June 26, 2017

Matchday 24 Team of the Week

What a crazy English week in the Bundesliga: 30 goals in 9 games, Bayern losing at home for the first time this season to Mainz, who managed 2 goals on 5 shots, hat-tricks from Claudio Pizarro (stealing the ball from 3 defenders and outrunning them for one goal) and André Schürrle a Thorgan Hazard resurgence, two Colombian match winners in Jhon Cordoba and Adrian Ramos, Werder and Hoffenheim both winning! With the win over Darmstadt Dortmund have of course narrowed the gap to 5 points, which could be further reduced to 2 with der Klassiker coming up on Saturday. A quick rundown of the matchday will be followed by our Team of the Week!

Bayern will of course feel hard done by the loss, Jürgen Klopp, not so much, as a huge edge in possession (75 – 25) and shots (16-5) did not yield the usual result. Juan Bernat’s failure to win a header, Arturo Vidal jogging back and coming in weakly on an attempted tackle, Douglas Costa escorting Brosinski were all little individual mistakes that added up to two Mainz goals. The rare off-games from Robert Lewandowski, just 36 touches and 2 shots – both off-target, and Thomas Müller, 29 touches 1 shot in 40 minutes won’t probably coincide with weak showings by Douglas Costa and Kingsley Coman who combined for ZERO accurate crosses. Robben, Ribéry and Vidal were the only 3 exceptional players, as the trio combined for 7 shots, 12 key passes on over 300 touches with 85% accuracy. Manager, Pep Guardiola is now caught in a pickle, as he got caught not really resting his players AND losing ahead of the Dortmund clash. Perhaps this would have been the game to try to give Götze, Kimmich and Tasci more of a run.

Under Thomas Tuchel, Dortmund has made a nice habit of grinding out wins with depleted squads and has again avoided a trap game against Darmstadt, despite resting Mkhitaryan (save for a 20 minute cameo) Reus, Schmelzer, Piszczek, Bender and Kagawa (well, rest is a strong word here, but I digress). Gonzalo Castro and Ilkay Gündogan looked like Xavi and Iniesta against Darmstadt and Adrian Ramos is on a goalscoring streak (of 2 games), people! Cannot wait for der Klassiker on Saturday!

The Hertha Kalous again turned an even game into a cozy 2-0 win, with two moments of magic from the Ivorian and are now on 42 points, three ahead of Gladbach, who took Stuttgart to the woodshed, thanks to Thorgan Hazard’s game of his life. Mainz are also on 39 points, and rapidly achieving cult status with the Jairo, Malli, Cordoba trio in desperate need of a nickname. Hipsters of the soccer universe, I call upon you to fix this!

Schalke, after a rough start that saw them concede a silly goal due to a defensive breakdown, put up 26 shots over HSV. The Royal Blues came alive as Johan Djorou picked up 2 yellow cards in 3 minutes just before the break and blew the game open, despite two clear penalties not given. Johannes Geis will get his due later, but Huntelaar’s goal and 6 shots up top were a sight for sore eyes, while the Schöpf-Meyer duo added 2 goals and 2 assists. The emergence of the winter signings of Belhanda and Schöpf spell trouble for Leroy Sané, who was again left out of the starting lineup and did not get into the game. Could Schalke really be better off without him?

Wolfsburg are now just a point behind Leverkusen, as the Wolves were boosted by André Schürrle’s indescribable hat-trick versus Hannover, while die Werkself continue to spiral downward after being on the receiving end of a Claudio Pizarro hat-trick against Werder. 7 shots from Hakan Calhanoglu yielded 0 goals, as a bizarre Papy Djilobodji own goal was little consolation for the home side, as they repeated their shocking DFB Pokal loss to Werder. This looks like a team in crisis, as injuries and Roger Schmidt’s antics have left the team rudderless. The defense, without the injured center back pairing of Toprak and Tah looked miserable, as each of the 4 defenders committed individual errors and looked out of depth versus a Bremen side that doesn’t exactly feature the Messi, Neymar, Suarez trio upfront. Chicharito and Mehmedi both had 40 touches and a combined 1 shot, while Julian Brandt was subbed after the first half. Karim Bellarabi remains a turnover machine.

Ingolstadt and Cologne shared a point on Tuesday, as Anthony Modeste picked up his 11th goal of the campaign, after some nifty work by Marcel Risse. The big Frenchman later took a boot to the face and suffered a horrible looking head injury, that hopefully will not keep him out long, as Cologne simply cannot afford to lose his 44% contribution to their 25 goals. For die Schanzer, Pascal Groß is now up to 70 chances created, which still tops the Bundesliga by miles.

Finally, in the relegation battle, Hoffenheim overcame Augsburg 2-1 thanks to some great finishing by Mark Uth and Kevin Volland, as Julian Nagelsmann defeated his old team. While Augsburg once again matched their opponents in shots with 14, they managed to just get 3 of those on target to the home side’s 7.

Here is how things stand at the bottom of the table: with Hannover getting a drubbing in Wolfsburg and proving that last week’s result was an aberration they remain 4 points behind 17th place Hoffenheim, who have now taken 7 points from their last 4 games. With the loss to Hertha, Frankfurt have now dropped into the playoff spot on 23 points and Werder’s resounding win has finally taken them up to 15th, just a point behind Darmstadt and Augsburg who still have to be looking over their shoulder.

Having wrapped things up after a wild 30 goal round, let’s go through our Team of the week for Matchday 24!

Your Matchday 24 Team of the Week.
Your Matchday 24 Team of the Week.

 

Goalkeeper

Loris Karius (Mainz): 5 saves against Bayern including a couple of monster ones in the first half ensured that despite having 5 shots and 22% of the possession FSV became the first team to come away with 3 points from the Allianz Arena. The 22-year-old makes our team of the week for the second time and has long been one of the more excellent Bundesliga prospects. Perhaps Mainz’s magical season will be enough to push him into the limelight and earn him more recognition and maybe even a large transfer to England. (Liverpool, Everton, or even Manchester City could all use him).

Defenders

Alexander Hack (Mainz): This 22-year-old made 4 tackles, 7 interceptions in his 4th ever Bundesliga game! Putting him into the starting lineup with just 270 minutes of Bundesliga experience against the mighty Bayern shows what kind of coach Martin Schmidt is, and the youngster has repaid his faith in him. Hack is yet another player in Mainz’s next man up philosophy that has been incredibly successful. Mainz are a team that many picked for the relegation battle this season, but is now seriously competing for a spot in the Champions League.

Erik Durm (Dortmund): Durm scored a goal – his second ever, and had 2 key passes, as he made the most of the opportunity from Thomas Tuchel yet again. He was great going forward in the Leverkusen game, and is proving that Dortmund do have some depth in their squad. Defensively, he added 2 tackles and 3 interceptions.

Nico Elvedi (Gladbach): won his battle against the terror that is Filip Kostic and was superb with 4 tackles, 4 clearances and 3 interceptions. He was honorable mention over the weekend and the 19-year-old stepped it up a level and deserves a spot this week.

Midfielders

André Schürrle (Wolfsburg): 7 shots 5 on target and a hat-trick in 26 minutes after scoring just one goal so far this season. He might never have a better game than this, so he might as well just go out on top and retire. 🙂

Thorgan Hazard (Gladbach): had the best game this season for anyone named Hazard, with 5 shots, a goal and countless great dribbles. BMG fans are hoping that the Belgian can recapture his form from 2014/15 after a rough Hinrunde that saw him lose his starting spot.

Ilkay Gündogan (Dortmund): 4 shots, 120 touches 88% passing, and 7 dribbles in a vintage performance. There is a very strong indication that he will leave BvB over the summer, and take his talents to England. Let’s enjoy these last few games of the midfield maestro’s Bundesliga career!

Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg): a cool finish, a nice assist and 3 key passes in a classy performance – one of the few predictions we got right and seems to love playing against inferior opposition.

Johannes Geis (Schalke): 6 key passes , 5 shots, 103 touches, 85% passing – was the man pulling the strings behind the Schalke outburst against HSV and just needs to be on here.

Forwards (the over 30 club!)

Claudio Pizarro (Werder): a hat-trick at age 37, looking like he is 27, means that the Peruvian is now up to 10 goals on the season in just 1134 minutes. Give him the gameball, and get out of his way!

Salomon Kalou (Hertha): his goal and assist was the difference between Hertha and Frankfurt in a game where both teams had 11 shots. The Ivorian’s miracle season under Dárdai just keeps going and going, as he has reached 12 goals on the season and is just 4 off his career high of 16 for Lille in 2013/14.

Apologies go out to Leon Balogun, Gonzalo Castro, Andreas Christensen, Mahmoud Dahoud, Raffael, Arjen Robben, David Alaba, Vedad Ibisevic, Pascal Groß, John Brooks, Max Meyer, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Mark Uth, Nico Müller and Felix Wiedwald who all were worthy candidates.

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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