be bested in league play, as SV Darmstadt fell to mighty Bayern, while the ranks of the winless dropped to four clubs as FC Augsburg gained its first win in dropping Hannover 2-0.  But the biggest news of the weekend was the resignation of Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Lucien Favre on Sunday.

Favre Resigns

As reported earlier, Gladbach Coach Lucien Favre surprised many by tendering his resignation on Sunday after Die Fohlen had lost seven consecutive matches since beating St. Pauli in the DFB Pokal opening round.  Favre’s success at BMG will be long remembered — saving the club from almost certain relegation months after his arrival in 2011, building a stout defense and creating an attacking style that made Gladbach successful and entertaining while taking them to European competition three times.  In tandem with Sporting Director Max Eberl, Favre brought in unheralded players on a budget and developed them into a formidable squad.  And now it’s over.

Fans in Mönchengladbach may have a clearer handle on the club’s downward spiral this fall, but from afar it’s difficult to ascertain what has gone so wrong. Obviously the departures of Max Kruse and Christoph Kramer caused a significant negative effect on Favre’s club, as did the early season injuries to Martin Stranzl, Alvaro Dominguez and Fabian Johnson.  But still?  To not earn a point after five Bundesliga matches is incredible for a club that achieved so much just months ago.

One can never truly know the inner workings of another’s mind, but I take Favre at his word when he stated that he felt he was no longer the perfect coach for Die Fohlen.  He doesn’t seem to be one given to a lot of coach-speak and I think his self-assessment was genuine.  We often take for granted that a successful coach only has to roll out the ball at the first training camp each summer to see his success renewed, but in truth individuals like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, who coach one club successfully for decades, are dinosaur-like exceptions.  No matter the messenger, messages repeated get stale.  Favre’s message, for whatever reason, wasn’t heard anymore by his players, and he couldn’t imagine a way to change that soon enough to salvage Gladbach’s season.  So he did the honorable thing and quit.

Alexander Esswein

Alexander Esswein is the type of player that one may refer to as a journeyman.  The 25 year-old from the Rhineland-Palatinate region is already on his fifth professional team — he previously was employed by Kaiserslautern, Wolfsburg, Dynamo Dresden and Nürnberg before joining Augsburg last season.  Esswein has played on a championship club (Wolfsburg 2007/2009), although he only featured four times, and once scored 17 goals in a season while at Dresden, but never has come close to duplicating that number. Additionally he received numerous callups to German national youth sides, playing in 42 matches, but never has earned a cap with the senior German national team.

But currently the tide is rising again for the midfielder.  He helped FCA earn its first win of the season Sunday when he patiently curled a shot into the far-corner of Hannover’s goal to give FCA their first home goal of the season, which was quickly followed by a Paul Verhaegh PK that closed the book on the visitors.  It was Esswein’s second goal of the season (the first, another well-taken shot in the heartbreaking loss to Bayern), making him FCA’s scoring leader and responsible for half of FCA’s goals so far.  Good on you, Alexander !!!

Ralf Fährmann

Despite the Bundesliga always leading the top five European leagues in goals scored per match, the German league is well-known for the quality of its goalkeepers.  Germany’s number one, Manuel Neuer, is undoubtedly the head of the class, but Schalke’s Ralf Fährmann continues to demonstrate that he is one of Germany’s best.

On Sunday the 26 year-old Fährmann was arguably the main reason that Schalke came away with three points against a desperately winless VfB Stuttgart.  Only staked to a 1-0 lead in the 53rd minute by Leroy Sane, Fahrmann made a Bundesliga season-high nine saves against the home side that fired off 26 shots in their scrambling effort to gain the result that has completely eluded them this season.

Fährmann came up in the Schalke youth system and played for the reserve side while Neuer minded goal for the senior squad.  When Bayern Munich plucked Neuer away in June, 2011, Schalke brought back Fährmann, who had meanwhile left for Eintracht Frankfurt on a free transfer seeking playing time.  Fährmann was backup to Timo Hildebrand for a while, and injury has slowed Fährmann’s rise, but the now-healthy goalkeeper has marked the Schalke #1 job as undoubtedly his own, with quality performances week in and week out.  In hindsight, one of the best moves made by the Gelsenkirchen club was inking Fährmann through June, 2019, but it is reasonable to expect that the Schalke man may once again play in Neuer’s shadow, this time with the national team.

Quick Hitters

– Yes, that was the Yunus Malli show in Mainz Friday.  The 23 year-old native of Kassell took it upon himself to erase the Hoffenheim lead established by Jonathan Schmid, scoring three times to give 05 a comfortable win.  Malli led both sides (and the entire league) with seven shots taken in the MatchDay 5 encounter and now has five goals on the young season.  Along with newcomer Yoshinori Moto, Coach Martin Schmidt is developing a reliable 1-2 punch that will be tested by matches with Bayer Leverkusen, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in three of their next four fixtures, and it remains intriguing to see how much quality this entertaining Mainz side really has.

– Hamburg suffered the embarrassment of elimination in the first round of the DFB Pokal in August at the hands of Carl Zeiss Jena followed by a 5-0 drubbing administered by Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga season opener, alongside some off the field goofs.  Since then, though, Bruno Labbadia’s side are 2-1-1 and have shut out the opposition in their last two matches.  That’ll show ’em, red-shorts !!!

– This is the first time in Bundesliga season that TWO teams have started out with perfect 5-0-0 records.  And while both Bayern and Dortmund are perfect, BvB have had a historic start as no Bundesliga team has ever matched their mark of five wins, 18 goals scored and only three allowed to start a new season.

– FC Ingolstadt are the first-ever promoted Bundesliga club to win their first three road games.


I can run more than you — Hertha’s led MatchDay 5 players, covering 13.9 km

I am the best at sharing — Gladbach’s Granit Xhaka completed a whopping 111 passes

Get out of my way — Mats Hummels led the league with 22 successful tackles

Crossing king — Filip Kostic of Stuttgart delivered 10 crosses Sunday

Attempted shots — Stuttgart led the league with 26 shots, Darmstadt had only 5. Both lost

Passing Percentage — Hard to believe, but Bayern completed 91.8% of its pass attempts

Bundesliga 2

VfL Bochum lead the second division with 17 out of a possible 21 points this season and have won five in a row.  Christian Streich’s SC Freiburg are only a point behind and St. Pauli sit in third on 14 points.  SCF striker Nils Petersen leads Bundesliga 2 with seven goals while his teammate, Maximilian Philipp, is tops with four assists.

3. Liga

Dynamo Dresden tops Germany’s third division after another win this weekend, 2-1 over VfL Osnabrück, leaving Dresden with a 7-2-0 mark. SC Preußen Münster trail by seven points while Erzgebirge Aue are third with 17 points.  Dresden’s Justin Eilers, 27, leads the league with 10 goals.


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Gerry Wittmann

Gerry is the founder of the Bundesliga Fanatic. Besides loving German football, he also enjoys the NBA, collecting jerseys and LPs, his pets and wishes he had more time for fishing, bicycling and learning the bass guitar.