The Bundesliga is on a quick turnaround with the “Englische Woche” coming up on Tuesday, meaning that some teams like Borussia Dortmund will have had about 75 hours between the end of their last fixture and the kickoff of Matchday Four! So, due to to time constraints we shall skip the extended look back at Matchday three (mostly because much of the earlier takeaways still stand) and just make a few observations. Cologne and RB Leipzig are for real and with the struggles of Schalke, Leverkusen, the Jekyll and Hyde – home/away performances of Gladbach, there is a decent chance that both could challenge for at least the European spots. I’m less convinced of Hertha, though their next few games (Bayern, then Eintracht + HSV) will tell a lot more about this team. The same goes for Dortmund – which might surprise a few people – but while demolishing two teams in four days is nice, it still doesn’t provide answers to the questionable buildup play and the lack of final third creativity. The Wolfsburg/Freiburg/Leverkusen matches will test Tuchel’s side from this aspect, though the play of Guerreiro and Pulisic has been encouraging to say the least. Bayern continued to not look impressive but got a fairly comfortable-looking win against Ingolstadt, who perhaps unfairly are in the 15th spot just above the relegation playoff spot. The three teams above them Augsburg, Darmstadt and Freiburg all took a step backwards and will have to watch their backs. Schalke and Leverkusen should turn things around, while, HSV and Werder are looking quite hopeless at the moment. The middle of the table features two surprisingly solid teams in Eintracht and Wolfsburg (given last year’s form) and a couple of goal-happy clubs in Mainz and Hoffenheim who finally got a clean sheet at the expense of failing to score. Onwards to the team of the week!
1.Oliver Baumann – Hoffenheim made NINE saves and will permanently haunt Mario Gomez after that display. While Timo Horn might have pulled off the double save of the season at 3-0, against Florian Niederlechner and stolen this award, Baumann gets it because his team needed all of his saves. After a miserable outing against Mainz, Baumann bounced back with an epic performance that was reminiscent of the Rückrunde of last season. The XG model of 11tegen11 shows how unlikely of a scoreless draw this was and Baumann was a major component of that.
2.Frederik Sörensen – Cologne led his team in key passes with three, added an assist to Modeste’s second goal – both unusual marks for the rugged RB. The Dane is always one of the more combative players in the Bundesliga, and he showed why, racking up three successful tackles (out of four attempted) and clearances with two interceptions against Freiburg. While Freiburg playmaker Vincenzo Grifo (who often drifted inside and up the pitch) was given some space by Sörensen and Marcel Risse to run the show with five key passes and three shots, the Cologne right side and their defense subscribed to the bend but don’t break philosophy, as they gave up 65% possession an 17 shots (many of them after 3-0), but no goals.
3.Rafinha – Bayern Munich continues to be one of the most underappreciated defenders in the Bundesliga. If there ever was a twelfth man of the year award (akin to the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year), the Brazilian would be a shoo-in. It’s incredibly unfair that Philipp Lahm, modern football’s greatest right back happens to be employed by the same team and at 33, is just two years older than him. The 31-year-old had himself quite a day versus Ingolstadt, putting in his usual 100+touches (105) with good passing accuracy – 84% is below his usual 90+ standard – but adding three key passes and getting his fourth ever goal for Bayern in 178 appearances. Of course, he made 208 appearances and scored 12 goals for Schalke (S04 opted to bring in a cheaper alternative in Atsuto Uchida, who has missed 102 games in five season and currently having to start Germany CB Benedikt Höwedes on the right), who let him go in 2010 at the age of 25…..
4.Sebastian Langkamp – Hertha BSC was massive in the win against Schalke, in what was a fairly ugly match. The Berlin club were missing their best defender in John Anthony Brooks, but the CB duo of Langkamp and Niklas Stark (four interceptions), with help from Fabian Lustenberger (3 for 3 in tackles) completely stifled the Schalke attack. I mean look at those shot locations!
Eleven clearances and 59 passes were also team highs for the 28-year-old, who shut down Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutchman somehow remained on the field for 90 minutes, despite a total of 22 touches and ZERO aerials won.
5.Ibrahima Traoré – Gladbach probably wants to play against Werder every game – but in fairness, who doesn’t? Nine dribbles, seven crosses attempted, four key passes and three fouls earned was his offensive output, but he also added four tackles and two interceptions in defense. He’s had an awesome start to the season (he won the ball back for Hazard’s goal against Freiburg) and is fitting in nicely as the right wing (back) in Schubert’s system. He leads the league with 26 attempted dribbles, as well as 16 successful ones. Versus Werder, Traoré reached the unofficial Dani Alves heatmap territory.
6.Mitchell Weiser – Hertha BSC not just for his superb goal or great assist, but the former Bayern man was the most active player on the pitch. The 22-year-old added four tackles and five interceptions alond with three dribbles and also earned four fouls against Schalke. The Hertha machine keeps on chugging and Weiser’s play on the right flank has been a big reason why.
7. Emil Forsberg – RB Leipzig got his first start in the Bundesliga, despite being arguably the most creative player for his team. The Swede repaid the faith in him by Ralph Hasenhüttl by running wild on HSV: a goal and two assists with three key passes plus five tackles. My Bundesliga Fanatic colleague Alex Lynch picked him as one of the breakout stars of the Bundesliga, and it’s easy to see why with these kind of matches. For more on Forsberg, the “anti-Zlatan” who was born to be a footballer and is married to one, check out this great profile from the Guardian.
8. Gonzalo Castro – Borussia Dortmund has had a miserable season so far, looking out of sorts in Dortmund’s opening two matches. Perhaps a ten-man Darmstadt was just what the doctor ordered, as the 29-year-old came up with the game of this life: 78 touches, two goals and an assist on four shots with three key passes. I could have picked just about any Dortmund player, as Emre Mor had a goal and five dribbles in 27 minutes, Adrian Ramos somehow got five of his 22 touches to be shots, Christian Pulisic (a goal and two assists) and Raphael Guerreiro combined for six shots, five key passes. I mean it was a game where Rode and Castro scored backheel goals from inside the six for crying out loud!
9.Thorgan Hazard – Gladbach two goals on six shots and four on target, as part of the first half onslaught that crippled Werder and resulted in the sacking of Viktor Skrypnyk. The other Hazard brother has had a scorching start to the season, having scored six goals in all competitions and has arguably been Gladbach’s best player so far. Perhaps he should be getting more playing time even at the expense of the usually reliable Lars Stindl or André Hahn…
10. Anthony AIR Modeste – Cologne two goals on five shots, plus six aerials won, and those aerials accounted for both of his goals. The big Frenchman has played 6044 minutes in his Bundesliga career, but has already scored 37 goals. Moreover, with his move to Cologne, he has seen a huge uptick in his shots per game numbers from 2.2 in the Hoffenheim days to 3.2 in his first season with the club last year, and now 4.7 so far in 2016/17. Another notable stat is Modeste getting 13 of his 14 shots from inside the penalty area. While he sometimes looks awkward on the pitch, and tends to be a shoot-first player, Effzeh are fortunate to have called his China bluff (or perhaps factors such as a contract that runs until 2019, the proximity to France and his young children also contributed in him staying) and are reaping some early benefits so far.
11. Timo Werner – RB Leipzig – started out on the bench, but became the hero of the match vs HSV, as he first earned a penalty (that Forsberg converted) then added two goals, as Hamburg were unable to deal with his pace. This often-erratic, but supremely talented 20-year-old has posted excellent shots numbers for VfB last season, but while he did manage six goals he was perhaps better-known for his misses. This year, he has already grabbed two in 221 minutes and his shots per game are up to 3.3. Many raised eyebrows when he moved to Leipzig in the summer for 10 million Euros, but given the club’s resources, philosophy and track-record of developing young players, the move could be a brilliant one for Werner, who has to be considered the preeminent German striker prospect at just 20.
Franck Ribery – three assists, Konstantinos – left foot bomber – Stafylidis, Marco Fabián – Eintracht Frankfurt with seven shots and the game winner, the aforementioned Dortmund players and several Ingolstadt players (Lezcano, Leckie) all deserved it. Jannik Vestergaard – if it weren’t for him falling asleep and letting Serge Gnabry run in behind him for a cracking goal and his teammate Raffael who needed just 45 minutes to score two, Willi Orban, Bernardo and Diego Demme of RBL all miss out unfortunately.
As always, let us know in the comments, if we missed someone, and/or if you disagree.