Willkommen! The Bundesliga is back (even if it’s going away for a completely inconvenient international break) and that means it’s time to get excited. It’s the time of the year when everyone’s talking themselves into something: For non-Bayern teams, it’s Carlo Ancelotti’s less than stellar league record – three domestic titles in Italy in 18 years, despite managing Juventus and AC Milan – that gives a flicker of hope. For last year’s biggest threat in Borussia Dortmund, the summer narrative has gone from bitter disappointment at the loss of three stars to one of growing optimism after BVB shelled out over 100 million Euros.
Many, including Hertha coach Pál Dárdai are drinking the Leverkusen Kool-Aid, as die Werkself added Julian Baumgartlinger and Kevin Volland to an already deep squad. A full season of Andre Schubert and some better injury luck (such as not having to use 14 different combinations of center backs) has Gladbach fans think that the Foals have at least a puncher’s chance. Schalke and Wolfsburg are retooling: the Royal Blues poached long-time Mainz sporting director Christian Heidel and hired Augsburg’s Markus Weinzierl to lead them to the promised land. Wolfsburg added Daniel Didavi and Jakub Blaszczykowski among others, and Naldo’s move from die Wölfe to Gelsenkirchen is also notable. With Leroy Sané and André Schürrle leaving the two clubs for hefty sums, both could reinvest and perhaps believe in the addition by subtraction mantra.
The Europa League hopefuls Hertha (who have already been bounced out by Brøndby) kept their squad together, while Mainz lost the aforementioned Baumgartlinger and goalie Loris Karius (to Liverpool). The 05ers had a record-breaking summer, spending over 20 million on replacements, of which Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Levin Öztunali are the most noteworthy. Hamburg have one-upped them, as billionaire businessman Klaus Michael Kühne has once again injected 50 million into his favorite club. (For more on the ethics of the deal, and Kühne check out this post). With the additions of Filip Kostic, Bobby Wood and Alen Halilovic, fans of der Dino are dreaming of lightning-quick counters and perhaps the Europa League. Cologne have also bolstered their squad with solid veterans (Koka Rausch, Marco Höger and Hamburg’s Artjoms Rudnevs) while only losing Yannick Gerhardt, and should be in the mix for a European spot if things go well. Hoffenheim, one of the best five Bundesliga teams since Julian Nagelsmann took over in February, crushed the transfer market with smart and cheap signings (Benjamin Hübner, Lukas Rupp, Sandro Wagner, etc.). RB Leipzig have finally arrived in the Bundesliga, and you can bet your last energy drink that Ralf Rangnick has a plan for them, given the investment of hundreds of millions of Euros and the nine years it took for them to make it this far. Beyond them, the landscape is bleak: Werder are hoping that Claudio Pizarro can bring it for another year, and a retooled defense can’t be worse than last year! Eintracht are similarly pinning their hopes on another injury-prone Bundesliga legend in Alex Meier, while Augsburg’s ageing squad is now led by Dirk Schuster. The former Darmstadt manager was the first domino to fall, starting a mass exodus (the Lilies would line up with EIGHT new starters on matchday one!) that could lead them to the Zweite Liga. Ingolstadt also lost their coach and leader in Ralph Hasenhüttl and will look to avoid relegation, as will Christian Streich and 2. Liga champs Freiburg.
But enough! Let us leave the Land of Hope and Dreams and dive right into the cold hard reality of Matchday one of the Bundesliga, starting with our first Team of the Week of 2016/17!
Rene Adler – HSV was untroubled by the signing of Darmstadt keeper Christian Mathenia, as he made four saves, including a crucial one on Pascal Groß who had faked Cléber completely out of his boots. Adler apparently also thought that Hamburg’s attack needed his help – and HSV ending up with EIGHT shots certainly proved him right – so he decided to assist on Bobby Wood’s debut goal via a good old-fashioned Route 1 long ball! At this point, we half-expected him to keep out the Ingolstadt goal, as Cléber banged the ball right at Lukas Hinterseer standing on the goal line…
Oliver Baumann and Bernd Leno are the other two candidates for this week, with the former responsible for holding RB Leipzig to just two goals on 23 shots, and the latter saving face, quite literally, against Gladbach. Ralf Fährmann was also the only thing that kept Schalke from losing 3-0 in Frankfurt!
Philipp Lahm – Bayern needed just 73 minutes to rack up five key passes, and a brilliant goal in the demolition of Werder. Easy-Peasy! Apologies to MediaMarkt’s answer to Philipp Lahm, aka Tobias Levels of Ingolstadt who was the hub for die Schänzer on the right side.
Markus Suttner – Ingolstadt put in eight crosses against Hamburg, and was immense in their buildup play as you can see from 11tegen11′s passing maps.
The 29-year-old added two key passes and four clearances in defense, and arguably had a big role in keeping Nico Müller (Hamburg’s best player) to an astoundingly bad SEVEN completed passes! Apologies to Marvin Plattenhardt of Hertha, Jonas Hector of Cologne and Ricardo Rodriguez of Wolfsburg.
3. David Abraham – Eintracht Frankfurt was an absolute rock for die Adler in their surprisingly dominant home win over Schalke. The Argentine had a monster game with 95% passing, seven aerials, seven clearances and four interceptions, holding Schalke to just eleven shots! It’s all the more impressive considering his CB partner Michael Hector got sent off again…
4. John Anthony Brooks – Hertha put up 91% accuracy on 95 touches against Freiburg, but was more impressive in defense. His partner Sebastian Langkamp and his CDM the foul-happy Fabian Lustenberger would get beat occasionally, but the American was everywhere with four tackles, three interceptions and flawless positioning.
5. Dominik Kaiser – Leipzig was a true captain for his side against Hoffenheim in a highly-entertaining 2-2 draw. The 27-year-old had six shots, three on target and one hitting the post.
He was everywhere on Sunday, sometimes the furthest player up the pitch, as he even put in eight crosses with two key passes for RBL.
6. Leonardo Bittencourt – Cologne started the Bundesliga season brightly with five shots, two key passes and four fouls earned against an overmatched Darmstadt side. The 22-year-old was also very active in defense with three tackles and three fouls. The former Dortmund man has the propensity for stringing a few of these games together, and fans of the Billy Goats will hope that he can find some consistency.
7. André Schürrle – Dortmund had the game of his life with seven shots and six key passes. While Schürrle has always put solid shot numbers, he had just 26 key passes all of last season, so either this was a major fluke or they should just give Thomas Tuchel the coach of the year award. He essentially had both assists, as his Messiesque laser found Auba at the back post in the first before winning the penalty for the second BVB goal. Four of four crosses were accurate, and as we think of Ousmane Dembele adding eight, we see the different wing-heavy approach that Dortmund are bringing to the Bundesliga this year mostly out of necessity (losing Gündogan, Hummels and Mkhitaryan). Will be interesting to see if Schürrle can keep up his strong level of play.
8. Raffael – Gladbach continues to be the most underappreciated player in the Bundesliga. If he played in La Liga, everyone would be talking about him as just below the Messi level stars (Kroos, Modric, Suarez, Iniesta, Griezmann etc.) Four shots, three on target and three key passes and three dribbles probably understate his impact, especially if you have ever seen the Foals play without him.
9. Robert Lewandowski – Bayern The Munich slaughter-house aka the Allianz Arena witnessed the Bayern train roll 27 shots up on Werder, 22 of them from inside the box and 14 of them reaching the target, nearly doubling last year’s average of 7.7. That included Lewandowski posting a Messi/Ronaldo level line of twelve shots and getting six on target! It’s hard to criticize someone with a hat-trick, but Lewy really should’ve had four or five on Friday…
10. Thomas Müller – Bayern was the man responsible for several of Lewandowski’s goals, as die Raumdeuter collected three assists. When they make the definition of “did everything but scored” in the dictionary, they should just put this game’s footage there. Six shots, four key passes and three helpers!
11. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Dortmund took his chances well, and ended up with a brace on four shots, but the most shocking thing was the 92% pass accuracy, albeit on twelve passes. Despite being isolated up top, due to Dortmund’s poor buildup (until Weigl was brought on, things looked quite dismal) Auba never stopped working and seems to have a great connection with Dembele and Schürrle already.
Apologies to Pascal Groß, Mijat Gacinovic, Marcel Risse, Thiago, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels, Sokratis, Marcel Sabitzer, Genki Haraguchi and anyone else we forgot!
Thanks for reading, and as always let us know what you think by dropping a comment!
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