May 27, 2017

Team of the Week – Match Day 5

The “English week” proved to be one of the most exciting in the young Bundesliga season.  Thirty-three goals were scored in the nine matches, a season record.  Bayern continue to look dominant with another uncompromising win against Wolfsburg while the defending champions let a two goal lead slip to the league’s surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt.  Stuttgart continued to stutter against a resurgent Hoffenheim and Bremen came from behind to give Christian Streich his first home defeat of the season.  Speaking of home records, Hannover stretched theirs to 21 unbeaten at AWD Arena with another impressive win and Fortuna Düsseldorf kept their fifth consecutive clean sheet.

Goalkeeper

Fabian Giefer – Fortuna Düsseldorf’s defensive approach may help them keep out goals  but it will also inevitably invite pressure from opposition and put their goalkeeper under pressure.  Fortunately for the club, 22 year old Giefer has more than lived up to the challenge.  Against Fürth, Giefer was at his best again and helped Fortuna keep their fifth consecutive clean sheet and their second win of the season, extending their fairy tale start by yet another week.  Along with Adler, Giefer can claim to be the best goalkeeper of the young season so far.

Defenders

Fabian Johnson – Since settling in at left back last year, the German born American international has gotten better and better. Following a sluggish start for the club this year, Johnson and his team are finally rounding into form.  Johnson scored a fine goal in their win against Hannover over the weekend and another in Stuttgart.  His understanding with Usami on the left and dynamic overlapping runs have played a big part in Hoffenheim’s quick turnaround.  At this rate he is quickly establishing himself as one of the most consistent fullbacks in the league.

Benedikt Höwedes – Finally playing in his preferred center back spot after filling in at right back, Höwedes performed as if he never left his position.  The Schalke captain was calm and composed against Mainz and won the penalty that led to their opening goal.  All the while he kept Szalai firmly in check and with his fine marking and one on one defending made Thomas Tuchel reconsider starting Rukavytsya up top in the first place.  Because he is used out wide so often nowadays people forget just how good of a center back Höwedes can be and the Mainz game was a firm reminder of that.

Philipp Wollscheid – So far Wollscheid is proving to be Leverkusen’s best transfer this summer.   He has made a world of difference in defense but has also proven continued to be extremely dangerous in front of goal on set pieces as he was with Nürnberg.  Against Augsburg, he scored his second of the season and won every important challenge in the back.  He was his team’s most efficient passer and never let an Augsburg player get past him.  By season’s end we may very well see Wollschweid on Löw’s Germany roster.

Midfielders

Oliver Fink – Düsseldorf remain the only professional team in German football yet to have conceded a goal this season. Despite their great defending, they have also been criticized for their frailty in front of goal.  To their relief, Fortuna quieted those voices for another week with their win over Fürth and no one played a bigger part in that than central midfielder Oliver Fink.  Fink scored the opening goal but also covered more ground than any other player on the pitch,  won a match high 20 duels and led by example.

Takashi Inui – Another outstanding performance from the 24 year old Japanese attacker.  Inui spearheaded Frankfurt’s great comeback against the defending champions, setting up their first and scoring the equalizer himself with a great header.  But like his previous performances this season, Inui’s ingenuity on and off the ball were a delight to watch, always in a position to receive or pass the ball and possessing a great eye for goal.  His performances are a big reason Eintracht Frankfurt have had the best ever start of a promoted side in the Bundesliga.

Szabolcs Huszti – Once again the Hungarian playmaker stole the show this week.  Huszti missed Hannover’s last match due to suspension and would you believe it, they lost their first game of the season.  His return ensured they got back on track in marvelous fashion.  Two assists and a goal continued a 21 match unbeaten run at home in one of the team’s best performances of the season so far.  His impeccable technique, positioning and eye for goal is simply ahead of his peers at the moment.

Milan Badelj – The Croatian central midfielder had his best performance yet for Hamburg.  He added some much needed steel in midfield, winning almost 70% of his duels and showed his technique in his fine assist for Hamburg’s second.   All the while he was a constant goal threat and involved in 8 of Hamburg’s goal scoring chances.  For the first time in a long time Hamburg’s midfield is coming together and if Badelj’s performances against Gladbach is as good an indicator of that than any.

Forwards

Mario Mandzukic – Ahead of the encounter with his old team, Mandzukic said he won’t celebrate should he score but not even he could contain his smile after his first goal.  Although more subdued on his second it was clear to see that Mandzukic has seamlessly adapted to his new home in Munich.  His double against Wolfsburg now brings him up to 8 goals in 8 competitive matches for the club this season.  Regardless of who Heynckes fielded behind him, Mandzukic adapted brilliantly and maintains a level of performance that will make it difficult for Mario Gomez to win his starting spot back when he is fit.

Takashi Usami –  This could turn out to be the year of the Japanese in the Bundesliga.  After failing to get much playing time on loan at Bayern last year Usami is now able to put his abilities on display at Hoffenheim.  His opening goal against Stuttgart is a contender for goal of the year, a jaw dropping solo run leaving three Stuttgart defenders in the dust.  Usami’s speed and dribbling was a nightmare for Stuttgart all game long and he also assisted their third to top off a fantastic week for the club.

Xherdan Shaqiri – The young Swiss attacker was given a start in place of Toni Kroos and used the opportunity brilliantly.  Shaqiri set up Mandzukic for Bayern’s second and was involved in many of his team’s attacks.  His  chemistry with Robben and Ribery made it seem like he had been playing with them for years and troubled Wolfsburg’s defense all game long.  Above all, Shaqiri’s versatility and completeness as a player were highlighted again, comfortable out wide and in the center, eager to take players on and strong defensively.

Coach of the Week

Thorsten Fink – After a terribly disappointing season last year and a horrendous start this year Fink is finally beginning to show signs of steadying the ship in Hamburg and getting them on track again.   Over the last three weeks Hamburg have gradually begun to improve their performances and in a matter of days ended Dortmund’s historic winning streak and nearly won back to back wins for the first time in half a year.

Honorable Mentions

Philipp Lahm, Kyriakos Papadoupolos, Marvin Compper, Lukasz Piszczek, Johannes van den Bergh, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Höger, Andreas Lambertz, Sergio Pinto, Franck Ribery, Lewis Holtby, Jefferson Farfan, Jonathan Schmid, Lars Stindl, Roberto Firmino, Arjen Robben, Alexander Meier, Marco Reus, Raffael van der Vaart, Andre Schürrle, Stefan Aigner, Didier Ya Konan, Stefan Kiessling

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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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