You cannot accuse the Bundesliga of failing to offer something for everyone. For those who want some feisty and aggressive football, there was Derby drama to be had this weekend. For those who enjoy predictability, there was a routine Bayern Munich victory to whet the appetite. For those who anticipate the surprise and shock factor of the game, there was a defender netting a brace in the Rhine derby and a Salomon Kalou hat-trick.
The 2015-2016 Bundesliga campaign is really starting to heat up, and while the league is beginning to take some sort of shape, it remains as fiercely competitive as ever.
Indeed, if you were to remove Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund from the equation (the two of them are having their own little battle), there is just six points separating 3rd place Wolfsburg and 11th Hamburg, and just four points between Eintracht Frankfurt in 12th and Stuttgart in 16th.
People can say what they like, but the Bundesliga sure isn’t dull.
Heading into the last international break, Borussia Dortmund had failed to win in their last three Bundesliga games – drawing against Hoffenheim and Darmstadt before being thumped by Bayern Munich. Needless to say, Thomas Tuchel needed the break. Since then, they have come roaring back in style – securing four consecutive wins in the league and netting all manner of goals. They will be particularly buoyed heading into the latest hiatus by their most recent victory – a 3-2 win in the Ruhr derby over Schalke.
There continues to be concerns over the shoddy looking backline, something Tuchel will need to address, but there is nothing wrong with Dortmund’s attack, which continues to be insatiable and irrepressible. Since the 5-1 defeat to Bayern, and including games in other competitions, Dortmund have plundered 27 goals in just seven games. With their rivals at the top dropping a couple of points last week, Dortmund are now five points off the table’s summit, with plenty still to play for.
It has been a relentless and almost perfect start to the campaign for Bayern Munich – a start that came to fruition without the presence of Arjen Robben. So you can imagine the sighs and groans emanating from the other sides in the Bundesliga when it was announced that he was fit and ready to return to action, something he has done with aplomb.
Since his comeback, the Dutch winger has played in five games, scoring three times, largely without breaking into a sweat. The fact that Robben is hitting his stride without even being fully match-fit will be something noted not only domestically, but also on a European front. And if anyone needs the Dutchman’s return evaluated, they need only ask Arsene Wenger.
Salomon Kalou / Hertha Berlin
Salomon Kalou has never been a prolific striker. At Chelsea he was seen as something of an impact substitute, a player who could be sent on against tired legs with 25 or so minutes to go. Up until this season his time in Germany’s capital had been largely frustrating, with the Ivorian inconsistent and lacking the goods Hertha had so dearly needed. Yet this season has seen a complete transformation in both his and his team’s fortunes. Kalou’s hat-trick against Hannover 96 on Friday took him to seven league goals for the campaign, while in all competitions he has 10 strikes in 14 outings.
These stats represent a prolific return for a man who is finally giving Hertha fans what they want. The rest of the team aren’t doing too badly either – Friday’s three points continued their promising start to the season, meaning heading into the international break they sit in fourth spot.
Dominic Maroh / 1.FC Köln
On the subject of players not known for their prolific nature in front of goal, Dominic Maroh can surely not have had too many better weekends than the one he experienced on Matchday 12. His unlikely brace secured three points on the road for Cologne, ensuring that the visiting side took the bragging rights home with them from Bayer Leverkusen.
Aside from being a derby win, something which always pleases fans, it was a welcome return to success for Peter Stöger and his men, who hadn’t tasted a win since the beginning of October.
While the stalemate with Ingolstadt will have been a disappointing result for Borussia Monchengladbach and their supporters, Andre Schubert will head into an international break packed with talks surrounding his future, in happy and buoyant mood. In the last five games, no side has been able to better the feats of Gladbach, something they cannot have predicted when Schubert took the reigns on an interim basis.
With each passing week, the temporary coach has made his case for a full-time job (if he wants it) stronger, and if the hiring process was based on results and the unity he has brought to the side then surely he would be shoo-in (pardon the pun). The question is now if he wants the role permanently, because there should be no doubts from the Gladbach hierarchy that he is the man for them.
When do we stop using the Europa League as an excuse and start to seriously worry about last season’s surprise package? Everyone knew that balancing domestic and European ventures would be tough for Augsburg, but there can’t be many who thought they would be bottom of the pile with just six points from 12 games. Indeed the form table makes even worse reading for supporters, with Markus Weinzierl’s men picking up two points from a possible 15 in their last five league matches.
They do sit 2nd in their Europa League group, suggesting there is still something there about them, although progressing further in Europe may actually do more harm than good. They don’t quite need to push the panic button yet, but if matters continue in the same way for too much longer, they will need to start locating it.
If nothing else, Bayer Leverkusen have certainly been entertaining recently. There have been a ridiculous amount of goals, some brilliant comebacks and some equally as compelling slip-ups. Entertaining though doesn’t always translate to success, and Leverkusen are a long way off where they should be right now. Saturday’s defeat against Cologne continued their inconsistent season, leaving them 8th in the table.
The good news for Roger Schmidt is that despite being four spots off the Champions League places, they are just three points short of Hertha Berlin’s points total so far, meaning matters could change in just 90 minutes. That said, much more was expected of Leverkusen this season and so far they have failed to live up to expectations.
Another side who have failed to live up to expectations has been Wolfsburg. After a brilliant effort last season, many expected The Wolves to really push Bayern Munich this time round. Yet after 12 games they are already 13 points behind them. The reason for this is a combination of factors. Yes Bayern have been absolutely brilliant and ruthlessly efficient, but as good as they have been, Wolfsburg have actually been very poor, with the exception of the odd moment and flash of brilliance.
Their defeat against Mainz this weekend was their third of the campaign, while they have also been held to draws by Hannover 96, Ingolstadt and Cologne – sides they really should be beating. They may have lost Kevin De Bruyne, but this isn’t good enough from a side who boast more than enough talent to be in a better situation than they currently find themselves in.
The cream of the crop from 2014-2015 – What do Markus Weinzierl, Roger Schmidt and Dieter Hecking all have in common? First of all – They all did brilliant jobs in the 2014-2015 season, making their sides a joy to watch and enjoying success in the process. What else do they have in common? They are all failing to live up to high expectations this time round. This may seem harsh (especially on Hecking with Wolfsburg currently 3rd) but football is a results business and the pressure and expectations are high.
Few, if any would have been able to predict that Lucien Favre would last the short amount of time he did at the beginning of the campaign, and while none of these three are likely to face the sack anytime soon, it is disappointing to see them performing below par.
If there has been one big loser to Borussia Dortmund’s revival and turn in fortunes under Thomas Tuchel, it is almost certainly Marco Reus. Injury kept him out of the weekend win over rivals Schalke, but in truth – If he had been fit, would he have started? Probably. However change that question slightly to – If he had been fit, would he have deserved a starting spot? The answer is almost certainly not. While the likes of Henrikh Mkhitaryan are flourishing under the new management, Reus is not.
A combination of injuries and indifferent form have left him a long way short of the player he was before, particularly in Jurgen Klopp’s heyday. Beforehand he was being linked with almost every major side in Europe, now he is becoming something of an afterthought. The attacking midfielder needs to really hit the ground running when he returns from his latest injury, or a move away from Dortmund may be an eventuality, and it won’t be the calibre of move we were looking at 18 months ago.
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