Despite Bayern’s domestic dominance grabbing most of the headlines in recent seasons the Bundesliga is and has always been full of surprises. Be it the sheer volatility of the league standings, the dramatic last-minute winners or the neck and neck relegation battles, Germany’s top flight has provided us with plenty of drama over the years. But this season the surprise factor went on a little further. With the so-called big teams, par Bayern, struggling to live up to expectations teams who were either battling relegation last season or are new to the league took this opportunity to turn the league on its head. Here we take a look at the four teams who have overachieved in the Hinrunde. Honorable mentions who didn’t quite make this list are 1.FC Koln and SCFreiburg who are sitting 7th and 8th consecutively in the league during the winter break.
Germany’s most hated club has provided the biggest surprise and some of the best entertainment in the Bundesliga. Composed of young players with average age of a little over 24, Ralph Hasenhüttl ’s men grabbed all the attention when they overtook Bayern at the top of the table, after the Bavarians’ 1-0 loss to BVB. They have swept aside teams like Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04. With young Germany talent Timo Werner leading the front line, Swedish international Emile Forsberg providing the creativity and Naby Kieta commanding the midfield the East German club managed to claim the nickname ‘The German Leicester’.
Even though they lost 3-0 on Match Day 16 to Bayern Munich, the club run by the Energy drink manufacturer Red Bull, are expected to bounce back in the second half of the season by flexing their financial muscle and strengthening their squad during the January transfer window.
Leipzig are now in second place with 36 points, only 3 points behind Carlo Ancelotti’s men. They have managed to score 31 goals in 16 games, only bettered by Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. Top scorer Werner, 20,has nine goals in 14 starts and two substitute appearances, only four less than he scored in 95 league matches when playing for VfB Stuttgart.
After Hertha Berlin’s 2-0 win over Darmstadt on MatchDay 16 Ivorian striker Solomon Kalou reiterated that the team was in 3rd place last season at the winter break, the same place they occupy now, showing that the club’s performance was no fluke.
In truth very few people, at the start of the season, expected Hertha to be where they are now, especially being unable to play their way into Europa League group [lay last summer, but Paul Dardai’s troops have kept on climbing the table. Whether they will be able to sustain their current position come May will remain to be seen but one thing is for sure this is a team that can never be taken lightly.
The Capital club has 30 points from 16 games, and are in every game, with their biggest margin of defeat a 3-0 loss at Bayern Munich. They have never had a losing streak of more than two matches, and despite mainstay Kalou absent with injury early in the season, the club has been consistent and effective.
Niko Kovac has truly worked his magic! A team that survived relegation by the skin of their teeth in the last season now occupy a Champions league place in January. One of the main reasons for their success has been their formidable home form especially against the big sides. They have managed to beat Tuchel’s Dortmund 2-1 while drawing 2-2 with Bayern at the Kommerzbank Arena.
Another reason is how Kovac managed to bring the best out of the players at his disposal. Branimir Hrgota has been a revelation. The former Gladbach man has found his scoring feet under his new manager. He signed off the Hinrunde with a brace and a man of the match performance vs Mainz. Mexican international Marco Fabian is also among the consistent performers for this side, while American back Timothy Chandler is having the best season of his career and the team is proving that it isn’t solely reliant on club legend Alex Meier for offense.
Eintracht Frankfurt have the second best defence in the league so far this season conceding only 12 goals in 16 games. They sit in fourth only a point behind Hertha Berlin.
Julian Naglesmann is not only the youngest manager in the Bundesliga at 29 years of age; he is also one of the brightest. His team is a joy to watch and how he managed to turn a side heading for relegation and looking like a weekly trainwreck a year ago into the only unbeaten Bundesliga side during the Hinrunde is quite remarkable.
Since he took over last winter at Hoffenhiem, succeeding Huub Stevens who stepped down because of illness,the former Hoffenheim youth team coach has seen only Bayern and Dortmund earning more points than his side. Not bad for a manager who is younger than 88 players in the league, ha?
From defensive stability to attacking flair Naglesmann has created one of the most exciting teams in Europe with some of the most interesting young talents like Niklas Sule and Jermey Toljan.
With six wins, ten draws and no defeats the lower Saxony club sit in 5th place above no other than Borussia Dortmund.
Here is hoping for more surprises and thrills in the second half of the season!