How do you lose before your enthusiastic home crowd when you launch 27 shots while your opponents , a team in the relegation zone, fired only seven — and oh, btw, you had the ball for 72% of the 90 minutes? That’s the conundrum that will vex the minds of the VfL Wolfsburg braintrust, as well as their supporters, this week as the struggling club fell 1-2 at the Volkswagen Arena to one of the few clubs struggling even more after 21 league fixtures, Werder Bremen.
The easy answer is the brilliance and grit of Serge Gnabry, Werder’s summer acquisition who has scored nine road goals now this season. Gnabry’s athleticism and skill certainly made a huge difference in Friday’s fixture — his early brace put Wolfsburg behind quickly, although Borja Mayoral responded to Gnabry’s 2nd goal, a nice chested ball and shot from close range, almost immediately with a VfL goal, But……
It can be said that Wolfsburg hit the woodwork twice, and the green-whites goalkeeper, Felix Wiedwald, made some quality saves. But Wolfsburg were dangerous from open play AND set pieces….dangerous, but not lethal, against a Werder side that only has kept two clean sheets this season. The chances were well spread among the Wolves’ squad…Ricardo Rodriguez and Yunnus Mali had four shots, while Mayoral, Maxi Arnold and Daniel Didavi each chipped in three and seven other Wolves had at least one attempt.
And then there was 1.FSV Mainz gaining their first road win in five months at the BayArena Saturday despite only completing 47% of their pass attempts — not that there were many Mainz passes, as they only had the ball 37% of the time. But…wow. Four Mainz starters weren’t even successful with half of their passes — Levin Oztunali, Fabian Frei Gaetan Bussmann and Giulio Donait, who will have to run extra laps this week by doing more than his share to contribute to Mainz’ atrocious passing stats by completing only 23% of his passes while missing on nine of 10 long passes. The Roger Schmidt press obviously worked very well….
Except that Die Werkself couldn’t score against a team that’s featured a porous defense all season, allowing more goals than all but four other Bundesliga teams. The 05ers stormed the Leverkusen goal early, got a headed goal from defender Stefan Bell and a goal from a Bernd Leno error, and held onto that 0-2 lead for 80 minutes. Makes one wonder if Mainz Coach Martin Schmidt will focus on passing drills this week…or not.
STATS, STATS and MORE STATS
Tall Boys – FC Ingolstadt lead the Bundesliga with an average of 30.2 aerial duels won per match, next best is Hamburg with 25.8.
Bayern, Bayern, Bayern — Carlo Ancelotti’s team lead Germany’s top division in average possession (64%), passing success (86.7%) and shots per game at 17. For perspective, every side except BvB trail Bayern’s possession rate by 10 points, only three other clubs are passing at a success rate over 80% and Bayern average almost twice as many shots per match as Hertha Berlin and SV Darmstadt 98, both under 10 per game.
Hamburg Woes – Not only were the red-shorts on the receiving end of an 8-0 thrashing by the Bavarians, but HSV are the only Bundesliga club to NOT score yet this season from the penalty spot. Schalke have scored the least league goals from setpieces, 2, while their Sunday opponents, Hoffenheim, lead the league with nine setpiece goals. Another thing that Julian Nagelsmann has done right in turning around the village team.
An Easy Correlation – Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang currently co-lead the Bundesliga in scoring with 19 goals each, while Anthony Modeste follows with 17 goals. Guess which three players lead the league in shots per game. Um, Robert Lewandowski, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Anthony Modeste. The Billy Goats’ striker has scored 55% of the club’s goals this season.
No Red Cards, Please – Bayern Munich are the only club in Germany’s first division yet to be charged with a red card foul this season.
A Man for All Seasons – Schalke forward Guido Burgstaller, signed from 1.FC Nürnberg on January 9, still co-leads Bundesliga 2 in goalscoring with 14 Hinrunde goals for Der Club, the same number as Stuttgart’s Simon Terodde. The 27 year-old Burgstaller, an Austrian international, is doing pretty well in the Ruckrunde as well, scoring twice in four Schalke league matches.
The Emil Forsberg Show – The Swede may be RB Leipzig’s MVP this year. He had an early goal in RB’s win over 1.FC Köln and also an assist, giving him the league lead with nine assists this season. Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Müller each have eight.