Werder Bremen rules our Bundesliga Team of the Week

With the Monday Night Massacre in Bremen, the Bundesliga has reached the month of May, but is still without a champion, as a diet Bayern side were held to a draw at home by Gladbach. That and a late Eden Hazard goal created a strange situation in which Leicester City’s dream season somehow culminated in a championship before the fait accompli Meisterschaft of FCB. Take that EPL snobs! 🙂

Dortmund remained in the hunt after taking a disinterested Wolfsburg side to the proverbial woodshed – in a game that had all the makings of a Dieter Hecking swan song. Leverkusen and Julian Brandt wasted little time in announcing their intentions to a sloppy Hertha and were two goals ahead after a quarter of an hour, before Vedad Ibisevic pulled one back. Die Werkself have secured third place, meaning that Gladbach and Hertha will have to battle Schalke. for the fourth position. Schalke’s win in Hannover was anything but a foregone conclusion, as the hosts outshot the visitors 21 to ten, but somehow managed to get just two of those on target compared to seven by the Royal Blues. While we want to give credit to Schalke putting three goals on the scoreboard away from the Veltins Arena, the Reds’ defense was shambolic – nobody picked up Choupo-Moting or Huntelaar on the first two goals and center back Joel Matip of all people, waltzed in between five defenders to score the third. It’s nice to see the offense coming alive under Daniel Stendel (congrats on the extension) but revamping that defense should be the top priority in die Zweite Liga next season.

Mainz dropped to seventh after another lackluster outing saw FSV drop two points against HSV – and it could have been worse were it not for two great Loris Karius saves (poor Sven Schipplock cannot buy a goal!). Still, that goalless draw was a thriller compared to the Cologne-Augsburg snoozefest on Friday. Thanks to none of the teams in the 7-12 spots being able to win Ingolstadt stayed in ninth despite a 2-1 loss to Hoffenheim who are now on 37 points and just three behind die Schänzer. This was a wildly entertaining match full of big saves and big chances, but Hoffenheim’s clinical finishing was the differemce/

Darmstadt against Frankfurt was a battle of neighbours both geographically and in terms of the table position and it looked like the hosts would cruise to an easy win after Mario Vrancic put them up 1-0 and Sandro Wagner was stepping up to take the penalty in the 19th minute. The Lord’s prayer did not have a chance against Lukas Hradecky, and the Böllenfalltor was stunned as Frankfurt gave SV98 a taste of its own medicine with two set-piece goals in the second half to steal all three points.

While one can debate the merits of the Monday night games in the Bundesliga, as the guys on Talking Fussball did, I would be hard-pressed to find people opposing matches like the Werder-Stuttgart affair, where the Green and Whites put the SIX in the term relegation six-pointer. Those six goals are great for Werder, but Merriam Webster should just do us a favor and put a picture of VfB’s entire defense next to the idiom “being at sixes and sevens”.

While Stuttgart fans who feel like  can take solace in the fact that,  as Bob Dylan and Nick Cave have both observed, “Death is not the End” they would probably agree that

Shane Macgowan in either that video or in his current state would be a substantial improvement over Georg Niedermeier and co.

On to the Team of the Week!

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Goalkeeper – Oliver Baumann – Hoffenheim made 7 saves, including several key ones to thwart Ingolstadt whose 16 shots resulted in just one goal. Niklas Süle, bless his heart, probably owes him a couple of beers after this one. Lukas Hradecky’s penalty save was great for Frankfurt and good enough for the runner-up spot.

Defense

Marco Russ – Frankfurt is back again, after doing yeoman’s work, dealing with Sandro Wagner and emerging with five tackles, three interceptions and eight clearances as well as six aerials won (Wagner won 13 in the match) and more importantly the victory!

Dominique Heintz – Cologne’s man in the middle of the defense contributed five tackles, five interceptions and four clearances to the shutout as the Billy Goats faced eight shots after Matthias Lehmann’s dismissal in the 56th minute, but only one of those made it on Timo Horn’s goal.

Marvin Matip -Ingolstadt two shots, and an assist are completely out of the norm for the big center back, six interceptions and nine clearances are just par for the course. The 30-year-old has been one of the best Bundesliga defenders this season and can only blame his fellow defenders, the usually reliable Benny Hübner and youngsters Danny Da Costa and Robert Bauer for not showing up vs Hoffenheim.

Theodor Gebre Selassie – Werder was everywhere on the pitch against Stuttgart, amassing seven tackles, six interceptions and nine clearances. gebreheatmap

Midfielders-

Leon GoretzkaSchalke – was perhaps told by the notorious SVG Andre Breitenreiter to “just form a fucking wall”

in the middle of the pitch, as the 21-year-old racked up 16 tackles won, with eight interceptions and  three clearances. Goretzka, who only played the full 90 minutes for the third time in three months has been one of the few bright spots for a disappointing Schalke and should remain a fixture in the side for years to come.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan Dortmund – five shots, two assists, four key passes and 38 sprints in another monster performance. At this point, he should just have a standing reservation. In other news, The ARM + Kagawa+ Ramos quintet is now responsible for 65 Bundesliga goals this season!

Shinji Kagawa -Dortmund three shots, one goal and four key passes on 93% accuracy, has taken an inordinate amount of flak from myself and BVB fans for his tendencies to disappear in games, but is quietly putting together an excellent season. In terms of output he is approaching his 2011/12 career season of 13 goals and eight assists that saw him go to Manchester United. The Japanese playmaker is now up to nine goals and seven assists and has an outside chance of joining Mkhitaryan and Raffael in the double-digit goals and assists club. Chalk another one up to Thomas Tuchel.

Zlatko Junuzovic – Bremen doesn’t really get the goals and the spotlight for Werder’s attacking prowess, but the Austrian added another five key passes to his tally. His 65 key passes are third in the league overall – with his Bundesliga best 41 of them coming in the Rückrunde and they are a huge reason why Werder has scored 49 times. He now has ten assists on the year, with eight of them – more than any other player in the Bundesliga – coming since the turn of the calendar. He also added 39 sprints, and his heat map shows that he is more than just a playmaker who loafs around the middle of the park.junuz

Fin Bartels – Bremen is another sneaky one, with eight goals on the season after getting a brace versus Stuttgart, his sixth goal in the spring. His season shot chart tells the story of a midfielder with a nose for goals a la Daniel Didavi.bartelsshots

The 29-year-old also added four tackles to his pair of goals, which were both set up by Junuzovic. He also seems to love getting involved in the high-scoring matches, as all of his goals came in fixtures where there were over three goals – which tends to happen a lot when your team scored 49 goals a season and can’t get a clean sheet.

Forward

Andre Hahn – Gladbach four shots – one goal, five aerials, and a whopping 12.2 kms covered against Bayern. We lauded Alfred Finnbogason last week for running 12, and Hahn’s feat is even more impressive considering the quality of opposition. Ever since coming back from a brutal injury, the 25-year-old has been on fire. In the four games he has started since April third, he has scored three goals while taking eleven shots inside the penalty box – a mark that is fourth best in the league!

Honorable mentions – Marco Reus’ 46 sprints were tops this week, while Lars Stindl was instrumental in a substitute role for setting up Hahn. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had two simple finishes in a cameo for Adrian Ramos, who had a goal and an assist. Anthony Ujah only played eight minutes, but had time to score a goal and hit the post against a hemorrhaging Stuttgart defense. Leverkusen’s Lars Bender – goal on two shots – and Benny Henrichs – six tackles and five interceptions just miss the cut .Ingolstadt’s Stefan Lex impressed with four shots, all on target, and four key passes and a nice goal. Havard Nortdveit had three tackles, six interceptions, three clearances and held Bayern to eight shots for Gladbach. Giulio Donati had the most tackles won with 21 on the day. Sven Bender was one crucial mistake away from making it. Claudio Pizarro is probably pulling a Melisandre on all of us, as he scored his 14th goal on the season despite really being 73 years old.

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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