March 23, 2017

Team of the Week for MD 12 – Leipzig dominate!

Red Bull Leipzig’s 4-1 away win in Freiburg meant that the newcomers would sit atop the Bundesliga standings for at least another week, but things did not get any less crowded below them. Bayern held serve in an evenly contested match against Leverkusen, who will probably be rightfully angry for the no-call on Javi Martinez on Kevin Volland in the last few minutes of the game. Vedad Ibisevic – Balotelli hat-trick – (brace + red card) fired Hertha up to third, as die Alte Dame have now made it six wins out of six home matches. The Bosnian also became the 50th member of the 100 Bundesliga goal club and the fifth active player on the list.

Eintracht Frankfurt jumped over Dortmund with a 2-1 win that saw BVB drop from third to seventh, as the Dortmund soap opera added another twist to its plot.  If you are scoring at home: one week they are title contenders by beating Bayern, the next they concede three or four to Ingolstadt or Legia, then score six to eight versus bad teams, then get defeated by hard-pressing teams like Leipzig, Leverkusen or Frankfurt in this case. Yellowwallpod writer Luca Gierl (“from Berlin!!”) did a hilarious breakdown of the game-winning goal below.

It summed up Dortmund’s problems this season: Julian Weigl has quietly been average this season, and whenever Tuchel tried Sebastian Rode in central midfield, his aversion to forward passing has caused massive problems in terms of launching BVB attacks. However, few expected those safe 90+ percentage point passes to end up in turnovers, as Matthias Ginter once again succumbed to pressure. By the way, the positioning of Dembele – forty yards up the pitch – is just one of the answers as to why Tuchel was reluctant to play him from the onset.

One of Dortmund’s surprising rivals this season, Hoffenheim needed a substitute goal by Nadiem Amiri (great move by Nagelsmann, though in fairness he also started Szalai with Wagner??) to earn a draw at Gladbach. Seven saves for Oliver Baumann meant that the Foals have wasted Mahmoud Dahoud’s best game of the season, as well as the eleven key passes and shots between the Raffael, Stindl, Hazard, Dahoud quartet, as all of that amounted to just one goal. Of course, that one goal is the same as what BMG produced in the last six weeks, which is why they are almost the worst team in the league since extending Schubert on September 27th. Cologne were probably the better side at home vs Augsburg, but they won only in expected goals, as their efforts to get one past Marwin Hitz were foiled on five occasions, with the woodwork helping FCA once as well. 64% possession is certainly notable, and Peter Stoger is showing a new kind of flexibility in dominating vs. bottom teams (Darmstadt earlier this year), while still playing for the counters with the low block versus top teams.

Schalke continued their unbeaten run (it’s at 12 games in all competitions) with a comfortable 3-1 win over Darmstadt, and it was fitting that the architects of their comeback tour – fullbacks Alessandro Schopf and Sead Kolasinac both grabbed a goal. Whether Leipzig and Leverkusen can derail the S04 express in the next two matches remains to be seen, but for all their troubles this season, Weinzierl’s boys are already ahead of Bayer and just four points off Dortmund!!

Mainz, Leverkusen and Freiburg represent the middle-class of the Bundesliga, and while the former two were probably unlucky to have lost, die Breisgauer were soundly defeated at home by a Leipzig side that they dominated in the Zweite Liga last year. Augsburg, Wolfsburg and Gladbach occupy positions 12-14 with all three sides drawing, the former two perhaps being lucky to have done so.

At the bottom, only goal difference separates Darmstadt and Werder, as both have lost four out of the last five matches and Bremen were perhaps fortunate to get anything out of the Nordderby. That’s because HSV has something resembling of an attack, with Nicolai Muller finally resembling an actual Bundesliga player and Michael Gregoritsch putting away two chances. Nitpickers will probably argue that Robert Bauer made one of the most bizarre decisions against a 2 v 1 ever by just going for the old “back away like you just witnessed a crime” move.

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Alrighty then!

Sadly, that wasn’t the worst defensive play of the match, as Johan “this year’s Niedermeier” Djourou first botched a header then blocked his own keeper instead of Serge Gnabry’s shot.

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Ingolstadt meanwhile added to their record of “unluckiest” Bundesliga team, after producing nearly four expected goals and hitting the post three times against Wolfsburg on top of Moritz Hartmann missing his first ever penalty (was eight for eight prior to this). So, that’s how you get just one point out of this ridiculous-looking XG map….

After that roundup here are our TOTW performers for Matchday 12!

Goalkeeper

Oliver Baumann – Hoffenheim all seven saves were needed, as Gladbach had the better chances in the game, but the former Freiburg goalie continued his excellent form in 16\17.

He foiled a number of good chances, including four in the second half, and got some help from Fabian Johnson taking forever on a breakaway and hitting the post.

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Bernd Leno gets honorable mention for his Martin Brodeur impersonation against Bayern, while it was also good to see Diego Benaglio get back to his best, that is unless you were an Ingolstadt fan.

Defense

Willi Orban leads the line once again for RB Leipzig, as the 24-year-old continued this excellent season in a 4-1 win at Freiburg. Orban averages 45 passes on 78% accuracy for the season, but on Friday he completed 65 on 86% accuracy, just pinging the ball everywhere.  (this tweet was made while the game was still going on)

He also put in ten clearances (averages five a game) and three tackles for the league leaders. It was even more impressive, as Marvin Compper was again absent and Orban had to help Stefan Ilsanker out quite a bit.

Markus Suttner makes it for Ingolstadt, as the left back racked up six interceptions and produced four  key passes, which really should have resulted in at least two goals, if Moritz Hartmann and Matthew Leckie could finish better. He was second on his team in possession with 5.2%, just behind Pascal Gross, with whom he combined ten times.

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It was especially obvious in a first half that Ingolstadt were dominant on the left side, as they outshot the visitors eleven to three, thanks to Suttner’s efforts, which were aided by Valerien Ismael not really fielding a right midfielder.

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Suttner still could improve his accuracy – he is  just a 63% passes, probably because he succeeds at a clip of around 33% on crosses (going two for ten in this game), but when he whips them in they can cause havoc, as Dortmund found out earlier this season, when FCI scored twice in the first half from two Suttner free kicks.

Michael Hector earns his first TOTW spot of the season for Frankfurt, as the Jamaican was Eintracht’s most reliable central defender in a rare start. Five tackles, three interceptions and six clearances were vital to the defensive effort, as Aubameyang and Dembele often outpaced or outmuscled defensive stalwarts David Abraham and Jesus Vallejo.

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His 52% pass accuracy on 25 attempts looks horrible, but other than David Abraham, none of his teammates in defense were better – Chandler managed just 46%, the usually excellent Vallejo completed just 58%, the excellent Bastian Oczipka – 62%, so it’s probably not an accident. Actually it should be credited to the great pressing by Dortmund, but you can see just how frantic the match was by our live tweet which discussed the crazy amount of ball recoveries.

Midfielders

Mo Dahoud is an obvious choice for a Gladbach side that looked to dig itself out of that winless streak against Hoffenheim, and the 20-year-old had his best game of the season so far and not just because of his goal.

He finished with three shouts and four key passes on 73 touches and 87% pass accuracy on 60 passes. His linkup play with Raffael – 14 passes between the two – was a great sign for Gladbach, and he also found Thorgan Hazard quite often, which is a wonderful ray of hope for Gladbach fans who have been miserable for the last two months. TRIANGLES!!!

In fact, Dahoud completed (20) nearly a third of his 60 passes from the attacking third, with remarkable 80% accuracy to boot.

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His counterpart Nadiem Amiri got 45 minutes, but showed his worth with a brilliant goal, and I would not be surprised if their pairing was the Germany midfield at say EURO 2020 or something.

Szabolcs Huszti – Eintracht seems to have it out for the best teams in the Bundesliga, because after scoring a goal against Bayern he curled in a beauty vs BVB to give die Adler the lead. The 33-year-old Hungarian has undergone a remarkable transformation from a veteran Bundesliga winger\attacking midfielder who basically went to finish up his career in China after his second stint with Hannover 96 where he had two seasons of near double-digit goals and assist. His Winterpause move to Frankfurt caught many by surprise, and while he was among the leaders in key passes per 90 in the Ruckrunde, his team was not better with him nor Marco Fabian. It was another one of Kovac’s brilliant moves to push him back to a CDM role, where he has thrived alongside Omar Mascarell and sometimes Makoto Hasebe, as he has already exceeded last campaign’s totals of one goal and two assists in just 841 minutes. You can witness his transformation in his numbers below, per Whoscored.com.

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Naby Keita has mostly just transformed the Bundesliga into his own personal playground for RB Leipzig, and there is a very convincing argument, that the Guinean has been the league’s best midfielder. A picture says a thousand words:

Aside from this, he is second in the league in successful dribbles per game at THREE, from defensive midfield. Ousmane Dembele is first with 3.6, but the Frenchman loses 3.1 per game, while Keita has a success ratio of three to 1.3.

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He also added his fourth goal and what a hit that was!

That was just one of his five dribbles per Whoscored.com, but anecdotally we can recall at least two or three 30-40 yard runs that he went on. In addition, he had three shots, 82 touches, 55 passes on 87% accuracy and seven interceptions with two tackles. MVP?

Emil Forsberg might have a word or two to say about that MVP award, as Leipzig’s 25-year-old continues to treat the Bundesliga like the Zweita Liga. Two more assists and seven key passes bring his assist total to SEVEN  which leads the league, while his five goals are the seventh best in the Bundesliga. He is up to 22 total key passes on the season, but is only behind Serge Gnabry in the non-set piece key pass category (sorry Gs named Vinny and Pascal)

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It will be interesting how Schalke will try to slow him down, and while it will probably be Alessandro Schopf who will have to deal with him, Sead Kolasinac will surely put in a hard tackle or too, if the Swede wanders over to the left side. (Is Christian Pulisic still in his pocket or has he climbed out?)  The left wide back has been on a tear for die Knappen and in the 3-1 win over Darmstadt he not only scored his first Bundesliga goal of the year (second of his career!), but collected six tackles, two interceptions and three clearances. He also went 49 of 61 on his attempted passes and was open all day everyday, resulting in 99 touches!

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His importance to Schalke’s resurgence in Weinzierl’s 3-5-2, where he plays as LWB and Schopf is the RWB has not only resulted in a 12-game unbeaten run for the Royal Blues, but has also been noted by Whoscored and Kicker, which both have him as one of the top five Bundesliga players of the season so far! That’s pretty remarkable for a guy who was almost the third-choice left back preseason to Dennis Aogo and Baba Rahman

Forwards

Hertha’s Vedad Ibisevic scored a goal that should be taught to young strikers everywhere – the first, not the second – tried to rugby tackle his opponent, and get out of a second yellow by sort of feigning injury. Quite a day!

The Bosnian is the definition of a wily veteran, but while that epithet is usually reserved for past their prime strikers (see Huntelaar, Klaas-Jan),  it would undersell his contribution Sunday. Racking up NINE shots is amazing, even if the CB pairing of Leon Balogun and Niko Bungert aren’t exactly the definition of top-class opposition.

Let’s add another high-volume shooter in Michael Gregoritsch, who had two goals on SEVEN shots for HSV, in the 2-2 draw against Bremen. While the goals had to do more with porous defending, five aerials and these attempts made up for his lack of contribution (completing just 16 of 31 passes) elsewhere. screen-shot-2016-11-29-at-10-47-00-am

Honorable mentions

Matthew Leckie – 6 fouls earned, 5 shots, 3 key passes, 4 tackles and the post denying him from getting a spot here. Raffael racked up six key passes on 38 touches, because he is a wizard. Ousmane Dembele, Haris – no longer Lord – Seferovic, Dominik Kohr, Freddy Krueger Sörensen, Lars Stindl, Koka Rausch, Fin Bartels, Diego – 10 interceptions, stellar defense – Demme, Raffael – six key passes, Lewis Holtby and Nicolai Muller were all worthy choices. Serge Gnabry is still Werder’s only excellent player. Timo Werner would normally get in because of his two goals, but those were mostly Forsberg and he just had 28 touches….

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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

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