The countdown of our choices for top 25 players of the 2014-15 Bundesliga season continues with a attacker-heavy section, and the one defender in this section adds a few goals every year. David Morris joins the fun in this section, too.
10. Bas Dost (VfL Wolfsburg)
Ever since his arrival in Wolfsburg the Dutchman had failed to live up to the expectations the fans of the Wolves and the officials at the club had. However, after two and a half wasted years, the Magath signings finally turned things around in the second half of the season.
Dost had to spend most of the Hinrunde on the bench, having to watch the disaster that is Nicklas Bendtner. However, coach Dieter Hecking decided to give Dost a new chance towards the end of the of the first half series and he and Wolfsburg were rewarded by Dost scoring two goals.
After the winter break all inhibitions were gone from Dost’s play and the striker finally managed to show why Wolfsburg had bought him all those years ago. 11 goals from the first six matches of the Rückrunde saw Dost being the most effective striker in Europe during the month of February.
Three more goals followed towards the end of the season, which meant that Dost would finish the season on 16 goals after only 21 matches on the pitch. Both the striker and his team crowned their season when they won the DFB Pokal at the end of May. The Dutchman was, of course, among the scorers during Wolfsburg’s 3-1 win over Borussia Dortmund.
What has been especially impressive about Dost’s season is how effective the striker has been when given the chance in front of goal. The 26-year-old needed only 2.7 shots per goal and got on the score sheet every 95 minutes. Top scorer Alex Meier spent 119 minutes on the pitch per goal and needed 4.1 shots per goal, and Bayern’s top scorer Arjen Robben needed to be 98 minutes on the pitch per goal and needed more than 5 shots to get the ball past the opposing keepers. (Niklas Wildhagen)
9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Lewandowski scores goals- it’s as simple as that. After four goal-filled seasons with Dortmund his signature was one of the most keenly fought-after last summer when he let it be known that he would not be staying with BVB after his contract expired.
That Bayern Munich won the race to sign him came as no surprise, and the fact that he settled so quickly at the Allianz Arena was also to be expected. The pressure though was certainly on the 26-year-old Pole with the huge expectations of the Bavarian public, but he more than delivered this season bagging 17 goals in 31 Bundesliga appearances.
Of his 17 strikes, the one that lives longest in the memory is his effort from April as Bayern beat Eintracht Frankfurt 3-0. Latching onto a flick-on from Thomas Müller, Lewandowski clipped the ball over a bemused defender’s head before hammering an unstoppable shot past Kevin Trapp and into the top left-hand corner from just inside the box. Stunning!
He will be irked that he lost his Torschützenkönig crown to Alex Meier, who finished with two goals more. His quality was also on display in spades during Bayern’s Champions League semi-final second-leg with Barcelona when, with the tie beyond them, Lewandowski put it a fantastic performance to secure a morale-boosting win scoring a fabulous goal to boot.
The absence of Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery through injuries may have had a bearing on the supply lines to the prolific Pole, but regardless, ‘Lewa’ had a great season for the Bavarians and the scary thing for Bundesliga defenders is there is plenty more where that came from. (Randall G. Hauk)
8. Naldo (VfL Wolfsburg)
While Kevin De Bruyne’s assists and Bas Dost’s goals grabbed most of the headlines for Wolfsburg this season as they finished runners-up to Bayern Munich, the defensive lynchpin of Naldo was just as important to the success of ‘die Wölfe’.
Ronaldo Aparecido Rodrigues to give him his full name missed just two league games this season and chipped in with seven goals (only Dost and De Bruyne scored more for Dieter Hecking’s side.) Aerially dominant, the Brazilian won more than his fair share of headers inside his own penalty box, (overall he won 70% of his aerial duals) and as his goal scoring record shows, he is one of the Bundesliga’s most dangerous defenders inside the opposition penalty area.
At 32 he is no spring chicken, but this season has shown that the experience he’s gained over his time in the German top flight gives him a distinct advantage over youth.
His fine season was capped with a win in the DFB Pokal final (his second) and it was his free-kick effort that was parried by Dortmund keeper Mitchell Langerak to the feet of Luiz Gustavo who equalised. (Mathew Burt)
7. Thomas Müller (Bayern Munich)
A man commonly known for his low socks and customary wink at the camera, it is often overlooked how good a player Thomas Müller is.
As anyone who watches him frequently will attest to, however, Müller is fast becoming one of the Bundesliga’s leading lights. This season has been a case of more of the same. While the likes of Arjen Robben, Manuel Neuer and David Alaba have been heralded as Bayern Munich’s stars of the season, the 25-year-old has gone about his business quietly, but incredibly efficiently.
With 13 Bundesliga goals and 14 assists to his name in the 2014-2015 campaign, Müller played an integral part in Bayern’s march to their latest Bundesliga title. Only five players found the net more times than Müller, while he recorded the third most assists in Germany’s top flight. Impressive stuff from a man happy to let others make the headlines.
This shouldn’t though take away from what has been yet another remarkably consistent campaign for the attacker. Whether used as the focal point of the attack, or as one of its supporting members, Müller is happy to do a job for the team – A fantastic job it is too.
It is staggering to think that Bayern star is still only 25. This season saw him pass 300 games for Bayern, and in his time at the club he has recorded more than a goal and an assist every three games.
Such statistics come as no surprise to those who watch Müller frequently, but it is a shame that he remains criminally underrated on a wider scale, when in fact, he is arguably one of the finest footballers in the game at the moment. (David Morris)
6. Zlatko Junuzovic (Werder Bremen)
The outpouring of joy from Werder Bremen fans following the announcement that Junuzovic had signed a new contract at the Weser Stadion is an indication of the value he brings to the Grün-Weißen. This season has seen the Austrian midfielder’s stock rise considerably and he has arguably been the club’s Player of the Season.
With six goals and 12 assists to his name, his contribution to redeeming Werder’s season after an appalling Hinrunde is up there with the best of them. His set-piece ability was one of Werder’s best weapons. Any free-kick conceded within sniffing distance of the goal and you just knew that Juno would deliver.
Five of his goals came from direct free-kicks and statistically he had the highest conversion rate from direct set-pieces across Europe’s top leagues (22.73%) putting him ahead of the likes of Memphis Depay, Christian Eriksen and Lasse Schöne.
Werder scored 50 goals this season and the 27-year-old was directly involved in 18 of them either as scorer or provider- impressive stats in anyone’s book.
Junuzovic though is far from being a one-trick pony with just a lethal free-kick in his locker. He has contributed in defence with aplomb averaging 3.8 tackles and interceptions per game showing that he is not afraid of getting stuck in when needed. His leadership skills have also seen Viktor Skripnik hand him the captain’s armband on a few occasions this season.
The word ‘under-rated’ has often been used in relation to the midfield maestro- surely that is now a thing of the past? Werder’s best player? Yes. Werder’s best piece of business last season? Extending Junuzovic’ contract until 2018. (Mathew Burt)