The last matchday of the Hinrunde was not short on excitement. This weekend truly had it all, from tactical experimentation to record breaking performances, it was a fitting end to an eventful first half of the season. Ruhr neighbors Dortmund and Schalke both had the biggest wins of the weekend and went level on points. Nürnberg had the weekend’s surprise result with their win in Leverkusen and returning Reus helped Gladbach to an important win against Mainz.
The following players stood above all others on Matchday 17:
Mohamed Ansif – Augsburg’s second choice goalkeeper single handedly earned his side a point. Ansif made a staggering 9 saves against Hamburg, breaking Sven Ulreich’s season record and ensuring that his team’s good run continued. It was the German-Moroccan’s best performance in an Augsburg kit and he can hardly be blamed for Guerrero’s goal.
Marcel Schäfer – Much has been made about Mandzukic’s importance at Wolfsburg but their left back, Marcel Schäfer, it can be argued is just as valuable. Schäfer is one of the few constants in an ever-changing Wolfsburg line up and a constant offensive threat as he was against Stuttgart. For a squad with limited options going forward, Schäfer has become invaluable for Felix Magath.
Christian Fuchs – Another left back makes our list, Schalke’s Christian Fuchs was at his best in his team’s devastating defeat of Bremen. Pin point accurate with his crosses and difficult to disposses (Fuchs won 79% of his challenges), Fuchs provides the threat normally presented by a winger. Against Bremen, the Austrian collected his 4th assist of the season, more than any other defender in the league.
Markus Feulner – An unconventional nomination for sure. The traditional attacking midfielder was used by Hecking at right back in Nürnberg’s win over Leverkusen after Chandler’s suspension last week and Feulner adapted brilliantly. The former Bayern youth product took Schürrle out of the game completely, won 12 tackles and had more touches than any other Nürnberg player.
Toni Kroos – Someone had to step up in the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Heynckes tried several players in his position and none worked as well as Kroos has in the last two weeks. Against Köln, the midfielder scored one and created another in his side’s 3-0 win despite being a man down. Kroos completed the most passes and saw the ball more than anyone else, proving that Bayern can indeed adapt to the loss of their most influential player.
Anatolyi Tymoshchuk – Kroos’s performance was also possible because he had a hyper aware and in form Tymoshchuk next to him who cleaned up absolutely everything in the center and even showed glimpses of his creativity. The Ukranian won the ball that kickstarted Bayern’s dominant performance in the second half and was heavily involved throughout, defensively and offensively. Tymoshchuk has been one of the brightest spots in Bayern’s Hinrunde.
Ilkay Gündogan – In Dortmund’s 4-1 win against Freiburg, Gündogan showed the first glimpses of effectively being able to replace Sahin. Gündogan scored one, set up the other and won the ball that lead to their fourth goal. It was a complete performance from a player with heavy expectations but if this performance is any indication of what Klopp initially saw in Gündogan, Dortmund fans have a lot to look forward to.
Ashkan Dejagah – The Wolfsburg player was the best attacking player on the pitch against Stuttgart. He was strong in his delivery, always keen to take on players and played a part in Wolfsburg’s match winning goal. Nearly every positive Wolfsburg move was initiated from Dejagah’s side.
Jens Hegelar – Leverkusen dominated Nürnberg in almost every way. They outpassed them almost 5 to 1, out shot them and had double the possession. yet they lost 3-0 at home. One of the biggest reasons was Hegelar’s performance. Hegelar made the right side his own, scored the second goal and won more tackles than any of his teammates.
Robert Lewandowski - The Polish international scored his first brace on the road against Freiburg and set up another in Dortmund’s 4-1 win, bringing his tally to 12 goals in the Hinrunde, more than he scored all season last year. Lewandowski was the perfect link up player for Kagawa and Grosskreutz and was equally strong in the tackle and in the air. Suffice to say, he has made many Dortmund supporters forget about Lucas Barrios.
Raul – Like a fine bottle of wine, the Spanish striker has only gotten better in his time at Schalke. Against Bremen, Raul netted his third Bundesliga hattrick and was the conductor of Bremen’s operatic downfall. Schalke’s #7 proves epitomizes former Bremen coach Otto Rehhagel’s maxim, “there are no young players and old players, only good players and bad players.” Raul may be 34 years old but he still runs more than his young counterparts, passes better and is always two steps ahead.
Coach of the Week
Dieter Hecking – Whether it was Leverkusen underperforming or not, the fact is that Nürnberg managed their best result of the season away from home and ensured that they finished the first half of the season outside the relegation zone. Before this weekend, Nürnberg had never managed to score 3 goals in Leverkusen and on Saturday they managed just that, and in style. Hecking’s squad was full of confidence and deadly in front of goal, showing their true potential after a rather disappointing first half of the season.
Sven Ulreich, Dante, Dominic Maroh, Marvin Plattenhardt, Mats Hummels, Roman Hubnik, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, David Alaba, Teemu Pukki, Kevin Grosskreutz
Images courtesy of spox.com