After the ode to Péter Gulácsi, here is the rest of the team, aka the All-Bundesliga 2nd Team so far.
Right back was a particularly difficult position for this team and in general: besides the obvious number one choice on the first team, there were some weak candidates: Lukasz Piszczek was having a nice season – no. 12 in XG Buildup with 5.01 despite missing the last 10 games!!! Pavel Kaderabek was ineligelible due to minutes (900) and I’m not sure if he had played a little more he would’ve made it higher than honorable mention, due to TSG’s rather mediocre Hinrunde\defense. The ideas of an improved Dennis Diekmeier and a surging Jeremy Toljan seemed intriguing until I realized it was Dennis Diekmeier and the same Toljan whose life was cut short by the Bruma moves in the Leipzig game. Nico Elvedi (a very secure passer and good in buildup) and Lukas Klostermann were having okay seasons, but in the end I couldn’t justify their selections based on Gladbach’s atrocious defense and Klostermann being responsibly for 6 goals in 1100 minutes. Thus, mostly out of default, I went for Mitchell Weiser on the third team and Daniel Opare as the honorable mention.
So, for the second team, I went with a somewhat unorthodox move by picking Daniel Caligiuri, who has played more or less every wide position in his career, but has become a wonderful RWB under Tedesco at Schalke this season. It must be a German-Italian thing…
I was openly critical of signing him from Wolfsburg, as he looked like his best days were behind him, but much like with his teammate Naldo, perhaps leaving VW Arena isn’t the worst thing for your career.
But under Tedesco, Caligiuri has had a wonderful season: 3 goals – the game winner in Freiburg, the game winning penalty vs Augsburg and a heart and Zagadou breaking invidivual goal vs Dortmund to make it 4-3 a few minutes before the inevitable Naldo equalizer – quite a resume for the Hinrunde. His corner that found Leon Goretzka beat Bremen 2-1, so that is conservatively an extra 6 points added at least just on scoring and assists. What’s even more impressive is that Caligiuri, a 75% career passer on 24 attempts per match was used quite often in the S04 buildup, putting up a 76% completion rate on 41 average passes. He’s also already played around 1500 minutes, which would put him on pace to beat his previous best of 2450 minutes with Freiburg in 2012\13 his only professional season of more than 1800 minutes, despite no major career injures. If you add the passing involvement with a lot of playing time you get on these kinda top 10 lists:
But there is more to Caligiuri’s game: he’s been an extremely active and reliable part of Tedesco’s Schalke, due to his versatility: he is above 50% in all duels – succeeding 8 of 15 times on average. 2.5 successful dribbles and 3.2 successful tackles are reminiscent of his best Freiburg days. When you win 60% of your tackles while attempting the second most and you’re not even a central midfield, you’re probably doing something right!
Caligiuri has been a vital part of the Schalke approach that under Tedesco no longer relies on just the transition game, as with the addition of Max Meyer in mid October, the Royal Blues have developed a possession game. The 29-year-old is a key cog in that machine as his passing stats suggests, but is often delivering the final product – a pass or cross in to the box:
While some of those are set pieces and Caligiuri is succeeding on 7 of 40 crosses so far – a measly 18% – he’s always an option with his dribbling and usually provides an ending to a play, which is important, as a bad cross might be the preferred option to a bad pass that leads to a counter.
That’s not to say that he couldn’t improve on crosses, and his 6 goal mistakes are signs that he can get caught up the pitch at times (the first couple goals against BVB come to mind), but in a weak field of RBs his outstanding season is worth rewarding.
Marcel Halstenberg presents a similar conundrum to Caligiuri: he’s more or less far the top candidate behind an obvious choice (the LB of the 1st team) in a rather small field. I discussed the honorable mentions and opted for Marvin Plattenhardt, but the 2nd team didn’t even have an actual LB, that’s how slim the pickings were. The case for Halstenberg who was already called up to the Germany squad based on a strong 16\17 season is as follows: he was the 11th ranked LB by Instat, this year he is number 1. He’s got 2 goals and 2 assists at the halfway point, vs a single assist all of last year. While some of that surely is down to luck – he hit the post last year and went scoreless despite 1.71 XG, he has a solid 1.43 XG this year for this 2 actual goals. His shot distribution – 18 leftie shots both years vs 7 and 5 headers is more or less the same, so it’s not anything wonky, though he did score a late header vs Hertha on what was a 31% chance.
His advanced per 90 metrics are either the same or better than last year, and he’s taking DOUBLE the shots this year compared to last year and has already exceeded his season total (16) of open play shots from last season (12). He’s at exactly halfway to his totals from last year in XG Chain and XG Buildup, though his per 90 metrics are slightly better, because he’s played 1175 minutes due to some rotations and a late hand fracture that he suffered while scoring that goal vs Hertha. It remains to be seen whether he will be fit to start the season, as Transfermarkt has set a return date of January 16.
Much like Caligiuri, Halstenberg is an excellent two way player: 83% passes on 46 completions, winning 65% of his 16 challenges per match (compared to 61% last year), with 70% in defense and 66% in the air. He’s also succeeding on 74% of his 3 attempted tackles per game, up from 59% last season. He also commits few defensive mistakes, and for all the above reasons a more than deserving pick for this team. It has been a long journey from Hannover youth teams to BVB’s reserves through St. Pauli. Now, Halstenberg, who 18 months ago had not ever played an 1. Bundesliga match at age 25 is one of the candidates for the World Cup squad for Germany! It’s no surprise that Leipzig are trying very hard to extend his contract which expires next summer, raising their offer from a 2 million Euro per season deal to 3 million according to Bild.
As my 3rd team selections and honorable mentions picks hopefully indicated, center back was another position that was difficult to get excited about beyond the obvious choices. I was in full agreement with kicker’s general premise: that world-class (players?) defenders were hard to come by in this Hinrunde.
We’re putting off a potential discussion concerning the reasons and causes that lead us to that situation, and plowing ahead with the second team choices:
Jonathan Tah is the more obvious one due to his influence on his team’s successful Hinrunde and his durability. The still only 21-year-old Leverkusen defender played in all 16 games, except for the 4-0 win at Freiburg and half of the 2-1 loss to Hertha. That’s important for a guy who although has made his Bundesliga debut in 2013, but has only played over 1700 minutes once in his career! Muscular tears and problems more or less ruined his Rückrunde and he even missed the U21 Euros to injury as well. Under Heiko Herrlich, Tah has had a wonderful season, with only 1-2 weaker games in the earlier parts of the campaign (Hoffenheim draw) and in the Hinrunde closer against Hannover where he gave away a penalty (albeit with a little help from VAR). His individual defensive numbers look solid: on a per game basis that means 8\12 or 70% of duels won, with his attacking duels 2.5\3.3 actually having a better success rate at 74%. He is also an exquisite tackler, Instat gives him 1.7 successful tackles on 2.1 attempts, while Whoscored had him at 24 of 29. Overall, his per game defensive volume is down, but it’s probably a good thing: it means that the Bender twins and\or Aranguiz all of whom are tackle\interception machines are doing their jobs. Tah’s also benefitted from the Bender twins and new signing Pana Retsos because those players are upgrades over the miserable Dragovic\Toprak duo, the latter of whom responsible for 11 mistakes last season. Remember when, idiot Dortmund fans like me were gloating that BVB fleeced B04 for Toprak and sold very high on Manni Bender. SIGH!!!!
Another thing with Tah is that given his size and strength, beating him in the air is always gonna be tough. So, Tah is a beast of a defender, but he’s gotten better at picking up loose balls and starting the ensuing counters. You can see how often he’s picked up loose balls here, he’s doing it nearly 8 times a match.
An interesting side note is that on a per game basis, Tah’s picking up just 0.9 balls in the opponent half, as opposed to 1.4 out of 10 last season. That’s probably down to the stylistic change under Herrlich, who has scaled back the pressing that had Roger Schmidt’s Bayer play so high. We can test this by using PPDA or Passes Per Defensive Actions – a metric designed to measure pressing that had Schmidt’s Leverkusen at 6.56 as the second most intensive pressing team (behind Bayern) until his firing. Keeping in mind that a lower number means a more intense press, Herrlich’s Bayer are at 9.19 this season, which ranks seventh in the Bundesliga. It’s a nice balanced approach that still allows Leverkusen to sit back and counter (they scored 10 goals on the year from counters), but can spring a pressing trap on an unsuspecting opponent like we saw for Mehmedi’s goal against H96.
Finally, he’s definitely useful on set pieces, a sore subject for B04 last year and early this season: Leverkusen conceded 21 or 19 without penalties last season they are at 11 or 7 from “Standards” this year, but a lot of that was in the early parts of the season. Per Instat data, we can verify that 3 of those set piece goals conceded by Leverkusen took place in the first 4 matches, and while 7 non-penalty goals are not great, they are no longer the worst team like they were last year. In particular, corners’ defense has improved, as the 12 goals shipped last season have been reduced to just 2 so far. My guess is that having a healthy Tah has definitely helped that.
Finally, Tah’s a very underrated dribbler and is hard to knock off the ball, so he can get out of tricky situations. He’s improved as a passer as well, posting a career best 85%. He’s never really gonna be an offensive factor, but that’s not really his role, and anchoring a defense that has allowed just 16.18 non penalty XG against – second fewest behind Bayern – and 19.22 XG – third behind Frankfurt and Bayern – is more than enough to represent Bayer on the second team.
Jean Philippe Gbamin could be the imaginary partner of Tah in the central defense, for most of the reasons that my colleague Mat Burt laid out in his excellent article. To that I just want to add some context, to highlight the improvement of the 22-year-old After his summer move from RC Lens, the Ivorian arrived as the Baumgartlinger replacement and had a nice start to the season until late November, when he got sent off twice in three weeks at the end of the last Hinrunde. He also added a third red card in April, but those suspensions cost him valuable time and playing rhythm and he ended the 16\17 campaign with 1800 minutes played for a rather poor FSV Mainz. The German magazine kicker rated him at a 3.6 average as the 42nd best midfielder, just ahead of Pascal Groß and Max Meyer. InStat was far less generous, ranking him 56th of 61 central midfielders (including everyone who has played any minutes) with a 249 ranking that is well below the average of 276 for the position. He averaged a whopping 20 challenges per match, winning 10 of them and also added 2.4 tackles and 2.2 interceptions per game. Having played in 30 games across all competitions, 29 at CDM and 1 at CM, Gbamin certainly seemed like a ho-hum midfielder, whose 71% passing on an average of 30 attempts and no offensive output wasn’t anything to write about.
Fast forward to 17\18 and he’s the fourth best rated midfielder by kicker average and no. 13 when you look at all players!
Let’s take a look at how he got there: Gbamin started the season with a thigh injury that forced him to miss the first two losses to H96 and Stuttgart and was an unused sub in the 3-1 win against Leverkusen. He would make his debut vs Bayern, coming on to replace Daniel Brosinski, with his team trailing 3-0. However, in the next games against Hoffenheim and Hertha, Sandro Schwarz used 3 center backs (just like in the first game of the season against Hannover) and the Ivorian acquitted himself really well in a horrible loss, as Mainz were up 2-0 but ended up losing 2-3 thanks to a Mark Uth stoppage time winner. Thanks to Mainz not having too many good CBs and the errors of Leon Balogun (2 vs TSG, and 8 overall in under 800 minutes!!!) Gbamin was the makeshift 3rd CB alongside captain Stefan Bell and the reliable Abdou Diallo, whom we praised in the third team already. In the remainder of the season, Schwarz’s Mainz mostly used a 4 defender setup, putting Gbamin at CDM, in an effort to generate more offense, which generally didn’t work, as Mainz finished with the lowest XG output in the entire league at just 14.71. Gbamin sometimes dropped as a 3rd CB to initiate the attacks – something that Danny Latza occasionally and Fabian Frei (now off to Basel) rarely did. His consistency was remarkable and he grew into a key figure for Mainz, proving influential with 4 tackles and 4 interceptions vs HSV, 6 INTs in the 1-0 win against Cologne and adding 3 tackles, 4 INTs and his first assist in the 1-1 draw against Gladbach. His enthusiasm was noticeable in the 2-1 loss to Freiburg and he even took 4 shots, though they were the type of speculative efforts that even Andre Hahn or Filip Kostic would be proud of.
Gbamin’s excellent season continued in the first half against Dortmund, where he completed 23 of his 24 first half passes, and was his side’s best player before reinjuring his thigh and effectively ending his team’s chances at winning the game and his own Hinrunde in the process.
His final stats were: a great improvement from 71 to 84% passing on a higher volume of 35 of 42 per game pass attempts. On his challenges he’s improved as well, winning 12 of 18 on average per match for 66%, while also upping his tackle efficiency from 54% to 67%. Remarkably, he’s averaging double the number of free balls picked up per game from 4.6 per match to 9 this season! Finally, while noone really thinks of Gbamin as a huge dribbler, according to Instat, he’s succeeding on 78% of his 2.9 attempts per match. Even if Instat does tend to be overly generous on dribbles, Whoscored’s ration of 0.8 successful to 0.4 failed dribbles still puts him way above peers like Denis Zakaria, Mijat Gacinovic, Gonzalo Castro or Christoph Kramer, all of whom are under 50% on similar\smaller volume.
The long and short of it is that Gbamin has appeared to have made a leap into an excellent, defense first CDM, who can fill in as a flexible 3rd CB, due to his intelligence, reading of the game and ability to pass or dribble out of pressure. For those reasons, he’s an easy choice on this list, and it should no longer be a huge surprise to see him as one of the better defensive mids of the Hinrunde.
Speaking of awesome defensive mids, we’ve got two more performers who have deserved a spot on the 2nd team:
Dennis Geiger, is my choice, and while he ranks tenth on the kicker list, I’ll try to make a case for his inclusion on his team. First, he was virtually unknown even by Bundesliga aficionados until this summer, even if he did sign his pro contract just about a year ago. If you were watching him in the spring of 2017 in the Regionalliga among with the 245 people who showed up in games against Wormatia Worms, Teutonia Watzenborn – Steinberg or FK Pirmasens, congratulations! But after losing the Rudy/Süle combo in the summer and an injury to Florian Grillitsch a strong training camp saw Geiger make his Bundesliga debut against Werder! He was lively and what struck me is his poise: even under pressure (though the Werder press was lackluster) Geiger was very composed on the ball and always had an idea of where to play it next. His passing map was a thing of beauty and he ended up completing 67 of 69 attempts.
It looked like a rising star was born, but just three days later TSG and Geiger learned a lesson as they were crushed 4-2 (and were down 3-0, a result that was almost kind to TSG) by Liverpool in the return leg, where the 19-year-old made his UCL debut. He would rebound from that loss and not making the squad vs Leverkusen and put in an okay shift against Bayern in a shocking 2-0 win. The next highlight came against Schalke in the “Englische Woche”, as Geiger scored his first ever Bundesliga goal, a Toni Kroos style grasscutter that seemed destined to beat Ralf Fahrmann of Schalke on matchday 6.
The game also showed to me the fighting side of Geiger, as he collected 4 fouls to go with his 3 tackles, and it was becoming evident that despite his slight build he wasn’t gonna give in to anyone. Against, Freiburg Geiger committed 6 fouls, which is Sandro Wagner territory, while in the next match against Augsburg he had season highs of 4 shot attempts (albeit from insane distances) and 3 key passes. After missing the Wolfsburg match due to muscle problems, Geiger’s best came against Cologne, finishing a driven low cross by Amiri, by taking his first touch in a way that lifted the ball high and left Timo Horn on the ground, making the finish academic. Both he and Julian Nagelsmann were thrilled afterwards:
Against Frankfurt, he was deployed alongside Kerem Demirbay as the no. 8 and he looked quite comfortable in a more attacking role. He finished the season by sliding back to CDM in the 4-0 thrashing of Leipzig, while a 5th yellow in the Stuttgart match mean that he was suspended for the Hinrunde’s last game against Dortmund. Overall, a highly impressive campaign by the 19-year-old who has shown great vision, excellent control, superb intelligence and the defensive resilience to be a definite Bundesliga starter. His two goals were both special and he was surprisingly capable (given his build + inexperience) on defense, so while he’s not close to Sebastian Rudy’s levels in the last few years, Geiger’s come in and been more than a pleasant surprise for what’s been an ordinary TSG season.
Kai Havertz is our last-minute replacements for Lars Bender (2.77 kicker grade), who after some serious considerations was deemed ineligible for playing just 881 Whoscored minutes. It was a tough cut, but with the additions of Gbamin and Geiger, CDM is covered as a position. Havertz on the other hand is more of a central orchestrator, and an underrated part of the Leverkusen Hinrunde success story. On the surface, he has solid but unspectacular numbers. Looking at Whoscored stats: one dribble, one key pass and one shot per game is quite excellent, while 80% passing on 42 attempts, 47% duels won is fine. But, five assists is where you start raising an eyebrow and it’s worth a deeper look, as only four other players have more this season!
Besides the assists, Havertz’s value to Leverkusen is so often in the buildup phrase, he will start the counter attack or play the ball that opens space by splitting the defense that’s trying to recover while someone like Leon Bailey, Julian Brandt, Kevin Volland or Admir Mehmedi is flying down the pitch. You can go to Volland’s goal against Frankfurt for evidence Thanks to Statsbomb’s XG Chain we can measure the impact of guys like Julian Weigl (remember when he used to be great\ was allowed to do these kinda things?) and Havertz, who ranks 15th in the Bundesliga with an XGC of 8.87. On a per 90 basis that means 0.82, so he’s almost contributing one expected goal for every 90 minutes, the 6th most in the Bundesliga among players who’ve played at least 800 minutes, per Understat.com! However, it’s even more impressive when we look at XG Buildup (removing key passes and shots), as the still only 18-year-old Havertz ranks FIFTH in the Bundesliga with a 6.3 XGBuildup contribution. Using per 90, Havertz’s 0.58 is the fifth highest mark in the league. Finally, despite playing almost 500 fewer minutes, Havertz’s already surpassed his volume from these same metrics from last year! The fact that he’s doing this at age 18 and from open play (all but one of his key passes and assists are from OP) is pretty much incredible, and if someone spends a 100 million on him in like 2019\20 I wouldn’t be remotely surprised.
Last but not least, after missing the opener against Bayern due to knee problems, the TSG match because Heiko Herrlich was still in love with the Mehmedi\Bellarabi waste factory, Havertz was unable to stop the bleeding in the 3-1 loss to Mainz. Since then, Leverkusen lost just one game (the next one, 2-1 to Hertha) in the 10 games Havertz’s started (wasn’t used vs HSV, and was subbed in late vs Wolfsburg\Bremen). Does anyone even remember Hakan Calhanoglu or Kevin Kampl anymore?
Julian Brandt was already a big deal last season and the year before, when he had 11 scoring points (8 goals 3 assists, plus 3 goals 8 assists), but his most impressive feat was publicly backing Tayfun Korkut. Congrats, Julian, you’re a better man than I am. This season, Brandt’s right on pace with his XG Buildup and XG Chain numbers, to the point of having the exact same per 90 rates at 0.39 in XGB and 0.7 in XG. He’s also on track with 4 non penalty goals and 4 assists, despite taking a career low 1.38 shots per 90 thanks to some improved shooting locations and Leverkusen’s lethal counterattack, of which he’s a majort part of: Brandt’s been involved in 13 B04 goals, the most on his team just ahead of Bailey and Volland.
31 key passes is the fifth most in the league and a career best 2.38 per 90 for the 21-year-old, but he’s also in the top 15 in the league in dribbles attempted and succeeded with a 52% overall rate. He’s improved his duels from 37% to 41%, and thankfully his volume is down, as he now has a fair bit of help with the speedster Bailey or the combative Volland. He’s more or less doing everything a little better with a lightened load and a lot of the perceived selfishness of last season – which was probably 80% him needing to do too much vs 20% trying to do too much – is gone.
Amine Harit is another one for the surprises of the season category, but unlike Dennis Geiger, the 20-year-old was a well-known prospect amongst scouting aficionados. Coming from a street footballing and swimming (!!!) background, the young Harit was always an outstanding talent (he was influential in the 2016 U19 Euros win, creating numerous chances for RB Leipzig’s Jean-Kevin Augustin), but questions about his position, size and his attitude surfaced. Yet, his dribbling was already unparalleled in his first ever pro season at Nantes, as the chart shows.
The 8 million Euro move to Schalke (advised by Ousmane Dembélé, the Bundesliga whisperer) seemed like a slight gamble that Schalke seems to take. Few expected such an immediate impact: in almost 1200 minutes, he’s putting up better raw (goals\assists) and advanced numbers (XG + plus all the per 90 metrics) in the Bundesliga than in Ligue 1. He’s basically a one man dribbling show, succeeding at the second highest percentage of dribbles inches behind Kingsley Coman. Aside from also winning half of his ground challenges on massive volume, Harit’s biggest impact is the ability to draw a foul anytime anywhere: His 3 fouls that lead to penalties are already tied with the best mark in the 16\17 season, and his league best 58 fouls drawn are already 4 more than Ousmane Dembélé had all of last season at Dortmund!
He is a versatile attacker, capable of playing on either wing and even as a no.8 in most systems and can always create something out of nothing. Due to his dribbling, he’s almost always able to get off at least a good shot from open play – a 0.19 XG\ shot from open play is just a touch below the likes of Lewandowski (0.21) and Aubameyang (0.25), though obviously the sample size is about 13 shots for Harit vs 50 for those other two giants. For comparison, Dortmund Dembouz was at 0.1 XG on 51 shots, but created 47 key passes from open play. And, Harit’s also got the skill to create a key pass (19 from open play) or an assist at will.His ability to impact games like the Revierderby, where he was fouled six times and together with Goretzka lead a comeback for the ages, or just hold on to the ball and draw fouls like vs Leipzig is incredibly important to Schalke. For those reasons, he’s an easy choice as the last non-forward on the 2nd team!
Forwards – aka the Heerenveen connection!
Mark Uth has the second best kicker grade with 2.81 among Bundesliga forwards behind Robert Lewandowski and that’s not surprising considering his 9 goal Hinrunde is already his Bundesliga career best. This year, a lot of his numbers are actually similar to Timo Werner, and their last 3 years are fairly comparable.
For what it’s worth, Werner’s probably the more complete\dangerous player, but all of their other metrics – averaging around 32% on 18\6 duels attempted\won with identical dribbles and key passes and ever their shots taken are eerily similar. No one’s suggesting that people should be paying 100 million for Uth (12m Transfermarkt value), who is 5 years older than Werner (60m Transfermarkt value), but there’s reasonable evidence that for the last couple years, their output has been close. But while much has been written about the Germany and Leipzig star’s rise, Uth remains an underappreciated if not even unknown Bundesliga forward. So, who is Mark Uth?
Despite 24 goals in 26 games at the U19 level, the now 26-year-old Cologne native never actually made an appearance for Effzeh’s first team, as a striker logjam (Lukas Podolski, Milivoje Novakovic) forced him (and Simon Terodde and Nürnberg’s Mikael Ishak) to move to Holland. While it looks strange to have let him go in retrospect, an 18 goal haul from club legend and Germany superstar Lukas Podolski, who was a more complete, better passing\scoring version of Uth and even he couldn’t save the club from relegation. And let’s keep in mind that Uth was 20 at the time with a record of 16 goals in 41 Regionalliga matches for Cologne’s reserves battling against the likes of Marcel Halstenberg of BVB II.
At Heerenveen things were once again not easy and Uth played for the U21 for much of his first year before a lone start against Heracles Almelo, a team that he later joined on loan. A haul of 8 goals in 2100 minutes for Heracles was a nice season for Uth, and Heerenveen needed a striker, because in the summer of 2014 they sold 29 goal Eredivisie top scorer Alfred Finnbogason to Real Sociedad for 9 million Euros, quite the return on their 500k investment just 2 years ago! Uth stepped right into the Icelander’s big shoes and delivered 20 goals (15 in the league + 5 in Europa league playoffs) and 11 assists in his 2014\15 season, earning him a return to the Bundesliga at age 23.
The rest, as they say is history, as he’s blossomed under Julian Nagelsmann, scoring 23 times in 51 Bundesliga matches!
His former Heerenveen teammate Alfred Finnbogason has had an even better Hinrunde than Uth, and we’re not just talking about his 11 goals to the Hoffenheimer’s 9, though 11 goals is one more than the Icelander has had in his last two Augsburg season’s combined. After making the switch to La Liga, the Icelander was expected to fill the shoes of Antoine Griezmann who had left for Atletico , to say nothing of the legend that is Haris Seferovic who moved from Real Sociedad to Frankfurt. It just didn’t work out and after just 785 minutes in his first season, David Moyes didn’t seem to want him, opting for Jonathas of Hannover 96, and the Icelander endured a loan spell to Olympiacos, scoring just 2 goals in 13 matches, with his goal against Arsenal leaving fond memories for Greek fans! Yet, after six months, he moved to Augsburg in the winter break and 7 goals in 14 games for Markus Weinzierl were enough to convince FCA to make the move permanent. Yet, just as things were finally starting to get easier for him, a pelvic injury suffered in October 2016 would ruin his season, costing him 16 games. He witnessed a miserable Augsburg season where Dirk Schuster was fired and replaced by Manuel Baum and the team floundered in 16th, before a 4-0 demolition of HSV and some key late draws against an impressive trio of Gladbach\BVB and TSG saved them from the relegation playoffs by a single point. Coming into this year, there was about as much as faith in Finnbogason as there was in FCA, which most experts had picked for 18th. He was 28, on his seventh club and it had looked like injuries ruined his career – he was ranked 45th by Instat among forwards, barely ahead of luminaries like Sven Schipplock and Pierre-Michel Lasogga! But, as you know, experts are wrong quite often. The Icelander has had a historic season and he’s in the top 5-10 in every attacking category: 13 goals and assists, 11 total goals, 8 non penalty goals, sixth in shots, third in shots on target, top 10 in duels, attacking and aerial (though he wins just 27 and 19% respectively), third in XG Chain and 8th in key passes!
Let’s hope his Achilles injury isn’t anything serious, because he’s been a joy to watch. Back with the first team All Bundesliga picks soon!