You step up to bowl your first ball, confident, but aware of the slight rustiness you feel as a result of not having bowled a ball over the summer. You send it down the lane – strike. The next ball, more of that rustiness, but slightly more confidence, too – it’s the same result, a strike. On the next delivery a couple of pins wobble. They look uncertain as to whether they should fall, but the luck goes your way and another strike is recorded. This goes on and on until, eventually, there are no goes left – you have bowled the perfect game.
This writer has never bowled a perfect game, nor is he ever likely to. If you have managed to stick with the column after the introduction you probably know where this is heading.
Bayern Munich’s 5-1 victory over Borussia Dortmund was a demolition. They put their nearest rivals to the sword and humiliated them. Eight games down, eight straight victories recorded. There are still plenty of games to come, but Bayern have gone from a rusty and at times fortunate start, to looking like the most complete Bayern side in a while, certainly the best during Pep Guardiola’s time in charge. Can they complete a perfect season? Almost certainly not, but truthfully, who looks capable of holding them to a draw at the moment, let alone beating them?
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga this weekend there were shock results, continued resurgence at Gladbach, and a day to forget for Bernd Leno.
It’s Gute Woche/Schlechte Woche!
Bayern Munich – The only place to start.
Bayern Munich were sensational on Sunday as they destroyed Borussia Dortmund in a ruthless, dominant, and sometimes painful to watch performance. Going forward, their attackers continued to provide the goods as Robert Lewandowski and Thomas Muller maintained their excellent personal starts to the campaign.
What will have really pleased Pep Guardiola though are the performances of some of the other players in the team.
Last season, Xabi Alonso looked like a man who had age rapidly catching up with him. He was ponderous and, at times, slow to get to the ball. Yesterday, and indeed this season as a whole, it has been a different story with Alonso arguably benefiting from the fact that he no longer has Bastian Schweinsteiger alongside him, but the more mobile and agile likes of Thiago Alcantara and/or Arturo Vidal.
Once again, Jerome Boateng was also imperious at the back, not to mention a very useful addition to the attacking setup, with his long balls (no sniggers please) causing havoc in the Borussia Dortmund defence.
It is difficult not to fall into a trap of sending too much praise Bayern’s way, because in all honesty they deserve it. This was a scary performance, one that will send shivers down the spines of not just those in Germany, but all the big sides across Europe.
Unfancied Flyers – The Bundesliga has long been famed for its ability to produce the unexpected (Bayern aside). Indeed, shock results are so frequent that they are no longer so surprising, but continued and prolonged spells of unprecedented success for individual teams is not so common. That is why it is currently a real shock to see the clubs sitting between fourth and sixth in Germany’s top flight. For the record these currently read (in order): Hertha Berlin, Cologne, Ingolstadt. Yes, there is the usual caveat to throw in here that we are still in the early stages of the season, but such form for those sides comes as a real surprise, especially as two of them (Hertha and Ingolstadt) were expected to be scrapping near the bottom of the table. All three recorded impressive victories this weekend, while conceding no goals. Without doubt the most impressive result and performance came from Cologne who secured three points on the road with a 3-0 win over a resurgent Schalke. There is fine work being done at these clubs both on and off the pitch. Long may the success of the unfancied flyers continue.
Hannover 96 – And so Michael Frontzeck survives . . . for another week at least. Hannover’s hierarchy must have had their hand hovering very close to the trigger after the side’s 3-1 loss against Stuttgart, but before they had time to fire the manager, he had led his team to an impressive point at Wolfsburg. Fast forward a week and a solitary point had been transformed into all three, with a Salif Sane goal enough to see off a woeful Werder Bremen. Four points from two games has not been enough to see Hannover out of the relegation zone, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. If more are to come then Frontzeck won’t have to worry about the pressure on his back for too much longer.
Kevin Volland – Hoffenheim’s stop-start beginning to the new season may have continued this weekend, but one constant has been the excellent form of Kevin Volland. After a dreadful start to the campaign, Hoffenheim’s form has been better of late, with the weekend’s draw with Stuttgart a third-consecutive game unbeaten for them, though there will have been great annoyance at twice letting the lead slip in the game. Both of the hosts’ goals came from Volland, who now has five goals for the season and four in his last two appearances. The 23-year-old is clearly a very fine player indeed, one that is too good to miss out on European football for another season, something Hoffenheim are not likely to secure this time round. Clubs across Europe were linked with the forward over the summer before he opted to stay with Hoffenheim, but recent developments at Liverpool may change that, especially if a certain Jurgen Klopp takes charge at Anfield. This is very much a watch this space story, but for now Hoffenheim will hope Volland can continue to come up with the goods for them.
Andre Schubert – A non-mover from the Gute Woche chart. At what point do we decide that the form of Borussia Monchengladbach is not solely down to the liberation they feel from Lucien Favre’s departure? Could it possibly be that interim coach Andre Schubert is partly responsible for an upturn in form which has seen three consecutive league wins, leaving Gladbach almost as close to the European spots as the relegation zone? A cynic would say no – the team is clearly reaping the rewards of players returning to fitness and form, but Schubert must have had at least some part in the rejuvenation. The question is – how much and should it result in him getting the gig on a full time basis? Schubert may not be a “big name”, nor does he have that much clout, but he is clearly working at the moment. Whether that warrants a long term shot at the job is another matter, and a question that may provoke great debate with the powers that be.
Borussia Dortmund – Last week this column questioned whether the wheels were beginning to fall of the Thomas Tuchel wagon. This week they weren’t so much falling off, as being ripped off. Borussia Dortmund had their pants pulled down by Bayern Munich – there is no easier way to say it. They were torn to shreds in a 5-1 defeat in which no one could come out with any positives. Tuchel’s team selection made interesting reading, and while performances by regulars were just as questionable, the sudden changes may not have helped.
This is a very difficult period for Dortmund, the first Tuchel has experienced since taking over. Across all competitions it is five games since they secured a victory, something which domestically has seen their bid for the title receive a very heavy blow. Tuchel needs to turn things around and quickly before the campaign is derailed. A win at old club Mainz after the international break would be a good place to start.
Dieter Hecking – In what has been a bad couple of weeks at Volkswagen HQ, the tribulations currently being experienced by Wolfsburg are unlikely to be too high up on the agenda. Nevertheless, there is something strange going on at the Volkswagen Arena, and perhaps against all the indications of last season, Dieter Hecking may just be starting to feel a little pressure. On the field, performances and results have been poor, with this weekend’s defeat against Borussia Monchengladbach seeing The Wolves slip to ninth in the table, while just like Borussia Dortmund their last win across all competitions came five games ago. Off the field, there will be concerns too. Hecking has been very public in his criticism of certain individuals, something that is surely unlikely to help in the bid to turn their poor form around. These are testing times for Wolfsburg and their manager. He must now use the international break very wisely and see how things can be changed for the better.
Bernd Leno – No goalkeeper goes through their entire career without making a mistake. It happens to all, even the very best. That is what Roger Schmidt will be telling Bernd Leno after his catastrophic error in Sunday’s 1-1 draw with Augsburg. With the ball rolling back to Leno in slow motion, a slight bobble caused the ‘keeper to swipe past it as it rolled into an empty net – a true horror show. Fortunately it wasn’t all bad news for the Leverkusen stopper this week as he received his first call up to the senior German national side. Now to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Timo Werner – Timo Werner can’t really catch a break at the moment, at least with manager Alexander Zorniger. You would think Zorniger may be thanking his 19-year-old talent who spared him further pressure with a last-gasp equaliser for Stuttgart against Hoffenheim on Saturday. However rather than thank him, he went public in his criticism of him for missing a chance to secure all three points – suggesting he was too busy celebrating the equaliser that he missed the chance for a winner. It’s not the first time the Stuttgart manager has torn into his player this season with him claiming earlier on in the campaign that he was not Werner’s “nanny” after the player failed to make a matchday squad. This fallout may be about to turn very ugly.
The Title Race – It was a good weekend for those who suggest the Bundesliga lacks competition. Admittedly, they fail to recognise that across the entirety of the league there is unpredictability and competitiveness, but as far as a title race goes, such a claim certainly has weight. Bayern’s thrashing of Dortmund means that after just eight games they are already seven points clear at the top. Of course, the sheer number of matches left means they can still be caught, but those who tuned into the game on Sunday will suggest that is currently very unlikely. It remains frustrating to hear that the league lacks competition, especially when the rest of the division is considered. Last season saw the fight for survival go down to the last day for each of the bottom three positions, while title aside, those teams who will do well and those who will fall this time round is anyone’s guess. The question to ponder is that if Bayern were in the Premier League or La Liga, would anyone there be able to stop them?
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