December 14, 2017

Eight Talking Points from Match Day 1

The Bundesliga is back for a new season and there was already plenty to talk about after the first round of matches. Bayern München unsurprisingly started the season off with a tricky victory against Wolfsburg while Borussia Dortmund disappointed after losing at home to a promising Leverkusen side. Meanwhile, SC Paderborn recorded their first ever Bundesliga point with a draw against Mainz. Here are eight talking points from match day One. The Bundesliga is back!

 

1. Arjen Robben may have eternal youth…

At least he does not seem to be getting any older as time moves on. He looks more impressive and may even be gaining respect from most of his past enemies. In Bayern’s impressive and important victory over Wolfsburg, he set up Thomas Müller’s goal and scored himself, even if it was one of his predictable inside moves off of his left foot. For Bayern itself, to have Robven not showing any signs of World Cup weariness in his first game is important for a side that is struggling with both lack of transfers and injuries. Robben has fit solidly into Pep Guardiola’s system and has still not fallen from his peak.

2. Bayer Leverkusen are back in their stride

Two huge wins in the past week, the latter a 2-0 away victory against Dortmund. Karim Bellarabi’s goal after 8 seconds (the fastest ever in the Bundesliga) along with his assist later for Kießling’s game-clinching goal was preceded by an important 3-2 victory against FC København in the first leg of the last knock-out round to qualify for the Champions League group stage. Not only should Leverkusen look towards making the group stage but also look at improving upon last year’s embarrassing score lines in some of their continental matches. This is a team that had to recover from a second half collapse from 13/14, but now has a new squad with a solid coach and new additions like Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Josip Drmić, Kyriakos Papadopoulos and Tin Jedvaj. With Bernd Leno in goal, Kießling, Bellarabi, Ömer Töprak, Emir Spahić and Son Heung-min, Leverkusen should be solid Champions League material.

3. What kind of season should we expect from Stefan Kießling?

So far, Kießling has got off to a roaring start, scoring five goals in the club’s first-round Pokal match against Oberliga side Alemannia Waldalgesheim, adding another in their Champions League qualifer against København and now his first league goal for the new season against Borussia Dortmund. Kießling is now 30 and it is a question of whether we will see something similar to what he did two seasons ago when he scored 25 goals or will it be a continued decline of output, picking up on the 10 goals he scored last season? We can be sure that he would love to wipe off the smirk on Joachim Löw’s face for not picking him for the World Cup winning side.

4. What do Dortmund need to do to get back on track?

Looking at their season opening loss to Leverkusen, one quickly realizes how unprepared Dortmund were for this match. We are not talking about any deficiencies in Jürgen Klopp’s coaching skills, rather that it was a matter of a few players either not yet transitioned for the new season (Marco Reus, Matthias Ginter, Ciro Immobile and even Erik Durm) but more so, how many are still missing from injury. Key players such as Marcel Schmelzer, Mats Hummels, Oliver Kirch, Nuri Şahin, Adrián Ramos and Sven Bender might be sidelined for a while in a squad that is still struggling with injuries. If some return soon, this squad has great potential to improve upon last season.

5. The Schalke downfall continues…

Striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar called the club’s 2-1 loss to Hannover a “loss of concentration”, which may be true, but more importantly, this defeat only emphasizes the concerns brought up after Schalke went down in their First Round of the DFB Pokal against third-division Dynamo Dresden 2-1. To go along with the defeat, the club has now lost Sead Kolašinac for the long term as the Bosnian full-back ruptured his knee ligaments in the defeat to Hannover. Schalke have always been a side on the cusp of breaking through to being among Europe’s elite and after a summer in which only Ádám Szalai was lost, it was tempting to think that the Royal Blues at least had the potential to reach the level of Ruhr Valley rivals Dortmund. Yet still, Schalke flounder in some type of terminal inconsistency, which may suggest they require an upper echelon of coaching they have yet to find. This topic will likely not die as their next game is at home to Bayern.

6. Is this the year Hoffenheim will breakthrough?

There is a lot to be excited about for this squad. It has both youth and talent. Look out for players like Roberto Firmino (16 goals in 13/14), Anthony Modeste, Kevin Volland and new addition Ádám Szalai. Their 2-0 victory on Saturday against Augsburg follows a 9-0 Pokal thrashing against Oberliga side SC Paloma from Hamburg. If they can improve defensively, European participation is likely for next season.

7. Mainz: A year of rebuilding?

It is indeed difficult for this club to find stability with a new coach and a transfer budget of 5 million Euros. To replace a coach like Thomas Tuchel is a hard task. Losing players like Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting, Nicolai Müller and Zdeněk Pospěch  show signs that the club is in for a year of hardship. So far they have crashed out of the Europa League, losing to lowly Greek side Asteras Tripolis and dropping points to newcomers Paderborn.

8. Christoph Kramer: Is he the real deal?

Coming off of a beautiful goal that saved ‘Gladbach from defeat in their game against Stuttgart, Christoph Kramer has had somewhat of a dream year in 2014, to go along with his World Cup final appearance (albeit suffering a concussion in that game that incurred an early substitution). Currently there is still no reported transfer deal happening but this has to be watched as Kramer’s contract expires in 2015 (there are rumours that Napoli are sniffing about). There is still much more that can come from this skillful midfielder this year, keeping in mind that ‘Gladbach are still alive in Europe.

 

Header courtesy of AP

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