One of the best parts about watching the Bundesliga is that every matchday provides some surprising results.. This season has already lived up to that billing, with Freiburg beating Gladbach, Leipzig beating Dortmund, Frankfurt beating Schalke and Hoffenheim coming back from 4-1 down to draw 4-4 versus Mainz. But besides those unexpected results, several teams have been surprising as well, one for overachieving, and two for underachieving.
Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen have surprised us this season for both good and bad through the first 4 games. The emergence of Joel Pohjanpalo into a top goalscorer has been one of the more unlikely phenomenons through the early stages of the season. A hattrick off the bench against Hamburg and the equalizer against Gladbach have made him the team’s leading scorer thus far, and he’s responsible for three of the points they’ve picked up as well. The Finnish striker wasn’t expected to contribute a whole lot with Kevin Volland and Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez blocking him, which makes his exploits thus far even more surprising. If he can keep up his form, Bayer might have another young star to go along with the ones they already have in Olympian Julian Brandt, defender Jonathan Tah and the emerging fullback Benjamin Henrichs.
Even though Pohjanpalo has been a pleasant surprise, the overall play of Leverkusen hasn’t been a pleasant. Missed games due to injuries to Hernandez and Volland, along with the longterm absence of Karim Bellarabi after he also fell victim to injury has left the club’s attack at times shaky, the defending has cost Leverkusen dearly and has left fans with more questions than answers in theearly going. With losses to Frankfurt and Gladbach, along with a disappointing scoreless draw with Augsburg already this season, Roger Schmidt’s side doesn’t look nearly as good as expected after their summertime addition of talent to an already gifted squad. It might be early, but the current form of Leverkusen is making their potential title challenge look like it’s just simply not going to happen. Unless Bayer begin to show the form that they had at the end of last season soon, they’ll be right back in the top four fight like last season and seasons prior, with no hopes of a title challenge.
Unlike rivals Bayer Leverkusen, Köln has been a surprise for many good reasons rather than bad. At the Fanatic, we predicted they would at best finish in the Europa league, but so far the Billy Goats have done even better than that. The steady rise of the club under Coach Peter Stöger and Sporting Director Jörg Schmadtke has gone to new heights thus far this season with Köln at second in the league early on. Unexpected but thoroughly deserved points against Schalke and Wolfsburg in their away games and then dominant home wins against Darmstadt and Freiburg have propelled Koln to levels that not even their most optimistic fans would’ve expected.
The great play of stalwarts Jonas Hector and German silver medalist Timo Horn has continued thus far and looks like it’s not going to stop for many years to come. Along with the continued improvement of Leonardo Bittencourt and Frederik Sorensen to help fuel the attack and defense and the great scoring form of Anthony Modeste up front these players have been key to the great start that the Billy Goats are off to. With the solid contributions of new signings Artjom Rudnevs and Konstantin Rauch this team looks like serious Europa League contenders. Even though Köln are most likely not going to make the top four this season, with this form landing one of the two automatic Europa League spots looks like a realistic goal for Stöger’s side. If the Billy Goats do end up landing one of those places, the remarkable rise of the club would be not only done to perfection but nearly complete as well. The fans of Köln have waited a long time for the glory days to return, and even though it’s early, this side is showing that they might be closer than anyone could’ve expected if they can keep their main contributors healthy..
FC Schalke 04
After barely missing out on the top 4 last season, Schalke decided to sack Sporting Director Horst Heldt along with their under fire boss Andre Breitenreiter, replacing them with former Mainz director Christian Heidel and FC Augsburg Coach Markus Weinzierl. Many felt that these changes were solid and necessary, and along with interesting signings such as those of Naldo, Nabil Bentaleb and Breel Embolo created an environment in which expectations were high for Schalke. Unfortunately a tough loss to Bayern along with poor showings against Hertha Berlin, Köln and Eintracht Frankfurt place Schalke second bottom in the table after just four league matches, with just one goal scored in Bundesliga play.
Markus Weinzierl hasn’t been able to produce immediate results, and now the young and relatively inexperienced manager looks like a questionable hire to those especially lacking in patience. Combine that with S04’s inability to score goals along with questions surrounding veteran Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s ability, and the effectiveness of Sevilla loanee Yevhen Konoplyanka and Schalke supporters are, in many cases, stricken by panic.
No one could’ve predicted such a tough start for a side that did well at the end of last season, but now that they’ve put themselves in this early season hole expectations must be altered. With a top four chase that already looks to be competitive with all of the previous season’s top four along with Köln, Leipzig and Mainz in the mix and suddenly Schalke have a steep mountain to climb. Fortunately, though, the Royal Blues’ defense hasn’t endured many problems, and if Weinzierl’s squad are to improve the back four will need to stay solid. They’ve already made things difficult, and a realistic fan must hope for European football of any kind in Gelsenkirchen at the end of the season. Knowing the size of S04’s vast fan base and how the club has operated in recent years, changes may be made, and time will tell if they’re able to either recover from this painful start or keep performing miserably.
After all of the exciting early season action thus far, a couple of teams have stood out for their performances. For good and bad reasons Köln, Leverkusen and Schalke have surprised every Bundesliga fan early this season. As the game pile up and the season goes on, more surprising teams will emerge in either good or bad forms. Seeing what teams will defy our expectations and which ones will stay the way they are s just one of the many reasons to tune into the Bundesliga every match day this season. With all of the results we’ve seen already thus far, it looks like fans won’t have to wait for long to see a shocking result and performance.
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