October 24, 2017

Matchday 27 Team of the Week

After an impressive stretch of 4 Bundesliga rounds with 25+ goals, matchday 27 was a bit of a downer for fans of goals, with the final tally stopping at 21. The main culprit (aside from some great goalkeeping which we will get to) is the scarcity of shots – here are this weekend’s total shots for three of the top 4 Bundesliga teams:  Bayern (6) Schalke (6) and Hertha (7) – the icing on the cake is that all three of course won their games. Poor Hamburg actually led the league with 24 shots, followed by Gladbach’s 22, but both came out of Matchday 27 with zero points, thanks to some great goalkeeping performances from their respective opponents.

MD27_15:16_TOTW

Our team of the week starts off with the hardest decision at the goalkeeper position – to pick between the two thorns in the sides of HSV and Gladbach: Oliver Baumann of Hoffenheim and Ralf Fährmann of Schalke 04. This 2 minute highlight of Friday’s match should just be called FÄHRMANNFORPRESIDENT!

This double save (one of  his seven on the night) at 2-1 in the 89th minute basically locked up this match and his spot on the team. A million apologies to last week’s number one Baumann, who misses out by the thinnest of margins despite awesome saves, particularly in the second half . (Michael Gregoritsch will definitely be seeing the Hoffenheim netminder in his nightmares after that one)

In defense we reward those who put in great shifts and Cologne with its 5 defenders in the starting lineup did just that in keeping Bayern on 6 shots. 23-year-old center back Fredrik Sörensen was deployed at right back against the champions and had 15(!!!) tackles and was easily the man of the match for the Billy Goats. Signed originally by Juventus, the 194cm tall defender has mostly played for Bologna on a series of loan spells, before making his way to the cathedral city in July of 2015. While he isn’t going to have 7 times the number of his average tackles in a game, Peter Stöger is in an enviable position having to pick from Germany regular Jonas Hector, crowd favourite Dominic Maroh and last week’s TOTW member Mergim Mavraj. We can also add 22-year-old centre back Dominique Heintz to that list, who despite making the crucial error that was mercilessly exploited by Robert Lewandowski for his 25th goal of the season, has been tearing through the Germany youth system.

Speaking of Germany and the national team: Hertha’s Marvin Plattenhardt – had an assist, 4 tackles, 3 interceptions and 1 clearance in another impressive outing that Jogi Löw should be noticing. Acquiring him in 2014 at 500 thousand Euros from Nürnberg  (who are now unbeaten in 17 games in the 2. Bundesliga after a win over RB Leipzig!) is just another steal from Hertha’s sporting director, Michael Preetz. Santiago Garcia was Werder’s man of the match with 5 tackles, 9 aerials and 7 interceptions, and led his team with 65 touches in a hard-fought battle against Mainz. Constant Djakpa at left back had a great game with 4 tackles and 9 clearances for Eintracht, but sadly, and as much as we love a great left back (Paolo Maldini!) we can’t have three of them. Dortmund dominated Augsburg -as Sokratis returned with a monster game:  170+ touches, 3 tackles, 4 interceptions, 3 clearances and 95% pass accuracy on 159 passes. The only blemish was perhaps not doing more to bother Caiuby on the cross that turned into Augsburg’s first and only goal. Rounding out or five man defence is Benjamin Henrichs of Leverkusen, who recently turned 19  and was coming to Sunday’s game against the dreaded Filip Kostic with all of 31 minutes of career Bundesliga experience. Despite playing out of position, (he is an attacking midfielder, per this great profile) he managed to frustrate and shut down Kostic, limiting the lethal Serbian winger to just 22 touches.  Putting in 7 tackles, 3 interceptions and showing that he isn’t afraid to get rough with 4 fouls, this youngster (who by my estimation is the 7th choice right back after Hilbert, Boenisch, Jedvaj, Becker, Tah and Bellarabi) was definitely one of Roger Schmidt’s aces in the hole.

In midfield, the second ace for Leverkusen was another 19-year-old in Julian Brandt who was easily the best player on the pitch in the 2-0 win at Stuttgart. 4 shots all 4 on target with 4 key passes is probably underselling his performance which could have easily ended in a hat-trick, were it not for some bad luck (the post after a superb first touch and great strength got him on a breakaway) and two excellent saves by Tyton. The Wolfsburg youth product has been dubbed the future of Germany and I bet Serey Dié has some words on the matter, if he ever gets on his feet again after this:

His goal and his assist to Karim Bellarabi (who unfairly gets left out of this week’s selection) were indicative of his class. Perhaps Leverkusen should play him a little more, given Hakan Calhanoglu’s flu that kept him out of this match and whatever disease he’s carried all year that has kept him from hitting the target.

Wolfsburg, without Julian Draxler, had 20 shots, mostly through André Schürrle (7 shots) and had the game in hand, but the missed chances came back to haunt them, as Marcel Heller and Sandro Wagner (outrunning Robin Knoche on a counter) combined to get the away team the lead on 83 minutes. Christian Mathenia probably should have done better with Schürrle’s 90th minute shot that found its way into the bottom corner for 1-1. We have been hard on the former Chelsea man, but his 2016 campaign has been a good one, having already found the net 5 times in the Bundesliga, as well as putting VfL through to the UCL’s elite 8 with his goal against Gent.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan oozed class against Augsburg with his breathtaking run that started with a nutmeg and ended with a goal for Dortmund. The Armenian has arguably been the Bundesliga’s best and most consistent player and has joined Gladbach Raffael (who along with his 6 shots was very unlucky not to make it this week) in the 10 goal + 10 assist club. Let’s not forget about his 4 key passes either on 101 touches.

MIKI everywhere
MIKI everywhere

Forwards

Adrian Ramos – Dortmund got some serious consideration for worst forward in the league during the winter break, but was ultimately discarded for his lack of minutes. The 30-year-old Colombian has gotten another one of his spot starts (this time in place of the on-leave Aubameyang) and is now up to 5 goals on the year, 3 of those having come in the last 6 games. A great second effort goal and a lovely lay-off assist to Gonzalo Castro plus 5 shots is a great sign, even if those 5 shots are 23% of his season total (22). There will probably be a game this season, either in the Bundesliga, where Dortmund are still lurking within 5 points of Bayern, or in the Europe League against Liverpool where Ramos will decide a match.

Hoffenheim’s Kevin Volland was the match winner against HSV with a goal, assist and getting brought down on a breakaway. We called for the 23-year-old to step up and he did in huge way, as his team now passes Frankfurt on goal difference to claim the 16th spot. The Hoffenheim counters under Nagelsmann have been a joy to watch. 12 points from 6 games is the 4th best in the Bundesliga, behind, you guessed it Hertha, Bayern (13-13) and Dortmund (16). They are now level with Augsburg on 27 points and just a point behind Darmstadt in 13th!

Honorable mentions:Leon Goretzka, Genki Haraguchi, Anis Ben Hatira,Raffael and Lars Stindl, Christoph Kramer.

Leave a comment to let us know who we missed!

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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