The resumption of Bundesliga play on MatchDay 9 following the international break saw a shortage of goals scored (only 19 over the weekend) but a good deal of controversy. The seven clubs in European competition overall fared quite well during week 9 going into another round of group stage European play this coming week while the Bundesliga’s two bottom-feeders rose out of the relegation zone of the table but in a questionable manner.
Bring on Europe
Only Europa League side FC Augsburg were unable to get a result during this weekend’s Bundesliga play. Bayern Munich earned a narrow win over Werder Bremen while both Borussia Mönchengladbach and VfL Wolfsburg were more emphatic in beating, respectively, Eintracht Frankfurt and 1899 Hoffenheim, and the other Champions League side, Bayer Leverkusen, had to settle for a draw with Hamburger SV. Ruhr Valley rivals Borussia Dortmund and FC Schalke 04 both were able to earn wins going into their Thursday EL matches.
Wolfsburg’s win was its first since a September 18 victory over Hertha Berlin. Max Kruse opened his Wolves account in style with a hat trick, his first goal coming only moments after kickoff from a Julian Draxler pass. Eight minutes in, Bas Dost doubled the scoreline with his 6th goal of the season. And the Wolves had several other legitimate chances to add to the score through the first half.
But Dieter Hecking’s men allowed Hoffenheim two goals by the 54th minute to knot the contest and give Hoffenheim real hope for a road result. Kruse’s two remaining goals iced the match, but the Hoffenheim tallies call into question the quality of Wolfsburg’s defending. Although the Wolves outshot Hoffenheim 16-7 and tripled Hoffenheim’s three shots on goal, the visitors nevertheless scored on two of their shots against an intact Wolfsburg lineup. Young Jeremy Toljan found himself quite alone when he rifled in his shot from the right flank, and one wonders if Hecking’s boys have the ability to defend well enough to be an elite Bundesliga club and one that advances from their Champions League group. For all the roster changes that Wolfsburg have made, the majority have been among the attackers on the club, and the defense is pretty much the same as last season. Saturday’s match delivered a much-needed win for Wolfsburg in the post-Kevin De Bruyne era, but it does pose questions.
Fantasy Footy: Swap Markus for Markus
Ok, unlike the baseball universe, trades are not part of the footballing world, and even in baseball I can but recall one trade of managers. In 1960, Cleveland Indians General Manager Frank (Trader) Lane dealt his manager, Joe Gordon, straight up for the Detroit Tigers manager, Jimmy Dykes. Although neither manager lasted long with his new team, the Indians ended the season in 4th place and the Tigers in 6th in the then eight team American League.
This season, Coaches Markus Weinzierl of FC Augsburg and Markus Gisdol of Hoffenheim are off to poor starts, with the two clubs now at the bottom of the league with one win each. Both have garnered praise in the past for their coaching performance, especially with Weinzierl taking FCA to Europe, but both are having a negligible effect this season.
So….why not trade them and give each a fresh start. Weinzierl is noted for creating strong defenses, something quite absent in Hoffenheim in recent years, while Gisdol’s sides have been quite able to score goals during his tenure, thus both would address his new club’s most glaring weakness. While neither is winning right now, neither has suddenly become less smart or able. It may be that, simply put, that the message of each has grown stale in their present environment. So…. consider thinking outside of the box, Hoffenheim and FC Augsburg, and save your seasons. After all, transferring the results of the 1960 managerial trade into the Bundesliga table would mean finishes of 9th or 13th place — much better than the two clubs’ current status.
Hannover 96 and VfB Stuttgart both rose out of the relegation zone Sunday by virtue of 1-0 wins that were tainted by controversial goals. In the case of Hannover, it was clear upon replay that Leon Andreasen’s 38th minute goal was scored by bouncing off his forearm past 1.FC Köln goalkeeper Timo Horn, while the Stuttgart goal credited to Daniel Didavi off a Florian Klein shot occurred with about half of VfB’s squad clearly offside. Both outcomes also went against the grain….Hannover have been terrible on the road while Köln’s RheinEnergie Stadion has proved an impregnable fortress in recent times, while Stuttgart hadn’t earned a point at the Mercedes-Benz Arena this season and visiting FC Ingolstadt had three wins and a draw in their previous four road matches.
While both Köln and Ingolstadt fans may feel justifiably put upon, the bottom line is, neither club did enough to win. Hannover’s Ron-Robert Zieler, with five saves, and Stuttgart’s Przemysław Tytoń, with six saves, were strong in goal while Hannover did everything it could to bottle up Billy Goat en fuego striker Anthony Modeste and Stuttgart did enough defensively to put a cramp on Ingolstadt’s limited attacking creativity.
A new nickname for SV Darmstadt 98
SV Darmstadt 98 are known as the Lillies, a good enough nickname but hardly descriptive of the type of season the club is enjoying in their return to the Bundesliga. After being absent from top-flight football for decades, Darmstadt under Coach Dirk Schuster have fashioned a 3-4-2 record following their 2-0 win over Augsburg Saturday, and are even in goal differential while holding the 9th spot in the table.
Bundesliga veterans Peter Niemeyer, Jan Rosenthal, Junior Diaz, Sandro Wagner, Konstantin Rausch and Luca Caldirola were brought into the club this past offseason on free transfers (with the exception of Caldirola who is on loan from Hannover). Wagner has scored three goals, while Niemeyer, Rausch and Caldirola have started every league match. Rosenthal has appeared in eight matches and Diaz in four. The group has proven that sometimes the best things in life are free, or nearly so.
Added to the solid core that brought Schuster’s club from 3. Liga to the Bundesliga in two seasons, Darmstadt pose a problem for every club they face (well, ok, not Bayern) and are accumulating enough points to hopefully delay thoughts of possible relegation until the Hinrunde (too many recently promoted clubs have started well but lost the plot in the new year to not take the Lillies’ achievements with a grain of salt).
But the veterans brought in deserve a nickname. They were under-appreciated and deemed as surplus at other clubs, but now they are proving their Bundesliga-worthiness again. What should we call them? The Expendables? Certainly someone can come up with something better to honor these guys.
Bayern Munich only scored one goal this matchday, much less than their average of 3.5 per game this season in league play. Nonetheless, it was a fine goal from Thomas Müller, a perfect example of his determination and skill. A lofted ball from Thiago Alcântara was perfectly handled by Muller, who then slipped it with the utmost dexterity past Werder goalkeeper Felix Wiedwald. And how appropriate that, when Bayern set another record, this time for most consecutive wins to begin a season, Müller notches the game-winner.
Speaking of Bayern, one of their former stars had a successful managerial debut this weekend. Stefan Effenberg, just hired by SC Paderborn 07 last week, led the club to a 2-0 win over Eintracht Braunschweig, only their third win of the season. The 47 year-old former midfielder won three league titles in Bavaria, along with a DFB Pokal and also played for Borussia Mönchengladbach, Fiorentina, Wolfsburg and Al-Arabi. Effenberg earned 35 caps for Germany and was a member of the 1992 Euro runnerup squad.
SC Freiburg took sole possession of the top spot in Bundesliga 2 this weekend courtesy of their 5-2 win over SpVgg Greuther Fürth and VfL Bochum’s loss to RB Leipzig. Christian Streich’s club has accumulated 24 points in 11 games for a three-point lead over Bochum and yes, Nils Petersen scored yet another goal. At the other end of the table, winless 1860 Munich finish off MatchDay 11 Monday with their match against Karlsruher SC. Whatever the result Monday, Die Lowen of Munich’s blue side will remain in 17th place, with MSV Duisburg holding the bottom spot in the Bundesliga 2 table.
MatchDay 9 Leaders
I love to shoot — Max Kruse, Robert Lewandowski, Anthony Modeste and Tobias Werner each attempted five shots this weekend. Only Kruse scored — three times.
I love to tackle — Leverkusen striker Stefan Kießling won 26 tackles
I love to share — No big surprise, as Xabi Alonso completed 131 passes
I love to run — Stuttgart’s Lukas Rupp covered the most ground, 12.9 km
I love to cross — Schalke’s Dennis Aago offered 7 crosses to his teammates