Team of the Week Matchday 11 edition

After a tumultuous Bundesliga weekend, we have just a few hours to mull things over, before the Champions League action. So we shall skip the usual recap other than to say that RB Leipzig have somehow pulled off another impressive win and are now top of the league, ahead of Bayern, who lost at Dortmund. BVB are tied on points by the impressive foursome of Cologne (thanks to Gladbach snatching defeat from the jaws of victory), Hoffenheim (held to a draw by the law firm of Kostic and Müller), Hertha (were inches away on a couple of occasions from winning vs Augsburg) and Eintracht (raise your hand if you knew who Aymane Barkok was!). The Mainz rollercoaster had its wildest upswing of the year in a remarkable 4-2 win despite getting outplayed by Freiburg, who can mostly blame their individual mistakes for most of the goals they conceded.

Schalke have nearly caught Leverkusen after an impressive defensive performance versus an injury-rid Wolfsburg squad, while Gladbach are now 0-2-4 since the Schubert contract extension on September 26th….OOOPS!

Darmstadt were unlucky thrice – 1. How is this not a penalty? 2. How does that great free kick not drop in?

3. How does Moritz Hartmann score the goal of his life? (Btw, Aytac Sulu lost an aerial duel?)

That is how FCI get their first win of the season, so hats off to Maik Walpurgis. Or Mikey Dubs, as we call him.

HSV even earned a point, and Werder are starting to look like the worst team of the league, so it’s only right that they can settle the matter at the Nordderby this Saturday!

Here are the performers for TOTW MD 11

Goalkeeper – Thomas Kessler – Cologne

Slim pickings, as Bernd Leno, Yann Sommer, Felix Wiedwald, Alexander Schwolow, Péter Gulácsi, Jonas Lössl,  and Christian Mathenia all made some pretty bad mistakes. Roman Bürki was a decent candidate, as was Marwin Hitz, but the choice came down to Martin Hansen vs Thomas Kessler – two guys who started the season as backups at best. Seven saves from the 30-year-old Kessler vs Gladbach will get him the award and a permanent spot in Thorgan Hazard’s nightmares as well. Not a bad way to make your season debut!

Getting owned by a 30-year-old keeper who has played a total of 34 career matches in the Bundesliga will probably not make the Gladbach season highlights either.


Willi Orban – RB Leipzig had himself a ballgame vs Leverkusen in Pressbowl 2016. The 24-year-old German-Hungarian actually led his team with two shots and of course scored the game-winner from a great Forsberg cross. RBL were already starting makeshift RB Stefan Ilsanker due to injury, and when Compper limped off in the 29th minute, it left Orban in charge. And it turned out better than his uncle Viktor being in charge of Hungary for those of you playing along at home.

The RB defense, aside from one of the worst goals given up to Julian Brandt, was thanks to Orban were good on the day.  On that play, in terms of marking Julian Brandt, it looked like a miscommunication between him and either Diego Demme or left back Marcel Halstenberg, and to Orban’s credit he did enough to put Brandt off and Gulacsi should’ve done better with the shot. Here’s a pic of just before RBL lose the ball and no. 31 Demme is standing next to Brandt.


while seconds later, Demme switches off and Brandt is off to the races:


Otherwise, he was a one man wall, next to the shaky Ilsanker (gave away PK) and Halstenberg (bad positioning) and the inexperienced Schmitz.


Marc Bartra – Dortmund had his best game for BVB, with five tackles, eight clearances on defense, while also leading his team with 49 pass attempts. The former Barca man was key in Dortmund’s back three, in particular because of his importance to the buildup play as the ball playing left CB, as noted by our Ryan Tank in his excellent breakdown of Der Klassiker. He and Sokratis (who had eleven clearances) formed a great back three with the improving Matthias Ginter, and the surprising amount of pressing by Götze, Ramos and Schürrle made life very difficult for Bayern, who put the BVB defense under siege after the early goal conceded. Yet, Dortmund held firm and Bartra was perhaps the biggest reason for it, winning 17 tackles according to


Benedikt Höwedes – Schalke has been the most consistent player for Die Knappen, and his game vs Wolfsburg was no exception: eight interceptions, with solid involvement in play – 74 touches and good distribution – 84% passing. Wolfsburg have their own problems, but allowing this kind of a shot map is very impressive!


Naldo was also a worthy candidate, and would havemade it if a couple of his five shots hit the target, as the back three continues to work wonders for Markus Weinzierl and co.

Bastian Oczipka – Eintracht gets the nod over teammate David Abraham for his assist, and because we need a left-back who can get up the pitch. Oczipka had four key passes on 79 touches, with three dribbles and earned four fouls – all impressive numbers on offense. Defensively, he led his team with four successful tackles as well. He has been one of the more underrated Bundesliga defenders for a while, so it’s time to give him some love, as die Adler climb up the table! Tied for third and only seventh, not fifth because of fewer goals scored than Hertha and TSG? What a year!



Johannes Geis – Schalke was rightfully named Man of the Match against Wolfsburg. Six interceptions shows his defensive involvement and protection of the back three, while five key passes (mostly from set pieces) and four fouls earned show that he was the fulcrum of their offense. He only lost the ball once, while winning it six times via interceptions and his slow start followed by a prolonged excellent spell embodies Schalke’s season so far.


Filip Kostic – HSV knows a thing or two about slow starts, and I’m not talking about his Stuttgart days. Out of 214 players eligible, Kicker ranks Kostic 207th  and that’s mostly because he’s ahead of his teammates Albin Ekdal and Johan Djourou. No goals and assists on 62% passing and a career low 16.5 passes per game and losing the ball nearly three times per game was the nadir, but the Serbian broke out against Hoffenheim with a goal on four shots. Take a look at his shot location map before the match: screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-3-31-05-pm

and see what he did differently on Sunday. (Hint: it’s probably not a great sign for TSG’s defense that you allowed this)


He also had just 12 successful dribbles in games prior to this one, where he completed FIVE! Still only 50% accuracy, but he is now only getting to 33% for the season (17 of 48), so baby steps!


Next week, perhaps our Filip discovers how not to lose the ball every time he tries to make a five yard pass? The week after, perhaps he will improve on his crosses – 2 for 10 this game? Maybe even get over 50% in pass completion (43% this match). Reach for the sky, Filip!

Lewis Holtby – HSV makes it two in a row for Hamburg, which is also the number of assists he had on Sunday. That’s the good news, the bad news is that made him the team leader for the season. Still more positives: alongside his usual running – ranked third on the matchday with 12.4 kms (Schöpf at 13.3 lapped the field, Julian Weigl had 12.5) – the 26-year-old had his best game of the season with four shots and three key passes. Those are great numbers, but it’s even more telling when you consider that he has eight shots and eight key passes for the season, meaning that he got nearly 50% of his season output in this game! Defensively, he was extremely active, though not always effective: six tackles and three interceptions came at the cost of SEVEN fouls.


Emil Forsberg – RB Leipzig earns his weekly spot for his decisive play against Leverkusen. His 63% passing won’t blow you away, but it’s the goals and assists that will. With another goal and assist the Swede now has five of each and is probably the favorite for player of the season – with apologies to Anthony Modeste, Kerem Demirbay, Thiago and Marco Fabián.

Vincenzo Grifo – Freiburg couldn’t do much about his defense and goalkeeper crapping the bed, as the Italian midfielder amassed a goal on six shots and five key passes with 83 touches. He also went 48 of 56 or 86% on his passes, which is a huge improvement over his 73% average.


It’s even more impressive as Freiburg’s other threat – Maxi Philipp had to leave the game after just 14 minutes – leaving Mainz to key in on Grifo, as the only SCF threat in theory. His team won the possession battle 65-35, outshot Mainz 24 to 11, with 11 shots on target to six, doubled them up in passes and had 1.5x more attacking third passes. I think Michael Caley’s XG model actually broke as a result of this game, while Alex Rathke’s wasn’t much happier either.


Julian Brandt was the main attacking threat for a strikerless Leverkusen, and it’s nice to seem him grab back to back goal and assist games after a slowish start to the season. His movement was superb throughout the game, and adding five dribbles and three key passes helped his team immensely. Terrible individual errors by Bernd Leno, Hakan Calhanoglu and Kevin Kampl, and the unfortunate own goal by Julian Baumgartlinger are not enough to keep Brandt out. Look how effective he was in the attacking third – 15 of 21 on passes with lot of creativity.



Honorable mentions to Mario Götze, Mats Hummels, Sokratis, Naby Keita, Sandro Wagner (if he buried that chance), David Abraham, Moritz Hartmann, Mario Vrancic and Alex Meier (45 minutes of magic both!) Yunus Malli – goal and two assists – thought it’s a penalty and awful defensive breakdowns by Freiburg. Marcel Risse and Anthony – I score goals when defenders head the ball onto my head and it bounces in from 10 yards- Modeste also had good cases. It was also nice to see Thorgan Hazard come back.

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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 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


  1. I dunno, he def whiffed on the save. But, yeah great point about the defenders just backing up. I think I pointed it out mostly coz it was another GK error. Don’t worry, I’ll rag on defenders plenty in the future!

  2. Wouldn’t call Leno’s miss on the Forsberg goal a “terrible individual error” wasn’t his best but hardly terrible and if you take the time too mention that you really got to mention the defenders just dropping… and dropping… and dropping… and dropping… in that situation.

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