With the first English Woche of the season complete and games coming thick and fast from this point on, matters are starting to take shape in the Bundesliga. Bayern awoke from a sleepy opening 45 minutes against Wolfsburg on Tuesday to post arguably their best performance of the season to date, while Borussia Dortmund struggled to hang on to their coat tails dropping four avoidable points in the space of five days.
At the bottom, things have drastically changed since this column last visited the basement scrap, with Borussia Monchengladbach seemingly liberated by the departure of Lucien Favre. There can be no questioning the excellent job Favre did at the club, but there has without a doubt been a marked improvement in their performances and results since he exited the scene a week ago.
This means it is all change in Germany’s top flight. While before, a competitive title race looked likely and a predictable relegation battle possible, now we have the roles reversed with the bottom looking compact, while the top is looking unnervingly “same old,” with Bayern beginning to steer clear of the chasing pack.
Thankfully, there is plenty of time for things to change. Starting with a massive game at the Allianz Arena between Pep Guardiola’s men and Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund next weekend. How the latter could do with a moral, not to mention point-boosting victory.
NB – With English Woche and the abundance of quality performances and records it brought, there are an additional two places filled in this week’s “Gute Woche” section. You lucky, lucky readers.
Robert Lewandowski – Where to even start on this one? Before Tuesday night, Robert Lewandowski had scored three times in the opening stages of the season. He didn’t seem certain to add to that tally either, starting the game with Wolfsburg from the bench. But with the Bavarians trailing 1-0 at halftime, Pep Guardiola decided the time was right to introduce the Pole. What happened next was simply astonishing. Lewandowski netted five in the space of nine minutes, all of which highlighted his many, many strengths. The fifth itself was one of the greatest goals this author has seen in some time, with the striker producing phenomenal technique to volley home an unstoppable bicycle kick. It was the sort of strike that defied logic, but one which illustrated the confidence the previous four goals had brought him. Lewandowski had netted four in a game (against Real Madrid), but not at such a rapid rate. He added two more against Mainz on Saturday to take his English Woche tally to an unfathomable eight goals. It is worth considering at this point that in the Premier League this weekend Wayne Rooney scored his first domestic top-flight goal in 11 games. Lewandowski sees such returns and must chuckle to himself. It has been a sterling week for a man who may well be the most complete centre-forward in world football right now.
Leroy Sane – Another man who has been in the goals this week has been Schalke’s Leroy Sane. The 19-year-old is the latest from the club’s conveyor belt of young talent to be tipped for stardom and he has been displaying real glimpses of quality since his elevation into the first team setup last season. Since last Sunday, Sane has scored three of his side’s four goals, two of them being winners in the games with Stuttgart and Hamburg, respectively. His late solo effort in Wednesday’s game with Eintracht Frankfurt displayed what a great hope he is for the Bundesliga, and if he can produce such moments of magic on a regular basis, then he is surely destined for the very top level. For now though, Andre Breitenreiter will be more than happy to have Sane at his disposal, with the youngster’s goal-scoring spell seeing Schalke jump to third in the Bundesliga table.
Roger Schmidt – Up until this week, Bayer Leverkusen had been experiencing a very difficult and uncomfortable start to the 2015-16 campaign, with last Sunday’s 3-0 crushing at the hands of Borussia Dortmund the latest in a growing list of disappointing results. Thankfully for Roger Schmidt and his men the tide has changed, with Englishe Woche proving a very useful spell for last season’s fourth-spot occupiers. Games against Mainz and Werder Bremen have seen Leverkusen net four times without conceding a strike in response, and it seems Schmidt may well be beginning to get the best of an exciting-looking line-up. Particularly encouraging will have been the fact that those four goals were scored by four different players, alleviating any burden on the shoulders of new signing Javier Hernandez (scorer of the winner against Mainz). Now it is time to kick on and cause a stir in the title race.
Hertha Berlin – In what has been a record-breaking week for some clubs and players, it may have been easy for Pal Dardai and his side’s rise up the table to go largely unnoticed. Yet, they end match day seven in sixth spot, after a week which has seen them take four points from two games against sides (Cologne and Eintracht Frankfurt) who have been in decent form themselves. A Vedad Ibisevic brace saw them home against Cologne, while a late Vladimir Darida strike saw them take a share of the spoils back to Berlin on Sunday. These are heady times, and while in all likelihood such prominence in the top flight will be short-lived, it will make a nice change for supporters of the capital’s only top flight side to see their men nearer the top of the table than either the relegation zone or mid-table obscurity.
Darmstadt – Regular readers of this column will notice that at the moment new Bundesliga outfits Ingolstadt and Darmstadt seem to be taking turns in being placed in the list of those who have had a good week. Long may such form continue for both. This week it is the turn of Dirk Schuster and his charges. Looking ahead at the week, and with fixtures against Werder Bremen and Borussia Dortmund coming up, Darmstadt supporters would probably have been forgiven for thinking that a point was what they should be expecting from the two games. To come out of them therefore with four points is an excellent achievement – the sort that by the end of the season may have made Bundesliga survival much more attainable. Sandro Wagner certainly found his goalscoring boots at the right time, netting a brace against old side Werder on Tuesday, while Sunday’s last-gasp draw at Borussia Dortmund was a heroic effort. Just like Ingolstadt, their away form has been excellent so far, with this weekend’s point sitting very handily alongside one at Schalke and all three against Bayer Leverkusen.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – It may have been a miserable week for Borussia Dortmund on the whole, but if anyone is to have gained anything pleasurable from two games of dropped points, then it will have been Pierre-Emerick Aubamayeng. In the two games Thomas Tuchel’s side have played this week, they have scored three times. All of those have been from the feet of the Gabon international, who is enjoying his (and indeed the Bundesliga’s) most-prolific start to a season in history. Already with nine league strikes to his name, Aubamayeng is displaying the form that made him a sought-after target over the summer, and but for Robert Lewandowski’s ludicrous feats this week, he would be streets ahead in the goal-scoring charts. His teammates may have stopped firing for the time being, but Aubamayeng certainly has not.
Andre Schubert – The final word on those who have enjoyed a good week goes to the man tasked with turning Borussia Monchengladbach’s woeful form around. The verdict so far? Very good. Schubert may not be considered the suitable candidate to take charge in the long run, but for the short term he is doing a very fine job. His first two games in charge have produced things Lucien Favre’s opening few of the current campaign could not: points and goals. There have been two straight wins and seven goals in matches against Stuttgart and Augsburg, and while both have been struggling of late, nothing should be taken away from Gladbach, who genuinely look a different side to the strugglers of the past few weeks. Schubert may have been aided by returns to both fitness and form, but he is currently doing all the right things in order to stabilise what had been an awful start by Gladbach.
Borussia Dortmund – Are the wheels beginning to fall off the Thomas Tuchel wagon? Everything had started so well for Borussia Dortmund under their new manager, but they have endured a disappointing Englishe Woche – picking up just two points, when in truth it should have been six. Sunday’s 2-2 draw came against spirited opposition in Darmstadt, but had the hosts been clinical, the game would have been up well before their visitor’s late equaliser. The same can be said for their midweek slip against a struggling Hoffenheim. It may be that the number of games and lack of rotation are already catching up with Dortmund, or it may be that the opening few weeks were a false dawn. It may also be that this is just a temporary blip and they will soon come roaring back. Their next game would be as good a time as ever to sort the form out. The only trouble? It’s against Bayern Munich.
Wolfsburg – It’s not quite working for Wolfsburg at the moment. Last season they looked a quality outfit, one ready to challenge Bayern Munich this time round. Last season though they had one of the best players in Europe at their disposal. The Wolves’ dip in form cannot solely be put down to the loss of Kevin De Bruyne, indeed just as problematic has been the lack of goals from anyone other than Bas Dost, but it is certainly playing a role as Dieter Hecking works out how to get the best out of the likes of Julian Draxler, Andre Schurrle, and Max Kruse. In truth, they actually put in a very decent shift in the opening 45 minutes of their midweek game with Bayern Munich, but they were destroyed and arguably shell-shocked by just how rampant and clinical their opposition were in the second period. Perhaps that had an effect as they laboured to a very underwhelming draw with Hannover 96 at the weekend. Dieter Hecking has spoken in public lately accepting that things just aren’t ticking over for his men at the moment, while he has also been very critical of Schurrle and Dost. Things need to turnaround at Wolfsburg, pronto.
Augsburg – Augsburg were expected to perform worse this season compared to the last for two main reasons. One, they have over-performed in the last couple of years. Secondly, because they have to balance European and domestic jaunts. Few however will have expected them to struggle quite so severely, especially so early on in the campaign. Losses against Borussia Monchengladbach and Hoffenheim this week have seen the Europa League participants slip into the relegation zone, and while they are unlikely to be there come May, there will certainly be cause for concern at the club. Especially when it is considered the thick and fast nature of the fixture list is yet to really hit them.
Viktor Skripnik – Just like Markus Weinzierl at Augsburg, Viktor Skripnik came into the 2015-16 campaign riding the crest of a wave. He had performed a terrific job at Werder Bremen, taking over when they were massively struggling and guiding them not only to safety, but almost to a European spot. Just like Weinzierl, his stock is starting to be damaged. Werder had started the season in promising fashion, but they have now experienced three consecutive losses, two of which were against newly promoted sides. Skripnik has time on his side, the fantastic job he did last season has secured that for him, but Werder will not want to let their form and position slip too much more.
Pep Guardiola – Bayern Munich have gone four points clear at the top after only seven games. They are enjoying a perfect start to the campaign and have conceded just three times. Pep Guardiola has had a “bad week” – this writer has gone mad. There is perhaps (maybe not) logic behind the madness though. Bayern may have scored eight times in two games this week, but the man largely responsible for that did not even start the first of those on the field. Not for the first time this season Pep Guardiola opted not to start Robert Lewandowski, only to have to turn to him and see the Pole plunder in the goods. There has always been a strange feature about Pep’s Bayern that he does not always fancy playing a conventional centre-forward, perhaps harking back to his days at Barcelona. Such a decision seems odd when you have one of the best men in that position available to you. Surely Lewandowski cannot need resting at such an early stage of the season? In which case – is it fair to assume that against Wolfsburg, Pep got it wrong with his selection? It wouldn’t be the first time
Latest posts by David Morris (see all)
- Gute Woche / Schlechte Woche: Matchday 12 Edition - November 9, 2015
- Bundesliga MatchDay 9: Gute Woche/Schlechte Woche - October 19, 2015
- Bundesliga Match Day 8: Gute Woche/Schlechte Woche - October 5, 2015