Team of the Week: Matchday 15

The Bundesliga often gets a reputation as a two-team league, and while it would be unfair to take away from the accolades of Bayern and Dortmund, that kin of characterization is equally unfair to the other teams. Leverkusen have played some of the most exciting and creative attacking football in Europe. Hertha seem rejuvenated under coach Pál Dárdai. Wolfsburg more or less dominated Manchester United in their two UCL matchups. Schalke 04 used to have the most exciting young core, with talents like Leroy Sane that is until Borussia Mönchengladbach burst onto the scene last year. With youngsters, like Andreas Christensen, Mahmoud Dahoud, and Nico Elvedi, they started 3 players in the center of the defense and midfield who are each 19 years old! So, the pre-match banter about not being afraid of Bayern looks to have been just confidence, as Gladbach, as a result of that youthful infusion coupled with outstanding performances from veterans, such as Granit Xhaka, Fabian Johnson, Oscar Wendt and Raffael emerged with a shocking 3-1 victory, extending their run of unbeaten games to 10, while handing the  Bavarians their first loss of the season! You can read an excellent breakdown of the game here.

It is thus no surprise, that our Match day 15 team of the week, will be chock full of Gladbach players. Let’s see how the team lines up.

Goalkeeper

With apologies to Gladbach’s Yann Sommer, whose excellent first half saves (particularly the aided by the goalpost double save on Martinez and Coman in the 24th minute) kept his team in it versus Bayern, this award just has to go to Marwin Hitz (he of 95th minute equalizers) of Augsburg, for his man of the match performance in a shutout with 8 saves, including a penalty. Speaking of that penalty, Hitz has stirred quite the controversy, as he appeared to have tampered with the penalty spot causing Modeste to miss.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CdyuwCRWgC4

Not sure, if that’s a bit of gamesmanship from the keeper, but it should not take anything away from his monstrous performance.

 

Defense

In the center, we have Andreas Christensen (Gladbach), the Chelsea product, who is on a 2 year loan deal, had a dominant game with 8 aerials won. Oh by the way, he kept Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski off the scoresheet!

The other spot, goes to American John Brooks from Hertha for rock-solid defending, topped with a goal from a corner and a shot saved off the line. In the 2-1 win over Leverkusen, Brooks completed 82.14 % of his passes, won 57.14 % of all challenges and ran 10.09 kilometers over the 90 minutes (per Bundesliga.com)

At Left back, Oscar Wendt, who was voted man of the match in the 3-1 triumph over Bayern, for doing stuff this like this.

For right back, we are going to play last week’s player of the week, American Fabian “Fabi J” Johnson at his favorite position, and not in his left midfielder role, where he put the game against Bayern to bed with his 69th minute goal.

 

Midfield

In the middle of the pitch, the team of the week features Arturo Vidal of Bayern, who (aside from Ribery’s goal and cameo) was the lone bright spot with 9 (!) key passes and the assist for the Frenchman’s goal. The Chilean should be disappointed by the effort of his teammates (who was tracking Wendt and Johnson’s run for the 1st goal?)

More love for Gladbach, as Granit Xhaka (he of 2 red cards) with his 59 touches, 4 aerials won and Raffael – 4 key passes, 1 assist, 85% passing accuracy both deserve their spots. These fans will surely agree.

Rounding out the midfield is whoscored.com’s number 1 rated player in the Bundesliga, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who single handedly won the match vs the excellent VFL Wolsfburg with his 6 key passes and 2 assists – first intercepting Guilavogui and gifting Marco Reus a goal, then teeing up Kagawa with an unselfish pass for the extra time winner. (He also had a ball cleared off the line.) The 26 year old Armenian is now up to 5 goals and 7 assists this year.

 

Forwards

This was a tough call, because, and I can’t believe that I’m typing this, but this list will not include Lewandowski, Müller, or Auba who all failed to score and Reus (who would perhaps have the best case out of these 4 for a spot).

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, whose goal and 2 key passes were enough to lift Schalke over Hannover gets one of the spots and  Jairo Samperio – Mainz 2 goals + assist in win over HSV, his first ever brace, including this beauty:

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at www.bundespremierleague.com. Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL