21 Talking Points Part 2 plus Team of the Week for MD 21

This is Part 2 of the MD 21 review and Team of the Week piece. You can read Part 1 here.

11. Ingolstadt continue to slay giants (results vs big teams)

Since Maik Walpurgis’ appointment on November 12th, die Schanzer have been a very solid Bundesliga team, earning 16 points out of eleven matches (five wins, one draw and five losses), which helps a lot given that they had just two points until then.

They’ve already beaten Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and now Frankfurt in that span and the 3-1 win against HSV looks impressive, given Hamburg’s run of form (see the table above!).  Their losses to Freiburg and Hertha were unfortunate, given that they won the expected goals battle vs the former  and tied the latter. (Rabid FCI fans would even point out that Bayern scored two goals after the 89th minute, but I’d push back and say that Bayern dominated that match.). German speakers would be wise to read the great breakdown of the Frankfurt match on Spielverlagerung, but it’s safe to say that Walpurgis’ ideas : playing with three\five in the back, returning to pressing have yielded great results.

12. Werder winning ugly, but who cares. When you lose four in a row in the relegation battle and are losing all of them on XG as well, you’ll take any win.

By the way, that was only Werder’s second clean sheet this year and the first one for Felix Wiedwald, who is making baby steps: it took him until April of last year to keep one in 15\16!!!

13. Mainz lack creativity – who’s gonna get the ball forward? Despite having 63% possession and Mainz completing 79% of their passes (season avg is 70), they were ineffective in getting the ball forward. Three pics tell the whole story: 

So, you got CBs passing to each other, CMs unable to get the ball forward and Bojan is not involved in the attack….

14. Hoffenheim’s Andrej Kramaric finally scores? The Croatian sensation, aka my favorite 65 minute Bundesliga player has had a blistering start to the season, but has been out of form since late October leading to him losing his starting spot to a returning Mark Uth by the end of the Hinrunde. He’s still not been good enough to earn a starting spot (Marco Terrazzino actually was excellent in his place alongside Sandro Wagner), but at least he’s finally put away some of his chances. He is now on six goals and six assists and still leads his team in shots at 2.8, so it’s nice to see his actual goals get closer to matching his expected goals.

15. Marco Terrazzino is turning 26 in April, yet the Hoffenheim youth player has appeared in just 600 Bundesliga minutes in his career. He doesn’t seem to have the physical tools and the goalscoring prowess, but if Julian Nagelsmann can turn the current version of Ádám Szalai into an effective Bundesliga striker, he will probably do fine with Terrazzino who has never scored more than five goals a season at any level!!

16. HSV still can’t get out of their own half and still have issues defending transitions. HSV complete just 67.7% of their passes which only beats Ingolstadt and Darmstadt, and they play just 204 accurate short passes per match that’s ahead of only the Lilies. In contrast, there are ten teams over the 300 mark. In fact, their three to one ratio of accurate passes to inaccurate ones per match (204 to 69.3)

Their only regular over 80% is Johan Djourou, which is a problem because he is Johan Djourou. Douglas Santos might lead the Bundesliga in tackles, but he is a 67% passer, who has played himself out of the starting XI in favor of Matthias Ostrzolek, who himself puts up 65%. Of course they both have to play the ball often to the black hole known as Filip Kostic. On right side, Gotuku Sakai, occasionally displays of heroic defending and long-range bombs aside, is at a career-low 70% after 75%+ seasons. Dennis Diekmeier (somehow managed to attempt five passes in 45 minutes vs. Freiburg!!!) fills in there on occasion and averages 8.7 short pass completions to 3.5 incompletions and has also the unfortunate task of playing the ball to Nico Müller who is also posting a career-worst 62% pass completion rate. The upgrades at the CB position, Mergim Mavraj and Kyriakos Papadopoulos have been great in the air, but Mavraj has completed 59% of his passes in 450 minutes, after posting an 88% completion rate for Cologne in 1440 minutes. The Albanian is at 80% for his career, so it’s safe to say the problem is with HSV’s system. The central midfield has become more athletic with the inclusion of Gideon Jung (who had his best passing game vs Freiburg, going 16 of 18 in the middle third and 22 of 27 overall) and the addition of the rangy Walace (averaging six interceptions per match!!!), but the Brazilian is at just 59.7% on his 36 pass attempts per  game.

Suffice to say that it’s no surprise that Hamburg have the dubious honor of being the second worst team in losing the ball. 

Those losses of possession per game also extend to their attacking players, and while we covered the offensive shortcomings of Kostic and Müller, Bobby Wood isn’t doing any favors for himself. 

Sure, he isn’t getting much help by Hamburg lofting balls up high (Wood is losing 3.6 headers per match and winning 3.2), but there is still some doubt whether he can be a regular starter for HSV. The Freiburg match was a bit of a weird one, as Wood had to be scratched from the lineup, and with Michael Gregoritsch already injured, HSV were forced to play Aaron Hunt at forward, which does not bode well for Pierre-Michel Lasogga’s future. They also lost Papadopoulos in the 30th minute and playing Diekmeier at RW (due to Müller’s unavailability) isn’t ideal either.

17. The nite Aaron Hunt almost gave my friend and podcast guest a heart attack. It was a special night in Hamburg on Saturday and not just because it was the TopSpiel. My podcast guests, Oliver and Troels (our resident HSV superfan and Troll Bundesliga admin) were both in attendance and Troels’ least favorite player HSV Aaron Hunt was given a rare start.

The 30-year-old has just played 554 minutes this year and just overtook the immortal PM Lasogga with this appearance. Hunt made the most of his opportunity, going 17 of 25 in attacking third passes and getting involved in every dangerous play for the Dinos. 

His understanding with Holtby was particularly noticeable and led to a goal in the 14th minute, while it was his run that opened up space for Sakai to play in Gregoritsch for HSV’s second. His pirouette in the 89th minute that earned die Rothosen a penalty was to be the icing on the cake, but Hunt astonishingly missed the penalty!

18. Nobody talks about Freiburg. Christian Streich continues to work miracles from extremely limited resources (the squad is valued at 52m) and turns castoffs and loanees like Nils Petersen (Bayern, Werder), Vincenzo Grifo, Janik Haberer (both Hoffenheim), Florian Niederlechner (Mainz), Max Philipp (Hertha) and Pascal Stenzel (BVB) into solid Bundesliga players. The Petersen, Grifo, Philipp, Niederlechner, Haberer quintet, valued at 18.5 million currently on Transfermarkt has 26 goals and 13 assists. Entire teams like Schalke, Frankfurt, HSV, Gladbach or Wolfsburg are below 25 goals and Frankfurt has the lowest squad value at 67 million!

When you combine that with the players that Freiburg sold in the last five years, it’s astonishing that no one is talking about Streich as coach of the year. Sitting in ninth place and behind Leverkusen on just goal difference is quite the achievement, especially in light of the fact that SCF are below the league average in conversion rate at 8.8% per Footballintheclouds and expected goal difference (-5 compared to actual goal difference of – 8) and expected goals per shot per the Challengers Podcast.  This table also speaks volumes of their recent form:

19. One former Breisgau player who has turned into Schalke’s sneaky good pickup is Daniel Caligiuri (time to eat crow), who already has two assists and eight key passes in 263 minutes for the Royal Blues compared to one assist and nine KPs in 1112 minutes for Wolfsburg. 

On another note: Leon Goretzka’s amazing run continues, as the 22-year-old was instrumental in the win over Cologne with 5 of 6 on take-ons and another shot that hit the post yet again.

20. Congrats Valerien Ismael and Wolfsburg, you made Gonzalo Castro look like a young Andres Iniesta! 

Also, Lukasz Piszczek has apparently been turned into Cafu….

Also, I hear that Dembele kid is not bad either….

21. Three in the back for everyone! Frankfurt, Ingolstadt, Schalke (14 times this season) , Cologne (the four back system has an 12 to 9 edge so far), Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim (15x) played their weekend games with that formation, while Dortmund (four defender formation currently leading 12 to 9, but Tuchel changes formations during the game\plays more asymmetric lineups perhaps more than any other Bundesliga coach), Bremen (5x) and Gladbach (11x with three in the back, and lately using the 4-4-2 under Hecking) are other notable examples.

On the flipside, teams yet to use it this year are Leverkusen (Roger loves the 4-4-2 and the 4-2-2-2), and Freiburg who play 4-4-2 almost all the time, while Leipzig has used the 4-2-2-2 twenty times!

HSV have used the 4-2-3-1 18 times, beating Hertha (17x), Augsburg (16x ) Mainz (15x),and Darmstadt (13x) rely on it almost exclusively, while Bayern is the only team consistently employing the 4-3-3.

So, having written all of that here is the Team of the Week, with sincere apologies to Martin Hansen, Markus Suttner, Gonzalo Castro, Aaron Hunt and Nils Petersen.

Thanks for reading.

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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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