March 22, 2017

Bundesliga MatchDay 33 Team of the Week

There were only 18 goals in the nine matches on Saturday in the Bundesliga’s Matchday 33, but despite losing the shots battle 16 to 12 to Ingolstadt of all teams,  Bayern finally wrapped up the title in  with a 2-1 victory. It turns out that because of Frankfurt’s miracle win against Dortmund it would have happened anyway, but that is not meant to take anything away from Eintracht, who outplayed Dortmund in the first half despite taking just six shots the whole match. The win has catapulted die Adler into 15th and their six goal advantage over Stuttgart means that even if they were to lose to Werder and VfB won its last match, the team is all but guaranteed at least the relegation playoff spot. My guess is that Dortmund are just about ready for the season to end, given such a bittersweet ending (Liverpool, Hummels) to what has been a historic season under Thomas Tuchel.

On the other hand, Andre Hahn is one player who will be sad to see the Bundesliga season come to an end, as his brace was the difference against Leverkusen. The 25-year-old could have easily had a hat-trick if he finished his breakaway in the first half, but he will have to settle for five goals in six matches and the hottest Bundesliga striker award. For a more detailed tactical breakdown of this match I highly encourage everyone to read the Spielverlagerung analysis by Judah Davies. The loss was meaningless for Bayer, who have locked up third. The consequences have BMG three points clear of Mainz, who overcame Stuttgart thanks to some trademark ridiculous defending by VfB that made Karim Onisiwo, Yunus Malli and Jhon Cordoba look like the Bale, Ronaldo, Benzema trio. Hertha and Schalke were the two big losers of the weekend, with the Berlin team falling to Darmstadt at home on a Sandro Wagner game winner – as we predicted – and the Royal Blues failing to beat Augsburg – another outcome we predicted.  Darmstadt and Augsburg are now safe on 38 points and because of other results can’t finish lower than 14th.

In the sadfest, known as HSV against Wolfsburg, the away side emerged with a rare win, thanks to Luiz Gustavo finally getting the ball past the excellent Drobny. Hamburg have avoided the relegation playoff for the first time in three years, but still made the headlines: the club released sporting director Peter Knäbel and hired former player Dietmar Beiersdorfer as Chief Mullet Officer.beiersr

Did I mention that Albin Ekdal, who was not used as a sub in this game went out to celebrate and promptly cut himself in a club and is now out for the last game. Your Hamburger Sport-Verein, ladies and gentlemen!

Hoffenheim did themselves no favors by losing to the pesky Hannover team, but since Eintracht and Werder play each other, and Stuttgart is four points off, they have secured their status as well. Werder can finally pop that champagne bottle for Felix Wiedwald, as he finally recorded a clean sheet in the goalless draw against Cologne. Never a shred of doubt there, Felix! Their recipe is simple, win against Frankfurt on Matchday 34 and avoid relegation.

Stuttgart suffered its fifth consecutive defeat in comical fashion despite taking the lead against Mainz. Because of being six and seven goals behind Frankfurt and Werder respectively, VfB fans would need to root for beating Wolfsburg by seven goals and a draw in that matchup. More realistically, beating the Wolves plus a Frankfurt win  would enable the team to push Werder out of the league and themselves in the relegation playoffs. In the words of Pete Campbell: pete campbell not great bob mad men

On a brighter note, here is our penultimate team of the week:

submit football lineup

Goalkeeper was a tough selection this week, since the better candidates (Drobny, Langerak) lost, and there were several solid, but uninspiring options (Zieler, Wiedwald). Marwin Hitz is the runner-up, for making several key stops, as Schalke needed 20 shots to score their lone goal – for which he was blameless. Gladbach’s Yann Sommer was similarly not at fault for his defense looking like cones for the only Leverkusen goal, as he provided seven saves to preserve the 2-1 win for his team. The Swiss netminder is still two points below average with a 69 % save percentage and could have done better to keep out several weakish shots at various points in the season, but like his colleague Roman Bürki in Dortmund is often exposed by his defense.

Defenders

Naldo – Wolfsburg was one of the best defenders of the Hinrunde, and his injury is an underrated cause of VfL’s downward spiral. Six clearances and two interceptions are fine, but the Brazilian is a great offensive player, always dangerous on crosses and set pieces (even taking them from long-range), as he provided the assist for Gustavo’s winner.

Dominic Maroh – Cologne was largely responsible for keeping a Werder attack that has 32 goals – second only to Dortmund – in the Rückrunde scoreless, with the Slovenian amassing eight interceptions. Together with the tough-tackling Sörensen and the Heintz – Mavraj duo providing nine clearances they managed to hold Pizarro and company to just one shot on goal! He is one of the reasons why it takes opponents nearly twelve shots to score against the Billy Goats – a mark second only to Bayern. 86% pass completion on 57 passes is very good as well.

Waldemar Anton – Hannover might be a surprising inclusion here, considering that he has played under 500 Bundesliga minutes, after being called up from the reserve team and making his debut in late March. At 189 cms, he is also capable of playing defensive midfielder, and his team has gone two wins, two draws and one loss since he became a starter. In the game against Hoffenheim, he put in ten clearances and five interceptions, as the 96ers shut out the Volland, Kramaric, Uth trio that has been on fire under Nagelsmann. Did I mention he was playing in the Regionalliga – fourth division, a month ago? waldemar

His teammate Fynn Arkenberg – Hannover makes Waldemar look like a seasoned pro, as the 20-year-old center back made his Bundesliga debut on Saturday at right back! Five tackles, four interceptions, five clearances, a blocked shot, plus a shot and a key pass is simply stunning from a guy whose Regionalliga game log looks like this:

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WITH PROS!!!

Daniel Stendel already looks like he deserves that contract extension, but while we don’t wanna react to one game in which Hoffenheim didn’t have a whole lot to play for it begs the question: Why didn’t these youngsters get a chance earlier? Was Marcelo, who has since moved on to Turkey really so invaluable to a team that has conceded the third most goals and has forced Ron Robert Zieler to make the most saves in the Bundesliga? His name is Marcelo, he is Brazilian and he is a defender – what could go wrong? – was that the logic? Was it the immortal Oliver Sorg, who has arguably been one of the league’s worst defenders, or perhaps Hiroki Sakai – who has finally put together three excellent games as of late – that was so vital?

Midfielders

Szabolcs Huszti – Frankfurt had four key passes, but it was his defensive effort with three tackles, six interceptions and two clearances that frustrated Dortmund all afternoon. The 33-year-old Hungarian winter signing from China started out brilliantly in the spring, and has rediscovered his form in the last three matches. He has played five different positions and has had no help from his forwards since Alex Meier went down. Squawka has him fourth behind Geis, Kostic and Junuzovic in key passes per 90 with 2.59 – ahead of Mkhitaryan – and I wonder if his assists tally (at 2) would have reached six or seven had it not been for the miserable form of Haris Seferovic and the Meier injury.

Karim Onisiwo – Mainz was voted man of the match – with a goal, assist, crossbar combo on three shots and three key passes. The 24-year-old Austrian international (profiled here by our Conor Garratt ) added four tackles and two interceptions, as he finally is finding his form and fitness after a troublesome season with Mattersburg that saw him leave the club in the winter. In just his second start for FSV, the winger’s pace and technique gave Stuttgart defenders nightmares, though that is admittedly not a huge achievement. Regardless, the already exciting counterattack of Malli, Jairo and Cordoba has just added another member, and if Mainz were to lose one of those players (Malli most likely) they look to have found an able replacement.

Leroy Sane Schalke also wishes that the Bundesliga would continue, as he is finally rediscovering his early season form, with six shots, eight dribbles and six fouls earned against Augsburg. His shooting accuracy – 52% for the season deserted him in this match, as he got zero of those six shots on goal. His talent was never in doubt, and if he can improve his decision-making (with the help of a new coach who doesn’t yank him in and out of the lineup and teaches him that it is okay to pass the ball after beating one or two guys) Schalke should be better next season.

Daniel Baier – Augsburg four tackles, six interceptions, and four clearances would alone be monstrous, but a late equalizer to save his team in Gelsenkirchen was the icing on top! The 31-year-old is probably not well-known, but his stats compare very favorably to Mainz and Bundesliga favorite Julian Baumgartlinger.

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Games/Minutes/per90 Interceptions/Blocked Shots/Clearances/Defensive Actions

Forwards

Former Augsburg player, Andre HahnGladbach added two more goals this weekend, giving him five in 442 minutes since his return from injury, or a goal every 88 minutes, which is better than Lewandowski, who put up five goals in 521 minutes for a goal every 104 minutes! It’s also even more astounding considering that the Pole averages 4.8 shots per game, while the 25-year-old Hahn takes just 1.6 per game! That’s remarkable for a player who is coming back from a horrific injury and if he works a little bit on his composure (anything that Hahn hits one touch is excellent), Gladbach might just finally have that second goalscorer next to Raffael.

Hahn in some great company
Hahn in some great company

Jhon Cordoba – scored a brilliant goal, assisted another and made a rare appearance in the four four four club (shots/on target/key passes) for Mainz this weekend. The Colombian was  giving Bayern troubles earlier this season with his athleticism and often looked like a wide receiver that is simply too fast for the hapless defensive back (Tony Sunjic) against Stuttgart.

Honorable mentions – Robert Lewandowski – three shots on target, and two goals for Bayern that clinched the title and put him on the brink of 30 for the season. Apologies to Salif Sane, who was excellent again and will soon be on a better team, like Gladbach. His teammate, the diminutive Manuel Schmiedebach, who has either been reading our post in which we called him one of the worst midfielders of the Hinrunde, or just really does not want to play in the Zweite Liga (as his recent performance suggests) was imperial with seven tackles and seven interceptions. Fellow 96er, 19-year-old Noah Joel Sarenzen  Bazee terrorized poor Hoffenheim with his pace as he had four shots, two key passes and seven dribbles! He has already collected three assists in just five matches since being called up from the reserve team.

Speaking of wingers who dribble, Ibrahima Traore had five dribbles, four shots, three on target and two key passes and looks to have overtaken Thorgan Hazard in the pecking order. Oscar Wendt had seven clearances and the assist to Hahn’s match winner, plus added two key passes and shot that hit the post. Andreas Christensen came up with five interceptions and eight clearances, but both he and Wendt are penalized for giving up a training ground goal to Leverkusen.Hakan Calhanoglu stuffed the stat sheet – five shots, four key passes, but his error caused Hahn’s first goal. Lars Bender put in eight tackles, but is penalized for allowing Hahn to score twice.

Mkhitaryan,and Yunus Malli both had trademark excellent games for the umpteenth time this season, while Zlatko Junuzovic and Marcel Risse both continued their strong Rückrunde. Hertha were glad that Vladimir Darida returned with a strong perforance, but Sandro Wanger was the one who stole the show. Aytac Sulu did not score, but was absolutely marvellous with four tackles, six interceptions and eight clearances and continues to be one of the best defenders in the Bundesliga.

Pascal Groß might follow his manager to RB Leipzig, but hopefully another team snatches him up, as he added another four key passes and three shots to his monster season. Thiago – six tackles, five interceptions and two key passes was Bayern’s best midfielder, but with Pep gone and the Brazilian’s propensity to look great against weaker competition he will have to fight for his spot under Ancelotti next season.

Fabian Frei – 8 tackles and an assist is finally showing why Mainz spent all that money on him.

Let us know if we missed anyone!

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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