Top 20 of the Hinrunde 2015/16 – Part 4

We wrap up the Hinrunde 2015/15 top 20 players in this final post. A couple of these pick might surprise you. The others you were hopefully able to guess.

If you missed the posts in this series, first read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Want to sound off on our final choices?

5. Timo Horn

Since their most-recent return to Germany’s top flight, 1. FC Köln have remained firmly planted in the middle-third of the table, with only the briefest of dips below or leaps above. While there is credit to spread around the front office and touchline for an uncharacteristically calm atmosphere around the club known for off-pitch turbulence, no single player has played a bigger role in the Billy Goats’ consistency than their budding star of a goalkeeper.

Horn is actually conceding goals (21, at the break) at a slightly faster pace than he last season (38). He’s also on pace to collect fewer clean sheets (five, so far) than he did last season (13). This might seem an argument for regression, but once you learn that Köln started the season having turned over 75% of it’s defensive row from the start of last season, including going with two central defenders who’d joined the club over the summer, you might imagine that Horn has faced a lot more big chances than he did last season when he played behind the same four defenders from the season before.

But forget the stats. Forget the personnel changes. Forget the rumours of Jürgen Klopp coveting Horn for his long-term plans at Liverpool FC. All you need to know is that Timo Horn routinely keeps his team in matches by making a few huge stops that you wouldn’t necessarily expect even a quality keeper to make. With Horn between the sticks, the FC always have a chance. That’s all you can ever hope to get from your last line of defence.

4. Loris Karius

Probably the surprising pick of this particular piece, or even the whole series. Mainz 05’s keeper, Loris Karius has come of age this Hinrunde, sometimes single-handedly keeping his side in matches. Before you smash your screen glass in disbelief at this pick, hear us out. More than any keeper, Karius has done the most with that circumstances required from him.

Let’s compare him with Neuer. Sure, the Bayern star has far more clean sheets (11 to 4), fewer goals conceded (8 to 23), or even greater passing “distribution accuracy (88% to 59%). However, the truth emerges when you realize that Karius makes 2.09 saves per goal conceded to Neuer’s 2.38. Okay. But consider that Karius has made 48 saves to Neuer’s 19. See? Karius has many many more chances to screw up compared with Neuer, yet his saves per goal ratio is remarkable close to Neuer’s, who is supported by Bayern’s Euro-best defence. Indeed, in all other “count stats” (punches, catches, etc.) Karius has had to do more than Neuer. That is, all else being equal on the pitch, Karius put in the Bundesliga’s superior keeper performance of the Hinrunde. More than the likes of Malli, Muto, or Bell, Mainz owe their top half table position to their stick-guarder.

3. Robert Lewandowski

He may not necessarily been a dream signing for Pep, but ever since he joined Bayern München Robert Lewandowski has been scoring left, right and centre. This Hinrunde has been his best in the Bundesliga in terms of goal exploits. 15 goals and 3 assists in 1311 minutes spent on the pitch means that the Pole hits the back of the net every 87 minutes on average.

Lewandowski made headlines all around the world when he smashed Michael Tönnies record for scoring the quickest hattrick in the Bundesliga. In the game against Wolfsburg the 27-year-old managed to get three goals in under 5 minutes and 5 goals in under 10 minutes, making him historic. The Pole’s ball control, his ability to drop deep and to get involved in the attack at an early stage, his ability to pick the right run – all of those skills make him one of the best striker’s in the Bundesliga and in the world right now.

2. Pierre-Emrick Aubameyang

Hail Prince Auba, the Bundesliga’s Hinrunde goal-scoring champ (18 league goals)! Over the Hinrunde, the world’s fastest player steadily climbed up the league’s goal-scoring chart, surpassing Lewandowski and Müller. In all competitions, the Gabonese international – and African Player of the Year to boot – has scored 24 goals. Although his 16 goals under Klopp’s BVB from a season ago wasn’t bad, under Tuchel he’s already surpassed this total in half the time.

What happened? Well, Auba became the feature forward in BVB’s lineup, starting every match as the main forward, oftentimes flanked by Mkhitaryan and Reus. The interplay between these three plus Kagawa and sometimes Gündogan in the final 3rd means that Auba always gets his shot attempts (4 per match, 2nd most in the league just after Lewandowski). Auba even has 4 assists 18 chances created for teammates (contrasted with 0 and 2 for Lewa). Additionally, the speedster has improved his passing game this season, completing 70% of passes (13.47m by average), most in the final 3rd amid BVB’s interlacing attacking play. However, if there’s a knock against Auba it’s not he still a bit wasteful: 58% shooting accuracy with – here’s the kicker – 87% of his shots occurring inside the box. It’s not like he’s flinging wild attempts from 30m. For instance, with more accuracy (or luck?), Auba could easily have another 5 Bundesliga goals to his account.

1. Thomas Müller

21 goals in 22 games in all competitions for Bayern says it all for Müller. There’s little doubt that the Raumdeuter is having the best season so far in his career. In the Bundesliga, Müller has already managed to blow past his former personal record scoring 13 goals, which he did in 4 of the 7 seasons prior to this one, in one season. On the one hand, Müller is the sort of loveable scamp who makes Bayern seem more human due to his uncomplicated fun persona, but on the other hand, he’s the weapon employed by them that brings doom and destruction to most of the Bavarians opponents.

His ability to find space, his acute sense of finding the right spot in the box and his finishing skills are second to none. The fact that Müller has been involved in 164 of Bayern’s goals over the last 8 seasons is simply incredible. Müller gets the edge over Aubameyang for his almost equal goal production on far fewer chances, but especially for all the other elements he adds to Bayern’s attack, like his 37 (!) chances created for teammates, more precise passing work, and defensive work during Bayern’s high press.

It seems like the 25-year-old has been around forever, but right now there’s little doubt his career is going to last at least a few more seasons. Even though he might be the best player of the 2015/16 Hinrunde, there’s a sense that we haven’t seen the best of him yet this season. Amazing.

Let’s hear what you got in the comments section below.
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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.