14 weeks in and the Bundesliga machine keeps churning out twists and turns that would put TV shows to shame. Where else would you have the worst team in the league – the ever so unlucky FC Ingolstadt – defeat the unbeaten leaders, RB Leipzig only to allow the defending champs Bayern to retake the top spot with a 5-0 dismantling of the sinking ship known as Wolfsburg?
RB Leipzig didn’t really do anything wrong – they won the shots battle 13 to FOUR and held FCI to basically nothing, as Michael Caley suggested on Twitter.
xG map for Ingolstadt – RB Leipzig. The unbeaten streak ends, but not because RBL were poor. This just happens to good teams sometimes. pic.twitter.com/3F0JeRuCDx
— Caley Graphics (@Caley_graphics) December 10, 2016
No player on Ingolstadt (in an interesting 3-4-2-1 formation with goalscorer and usual CMD Roger acting as a third central defender) actually got above 51 touches, and other than the goal – which must have made Dortmund fans cringe – RBL shut down the home side completely.
Individually, Orban and Ilsanker were outstanding, and there wasn’t much that Gulacsi could do on the goal, as Anthony Jung delivered a Markus Suttneresque (I even confused the two in a tweet, such was the resemblance) beauty onto the dome of Roger. Diego Demme – four tackles, three fouls – brought his usual intensity and work rate with 11.78 kms covered, narrowly edging fellow running enthusiasts Matthew Leckie and Pascal Gross on the opposite side. Naby Keita – subject of a brilliant feature on the Ringer by the excellent Tom Payne – had his usual fun, as I noted on Twitter:
Naby Keita plays the ball wide, teammate slips, he runs 30yds to track it down, beasts a guy, dribbles past two, then lays it on a platter..
— BundesPremierLeague (@BundesPL) December 10, 2016
It was the attackers who should take some criticism: Emil Forsberg had just 64% passing on 37 attempts and while the latter is more than his average of 28 per game, the accuracy and results were discouraging.
And while the following comparison between goalkeeper Gulacsi and Leipzig forwards Timo Werner and Yussuf Poulsen is a little hyperbolic, it’s probably not ideal if your goalie has almost as many touches and shots as your two strikers (one shot) COMBINED.
Ingolstadt should get their fair share of credit, starting with Walpurgis who has reaffirmed the team’s identity as a pressing machine that has a lot of really tough individual matchups (Leckie, Gross, Jung, Lezcano). I wonder if they never hired Kauczinski – who was a poor fit with his 4-2-3-1 and emphasis on parking the bus – where this team would be given their status as the league’s unluckiest team? Just two quick stats on that note: FCI were converting just 4.9% of their shots per Footballintheclouds, half of the league average of 10.6%. It got even worse inside the box as die Schanzer succeeded just 5.9% of the time against the Bundesliga average of 15%! Alex Rathke’s XG difference table had them as a breakeven team on par with the likes of Gladbach, but in reality they were THIRTEEN GOALS UNDER!!
The Bayern steamroller was apparently back in business, and Wolfsburg were just roadkill. Apparently things got so out of hand that even Thomas Muller got in on the scoring action, so naturally he was excited in the post-match interview.
Hertha played one of their worst games in the season, as Vedad Ibisevic missed a couple of chances that he pretty much always scores (that Stocker pass, plus one time shot that clipped the post), as uncharacteristic errors from the usually steady Niklas Stark and some questionable defending (perhaps due to the early Langkamp injury, perhaps due to Peter Pekarik bombing forward too often) led to an unusually defensively sound Bremen squad to ultimately take all three points from die Olympiastadion. These kind of games are gonna happen, but the timing of it was particularly terrible for a Berlin team that won six out of six at home.
Eintracht and Hoffenheim played a scoreless draw to kick things off on Friday, but the home side held a 15 to 3 shots edge and were closer to winning it. A fun SGE stat: they allowed 39 shots on target in 14 games for a 2.78 ratio that is third in the league behind RBL and Bayern. That’s quite spectacular, but actually the amazing part is that per Footchats since 2010\11 only Bayern – four times – and Dortmund 2.76 in 10\11 have allowed under three shots on target per match. And it just so happened that those teams did quite all right in the last five seasons…
Injury-stricken Cologne – really terribly sorry about Marcel Risse’s ACL – were just minutes away from completing their mission of mucking up the game (26 fouls, including seven for Yuya Osako – isn’t that called fouling out?) and taking advantage of the BVB horror-show in defense to keep all three points, but Marco Reus saved Dortmund yet again. Dortmund were far from great on the day, but the squad looks thin in quality – an astounding statement given the depths they went to replace the big three that departed over the summer – as evidenced by starting Erik Durm and having to bring on Sebastian Rode as your only midfielder available. It doesn’t help matters that Sokratis (who had his worst game in a Dortmund shirt in a while), Gonzalo Castro (who is probably the streakiest Bundesliga player, but is sadly a little too important for BVB’s connection from defense to attack than he should be) and Lukasz Piszczek (who looked back to his best against Real) all left the game due to injuries.
How would that squad look on the pitch? Glad you asked?
They’d probably make the Europa League with these guys..
So here’s a little unsolicited advice for those BVB fans who go off on the team and the coach and blame rotation: it’s not played on a console, and Tuchel is not rotating for fun, it’s mostly due to necessity. Just because you have incredibly fun players who are capable of putting two or eight goals past just about anyone does not make your team a consistent one. This is mostly a very different Dortmund side that needs time and TRAINING (since August the team has had maybe on week of full training!!!) to gel and develop automatism – see I can do American and German platitudes in the same sentence! So, in the words of noted contemporary thinker Aaron Rodgers:
The nice little gap between the top seven teams mentioned above and the challengers below is slowly getting filled by Freiburg, who slept thru the first half and then got past Darmstadt 1-0 thanks to a couple saves from Alexander Schwolow – including a fifth minute save on a header by his teammate Christian Gunter that was heading for the bottom corner – and an 86th minute penalty by Nils Petersen. Fans of bad shooting probably enjoyed this match, as only six of the 28 combined shots made it on target.
Michael Esser only made one save, but it was a save of the year candidate against Florian Niederlechner, who had the entire goal to aim at from the six! (at 3:45 here in the highlights). Of course the Lilies’ keeper then committed the defining error of the match, as he dropped an easy cross that led to Fedetskyy falling across Petersen for the PK.
Schalke and Leverkusen were all set for a high-intensity affair that would promise Bundesliga fans a real treat on a Sunday night. The Royal Blues were without Nastasic and Howedes and Markus Weinzierl’s plans were even further ruined as Naldo was dismissed after bringing down Chicharito on a last man challenge after an awful backpass by Sead Kolasinac. While there wasn’t a lot of contact, it was a clear red, due to Naldo’s positioning, the ball beating him and Chicharito’s great first touch taking him past the Brazilian, who was never gonna be able to make a legal tackle.
The rest of the game unfolded in a strange fashion: Leverkusen enjoyed a rather meaningless 70% possession, and had both fullbacks pushing very high up the pitch, and that combined with the errant passes led to many Schalke counters. In fact, just in the first half, I anecdotally tallied at least four different occasions when the Royal Blues were breaking forward with four attackers versus three members of die Werkself. That should not happen when you’re a man up, and Roger Schmidt was understandably frustrated, which meant that the untested pairing of Vlad Yurchenko and Kai Havertz replaced Charles Aranguiz and Julian Baumgartlinger at the half! When they are unable to access the strikers and they don’t stop counters, what’s the use of playing them, Schmidt might have asked…
The ending was brutal for die Knappen, as Thilo Kehrer – a 20-year-old youth product who had TWO minutes of Bundesliga experience prior to the match and was otherwise perhaps the team’s best player on the pitch with four tackles and NINE INTERCEPTIONS tackled Hakan Calhanoglu some 35 yards from goal. It didn’t look like much, but a free kick was awarded and then things went from bad to worse for Kehrer as he left Stefan Kiessling unmarked on the six for an easy header that doubled as the game-winner.
— Bundesliga Fanatic (@Bundesliga4u) December 11, 2016
Mainz and Gladbach didn’t exactly light the world on fire and it was only the last 15-20 minutes of the match that anything of remote interest even happened. From a corner kick, Andreas Christensen redirected a deflected Lars Stindl shot and BMG were finally ahead. The fact that they hung on was more down to Robert Hartmann disallowing a clear goal by Pablo de Blasis, for what he deemed offsides. It was an absolutely ridiculous decision, as the Argentine was actually clearly on side after Yann Sommer had saved Karim Onisiwo’s shot. The Foals finally won after two months and are twelfth on the table, at the very least pulling away from the relegation zone.
At the bottom, the HSV march up the table continued, despite Lewis Holtby losing the judo battle versus Dominik Kohr, but then getting revenge by first HSV taking the game 1-0 then Kohr getting sent off.
We’ve lauded FCI earlier, and with Werder winning as well, goal difference is the only thing that keeps Wolfsburg ahead of Hamburg. Read that sentence again to see where VfL (most people picked them to fight for the top 4!!!) have fallen in just a few weeks. Darmstadt even beat them way back in late October, but that was the last win for the Lilies who have since lost seven in a row and are understandably dead last. Time for the team of the week!
Stay tuned for Team of the Week tomorrow!