It’s been a topsy-turvy but terrific start to the 2017-18 2. Bundesliga season, one which has endured plenty of turbulence just a few games in. This campaign is set up to be another really interesting watch, especially given that the top half of the table is separated by a mere four points. Some players have stood out more than others in what has proven a very evenly-matched opening to the league, and here they are.
GK – Daniel Heuer Fernandes (SV Darmstadt 98)
Heuer Fernandes was largely second choice to Michael Esser in the battle of the former VfL Bochum stoppers for Darmstadt’s number one jersey last season. However, now that Esser has gone it has opened the door for Heuer Fernandes. The Portuguese-German has excelled in the Lilies’ goal and his superb performance against Duisburg typified his development. An excellent shot-stopper and equally commanding, he has been a calming presence at the back. Heuer Fernandes is still just 24 and can nail down that spot for at least a decade going forward.
RB – Christopher Trimmel (1. FC Union Berlin)
Trimmel picked up where he left off last season and looks every bit as good, if not better, this term. The sizeable Austrian has been a key player in Union’s bright start, not least starting the season with his 25-yard hammer against Ingolstadt. As always, Trimmel’s delivery from deep has caused the opposition plenty of problems. Given the size of Union’s squad, it’s no shock to see him already close to the top of the assist charts. Trimmel is still superbly solid defensively, even if his attacking approach leaves him a little further up than most wing-backs.
CB – Kaan Ayhan (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
He came with a big reputation, and he is delivering. Despite making his move from Schalke 04 last season, Ayhan now seems to really be growing into his role in Düsseldorf. This is especially true after the recent transfer speculation surrounding his future. Now settled, Ayhan has been the perfect ball-playing foil for André Hoffmann and offers a similar threat, in that sense, to Niko Gießelmann. Any questions over his defensive capabilities have certainly been answered, and then some.
CB – André Hoffmann (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Good centre-backs have their partners and while Gießelmann has also been very good for Fortuna, Hoffmann has been excellent. The man who made his loan permanent from Hannover 96 in the summer has looked every bit the player he was before his ACL injury a few years ago. Strong and commanding, Hoffmann has brought added and much-needed steel and youth to the Fortuna back-line with Bundesliga experience to boot. He has the potential to be one of their most important players going into the future.
LB – Christopher Lenz (Holstein Kiel)
The first of the three Kiel players to make the team is one who has flown under the radar to date. The wing-back is currently on loan from Union Berlin and is making a very strong case to challenge Kristian Pedersen and Peter Kurzweg when he returns. His set-pieces and delivery from wide areas have been excellent, and has been solid in defence. Perhaps that is the main area that Markus Anfang will be looking to improve during the international break, but if Lenz continues in the same vein then he is in for a very, very good season.
DM – Christopher Buchtmann (FC St. Pauli)
Where would FCSP be with Buchtmann? Answer – they wouldn’t have a single goal. Buchtmann grabbed the first three goals of the campaign before setting up Johannes Flum’s dramatic winner against Heidenheim. The former Liverpool prospect has taken on the role of box-to-box dynamo, and also Marc Rzatkowski’s attacking mantle, to be the driving force in Olaf Janßen’s midfield. He has been their leader in terms of performance and three fantastic finishes have further highlighted his continued ability to grab crucial goals.
RM – Steven Skrzybski (1. FC Union Berlin)
His absence was sorely felt in last season’s run in, but Skrzybski is making up for lost time this year. A Union man through and through, he is now beginning to realise his potential. After eight goals and five assists last season, Skrzybski has already contributed four to the team total this season. As direct and as quick as ever, combined with Simon Hedlund the pair have given constant worry to the opposition defence. Following this good start, he will be keen to continue that record and surpass last season’s totals.
CM – Dominick Drexler (Holstein Kiel)
There has never been any doubt over Drexler’s ability to perform in the 3. Liga, but a move to 2. Bundesliga has always resulted in him finding things tough. This couldn’t be further from the truth this year, with the 27-year-old already equalling his goal tally from his previous season in the league with VfR Aalen. Playing in an advanced midfield role has given Drexler room to work and create, as evidenced by last season, and the added bonus of getting on the scoresheet. Drexler has, arguably, made a very valid case for the stand-out player in the first few weeks.
CM – Florian Neuhaus (Fortuna Düsseldorf)
Neuhaus wasn’t given a full starting role with 1860 Munich until it was too late last season, but Fortuna have made sure they won’t make a similar mistake. The youngster has shown mentality and performance well beyond his years since arriving on loan from Borussia Mönchengladbach. A creative force and someone who offers a goalscoring threat, as evidenced by his stunning strike against Kaiserslautern, Neuhaus has also shown himself to be more than sturdy in the heart of midfield. His ball retention, thus far, is similiarly very impressive.
LM – Simon Hedlund (1. FC Union Berlin)
It was initially believed that Akaki Gogia would push Hedlund onto the bench, but the Swede has bounced back in style to leave Gogia fighting for a starting spot. Hedlund has been a total menace to defences in the opening four games of this season, coming up with two goals thus far. That doesn’t truly represent how good his all-round play has been, however, as the wing wizard has been skipping past players on a regular basis thus far. Should he continue that form, there is no doubt that Sebastian Polter and his team-mates will begin to rack up the assists for Hedlund.
CF – Marvin Ducksch (Holstein Kiel)
Ducksch, who was touted as the potential heir to Robert Lewandowski’s throne in Dortmund, has quietly been working his way back up to those heights. After joining St. Pauli and being loaned out to Kiel, Ducksch is finding his feet. Five goals and four assists in 16 games represented a decent return last term, but he has already got three league goals this campaign and was instrumental in their DFB-Pokal win over Eintracht Braunschweig. Bursting at the seams with confidence, this season could really be the making of the 23-year-old.
GK – Mark Flekken (MSV Duisburg)
After an incredible 3. Liga season, the young Dutch stopper has increased his performance levels once again. Flekken could be credited with keeping Duisburg so competitive this term, having made countless saves in the opening four games. Despite his defence putting in a fairly solid showing in the early stages of the campaign, it still hasn’t prevented Flekken from being busy throughout. He will be absolutely pivotal in the Zebras maintaining their 2. Bundesliga status, though he will certainly be putting himself in the mind of Bundesliga clubs if his form continues.
WB – Philipp Klingmann (SV Sandhausen)
Very rarely does Philipp Klingmann turn in a bad 2. Bundesliga showing. Aside from serious injury, he was as solid as a right-back could be in the league. Klingmann is a veteran and has hit the ground running this year with Sandhausen, showing some of his more inexperienced colleagues the way to follow. Follow they have, and the 29-year-old is reaping the rewards with a stunning goal and an assist this season. Equally capable defensively, this could be the season where Klingmann returns to the attacking masterclass he put on during 2013-14.
CB – Aytac Sulu (SV Darmstadt 98)
Speaking of consistency, there aren’t too many players to have gone through what Sulu has with Darmstadt. Staying up after licence problems condemned their rivals, Kickers Offenbach and then going on the true definition of a fairytale run to reach the Bundesliga. Since then, Sulu has been at the heart of that defence and this season is no different. His goal against Greuther Fürth started the campaign off in exactly the right manner and his usual commanding performances at the back have also been key in a strong start for the Lilies.
CM – Marvin Mehlem (SV Darmstadt 98)
After appearing as one of Germany’s line of young, exciting and attacking central midfielders, Mehlem was immediately under the microscope. After failing to reach those heights with Karlsruher SC, a move to Darmstadt has rekindled that flame. He had never won a professional game with the Wildpark side but has been instrumental in the Lilies’ excellent start. His stunning strike against Duisburg typified his new-found confidence, and Mehlem’s controlling of the game and cutting edge has shown that he can be one of the leading midfielders in the league.
CM – Keanu Staude (Arminia Bielefeld)
The young man from Bielefeld has been another stand-out in their rise to the top of the table at the international break. Born and bred in the city, he has already notched up two goals and assists this term – the same total he managed throughout the entirety of his 23 games in 2016-17. At just 20, there is still an awful lot more to come from a youngster who seems to be growing with the increased pressure of being a regular starter. He has been hugely influential out on the left wing, and looks set to continue his good form.
CF – Lucas Höler (SV Sandhausen)
Personally, this is one player I tipped to deliver this year and I’m delighted that he has. After a solid first season, Höler followed that up with a pre-season that saw him score six goals in seven games. Now into competitive action, the 23-year-old is showing his potential. Two goals and an assist in four games, even when his team-mates could have certainly added to that latter statistic, represents a very good return. There is no doubt bigger clubs are taking a look at his exploits early on this year, but will he be pushing Sandhausen on to the Bundesliga himself? Time will tell.
CF – Andreas Voglsammer (Arminia Bielefeld)
It took Voglsammer a while to adapt to life in 2. Bundesliga with both Heidenheim and Arminia, but he hasn’t looked back since. The forward was key to their survival run last year, and has continued that into this season in some style. His fantastic determination and finishing came to the fore against Union, though Voglsammer has consistently managed to give opposition defences the runaround this campaign. With two goals already, double figures will surely be the target as he aims to justify a contract extension at the Bielefelder Alm.
Special mention – 1. FC Nürnberg’s youngsters
The team may have slipped up in recent weeks but the performances of Patrick Kammerbauer and Eduard Lwen deserve to be highlighted. The versatility of two young men to play both defensive midfield and centre-back show wisdom beyond their years. The pair have excelled in the early season games, and were respectively missed in the starting line-ups on the two occasions that the Franconians dropped points. Perhaps this will be encouragement enough for Michael Köllner to continue his ways and give them the chance to start together again.