Hot on the heels of the midweek European action we have the return of the Bundesliga this weekend with nine mouth-watering clashes served up for our delight. Ahead of the matchday 7 action we take a closer look at five talking points as a way of previewing the weekend’s fare.
(1) Have Bayern Munich forgotten how to win?
Let’s get one thing straight right from the outset- this is not a crisis! It’s not even a mini-crisis even though the tone of most Bayern coverage in the media has taken a more sombre turn over the past week. This is a mere blip, a slight bump in the road that the BMW that Bayern are can cope with in the medium and long term.
However, after a perfect start to life under Niko Kovac (where pundits were predicting another easy stroll to the title), the Bavarians have now gone three whole games without a win and questions are starting to be asked where before there was just acceptance of their dominance.
Plucky Augsburg started all this by coming away from the Allianz Arena with a point in the matchday 5 Englische Woche match-up and then came last weekend’s loss to Hertha at the Olympiastadion. A midweek Champions League encounter with Ajax gave them the chance to return to winning ways, but they were held to a 1-1 draw.
“It was certainly not a good performance from us,” commented Niko Kovac after his home debut as a coach in the Champions League with attacker Thomas Müller adding, “We didn’t create enough clear chances and we didn’t establish ourselves in the opposition half enough for my liking. We need to pick ourselves up and now focus everything on Saturday. In football you always have to look ahead, even if we weren’t at our best today.”
So what is Bayern’s issue? Well Uli Hoeness has his opinion (of course he does!) and the president believes Niko Kovac’s rotation is to blame. “There’s been a lot of rotation, and ever since, there’s something a bit wrong with us, but I don’t think it’s dramatic,” Hoeness moaned.
“It’s up to the coach. In the end, he’s putting his neck on the line for it. The rhythm was lost a bit in the Augsburg game and the first 20 minutes certainly made a contribution to us not getting into the match.
“At the moment we have some problems, but that’s normal. I don’t understand the public perception; 10 days ago it was said the rest of the Bundesliga are playing for second place and now suddenly everything is broken with us?”
How to fix it? A win against Borussia Mönchengladbach would be a good start.
(2) Can Hannover finally get their first win?
As mentioned above, Bayern Munich are not in a crisis, but that ugly word is going to start raising its head up in Niedersachsen (if it hasn’t already) if Hannover’s poor start to the season continues this weekend. If Bayern are a BMW, then Andre Breitenreiter’s side are more like a go-kart that was assembled in your grandad’s garage right now.
Hannover are now bottom of the table following Schalke’s first points of the season and their own run of four consecutive losses. You can have a crisis of results, while still playing well, but unfortunately for right now that isn’t the case for Hannover. Their last performance in their 3-1 loss to Frankfurt was as ghastly as their horrible green away shirts.
They lacked creativity, self-belief, tempo and above all goalscoring opportunities. “We collapsed like a house of cards” explained Breitenreiter. “It is really difficult when you make so many basic errors. You’d have to say that that wasn’t good enough for the Bundesliga”.
They face VfB Stuttgart at home this weekend with three points an absolute must. They may well have to do that without main striker Niklas Füllkrug, who was forced off with an injury against Frankfurt.
(3) Are Lucien Favre’s Borussia Dortmund the real deal?
Is it a case of déjà-vu for Dortmund or is this in fact the start of something special under Lucien Favre? The Schwarzgelben began last season in equally impressive fashion with a seven-game unbeaten run and were top of the pile until matchday 10 before the wheels spectacularly fell off under Peter Bosz.
The difference this season is that BVB clearly have more of a defensive plan than under Bosz, who was very quickly found out as not in fact having a defensive plan (unless leaving yourselves hopelessly exposed was the plan).
BVB began this season cautiously under Favre with some questioning his safety first approach, but have recently unleashed their attacking beast and look like a real force to be reckoned with. Seven goals were fired past poor Nürnberg, while they hit four second half goals against Bayer Leverkusen last time out.
Augsburg are the visitors to the Signal Iduna Park on Saturday and after a comfortable 3-0 win over Monaco in the Champions League, it will be a case of defending their position at the top of the table this weekend.
(4) Have Schalke really turned the corner this season?
The Königsblauen’s miserable start to the season with five successive defeats must have had former coach Markus Weinzierl gleefully rubbing his hands and telling anyone that would listen that ‘his reign wasn’t so bad after all’. (It was Markus, it was).
However, a 1-0 win over Mainz last week and a morale-boosting Champions League win in Moscow will have done wonders for the self-belief. But should fans of die Knappen be getting too carried away. Last season’s Vizemeister are still a long way from the top of the table with only Hannover currently below them.
Their weekend opponents Fortuna Düsseldorf have already beaten Hoffenheim at the Esprit Arena this season, so they shouldn’t be underestimated by Schalke ahead of Saturday’s encounter.
Mark Uth though is in ebullient mood following two wins on the trot. “We want to get another win of course and finish the week with maximum points. In the Bundesliga you have to work hard to get your points. I am convinced that we will put in a good performance in Düsseldorf.”
(5) Is the pressure starting to mount for Heiko Herrlich?
Consecutive wins over Mainz and Düsseldorf may have improved the outlook somewhat at the Bay Arena following a poor start to the season, but last weekend’s second half capitulation at the hands of Dortmund has seen the clouds of doom return to Leverkusen.
Coach Heiko Herrlich must have been rubbing his hands at last week’s first 45 minutes against BVB, but then equally burying his head in the very same hands following a four-goal salvo that condemned his side to another defeat.
Injuries to Charles Aranguiz, Julian Baumgartlinger and Sven Bender in the opening weeks has forced the Bayer coach’s hand and taken away the opportunity for rotation. Individual errors of late could be attributable to a little fatigue on behalf of some players.
They had a 4-2 midweek Europa League win over AEK Larnaca on Thursday, but a tricky trip to Freiburg awaits on matchday 7. Pressure? Well Herrlich himself has acknowledged that what has transpired so far is not up to scratch, while Sporting Director Rudi Völler has also failed somewhat to relieve the pressure on the head coach.
“It is my task to find solutions. In the end you need the results” Herrlich explains. Völler for his part has refused to lower the club’s expectations. “We don’t want to blame the fact that we have so many young players, who make mistakes. We also have experienced ones in there. We cannot be tod our ambitions are too high.
“Heiko knows that I and the others in the club will protect him, but we haven’t won enough games.”
Is that a vote a confidence?
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