July 24, 2017

Team of the Week – Match Day 23

On a weekend where most of the teams in the top half of the table dropped points, Bayern Munich again shone the brightest.  Their lead over Borussia Dortmund is now a staggering 17 points and there are no signs of stopping.  Freiburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayer Leverkusen and Mainz all split points while Augsburg finally climbed out of the automatic relegation zone at the expense of Hoffenheim.  Schalke and Hannover also finally got back to winnings ways with the pressure mounting on both clubs to qualify for Europe again.

Goalkeeper

Ron-Rober Zieler – Hannover’s European exit was disappointing but they’ll need to regain focus to try and lock up another European spot.  Thankfully they have a goalkeeper like Zieler on their side to help them.  His performance against Hamburg may have been his best this season and the same can be said about the team also.  Apart from Van der Vaart’s penalty, nothing got past Zieler.  He made incredible saves on Rudnevs and van der Vaart and saved 11 shots on a whole. Hamburg had a seasons record of 23 attempts on goal but only beat Zieler from the spot.

Defenders

Philipp Lahm – Coming off a fantastic performance in London against Arsenal, the Bayern captain doubled up with another great outing against Bremen. Lahm set up two of Bayern’s goals, the second of which was out of Barcelona’s playbook with a brilliant chip over the entire Bremen back line to set up Ribery. All the while, Lahm has been a big reason Bayern have gone on such a record breaking run this season.

Joel Matip – It’s rare for defenders to score in a game.  It’s even rarer for them to score twice in the same match.  Matip’s brace against Fortuna Düsseldorf helped break a series of four winless games for the club and put them back on track for their much desired European spot. With Huntelaar still struggling to score regularly, Schalke will need goals from any source they can and in Matip they have an extremely dangerous player on set pieces.

Naldo – In football the worst conditions to play under are frozen surfaces.  Even worse are matches with snowfall and defenders especially have to be aware of the ball dynamics in games like that.  Against Mainz, Naldo was arguably the best player on the pitch. The Brazilian got the important equalizer and was extremely important in shoring up Wolfsburg’s defense after Madlung was sent off.

Nikolce Noveski – Like Naldo, the experience and know-how of Noveski showed in their snow match. His statistics are actually quire remarkable considering the terrible conditions.  He completed 100% of his passes (48 out of 48), won 100% of all his duels (14) and never once compromised his team under circumstances that normally get the best of even the greatest defenders out there.

Midfielders

Arjen Robben – Well you can surely say it now if you couldn’t before.  Arjen Robben is back!  He made the most of his start and was involved in four of Bayern’s six goals, two of which he set up with the kind of selflessness that many don’t want to give him credit for.  Robben was the start of the show against Bremen and made a good case for getting more starts in the remainder of the season.  Vintage Robben.

Javi Martinez – For months now in amazing form, the Spanish midfielder only played 53 minutes but was again absolutely outstanding.  Bayern’s midfield didn’t skip a beat in Schweinsteiger’s absence as Martinez dictated the tempo, won balls back, distributed it to perfection and got his second goal of the season. It’s been a long time since Bayern have had such an assured presence in midfield that always makes the right decisions and rarely if ever gives up the ball.

Sergio Pinto – Pinto is one of those players that will never truly get the recognition he deserves, but if there is one anchor of consistency at the club in the last couple of years, it’s him.  Against Hamburg, Pinto was his usual hard working self and got even more involved in the team’s attacks than usual.  The central midfielder is such an important catalyst to driving his team forward and never stops running.  The Hamburg performance is a perfect example of what he is all about.

Amin Younes – This is a name and player we’ll be hearing a lot more from in the coming years.  The 19-year-old has gotten a couple of chances under Favre this season but against Dortmund he got his first league start.  With Arango and Herrmann both out and De Jong on the bench, Younes picked the perfect moment to impress.  Every dangerous attack from Gladbach came through him and he got the important equalizer as well.  A fantastic effort from a highly versatile and talented young player.

Forwards

Didier Ya Konan – You may as well start calling him “Doppelpack Konan” because the Ivorian striker scored his sixth brace for Hannover against Hamburg on Saturday.  His first goal was a brilliant half volley from 20 meters out that will surely be a goal of the year candidate and his second all but sealed the result. For a player many criticize for not running enough, he was one of the most industrious players on the pitch and a big part in helping Hannover with their biggest ever win against Hamburg.

Sascha Mölders – There’s a reason Mölders is already a cult figure in Augsburg.  And if the club manage to miraculously avoid the drop, he’ll be the man to thank for it. Not even a deep cut and gushing blood from his nose could stop him.  As soon as he came back on after receiving treatment he went for a header. That kind of sacrifice is what has endeared him so much to the team’s supporters and such a successful striker under such limiting circumstances.

Coach of the Week

Jupp Heynckes – Even though Markus Weinzierl is continuing to turn Augsburg’s season around, this weekend was all about Jupp Heynckes.  The long time Bundesliga coach celebrated his 1000th Bundesliga match.  No coach has more wins in the league than him and he added another against Bremen.  The way Bayern are going at the moment it’s the ideal way to call an end to an amazing career.

Honorable Mentions

Wolfgang Hesl, Kevin Trapp, Christian Schulz, Szabolcs Huszti, Andre Hoffmann, Jan Polak, Ibrahima Traore, Jefferson Farfan, Mario Götze, Franck Ribery, Ji Dong-Won, Mario Gomez

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Cristian Nyari

Cristian is a football writer and analyst living in New York City, fascinated with the history and study of the beautiful game and all it entails. Follow Cristian on twitter @Cnyari

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