MD 4 Roundup and Team of the Week

The Bundesliga’s first Englische Woche of the season was an excellent test for several of our early season takeaways. The midweek games of the Bundesliga, spread out over two days resulted in 22 goals split evenly, and gave some resounding answers to several questions. Bayern and Dortmund erased what littlde doubts people may have had about them, with the Bavarians putting on a Pep Guardiolaesque masterclass against the Darida-less Hertha, while BVB showed clinical finishing in a thrilling away match in Wolfsburg. Cologne and Eintracht have confirmed our suspicions of being excellent defensive teams with timely offensive contributions from Anthony AIR Modeste and a couple of defenders to get themselves into the conversation for third place. Saturday’s upcoming match between die Adler and Hertha will be a good barometer for the home side, while the Berlin club will try to rebound from the Munich thumping. RB Leipzig and Gladbach played a high-intensity draw that saw both sides struggle to create chances, with Timo Werner and Fabian Johnson each capitalizing on one of them. rblvbmg

As a side note, on one hand it’s a testament to Leipzig’s frantic defensive press under Ralph Hasenhüttl that A) they have conceded just 36 shots or nine per match in four games and B) they allowed just THREE to Gladbach, but on the other hand averaging a shade over NINE shots per match, or 37 in four games total, is a concern for Andre Schubert and Gladbach.

Mainz and Freiburg got a couple of very important wins over two fallen Northern giants at the bottom of the table in Werder and HSV, but while Christian Streich’s team dominated Bruno Labbadia’s, the men of Martin Schmidt were losing until the 87th minute against Werder interim manager Alexander Nouri.

The next three teams at 9, 10, 11 are in the “is it too early to be disappointed?” group. Hoffenheim seemed to have thrown away two more points, earning their fourth straight draw against the fighting Lilies of Darmstadt. Julian Nagelsmann “Hamburg’s Knight in Shining Armor” fielded another funky lineup: starting his third and fourth choice central defenders, after losing Niklas Süle to injury and benching Fabian Schär for his atrocious display vs. Mainz. He had the two youngsters, the exciting Nadiem Amiri and everyone’s favorite sexist pig Kerim Demarbai in the center, while deploying his best CM Sebastian Rudy as right back. His usual right back Pavel Kaderabek was again deployed at left-back, probably because of the regular LB Jeremy Toljan stunk it up against Mainz and was left on the bench. Lukas Rupp who was one if his better players also started on the bench, and he took out goalscorer and their most talented player Andrej Kramaric on 54 minutes to replace him with Eduardo Vargas, who is yet to play a single minute this season. Confusing to say the least, or maybe he was trying to protect the lead as suggested with this passing map.

We should be also somewhat concerned about Wolfsburg’s hitherto solid defense collapsing against Dortmund, as the otherwise solid Jeffrey Bruma got torched by Aubameyang, while Ricardo Rodriguez, who did shut down Christian Pulisic, was put on his butt by Ousmane Dembele. Vieirinha as a defender continues to be one of the worst ideas in the Bundesliga, and the Maxi Arnold, Yannick Gerhardt pairing was offensively ineffective –  the nine shots Wolfsburg got on target was mostly a result of Julian Draxler and/or Bruno Henrique/Daniel Didavi, as the Arnold/Gerhardt duo had just one key pass on 93 combined touches,  (Julian Weigl had an uncharacteristically low 86 for BVB) – due to poor spacing.

Sadly, they did not help matters on defense, as they combined for more fouls with five than tackles, clearances and interceptions combined(three).  The Didavi knee injury, which will require surgery is another major blow for a team already without their preferred CM pairing of Josuha Guilavogui and Luiz Gustavo. At least they play Werder this weekend….

Leverkusen players not named Joel Pohjanpalo continued to struggle scoring, as Charles Aranguiz even missed a penalty and Augsburg’s Marwin Hitz came up with a massive save in the final minute to keep die Werkself scoreless. Interestingly, the two teams are tied with 48 shots each, or 12 apiece a far cry from Leverkusen’s averages of 14.5, 16.5, 14.3, and 16.3 in the last four seasons. Maintaining their FIVE shots on target per match average, which they have had for the last four seasons, on two-three fewer shots per match suggests that they are still getting quality chances, but are just not converting them in the short run. The XG maps from their last two matches so far confirm this trend, while the third one vs HSV was all Pohjanpalo.

Augsburg and Darmstadt are about where they are expected to be, with the Lilies scrapping for every point, despite playing some ugly ball with a very limited squad. Ingolstadt have probably been the unluckiest team in the league, as close matches against Hertha, Bayern and Eintracht resulted in three losses, where they arguably should’ve earned at least a draw in all of them.

The big three clubs at the bottom – Schalke, HSV, Werder have mostly themselves to blame for their miserable starts. Werder appeared to have responded well to firing their coach, but threw away another three points late, while Schalke’s sloppy defending, which cost them against Frankfurt, in the last ten minutes against Bayern, came back to bite them again vs. Cologne.

A schedule of Hoffenheim (Away), Gladbach (Home), Augburg (A), Mainz (H) followed by the Revierderby against Dortmund could land Markus Weinzierl on the hot seat very quickly, as the Royal Blues are off to their worst Bundesliga start ever.

Hamburg, despite actually having one more point than Werder and Schalke look like the worst team in the league. Their offense is anemic with 1.25 shots on target per match – for comparison Darmstadt were the worst side in the Bundesliga with 3.5 SOT/g last year. The Labbadia gone before October prediction might just come true this weekend if Bayern don’t take mercy on their former player. The speculation about his replacement has already brought up some fun names, from Andre Villas Boas, to Andre Breitenreiter to even Julian Nagelsmann.

So that’s the roundup of the midweek matches, now let’s see which eleven players made our Team of the Week!

1. Goalkeeper – Roman Bürki – Dortmund

It’s almost unheard of to select a goalkeeper whose side won 5-1 away from home, but Bürki was one of the keys to Dortmund overcoming Wolfsburg in what was a very close match – ridiculous scoreline notwithstanding.bvbvwolf

The former Freiburg man made eight saves., the most improbable one was this double-save that would make me retire if I were in Mario Gomez’ shoes.

Julian Draxler also tried to get the ball past five times Bürki but the Swiss netminder denied all three of his shots on goal.


2. Bastian Oczipka – Frankfurt earned four fouls and was the leading dribbler on his team with two in a rare offensive outburst. On defense, the veteran left back added three tackles, five interceptions and five clearances. Oh and that goal!

3. David Abraham – Frankfurt getting the name on the score sheet meant that both he and Oczipka scored goals in Eintracht’s third win of the season over Ingolstadt. To put that into perspective it took until Matchday 17 for Frankfurt to get its FOURTH win of the season last year! More importantly die Adler have only conceded two goals – a fluke 90th minute cross that found its way in by Sandro Sirigu of Darmstadt. The Frankfurt defense has been airtight, they lead the league in shots on target allowed at 2.5 per game and Abraham has been their best defender all year.

4. Frederik Sörensen Cologne – four tackles, ten clearances, a shot on target, plus three aerials won is more or less becoming standard for this combative right back from Denmark. It’s not surprising given his player dashboard that he is second in the league with 21 attempted tackles and 14 successful ones.


5. David Alaba – Bayern somehow making his first appearances, the Austrian left back was camped out in Hertha’s defensive third all game.alabahm

He had the assist on Ribery’s brilliant solo goal, and their chemistry is approaching Messi – Dani Alves levels. How many left-backs can  go 22 of 26 in attacking third passes? alabaa3


6.Raphael Guerreiro – Dortmund is quickly becoming the signing of the season for BVB, having moved from Lorient for 12 million Euros. Much like David Alaba at Bayern, the left-back position is too limiting for a player of his quality as noted by his coach Thomas Tuchel. Against Wolfsburg, not only did he open the scoring with a great run, but he added three key passes. Defensively, he was the leading tackler for BVB with four attemps.


Guerreiro was particularly effective in the attacking third as this picture suggests:


Or if you love videos, here’s one of his game against die Wölfe:

7. Thiago – Bayern – three shots, one goal, one assist 93% passing, three tackles on a whopping 142 touches. Another massive outing from the impressive Brazilian, who oozed class versus Berlin, but that did not stop him from getting a JJ Watt strip sack TD of a goal on poor Allan. He is also been a passing machine all year, ranking second in the league (behind Sokratis, the king of centerback to centerback passing) with 369.

8. Izet Hajrovic is finally giving Werder fans something to be hopeful about. The 25-year-old Bosnian opened the scoring with a plasmarocket, one of his 5 fives shots, but was also involved in the creating process with 3 key passes. 89% passing on 18 passes is quite decent as well. He spent last season on loan at Eibar after his move from Galatasaray has resulted in only 1000 minutes for Werder in over 2 years. Perhaps he should play more….

9. Franck Ribery – Bayern really had a better game this week than the three-assist performance last week. His goal was an obliteration of the Hertha defense, putting poor Peter Pekarik on his behind TWICE!



10.Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Dortmund showed while he and Robert Lewandowski are in a class by themselves versus Wolfsburg with two brilliant goals. The Gabonese striker finished the game with just 28 touches, but he got all three of his shots on target, and  his second goal was world-class. In three games, he has eight shots on the season, with four goals on an astronomical 75% shot accuracy and ludicrous 50% conversion rate.

11. Anthony Modeste – Cologne  goal and assist, two dribbles, two key passes, five aerials won and three fouls drawn as he continues to lead the Billy Goats. Part of the reason for his three goals is getting i in great positions: the Frenchman has taken 14 of his 16 shots inside the penalty area, second only to Robert Lewandowski, which I hear is a good thing.

Honorable mentions – Frankfurt’s Szabolcs Huszti, enjoying a renaissance as a CDM – 5 tackles and 5 interceptions, while Marco Fabian followed up his seven shot match with a four key pass, one assist peformance

#Grifoterritory is quickly overtaking the Pascal Groß memorial spot for long-range shooting, key pass excellence on a promoted team. Vinny G racked up six shots – two on target, including the winner that Adler bungled right to Nils Petersen – and four key passes in the Freiburg win over HSV. The downside is that he and teammate Max Philipp each have taken the most shots from outside the box with 13 – which is the least effective shot in the game…

Amir Abrashi was a monster in the middle, making six tackles, as Christian Streich made a nice adjustment to shore up the middle of the pitch that was gaping against Gladbach.

Yussuf Poulsen was a constant outlet with 10 aerials, while Timo Werner was a constant menace and has undergone a remarkable turnaround from Stuttgart flop to Germany’s next great striker talent.

Nabil Bentaleb put in a strong shift with 3 shots 4 kp and 3 fouls earned, plus a great ball for Huntelaar’s goal.

Sebastian Rudy – four key passes and an assist in a right back role for Hoffenheim with five interceptions as well.

Fabian Johnson – scored the equalizer goal late for Gladbach after hitting the crossbar in the first half. The American also added two tackles and two interceptions and should be a regular starter.

As always let us know in the comments section how you feel about the selections!

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Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid -90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Now, he's in the USA -- and still loving it all many years later. Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany, to the point that he even started a website about it, at Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and @BundesPL

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