It’s been a while, liebe Fussballfreunden, but the Bundesliga returned from its winter break and that means the return of the much-anticipated, never duplicated, always appreciated Team of the Week!
If you wanted a theme for this weekend, it would be players who scored goals and also dominated games. Let’s get to the players:
Goalkeeper Again, this was not a great weekend for goalkeepers, as two of them (Drobny and Hradecky) got early showers for a couple of ridiculous challenges outside the box. Many others didn’t do much in terms of outstanding work (Thomas Kessler, Heinz Lindner and Rune Jarstein were tied for the most saves with five each) and it would feel wrong to give the award to someone like Heinz Lindner, a babyfaced 26-year-old who had to jump in for Eintracht and ended up making several outstanding saves yet still conceding three goals on the day. The best of the bunch was Michael Esser, who only made three saves for Darmstadt, but his stop on Raffael might be the save of the year.
— Kelly (@kellyroosve) January 23, 2017
In case you didn’t watch the goalless draw featuring two sides lacking in imagination (what you thought I would stop taking shots at Dieter Hecking, just because it’s a new year\new team?), the Darmstadt GK stoned Raffael who was given the ball on a silver platter by Jonas Hoffman of all people. It was clearly the biggest chance for Gladbach, as confirmed by the huge dot in the middle of 11tegen11’s XG map.
Week 17 provided probably the deepest selection of Bundesliga defenders worthy of TOTW glory, but alas there are only a few spots. There were several worthy candidates who put up excellent numbers against offensively challenged teams (looking at the RBL, Hoffenheim, BVB, B04 guys) so in the name of fairness I picked one of each.
Benjamin Henrichs is a household name in these parts, and the still only 19-year-old is making sure that Bundesliga fans know his name.
Defensively, he amassed TEN interceptions at right back and kept Hertha from creating chances on his side as the picture shows.
Offensively, he and Kimo Bellarabi were prominently involved in the attack, as the former attacking midfielder Henrichs earned five fouls alongside 82 touches (2nd most behind Kevin Kampl).
Amazingly, 48% of Leverkusen’s attacks came from the right side, compared to 27% in the middle and just 25% on the left and it’s thus no surprise that most of their open play chances were created by Henrichs and Bellarabi.
If this were a real starting XI, we would have to line Henrichs up at LB, where he has already made six appearances for Leverkusen this season, because we got Lukasz Piszczek, goalscoring defender, for Borussia Dortmund at right back. Piszczu took advantage of a strange lineup by Alexander Nouri that had nominal LB Santiago Garcia push very high up and almost occupying both his own position and that of the LW.
The situation was far from advantageous for Werder, as the positional graph above shows.
The other reason for that was one of the great strengths of Christian Pulisic, i.e. his defensive work, as the number of ball recoveries show. It all resulted in a lot of freedom for the Pole, who put in a defensive masterclass with seven interceptions and three of his four clearances coming in the box. But, the real reason for his inclusion was his offense: with 81 touches, Piszczek finished second on the team behind Shinji Kagawa (who by the way went 15\19 on passes in the first half and then exploded for 39 of 42 in the second half!!) and of course scoring the game winner to climb to second on the team in scoring (tied with Dembele) with four goals was just the cherry on top. Those four goals represent 25% of his career output, as he had scored twelve in 223 Bundesliga matches prior to the start of this season.
Marvin Compper also got on the score sheet for RB Leipzig, with his seventh career goal in his 175th Bundesliga match. Although he did get beaten once by Ante Rebic on a long run that was pretty much Eintracht’s only offensive moment of the match, Compper made up for it with his early goal from a great Marcel Halstenberg rebound and four clearances, four tackles and 55 of 63 passing.
Granted Frankfurt were playing with ten men for 88 minutes of this one, so take the following stat with #SALTBAE, but Eintracht were allowed just TWO deep completions (defined as passes completed within a 25 yard radius of the opposition’s goal) and Compper’s positioning and reading of the game accounted for a lot of that. Because of the ridiculous RB Leipzig season, it will probably get lost among the myriad of great storylines, but Marvin Compper pulling a Sandro Wagner (going from the butt of jokes to one of the best players at his positions) is a fascinating achievement.
Speaking of positioning and reading of the game, Schalke’s Naldo would like to have something to say. The oft-criticized veteran was basically owning the box vs Ingolstadt all day:
His efforts were very much-needed, as Ingolstadt almost doubled up Schalke in the attacking third passes department with 211 attempts to 108. It’s actually pretty amazing that despite all of that possession in the attacking third and the Brazilian making zero tackles, Naldo and co. were able to keep Ingolstadt to mostly long-range shots (with the rare exception of a funky cross that Fahrmann cleared and a late Matthew Leckie opportunity that the Aussie predictably failed to hit the target with).
Let’s stay with the Gelsenkirchen outfit with the first of our four midfielders in Leon Goretzka. Known as a talented young all-round midfielder, the 21-year-old showed off his offensive game on Saturday, attempting TEN take-ons and succeeding half the time, while also managing four shots (that volley in the first minute sizzled wide after Martin Hansen was rooted to the spot) and two key passes. Most of his dribbling took place in the middle of the park, which is absolutely vital in terms of pressing resistance against a side like Ingolstadt who are known for their pressing.
Of these take-ons six took place in the first half, with four succeeding (including a seventh minute rampage which ended in a penalty shout that was not answered) as Markus Weinzierl made an interesting tactical sub to bring in striker Guido Burgstaller for CDM Johannes Geis which ended up working out great, as the former Nürnberg striker scored the game-winner in the 93rd minute. It’s also worth mentioning that he owes Goretzka some money after a brilliant chip that Burgstaller wasted in the 69th minute, heading the ball wide from six yards out…
Hakan Calhanoglu is a player who should be on TOTW with some regularity for Leverkusen, but I’m having a hard time remembering him making it more than once this year. With the kind of performance on Sunday against Hertha Berlin – two goals on six shots, including FIVE on target! – that should change and it’s good news for fans of die Werkself. Much like the real estate clicle, what’s notable on the shots for Calha is LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.
For a guy who takes 63% of his shots from outside the box, this is extraordinary and one can only hope that it happens more often. The other notable number for Bayer was 28 – the number of deep completions with only two of the coming from crosses, both showing the great access to the danger zones that are so key to modern football. With a fully functioning Calhanoglu scoring goals, Bellarabi and Henrichs owning the right side, Julian Brandt schooling kids with his dribbling and Kevin Kampl doing Kevin Kampl things Leverkusen just might get out of their funk.
Thorgan Hazard and Gladbach could probably do with some of that advice as well, as BMG once again failed to get three points on the road, though not because of the Belgian. Hazard was just inches away from scoring, as the post kept out his shot after completely fooling two Darmstadt defenders, as he completed six of his ten attempted dribbles.
The other interesting development was the deployment of hitherto little-used Jonas Hofmann in the right half space, as Hazard occupied the left half space, with the former BVB man attempting eight take-ons. While the results were far from ideal, the process was promising: Gladbach attempted just eleven crosses, with three of these coming from set pieces. Perhaps an old dog like crossmaster Hecking can learn some new tricks after all?
Nadiem Amiri continues his and Hoffenheim’s assault on the league with a 2-0 win at Augsburg that was rather uneventful: despite allowing 153 attacking third passes, the defense of Hoffenheim to just nine shots, with two ending up on target. They were not exactly great looks, either.
With some help of Kerem Demirbay (two shots, key passes and dribbles each) Amiri took care of the offense with two wonderful pieces of skill: First he applied pressure on the Augsburg midfield, got a loose ball that ended up bouncing back to him, and sent Wagner in on goal for the first goal (though the striker threw a “get off me” stiff arm that woulda made Legarrette Blount proud). Then he was fed a pass across the halfway line in the 64th minute by Kevin Vogt and got the attention of FOUR FCA defenders before releasing Mark Uth with a genius ball on the left that Andrej Kramaric had to tap in for the second goal. Game set match.
When you look at this overall player dashboard, it’s just hard to find any fault in his display in it:
By the way, does anyone else think that it’s insane that Amiri and Demirbay (probably the best young CM duo in the Bundesliga) have just 4000 combined minutes of league experience, or it just the genius of Nagelsmann again? A year and half ago Amiri had just seven Bundesliga appearances and Demirbay was still slumming it in the Zweite Liga, now they’re ruining Bundesliga midfields for fun.
Forwards – with apologies to Sandro Wagner, Timo Werner, Chicharito and Mario Gomez, there were two clear cut choices: Dortmund’s André Schürrle who seems to be making a habit of strong starts (see the Mainz game in Week 1 where he had six shots and seven key passes) was at it again versus Werder, finishing with seven shots, many of them coming from inside the box.
He was subpar in other facets of the game, including 1 of 5 on take-ons and 5 of 15 in attacking third passes but his presence and activity (49 touches is quite a lot for BVB, who are used to Auba getting 30ish per match) was admirable in a rare start as a center forward, which with Auba’s immediate return from AFCON and the signing of Alexander Isak will probably not happen too often.
With his second goal, Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski reminded everyone that he might the best center forward in the game. Is it weird that people were saying how Lewy was having a quiet season, despite 12 actual goals scored as well as owning the league’s best expected goals ratio of 9.99 prior to the two he dropped on Freiburg? That second goal, considering the state of the pitch, temperature, game state, etc. is something that perhaps 5-10 CFs are capable of. I was reminded of Marco van Basten, who before taking up his newest job of coming with silly rules to change football, was a legendary striker with Ajax and Milan. CONTROLO FANTASTICO!
Let us know what you think of the picks and if you feel we left someone out.