Bundesliga Team of the Week: Matchday 7 Edition feat Werder, HSV and Eintracht

Red cards, missed penalties and tight matches. Matchday Seven saw the Bundesliga’s shock teams in 2016/17, Cologne, Hertha and Frankfurt continuing to surprise everyone, with Anthony Modeste (a brace to lead the Bundesliga with SEVEN GOALS!!!) and Marco Fabian putting in fabulous performances. Bundesliga fans must have been shocked to see the big four all faltering – Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen and Gladbach all failed to win – (Schalke drew as well), as minnows Mainz and Hoffenheim marched up the table with 2-1 wins each. Ingolstadt and HSV still can’t score enough, though der Dino will be ecstatic with a point in Gladbach after playing a man down for 65 minutes and the Foals missing two penalties. Schalke and Augsburg played a 1-1 draw with two brilliant goals, from Nabil Bentaleb and Daniel Baier. but the Royal Blues lost Breel Embolo forthe season, while FCA look like a MASH unit. Werder added another solid win under Alexander Nouri and are approaching mid-table with an exciting attack! That’s your roundup and this is Matchday Seven’s Team of the Week:


Rene Adler (Hamburger SV) – barely edges out Rune Jarstein of Hertha, but the veteran goalkeeper came up huge when it mattered. He faced 22 shots, but only had to make four saves, thanks to Gladbach’s dreadful shooting and eight blocks from this defenders. The deciding factor: the 31-year-old gets the nod for keeping out TWO penalties (both of which were harsh)  in the same game. Maybe it’s that newlywed life!


Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt) – when you have the game of your life and obliterate David Alaba, you make TOTW. The American was everywhere on the pitch chandler

and led his team in touches with 61. Most of the time the 26-year-old was seen bombing forward on the right flank, as a helpless David Alaba was beaten time and time again by the American’s brute strength and tireless running. timc While he didn’t always pick the right pass, he contributed five key passes, one of them the assist to Marco Fabian’s equalizer, and one of this two shots hit the woodwork, after beating Manuel Neuer. He was also the leading tackler with five successful ones from five attempts and a deserved Man of the Match pick by Whoscored.com.

Mikel Merino (Dortmund)  151 touches an 131 passes on his Bundesliga debut, with fives tackles, three interceptions and maturity beyond his years. mmerino

The former Osasuna man ate up a giant portion of the pitch, and was fundamental to the BVB buildup in offense. merino

On defense, he held things down more or less flawlessly all night; perhaps allowing Valentin Stocker to run in behind him for the equalizer wasn’t great, but Felix Passlack kept him onside and Matthias Ginter and Mario Götze did little to close down Vedad Ibisevic. Many have questioned the signing by BVB, and after being left out of the Champions League roster Merino could’ve understandably been down in the dumps, but instead the 20-year-old showed great character by coming up with a massive game for Dortmund who badly needed it.

Emir Spahic (HSV) – this kind of back-to-the-wall defending is exactly what the veteran  Bosnian is great at. The 36-year-old won 100% of his tackles, added two interceptions and made 9 clearances alongside two blocked shots and was a huge factor in keeping BMG goalless.


Douglas Santos and Lewis Holtby were probably more active on the day, but both committed serious errors that led to penalties, while Spahic was flawless, so he gets into the squad.


Alexander Esswein (Hertha BSC) – yet another Bundesliga player undergoing the Dárdai special, the 26-year-old has become an integral part of Hertha after his summer move from Augsburg. Seven tackles, five interceptions and three shots were all team-highs, but it was his level of intensity that caused massive problems for Dortmund’s left side. esswein

Case in point: Emre Mor had NINE unsuccessful touches, which either means that the Turkish Messi is technically awful, or that Esswein and Mitchell Weiser hounded him all night, committing six fouls in the process. If you’ve seen Mor play, you know the first one can’t be true….Marcel Schmelzer also had a bad game by his standards, with just 70% pass completion (he is at 84% for the last two years) and zero key passes, with Esswein getting the better of him several times, even when he was beat by two or three yards.

Daniel Baier (FC Augsburg) –  a Bundesliga Fanatic favorite, the 32-year-old has been one of the players of the season so far. The central midfielder scored a golazo, after missing another goal of the season candidate earlier in the game, but he also added three shots and two key passes and was the hub of FCA’s offense. On defense, he made four tackles, and despite not picking up an interception against Schalke, he still leads the league with 34! baiervsc

That 4.9 per game is miles ahead of every other player for this season and last (Santiago Garcia won last year with 3.7). Baier not only doubled his interception average (2.4) from last year, but also his tackles per match, going from 1.7 to 3.1. Keep in mind, he is doing this by also being the primary creator (after the Caiuby injury), with 1.6 key passes per game and two total assists also leading FCA.

Yunus Malli (Mainz 05) – a goal from a penalty before which he bamboozled four Darmstadt players, four shots, four key passes, three dribbles, 83% pass completion rate — what more does he need to do?


Nothing, Yunus Malli is the man! He and Pablo de Blasis are tied for the team lead with four goals each, but the Turkish playmaker is also adding 1.7 key passes per match. His 2.1 shots per game this season would be a career-high and this is beginning to look like last year’s Hinrunde, when Malli tore up the league and Mainz marched up the table.

Marco Fabian (Eintracht Frankfurt) – much like Baier, the Mexican belongs on the Bundesliga Team of the Season thus far, after coming up with another huge performance vs Bayern. His goal was a great piece of body control, but his contributions reached far beyond that: four interceptions, four shots led his team and he also added three tackles. fabianvbay Was alongside Chandler the key player for die Adler, who have surprised many Bundesliga fans so far this year. The 27-year-old has been the biggest reason: he has three goals and two assists, and his four shots per game are third in the league behind Andrej Kramaric and Robert Lewandowski. His 2.2 key passes are 11th, and he is 14th among all midfielders with 2.4 interceptions. What’s even more impressive is his stamina: In the five games that he has played, Marco Fabian has been in the top 10 in runs made according Bundesliga.com (click on the RUNS heading and you can look at each Matchday), and this weekend he was second in the league with 67. runs

It’s even more remarkable given how much he struggled to fit in and get playing time last season….

Izet Hajrovic (Werder Bremen) – has been a revelation for the Green and Whites this season, after finally getting some playing time. If you’re unfamiliar with him, here’s the lowdown: the 25-year-old had spent four seasons at Grasshoppers before a move to Galatasaray saw him transfer to Bremen in 2014 after not being paid his wages by the Turkish club. After 19 appearances, but just 725 minutes in the 14/15 season, Hajrovic was loaned out to Eibar in Spain, where he played just 174 minutes. He is finally get his shot under Alexander Nouri, and he is on a tear with 1.6 shots, 1.6 key passes and 1.8 dribbles per match in 310 minutes so far. Against Leverkusen, he had perhaps his second best game of the season, with the Mainz MotM performance taking the cake. Hajrovic completed SEVEN dribbles, the prettiest being before the first goal: He splits two defenders (Benjamin Henrichs, perhaps the league’s best young defender so far this year, and Ömer Toprak, widely considered to be an elite CB) at midfield, then catches up to the ball and nutmegs Jonathan Tah before sliding it to Ousman Manneh for a sitter that the Gambian misses, but Junuzovic knocks in the rebound. hajrovic

Reminds me a lot of Filip Kostic with his dribbling combination of speed and strength, and together with Serge Gnabry Werder might just have the best wing combo in the Bundesliga. Stats confirm this. dribbleleaders

Moreover, Werder are cooking on offense. No, that is not a typo!

Gnabry is leading the Bundesliga with 12 open play key passes (Hajrovic has five), while Junuzovic (16 key passes) handles set pieces and orchestrates the attack, and Manneh crashes the net with remarkable pace and frequency. Who needs Claudio Pizarro anyway?  (Well we all want Pizza back and healthy. but it’s nice to see Werder create legitimate offense without the legendary Peruvian).


Ousman Manneh (Werder Bremen) – has finally got something other than the best story in the Bundesliga. The 19-year-old, who fled his native Gambia (where he grew up playing for an academy that had this pitch ) after political turmoil as a minor, got a chance to play for Werder II after impressing in the fifth division last year. He made his Bundesliga debut September 21, and the rest is history in front of our eyes. Against Leverkusen, Manneh added six shots, four on target, the game-winning goal and five tackles! manneh

Sometimes football can be pretty darn cool.

Anthony Modeste (1.FC Köln) – scored two more goals to take the  Bundesliga lead with seven this year. Ironically, the big Frenchman could have had another two, after getting up six shots in Effzeh’s dominant win over Ingolstadt. Modeste has long been a high volume shooter, going from 2.2 a game at Hoffenheim to 3.2 last season at Köln. This year he is at 3.6 per game (fourth best) and his total of 25 is third in the league behind Lewandowski and Kramaric. There is one area where Modeste is considerably better than last year,: 1. his shot location and situation: 22 of his shots have come from inside the box, with a league-high SIX from inside the six. That means that on average he is taking 0.9 shots per match from SIX YARDS OUT! (compared to 0.1, 0.2 and 0.1 in his three other Bundesliga season) which explains his astronomical 30% conversation rate. For comparison, in his career he has never taken more than FIVE shots from inside the box in a SEASON!!! (aside from 2010/11 in Bordeaux), but this year he has six already in seven games. It turns out that taking shots closer to the goal is a good thing.


Honorable Mentions

Apologies to Joshua Kimmich, Diego Demme, Nabil Bentaleb, Sandro Wagner and Andrej Kramaric. Let us know if we missed anyone!

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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

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