29 Bundesliga Observations after MD 29 – Part 2

This is Part 2 of a longer look at some MD 29 happenings and beyond. Part 1 can be found here.

10. Schalke are heading for disaster

Schalke lost a game in which they took 26 shots, including a staggering 21 from inside box against Darmstadt who came out with a 2-1 win thanks to a 93rd minute winner by Jerome Gondorf (one of the real unsung heroes and someone teams like HSV, Freiburg or Eintracht should definitely try to sign, given SV98’s relegation and this 2 million Transfermarkt value).

While those 21 shots from inside the box can seem like they should result in a higher XG total, there’s a simple reason for it: ELEVEN headers! Ironically, ten of those came from set pieces with Coke’s tying header being the lone exception. 

Can we get Markus Weinzierl and Expected Goals model?

11. Changes to Schalke? Glass half-full or half-empty?

  • Coke has had his best game for Schalke against Darmstadt

  • it was also his first full 90 minutes in the Bundesliga this season
  • Thilo Kehrer’s play has been a genuinely positive development in an otherwise miserable season for the Royal Blues, though pulling the immortal Sven Schipplock down on a breakaway…

  • Sead Kolasinac (who everyone forgets is both yet to play 2000 minutes in a season and was the third choice LB at the start of the season behind Baba Rahman and Dennis Aogo) turned in a monster contract year and is either joining Arsenal or AC Milan. Said monster year has mostly been wasted by Schalke. At least his father (his agent) can use this:

  • The center back rotation has better names (Nastastic, Naldo and Badstuber) than actual performances, and Schalke have dropped below the league average in Advanced Metrics courtesy of the Challengers Podcast, despite several massive Ralf Fahrmann games.
  • Nabil Bentaleb has been one of the bright spots in midfield, and Alessandro Schöpf has also had a nice season, though has fallen out of favor lately. Daniel Caligiuri has also been a good pickup, and Guido Burgstaller (his nightmare game in Darmstadt notwithstanding) has filled in admirably as the lone striker
  • Leon Goretzka (one of the league’s most dynamic players) and Max Meyer continue to remain tantalizing prospects and Schalke should do their best to keep them around!
  • Johannes Geis leads the team with 2.6 key passes, which would be great if not for two little caveats: 1. Geis has played just 1333 minutes because as a deep-lying playmaker incapable of escaping pressure, he is an odd fit in Weinzierl’s system as Tobias Escher pointed out in an earlier Spielverlagerung piece. 2. Of those aforementioned key passes, 45 in total, a whopping 35 of them have come via corners (24) or free kicks (11). Case in point versus Darmstadt on Sunday: 
  • The ultimate irony is that despite all of that mess, eleventh place Schalke still have roughly a 22% chance of making it into Europe next season, per GoalImpact!

 12. Europe is also in the crosshairs for a number of teams, as no fewer than eight teams – Hertha, Freiburg, Cologne, Werder, Gladbach, Eintracht, Schalke and Leverkusen still have a better than 10% chance of nabbing at least the 7th spot! Did we mention that six of those eight teams lost and only Werder were able to win (Leverkusen drew against Bayern) on MD 29?

We’ll be using the Goalimpact prediction model and some other metrics to dive into them (covered Freiburg and Leverkusen in Part 1) further in this next segment: 

13. Hertha are still sliding, but be careful with Dárdai (if you are a reporter)!

As you can see from the table, in 2017, BSC have been among the worst teams in the league, netting just 13 goals and 13 points from 13 matches. Away from home the Berlin club has lost EIGHT in a row and have collected just nine points all year! But, don’t bring that up to head coach Pál Dárdai, especially after a tough loss, because you will get owned like the Sky reporter! Let’s look at some possible reasons\excuses for the poor results:

  • After a nice Hinrunde of eight goals, Vedad Ibisevic has scored just three in the spring, including one in the last six matches. What’s more is that he takes double the amount of shots (2.9) at home than away from Berlin (1.5). Sadly the same is true for Salomon Kalou (1.9 to 0.9) who has scored five of his six in the Olympiastadion.
  • After those two, the two highest shot-takers are Valentin Stocker (four goals on 1.5 shots per match in 1100 minutes) and Vladimir Darida (two goals on 1.2 shots) who is encountering the old regression to the mean after posting very similar shooting numbers from last season, where he scored five goals (including two from long-range).
  • The problem is that despite an excellent 7.48 shots needed per goal, Hertha average 9.6 a game (same as Darmstadt) and thus have an XG ratio for 26.8, same as you guessed it, Darmstadt!
  • One excuse could be the injuries, though most of the Hertha players are actually on pace to play more minutes than last season.

In light of the collapse for the second year in a row – if you recall, die Alte Dame limped to the finish line with 18 Rückrunde points last year- perhaps the Sky reporter should have asked a better question: Why do you run your players into the ground so early in the season, Herr Thibodeau Dárdai?

14. Cologne – missing the target

Losing to a relegation-threatened team that got off seven shots and had two players sent off has got to be a disaster for a Köln team that really could have cemented its European place with a win in Augsburg. Seven shots allowed is not bad, but it does not tell the story: six of them were on target, while Effzeh went 0 for 12! I’m guessing that Yuya Osako’s miss of the season should’ve at least hit some part of the target:

But that is what happens when you concede two goals in the first 20 minutes, which as we find out per http://instatfootball.com/ is something that Cologne happen to lead the Bundesliga in – 9 goals allowed in the first 15 minutes!

Anthony Modeste has 56% of the team’s goals, but failed to get a shot on target and had an ugly looking shot chart: 

That’s very rare from a guy who has the third most shots on target (tied with Mario Gomez) in the Bundesliga with 33. The remaining five games look pretty scary with trips to Dortmund and Leverkusen (maybe mildly scary?) as well as entertaining Hoffenheim and the Bremen juggernaut at home before they finish up against Mainz.

15. Augsburg earn a much-needed win thanks to their defenders

Paul Verhaegh has scored on his 19th penalty in a row, while Martin Hinteregger scored his third of the season. While the Austrian is far from a good defender – we can see that per Instat he has committed 13 mistakes that have led to goals, the fifth highest margin in the league – he is an upgrade over the inexperienced Kevin Danso and his colleagues Gojko Kacar and Christoph Janker who needed around 1100 minutes to commit 9 of those same mistakes!

That’s some damning with faint praise if there ever was one!

FCA is given worse survival odds than Mainz – 11.5% chance of finishing 17th per Goalimpact once again – which makes sense when they are still to play Dortmund, Hoffenheim, Gladbach (away). Frankfurt (6-6-2 at home, but the worst team this spring in the league) and HSV (2-3-10 on the road) appear must win games if they are to reach the 38 point margin that should probably be enough to keep them in the league. Mainz have the same schedule of Frankfurt, Gladbach and HSV, but will not have much of a chance in their next game against Bayern, so Augsburg could really help themselves with a win against Eintracht on MD 30.

16. Speaking of Eintracht, their winless streak has ballooned to TEN games in a row. Does anyone even remember them being THIRD after 20 games?

Since then they have lost seven games and drawn three, with a grand total of FOUR goals scored (albeit three in the last two matches). Injuries and suspensions (Jesus Vallejo, Alex Meier, Marco Fabian, David Abraham, Makoto Hasebe and Omar Mascarell have all missed at least two of the ten games) have torpedoed their season:

Their spectacular 22-12 goal difference after the first 16 games is now at 29 and 33, meaning that they have gone 7 and 21 in the last 13 games. Their defense has fallen off considerably: it’s now allowing 3.5 shots on target for the season, while they were hovering below the three mark for the first 16 games. Advanced defensive metrics are even more cruel to Niko Kovac’s squad: Shots per goals conceded (league average is 9.58) had them as good as 12.93 on December 21st, falling to 10.5 in early February per the Challengerspod, with the nadir at 7.86 as of last week. For comparison, Hoffenheim are the second best by that metric (Bayern and TSG have led this stat ahead of FRANKFURT for most of the season), with opponents needing over 13 shots to score a goal, while Frankfurt are now tied for the FIFTH WORST spot with DARMSTADT! So their defense has fallen from 3rd to 14th, yet it’s still miles ahead of their offensive production which has gone from needing 8.84 shots for a goal up to December 21st to needing 11.4 as of last week, the latter number equalling their shots per game total. That’s essentially going from the sixth best offense to the 14th, which doesn’t seem so terrible, until you realize that Frankfurt scored one goal in eight games before “exploding” for three in the last two outings.

It’s frankly mind-boggling that this team still has a near 12% chance at the European spots and I would even call the games against Augsburg, Wolfsburg and Mainz eminently winnable, if we had any recent evidence that die Adler are capable of doing so. The curse of Szabolcs Huszti is real, kids!


We’ll get to Werder and Gladbach in Part 3, as well as some thoughts on Dortmund, Hoffenheim who are about to have a really fun race for third, while Leipzig have run away with the silver medal. Finally, we’ll offer some thoughts on the Nordderby, HSV’s turnaround and discuss whether Wolfsburg have secured their Bundesliga status by defeating Ingolstadt. There also might be some bonus Instat content, time permitting. Thanks for reading and do stay tuned!



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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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