February 22, 2017

Five Talking Points from Matchday 2

This past weekend’s action was overshadowed by transfer news, in particular, Xabi Alonso signing for Bayern Munich for a tidy £5 million. As well, there was the return of Shinji Kagawa to Dortmund, plus Bayern’s other big signing, Mehdi Benatia. On the field, we had the continued success of Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke holding strong against Bayern in a 1-1 draw (another dodged bullet for Jens Keller) and the impressive start for the two promoted sides, SC Paderborn and 1.FC Köln.

Is Xabi Alonso a wise move for Bayern?

Based on many people’s instinctive reactions and how he performed against Schalke 04, being immediately put in the starting lineup by Guardiola, there would be many calling this a strong and wise move by the club. Bayern is both a side suffering from injury (Martínez, Schweinsteiger, Ribéry and Thiago among others) and a side in transition, losing Toni Kroos to Alonso’s former club, Real Madrid, along with a growing amount of aging players of the likes of Ribéry, Schweinsteiger, Robben and Lahm. These factors also go along with a club that is likely going to spend the season with many of its members trying to recover from their World Cup weariness.

Alonso himself has an impressive track record of 2 European Championship titles, 1 World Cup and 2 UEFA Champions League (for Liverpool in ’05 and Madrid last season) victories. For the past decade, he has to be considered one of the top midfielders in the world. In his first game against Schalke he had the most converted passes and touches in the match. His presence was definitely felt and he has the potential to greatly uplift Bayern’s defence.

There is however another side to this. Alonso is 32, soon 33, and has definitely already seen his best days go by, as evidenced in the World Cup. There is the question of how long he can help Bayern’s side. His impact could be limited. Is it best to solve a problem of an aging squad by bringing in someone else past their peak?

Nevertheless, Alonso’s transfer is impressive for the Bundesliga and it goes along with the addition of Mehdi Benatia, a Moroccan centre back who has been outstanding in Serie A but is not the youngest addition either at age 27. While the jury is definitely out on both of these players, it has to be said that neither of them will likely make up for the loss of Kroos.

Kagawa’s return

More important than Dortmund’s 3-2 victory over Augsburg was the £6.3 million transfer return of Shinji Kagawa. After two highly unsuccessful seasons at Manchester United, the 25 year-old central midfielder is returning to the same team that he led to two Bundesliga titles between 2010-12. Kagawa’s return can be easily compared to Nuri Şahin and his return after a failed attempt with Real Madrid. It can be argued that both of these players left Dortmund for greater paychecks and teams of higher status but at the cost of leaving a team and manager that they both enjoyed and more importantly, allowed their talents to be applied in a much more effective manner. Now that Kagawa has returned, it will be interesting to see how he fits in Klopp’s starting lineup and if two forgettable years with the Red Devils of Manchester United have taken their toll on his game.

Bayer Leverkusen’s continued prowess

The aspirin giants have had another highly impressive week. After walloping FC København 4-0 (7-2 on aggregate) to qualify for the UEFA Champions League group stage, they followed up by defeating Hertha Berlin 4-2 this past weekend to be the only Bundesliga club with a perfect record after two matches. One player that is thriving so far under Roger Schmidt is 24 year-old Karim Bellarabi. The winger has scored in both Bundesliga games and so far looks like a transformed player from the one that played for Braunschweig and spent a year off due to injury in 2012/13. Bellarabi is a player to watch for with his fast-paced attacking prowess to go along with a strong defensive mind-set. The Berlin-born attacker fits well into a side that is already stocked with talent.

Schalke and Keller dodge a bullet (yet again)

If Bayern Munich had taken greater advantage of their opportunities and if Benedikt Höwedes’ somewhat controversial goal had been disallowed, Schalke 04 would not be able to consider Saturday night’s clash at the Veltins Arena a success. It was a game in which Schalke’s injury woes continued, as they were missing both Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Kevin-Prince Boateng as well as Sead Kolašinac, out for a long spell after his injury last week. After Bayern controlled the first 20 minutes of play, Jens Keller’s side showed an inner toughness that had been noticeably absent in the previous seven consecutive defeats to Bayern. Sidney Sam’s 62nd minute free-kick was sloppily handled by Pep Guardiola’s side, allowing the ball to come in off of Höwedes’ arm, which stood as a goal. In a season that up until Saturday had the potential of being a nightmare for Schalke, this important draw allows the Royal Blues to take a lot of positive implications into their next match. Perhaps Bild is correct to say that Keller has the “makings of a survivor.”

Paderborn and FC Köln’s impressive beginnings

The two promoted squads for 2014/15 both sit with four points after two matches. Paderborn was highly impressive in its 3-0 defeat of Hamburg, while FC Köln topped Stuttgart 2-0. Paderborn have scored five goals in two matches, while Effzeh have yet to concede a goal yet this season. Paderborn has some young players worth watching such as Elias Kochunga, a 22 year-old striker and former Gladbach player, along with Mario Vrančić, a 25-year-old former Mainz player, who played for Germany’s U20 side. FC Köln also have some bright talent such as Yuya Osako, a 24-year-old Japanese international, Anthony Ujah, a 24-year-old Nigerian international and most notably, Tomáš Kalas, a defender on loan from Chelsea who has been a major reason why they have yet to concede a goal. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to think relegation is inevitable for either of these two sides.

 

Header courtesy of DFB.de

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