What a weekend. It is not often that the Bundesliga fails to deliver the goods on the pitch only to make up for it off it, but that is exactly what happened on Matchday Five.
There were some high-quality bits of action, including Yunus Malli’s Friday night hat-trick, Ingolstadt’s sustained away success and the continuation of Borussia Dortmund’s relentless ways as they swatted aside Bayer Leverkusen.
But it was the unfolding events on Sunday concerning the future of Lucien Favre at Borussia Mönchengladbach that stole the headlines. The man who transformed Gladbach from basement battlers to a Champions League outfit admitted on Sunday that he had “come to the realisation that the best decision is for me to step down from my position as head coach” sending shockwaves across the top flight.
Judging by results this weekend Favre may have only just beaten others in the race to be the first Bundesliga manager to leave his post, with others being perilously close to the sack.
It is all hotting up very nicely indeed.
Borussia Dortmund – It is getting to the point where it is difficult to come up with new superlatives for the way Borussia Dortmund have started the current campaign. Many believed that Thomas Tuchel would have a positive impact, but few could have predicted that he would guide them to such a record-breaking start. Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen was just the latest feather in the Dortmund/Tuchel cap and their irrepressible form will be a cause for concern for many other Bundesliga clubs. Pep Guardiola may already be casting a nervous eye over Die Schwarzgelben’s way with the two sides set to meet in under a month’s time. The game with Bayern may be an indication of just how much of a title challenge Dortmund are capable of.
Mainz / Yunus Malli – We move from Thomas Tuchel’s current side to his old charges. Mainz were one of the big winners this weekend as they eased past a struggling Hoffenheim 3-1 on Friday night, despite going a goal down early on. Chief among the reasons for the turnaround was the performance of Yunus Malli who netted a hat-trick in the game. The 23-year-old is one of those players who always seems to be on the brink of doing something special and Friday was one of his most complete performances to date. For Mainz, the showing could not have come at a better time as it saw them rise to 7th in the table. Losses to Ingolstadt and Schalke aside, it has been an encouraging start to the season for a side who some had tipped to struggle.
Köln /Anthony Modeste – Another team to have enjoyed a promising start to the 2015-2016 season has been Cologne. Saturday’s victory over rivals Borussia Mönchengladbach saw them jump to fifth in the table, while also forcing Lucien Favre out the door at Gladbach. It was Anthony Modeste who was on the mark yet again for Cologne, with the striker finding the net for the fourth time in the opening five games. Modeste has taken on the role vacated by Anthony Ujah brilliantly and is already showing signs of being one of the signings of the summer. If he can continue such form, then it could be a very exciting season for Peter Stöger’s men.
Bas Dost – The whole Kevin De Bruyne affair ensured that much of Wolfsburg’s on field start to the season went largely unnoticed, perhaps a positive thing with a shaky and unconvincing return to action disguised by them sitting third in the table. Saturday’s game against Hertha Berlin was more of the same as The Wolves fumbled about the pitch wasting the chances they created. That was until the 71st minute when last season’s other hero, Bas Dost entered the field. Within five minutes Dost had struck, putting the hosts into a late lead, one he doubled 12 minutes later. Dieter Hecking’s men must keep up the pace if they are to offer a challenge to either Bayern Munich or Borussia Dortmund this season. Fortunately for them, Bas Dost still has his scoring boots on.
Ingolstadt – What a curious start to Bundesliga life for the new kids on the block. Ingolstadt may have failed to secure maximum points at home so far, albeit against admittedly difficult opponents, but it has been a completely different story on the road for last season’s Bundesliga 2 champions. Saturday’s last-gasp win against Werder Bremen means it is now three straight 1-0 victories for Die Schanzer away from home, with the latest success joining wins over Mainz and Augsburg. Ingolstadt have now reached the heady heights of 5th in the table and while much of the season remains, there will have been plenty of encouragement for their supporters. Now to translate the away form into home victories. A win over Hamburg on Tuesday would be a good start.
Lucien Favre – It wouldn’t really be fair to start anywhere else would it? Favre’s woes at Gladbach have reached such a height that he no longer feels like the right man to lead last year’s third best team out of their dismal start. It is sad to see him go out on such a low, especially considering the turn in fortunes he has brought to a club that seemed destined to return to 2. Bundesliga before he saved the day. The club’s rejection of his resignation is admirable and arguably the right thing to do, but Favre’s words tell the whole story – he no longer feels capable of doing what is best for the club, with such an admission making a change in decision impossible. It is a far cry from just a matter of months ago when Favre had led Gladbach to Champions League football, and was being heralded as the “Coach of the Season” as well as being touted as a future Bayern Munich manager. Given his qualities, Favre’s time will without doubt come again, but this is a sad way to bow out after such a fine job.
Alexander Zorniger – In truth, Favre may have only just beaten Alexander Zorniger out the door. Stuttgart’s woeful start to the 2015-2016 campaign continued on Sunday with defeat at home to Schalke. Their latest loss means it is now five games without a point under Zorniger, the sort of form a side like Stuttgart cannot afford to maintain. Zorniger may be new to the job, but this won’t spare him at a club who have shown they are willing to make big managerial decisions when required. Speaking of which, does anyone still have Huub Stevens’ phone number?
Michael Frontzeck – If Zorniger is the favourite to get the chop next, then Hannover manager Michael Frontzeck won’t be too far behind. A loss away at Augsburg is not so bad in isolation, but Hannover have looked poor for almost the entirety of the season so far, with a solitary point picked up against Darmstadt. A very disappointing return from five games. There were those who were confused when Frontzeck was the man selected to perform the firefighter’s role last season, and while he may have earned a permanent shot at the job having kept them up, there must be a realisation at the club that he may not be the right man to preserve their top flight status for a second time. Victory for Hannover in their next game is crucial if Frontzeck is to keep those baying for his blood away from the door. It is perhaps fitting then that it will come on Wednesday, against Alexander Zorniger’s Stuttgart. Winner takes all and probably the other one’s job away from him.
Markus Gisdol – Yes – there’s a theme developing here isn’t there? Hoffenheim are the next side who have a manager under great pressure as a result of their awful start to the campaign. Just as is the case with Hannover, Hoffenheim’s only point so far was secured in a draw with Darmstadt, and while they may have been unlucky to fall to defeats against Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich, their performances in 3-1 defeats to both Werder Bremen and Mainz were a long way short of what is expected. The bad news for Gisdol is that in the next four outings he will face three of last season’s top seven. The good news? The fourth match is against Stuttgart.
The relegation battle – When Bayern Munich were coasting their way to yet another title triumph last year, the thing that really kept up the interest in Germany’s top flight was the inability of the sides at the bottom to pull away from each other, leaving us with perhaps the most exciting relegation battle ever seen in the Bundesliga. This year we are in danger of it being all too predictable. Thankfully there is plenty of time for things to change, but at the moment there are two sides without a single point and another two with just one apiece at the basement, before needing a three-point jump to make it to 14th. Borussia Mönchengladbach, Stuttgart, Hannover and Hoffenheim – us neutrals need you to buck up your ideas.
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