TBB’s 5 Bundesliga Thoughts: Week Five

1. Torsten Fink is fired

Time is up for Fink after an awful start.  Source: taz.de

Time is up for Fink after an awful start. Source: taz.de

It almost seemed inevitable in the end, after a dreadful start to this season Torsten Fink has paid the ultimate price and is out of a job. Although they’ve scored ten times they have conceded 15 goals in five games, a terrible record that leaves them just above the relegation play-off place.

The 6-2 loss against Dortmund was the final nail in the coffin as the defence looked all at sea throughout the contest. On another day it could have been in double figures had it not been for the crossbar or the occasional Rene Adler stop, although even he was at fault for two of the goals. They need a fresh start, they need to be much more solid at the back or this will be a very long season.

Dortmund, on the other hand, maintained their 100% record in superb style despite conceding twice. The front four of Lewandowski, Reus, Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan were firing on all cylinders and it will give Jurgen Klopp plenty of confidence heading into their Champions League tie against Napoli.

2. Gustavo sees red again

Gustavo needs to stay on the pitch for 90 minutes more often.  Source: Bundesliga

Gustavo needs to stay on the pitch for 90 minutes more often. Source: Bundesliga

Oddly enough it’s looking more and more like Wenger’s hesitance in going for Luiz Gustavo has worked as the Brazilian was sent off for the second time in three games. After an excellent debut, the defensive midfielder has become a little rash, picking up silly yellow cards leading to his dismissal. He will need to curb this to really be important to Wolfsburg, because it’s not helping the club with him being suspended.

The Wolves will be a little disappointed in their loss to Leverkusen because when they levelled they looked like they could at least get a point from the contest. Two wins and three losses is a below average start for Dieter Hecking’s side, who want to be pushing for Europe.

Leverkusen were impressive again, with Stefan Kiessling being the star of the show again. Whilst he’s out in the cold in terms of national duty, last season’s top scorer is in fine form again with four goals in five games. Although the side weren’t anywhere near their best against Manchester United on Tuesday, they’ll know that their campaign will be more focused on results at home as they try to progress in a strong group.

3. Volland turning heads again

Volland (right) was superb as he has been all season for Hoffenheim.  Source: bild.de

Volland (right) was superb as he has been all season for Hoffenheim. Source: bild.de

It was announced this week the Mario Gomez would be out for six weeks and with only Miroslav Klose available to the national side for the final qualifiers, many are calling for Kevin Volland to get his chance. He turned heads again this weekend after a strong performance capped off with a great goal helped Hoffenheim win against Monchengladbach.

The U21 international looked dangerous all game, firing a shot from distance that worried Ter Stegen before taking a poor touch that lead to an exquisite finish that gave Hoffenheim the 2-0 lead before being pegged back by Hrgota. He should get a chance as he’s performing well in a side that looks drastically different from last season’s shambles.

Gladbach have been average so far but there is plenty of talent in the squad. There were defensive frailties at the weekend which need to be addressed if they are to push towards Europe this season, but Friday’s game against Braunschweig is the perfect game to bounce back in for Lucien Favre’s men.

4. Braunschweig get their first point

It looks like both sides could be in trouble this season.  Source: Bundesliga

It looks like both sides could be in trouble this season. Source: Bundesliga

It’s taken them five games but finally an Eintracht Braunschweig player has scored in the Bundesliga. Omar Elabdellaoui grabbed a deserved equaliser for the Bundesliga new boys as the club also picked up their first point in a 1-1 draw against Nuremburg.

They put up a real fight in this one, creating plenty of chances but couldn’t find the net until the former Manchester City player popped up to stroke it into the bottom left corner. Again, they conceded a sloppy goal but they will be happy just to get off the mark, even though this is the kind of game they would need to win to have any chance to stay up.

Nuremburg are also in trouble after only managing three points in five games. Whilst all those points come from draws, it shows the side’s inability to finish off teams or when they come from behind taking that momentum to get all three points. It’s a worry, they have some good players but will need to pick up points quickly to avoid any panic.

5. Augsburg three in a row

Augsburg will be delighted to get wins on the board early, they just need to maintain it.  Source: Bundesliga

Augsburg will be delighted to get wins on the board early, they just need to maintain it. Source: Bundesliga

They’ve scored five goals and conceded seven but Augsburg are sitting pretty in sixth after three wins on the trot in the Bundesliga for the first time in the clubs history. Victories over Stuttgart, Nuremburg and Freiburg have lifted a side many tipped to struggle to a nice start that will be very welcome to manager Markus Weinzierl.

Coming from behind at the weekend against a side that is also struggling is the kind of results Augsburg knew they would need to pick up to stay away from a relegation fight this season. They’ve bought good players in too, with Halil Altintop adding more goals to the squad and Rafael Holzhauser adding his left boot to set pieces that have given teams real problems so far this season.

Freiburg really haven’t got going since their mass exodus in the summer. Whilst they kept a few and brought in replacements, they haven’t quite meshed together as terrifically as they did last campaign and it could be a much tougher year this time around for Christian Streich and his side.

QUICK THOUGHTS:

–          Munich did their job again against Hannover who were a stubborn side. 13 points out of 15 is a good start for Guardiola, Hannover will be fine this season but won’t push near Europe.

–          Hertha’s 18-win streak at home was broken by Stuttgart in a dull 1-0 victory. Hertha will be happy with their overall start, Thomas Schneider’s reign has got off to a good start.

–          Mainz lost again as they went down 1-0 to Schalke courtesy of Kevin Prince Boateng. Schalke are back on their feet before they play in the Champions League again, Mainz’s start has ebbed and flowed.

–          Werder were put to the sword by Frankfurt who walked out solid 3-0 winners. Kadlec looks a great buy with two goals, Werder need to tighten up again at the back to stay away from trouble.

TEAM OF THE WEEK – BORUSSIA DORTMUND

Six goals and it could have been more. Two goals conceded, although one was unstoppable, will concern but their 100% record is maintained.

PLAYER OF THE WEEK – KEVIN VOLLAND

Was close between him, Lewandowski and Vaclav Kadlec but Volland nicks it. Played very well, worked hard and pulled of a sublime finish.

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TBB’s 5 Bundesliga Thoughts: Week Four

1. Bayern make their first blip

Nicolas Hofler's goal earned Freiburg a point against Bayern Munich.  Source: ESPN

Nicolas Hofler’s goal earned Freiburg a point against Bayern Munich. Source: ESPN

The first dropped points of the Pep Guardiola era came in the fourth round of games as Bayern drew with Freiburg the Tuesday before the UEFA Super Cup. With half a mind on the fixture against Chelsea, there were a few changes to the squad but the Bavarians could not put Freiburg away who equalised with five minutes to go.

Although they won on penalties in the Super Cup they were probably outplayed on the night by Chelsea and both results still leave question marks yet to be answered. It was also announced that Thiago will be out for a few months for an added blow to the strong squad that should have taken all three points from Mage Solar Stadium.

Freiburg will be more than happy with the result, they may have rode their luck at times but they had a few good chances of their own and managed to nick the point in the end. Whilst this draw will be good for now, Freiburg will have to start picking up wins against weaker opponents to avoid any relegation fears.

 

2. Hannover have began better than I expected

Hannover earned their win and they are proving me wrong, good for them.  Source: Bundesliga

Hannover earned their win and they are proving me wrong, good for them. Source: Bundesliga

I think the first four games should stand to testament that predictions are just that, predictions and that I am not to be completely trusted. Hannover have started well and whilst the first two wins were gifted after red cards, this one was more well-earned against an unbeaten Mainz side.

They were pretty clinical in the 4-1 win that probably flattered them more than they deserved but three wins in four games is a great start for Mirko Slomka’s men. They played some good football, made every chance count and even though there were defensive mistakes their firepower made up for it.

As for Mainz, they’ll be disappointed that they lose their 100% record so easily, especially as they went in front. Nikolai Muller was excellent again and scored for the fourth game running, he’ll be key this season and I’m surprised he didn’t get a Germany call-up for the next qualifiers.

 

3. New Stuttgart manager starts excellently

Maxim was terrific for Stuttgart at the weekend.  Source: ESPN

Maxim was terrific for Stuttgart at the weekend. Source: ESPN

So what’s the best method of recovering from three straight losses and being dumped out of the Europa League in the qualifying stages? Hit your opponents for six. Stuttgart steamrolled Hoffenheim this weekend, with a hat-trick from Vedad Ibisevic, a double from Romanian Alexandru Maxim and one from Antonio Ruediger sealed a strong 6-2 win at home.

It was an ideal start for Thomas Schneider, with his side looking dangerous every time they came forward, with youngster Timo Werner really impressing alongside Maxim and hitman Ibisevic. Getting the Bosnian firing again is always a positive as he’s a 20-goal a season man and if they can tighten up defensively they can compete higher in the table.

Hoffenheim will look back at this game as just a bad day at the office. They never really turned up and got lucky with a deflected goal whilst the second was gifted to Roberto Firmino. They’ll have better days and on other evidence they don’t look as troubled as last season.

 

4. Schalke finally win

Schalke will be happy to have finally won but there's work ahead. Also, this photo is excellent.  Source: greenwichtime.com

Schalke will be happy to have finally won but there’s work ahead. Also, this photo is excellent. Source: greenwichtime.com

Schalke were in pretty desperate need of a win and many felt it would be very difficult to find against a strong Bayer Leverkusen side but Jens Keller’s men pulled out a fantastic 2-0 win. Jefferson Farfan was really the star of the show, his free-kick led to the opener before winning and scoring the penalty that sealed the points 10 minutes from time.

New signing Kevin-Prince Boateng slotted in nicely aside Farfan and Julian Draxler, almost grabbing a goal himself but he looks like the good addition many thought he would be as long as he remains unselfish. The defending was much more solid too standing firm but also didn’t have to face many dangerous situations which is always much more of a positive for a strong defensive performance.

Leverkusen in the end didn’t put enough endeavour into their attacking efforts to win the game. Kiessling had one half chance that was bloked and Son had a few pops from range but other than that there wasn’t much on show. Spahic also gave away a silly penalty when he’d already forced Farfan wide, but they are the side to pick themselves up, dust off and go again.

 

5. Braunschweig need to regroup

Calhanoglu put in a superb performance off the bench, Hamburg will want to see more of him this season.  Source: welt.de

Calhanoglu put in a superb performance off the bench, Hamburg will want to see more of him this season. Source: welt.de

Many were expecting Braunschweig to really struggle and so far they have but there were positives in the first few games. Bremen were incredibly lucky to get a win and they forced Dortmund to work hard for their win but the last two games have been worse.

The loss to an out-of-sorts Hamburg will probably sting the most as, even away from home, it should have been seen as a possible draw but in the end they were outclassed although there were a few lucky goals. There’s not enough firepower at the club and that’s what is killing them and it probably will result in a very hard season for the club.

Hamburg will be delighted to have gotten out of their hump with a comfortable win. It was good to see Jacques Zoua get on the score-sheet for the first time who’s been good and Hakan Calhanoglu scored twice in what looks like it may be a sign of things to come from the young Turk. Maybe Fink should lean on some of these young talents and see how far they can take them, it can’t hurt when the full squad looks almost relegation material.

 

QUICK THOUGHTS:

–          Gladbach were strong again at home and looked incredibly dangerous going forward, as for Werden Bremen their tough defence was finally crushed convincingly so will need to pick it up again fast.

–          Wolfsburg picked up a lucky win where they gained a penalty that was highly questionable whilst also riding their luck in defence, Hertha finally lose but they had chances for at least a draw.

–          Augsburg get their second win early compared to after Christmas last season which can only be a positive, Nuremburg need a win to get off the mark or they could be in trouble.

–          Dortmund maintain 100% record against Frankfurt but it wasn’t easy, Mkhitaryan also finally got in on the act, Frankfurt will do better than this but they did create opportunities which provides hope for the future.

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK – VFB STUTTGART

I wanted to give Maxim, Ibisevic and Werner credit for their performances so I thought I’d choose the whole team. Attacking-wise superb, defence needs fixing for tougher opposition.

 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK – HENRIKH MKHITARYAN

Two goals with the second being an absolute stunner. Showed why there was so many interested parties this summer and will be a big asset to Dortmund this year.

TBB’s 5 Bundesliga Thoughts: Week Three

1. Stuttgart sack Bruno Labbadia

Labbadia was on the hot seat from the off this season, he's not done enough with what he had.  Source: Bundesliga

Labbadia was on the hot seat from the off this season, he’s not done enough with what he had. Source: Bundesliga

Three Bundesliga games and three losses, coupled with a poor result in qualifying for the Europa League, has cost Bruno Labbadia his job at VfB Stuttgart. He was already under pressure from a poor campaign last year bar the DFB Pokal run but he was backed in the summer to bring in a stronger squad that many felt would lead to a better side.

A 2-1 loss against FC Augsburg was the final straw. Although Augsburg played well, there were plenty of opportunities for all of Stuttgart’s attacking options to score and none of them could find the back of the net. They promote from within as Stuttgart’s U17 coach and former player Thomas Schneider takes the helm.

As for Augsburg, they played well and could have won more comfortably if it wasn’t for the miss of the season from Sascha Mölders where he rounded the keeper but couldn’t put the ball in an open goal. It was a big win for them after two losses, Hamit Altintop scored his first goal back in the Bundesliga and Rafael Holzhauser played out of his skin against his parent club.

 

2. Mainz could be a surprise this season

Nicolai Muller is my three-game MVP, he's been utterly superb.  Source: Bundesliga

Nicolai Muller is my three-game MVP, he’s been utterly superb. Source: Bundesliga

Mainz join Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen with 100% records so far, but it’s clear which of those is the surprise package. Thomas Tuchel’s men have been superb, when may felt they’d miss the goalscoring prowess of Adam Szalai, but Nicolai Muller is leading the Bundesliga so far with 4 goals.

They’ve also been relatively solid at the back, in comparison with the rest of the league, without Jan Kirchoff and the work that the club has done must be applauded. The signings have gelled nicely, they are playing some exciting football and thoroughly deserve their place in the league.

Their opponents Wolfsburg, however, are still a Jekyll and Hyde kind of team. They fully deserved their 4-0 win last week but they also deserved their 2-0 loss this week and it looks like that inconsistency has got into new signing Luiz Gustavo too who got himself needlessly sent off. They can’t keep flip-flopping if they want Europe this season and discipline is becoming a worrying issue.

 

3. Leverkusen have gone about their business well

Leverkusen look together this season, they could be a dark horse.  Source: ESPN

Leverkusen look together this season, they could be a dark horse. Source: ESPN

Whilst Dortmund and Bayern take up all the headlines, Leverkusen have quietly and professionally gone about their business and won their first three games. The vastly underrated ( at international level at least) Stefan Kiessling has been doing what he’s always been doing which is scoring goals, Sidney Sam has come back improved and the whole team looks like a cohesive unit under Sami Hyypia.

They bought expertly in the summer too, with Son settling in nicely and Donati filling in nicely at right-back. They have depth in midfield, with Gonzalo Castro, Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Stefan Reinartz and Robbie Kruse fighting for places, they could mount a challenge if they could sustain their success.

Gladbach fans shouldn’t be too disheartened by this loss, whilst their attacking football was on show it’s lapses at the back that are letting others in. If they can find a nice balance they will win more games than they will lose, which should put them in a good position come the end of the season.

 

4. Pure entertainment at Hoffenheim vs Freiburg

If you can find highlights of this game, watch it.  Source: Eurosport

If you can find highlights of this game, watch it. Source: Eurosport

What a game this was, end-to-end stuff from two sides that are trying to be as far away from the drop-zone as possible. Hoffenheim were on a high from last week and looked in good form again as they went ahead from the penalty spot. Then a moment of madness saw Sejad Salihovic sent off for slapping a Freiburg player before Oliver Sorg, who gave away the penalty, equalised from distance.

German U21 international Kevin Volland then produced a wonderful lob to put the 10-men ahead before Karim Guede crashed in a second equaliser. Then another sending off as Francis Coquelin saw his second yellow become red near half-time. Sebastian Fries then put Freiburg ahead through a wonderful volley before Tobias Stobl hammered home to make it 3-3 and just as you thought that was it, Admir Mehmedi saw red for mouthing off at the referee mere minutes before the end.

It was a cracker that had a little bit of everything to it, but it must have been hell for both managers. Both showed the capability to score and defend poorly, but both deserved a point in the end.

 

5. Red cards galore

Gustavo joined seven others for an early bath this weekend (not all at the same time, or same bath)  Source: Wolfsburg.de

Gustavo joined seven others for an early bath this weekend (not all at the same time, or same bath) Source: Wolfsburg.de

An unwanted record was set this past weekend when eight red cards where dished out in the nine games across Germany. Some were unwarranted, like Ibrahima Traore’s dismissal against Augsburg which was barely a yellow card, but some were obvious like Salihovic’s cynical slap against Freiburg.

Others were hotly disputed, like Benedikt Howedes’ against Hannover that could have been a yellow if some felt he wasn’t the last man, a red if they felt he was (like myself) or that it shouldn’t have even been a foul.

It’s one of the great parts of the game to debate things like this and it’s something I enjoy, but this amount of red cards is something no-one wants to see. It’s a bit of a black mark over this weekend that hopefully will not repeat itself.

 

Quick Thoughts:

–          Bayern eventually broke Nuremburg’s defences but it took time. Ribery impressive again, Ginczek looks a quality signing for Die Club.

–          Braunschweig are struggling to get anything going but Frankfurt earned a much-needed win.

–          Hannover have been strong at home but have been gifted two wins, Schalke struggle again where they probably could have got something, even with 10 men.

–          Hertha Berlin have started nicely with seven points from nine, Hamburg are in real danger of spiralling downwards.

–          Bremen were stout against Dortmund but the quality prevailed. In honesty, they should have won more than 1-0.

 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: SIDNEY SAM

Scored twice and looked tormenting every time he came forward, good to see Sam back on form. (I was tempted to give it Holzhauser but I’m not wanting to toot my own horn.)

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK: FSV MAINZ

They were excellent for a third game running, looking dangerous and solid at the same time for a change.

 

(Note: There has been a game, Freiburg vs Bayern, but it counts as week four so I’ll include it with next week’s update)

TBB’s 5 Bundesliga Thoughts: Week Two

1. Eintrach Braunschweih will fight until the end

Braunshweig were a brick wall on Sunday.  Source: augburger.de

Braunshweig were a brick wall on Sunday. Source: augburger.de

Although they did park the bus this past Sunday against Dortmund, which was to be expected, they went against every prediction of five plus goals by only losing 2-1 after a valiant defensive display. It took Jurgen Klopp to send on Jonas Hoffman (who was a game changer) to turn the tide because it didn’t look like BVB were going to score.

I’ll admit that I had Braunschweig down to be pummelled in this game but they proved me wrong. If they can improve their finishing and perform like this regularly, I’ll be one of those in their corner rooting for them to stay up.

 

2. Roberto Firmino showed his true class

Firmino (far left) was unplayable at times.  Source: caughtoffside.com

Firmino (far left) was unplayable at times. Source: caughtoffside.com

While I’ve been harsh on Firmino before, like any good person it’s because I care. I felt that he was a very good player but he’d often hide in games, lose his form too easily and then just be a shadow of what he can produced.

He was a star in Hoffenheim’s 5-1 victory and he reminded me exactly why I used to love watching him play. Firmino had pace, trickery, the ability to know when to shoot and when to pass but most of all looked truly unstoppable. If he keeps this kind of form up, clubs will be sniffing around him come January.

 

3. Hamburg and Schalke have serious defensive issues

Schalke just couldn't get to grips with Wolfsburg.  Source: dw.de

Schalke just couldn’t get to grips with Wolfsburg. Source: dw.de

Both these sides put on a terrific game of football last week in an enthralling 3-3 draw, but we all maybe should have read more into that. This past weekend, Hamburg were humbled 5-1 by Hoffenheim and Schalke were shell-shocked by Wolfsburg 4-0.

Those kinds of defeats are simply unacceptable for the size of these two clubs. Hamburg could be in a little bit of trouble, with their finances not being as excellent as they should be given their size and the lack of new blood. For Schalke, they have the talent but not the structure, too many goals are coming from set pieces. Both sides need to sort out their frailties and quickly.

 

4. Gladbach are a fun football club to watch in full swing

Kruse scored his first Gladbach goal.  Source: 1asport.de

Kruse scored his first Gladbach goal. Source: 1asport.de

Perhaps the game against Bayern Munich had given us a glimpse of what Borussia Monchengladbach can do, but the Hannover match truly showed what an exciting outfit this club can be with the talent they possess.

When Raffael, Juan Arango, Patrick Hermann and Max Kruse were in full flow, it was a joy to watch as they used their combined pace, skill and pure talent to carve through Hannover at will. With subs like Branimir Hrgota and Amin Younes playing in the same style, Gladbach could be an intimidating foe for any side this season.

 

5. Werder Bremen have won both their games, which was unexpected

Augsburg were more than a challenge for Bremen but they managed to come out with the win.  Source: br.de

Augsburg were more than a challenge for Bremen but they managed to come out with the win. Source: br.de

But then again, it was against opposition that will be around the drop-zone this season. Augsburg put up a good test and probably deserved a point for their efforts but Bremen have got two wins with two goals and two clean sheets.

With many tipping Bremen to really struggle, it was vital they got off to the best start possible and to get points off those who will be in and around them. They come up against Dortmund at the weekend and if they take a point, it would have been a good start to a league campaign without Thomas Schaaf at the helm.

 

 

Quick Thoughts:

–          Hannover were run down by Gladbach this week. A home game against Schalke this week will test them again and whether they can reach their European goals

–          Stuttgart weren’t too bad against Leverkusen but they were impotent in attack. It’s an issue, Leverkusen pretty much cruised this one.

–          Wolfsburg should be delighted with their display, Gustavo made a superb debut.

–          Mainz just out-played Freiburg but it was a good game. Nickolai Muller is quickly becoming my favourite player to watch

–          Munich had a very dull game against Frankfurt which on another day could have been a draw. Warning signs for the champions.

–          Nuremburg did superbly to get back into the game against Hertha. It was a good encounter and Ginczek looks a really good signing for Die Club

 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK – ROBERTO FIRMINO

Easy this one, it was a quality display from the Brazilian.

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK – BORUSSIA MONCHENGLADBACH

It was close to being Hoffenheim, but Gladbach played some wonderful stuff.

Week 2 Preview

In these little previews each week I’ll look into two games of the weekend, one on Saturday and one on Sunday (when the Friday game returns, I’ll count that with Sunday since all those games will be televised) that I feel interests me the most and also take a look at any interesting news from the past week.

 

Saturday -Wolfsburg vs. Schalke 04

Hunterlaar was terrific as usual against Hamburg and he'll be the main danger for Wolfsburg at the weekend.  Source: Bundesliga

Hunterlaar was terrific as usual against Hamburg and he’ll be the main danger for Wolfsburg at the weekend. Source: Bundesliga

The two well-fancied sides face off this weekend having both had a less-than-stellar first game of the season. Wolfsburg lost against Hannover whilst also having two men sent-off and Schalke had to come back from behind three times against Hamburg to earn a point, so both will want to get a win under their belts quickly. Schalke did have their moments against Hamburg and do have the quality to win this game, especially with Wolfsburg losing Arnold and Klose. Wolfsburg will need more goals out of their front-line, the addition of Gustavo has helped but there’s more work to be done. I think Schalke should be fancied to take the win here.

 

Sunday – Nuremburg vs. Hertha Berlin

John Anthony Brooks earned praise from US manager Jurgen Klinsmann for his performance in the national side in midweek.  Source: mls soccer

John Anthony Brooks earned praise from US manager Jurgen Klinsmann for his performance in the national side in midweek. Source: mls soccer

Two sides tipped to be in a potential scrap for relegation actually got off to good starts. Hertha managed a magnificent 6-1 victory against Frankfurt whilst Nuremburg came back from two goals down to earn a point away from home against Hoffenheim, where they could have had all three points in the dying moments. It’s going to be closely fought contest that will be a good win for one side to take this early on. Expect both to really go for this, Hertha on the crest of a wave after last week and Nuremburg fully understanding that this could be a good home win for them. If Die Club are to win, Daniel Ginczek has to come to the fore, or I could see Hertha managing to take the three points back to the capital.

 

Headline of the week – Luiz Gustavo leaves Bayern Munich for Wolfsburg

It's the boost Wolfsburg needed and could be a catalyst for sending the club towards the European places.  Source: Daily Mail

It’s the boost Wolfsburg needed and could be a catalyst for sending the club towards the European places. Source: Daily Mail

Wolfsburg pulled in the headlines this week by managing to sign Brazillian defensive midfielder Luis Gustavo from Bayern Munich. The reported fee varies from €15m to €20m but it is a record transfer fee for the club who managed to beat off interest from Arsenal and Napoli.

This is a huge boost for the Wolves, Gustavo is well-respected in the league as one of the better defensive midfielders around, both strong in the tackle and good at keeping possession. He might have been pushed out a deep Bayern squad but he’ll be adored at Wolfsburg, it’s a huge miss for someone like Arsenal who really could use his skills.

TBB’s 5 Bundesliga Thoughts: Week One

Here’s my new post that I’ll be doing every Tuesday after the weekend’s Bundesliga action. It’s not going to be a review of every game because that would take forever to produce and for people to read so, I’ll just make five points about the weekend. Highlights are on ITV4 and ESPN (or BT Sport, I’m not sure because I’m a Virgin customer) so if you haven’t already watch them or stick them on series record.

 

1.  Bayern Munich pulled up no trees but got the job done.

Ribery and Robben combined for a slick first goal of the Guardiola era.  Source: dw.de

Ribery and Robben combined for a slick first goal of the Guardiola era. Source: dw.de

Pep Guardiola managed a 3-1 victory against Borussia Monchengladbach in his first Bundesliga game in charge of the champions, but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Whilst they completely dominated possession and the score-line look comfortable, Gladbach caused problems and on another day it could have been much closer.

Frank Ribery was probably the best on the day but if not for Alvaro Dominguez’s double handball (the first wasn’t, the second was) it would have been a tight affair at the Allianz Arena. But Guardiola will be happy with the three points and look forward to Gotze and Thiago returning to the fold.

 

2. Aubameyang announced himself with a bang.

Aubameyang and Reus could be a potent paring.  Source: i2.cdn.turner.com

Aubameyang and Reus could be a potent paring. Source: i2.cdn.turner.com

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a hat-trick in the Gabonese international’s first game in a Dortmund shirt and showed what some other big teams missed out on already. All three goals displayed his pace and ability to get around the back of defenders whilst also showing some tidy finishing in the 4-0 win.

Many will say it is one performance against a side tipped to struggle in FC Augsburg but it did take 60-odd minutes to grab the second, so it was a real test of character for the BVB squad. If he continues in this vein he and Borussia Dortmund will be entertaining to watch again this season.

 

3. Hertha absolutely blew Eintracht Frankfurt away.

Anthony Brooks celebrating his goal and his performance has earned him a call up to the US squad.  Source: MLS Soccer

Anthony Brooks celebrating his goal and his performance has earned him a call up to the US squad. Source: MLS Soccer

Well, many didn’t except this to happen in Hertha’s first game back in the big time. A huge 6-1 victory, that could have been more if it wasn’t for a mixture of the crossbar and Kevin Trapp, sent the Olympiastadion ballistic and the capital club can be proud of their performance.

Hajime Hosogai really controlled the ball and began most of their attacks, the defence stayed solid bar from one mistake whilst at the other end Adrian Ramos and Sami Allagui ran riot in front of goal. There’s no denying that Frankfurt were abysmal in defence and there will be difficult times ahead for Hertha, but they should savour this while they can.

 

4. Thriller in Gelsenkirchen as Schalke and Hamburg draw 3-3.

The Hunter was as deadly as ever this weekend.  Source: Bundesliga

The Hunter was as deadly as ever this weekend. Source: Bundesliga

If you didn’t tune in to the late Sunday game, you missed a treat, a real end-to-end affair that ebbed and flowed in different directions, it was a real spectacle of football. Whilst the defending can be questioned, especially the marking in Schalke’s defence, the attacking play was wonderful to watch.

Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was magnificent, his first was an excellent strike, but overall Schalke will need to improve especially if Draxler’s injury keeps him out for any amount of time. Hamburg were better than many felt, with young players such as Max Beister, Jacques Zoua and Hakan Calhanoglu impressing and promising a better season this year.

 

5. I wouldn’t trust me, either.

Andreasson celebrating his goal.  Source: sn-online.de

Andreasson celebrating his goal. Source: sn-online.de

I know I predicted Wolfsburg to do well and yes, I said that Hannover would struggle but this is only the first game of the season, right? Any team would struggle with nine men and whilst Max Arnold’s challenge was poor (he’s since apologised, a lot), Timm Klose’s sending off was pure petulance.

It was a deserved victory for Hannover but a 2-0 win is not the best of results when your opponents are down two men. They will still have sterner tests to come, especially if they lose their main goal-threat in Mame Biram Diouf, but their goal of the Europa League is highly unlikely. Wolfsburg really need to cut out the immaturity or they’ll flop again this season.

 

QUICK THOUGHTS

–          Werder Bremen may have beat Eintracht Braunschweig but only just, it’ll be a long season for both.

–          Mainz pulled off a good result against Stuttgart; Nicolai Muller will be their main man this year.

–          Leverkusen won professionally against Freiburg, there are more exciting times to come for them

–          Hoffenheim have improved but old habits almost came to haunt them against Nuremburg. Both will have to improve to avoid any relegation talk.

 

PLAYER OF THE WEEK: PIERRE-EMERICK AUBAMEYANG

An excellent hat-trick and well deserved plaudits for a superb debut.

 

TEAM OF THE WEEK: HERTHA BERLIN

An astonishing display as they brushed last season’s surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt.

Bundesliga 2013/14: Bundesliga Predictions

Munich won it in 2012-13, can they repeat this season?  Source: Sky Sports

Munich won it in 2012-13, can they repeat this season? Source: Sky Sports

The new season starts tomorrow with Bayern Munich facing off against Borussia Monchengladbach and I felt it was perfect time to do a few predictions for the season ahead. Feel free to comment and tell me your own predictions, here we go.

 

Champions – Bayern Munich

Kroos, Mandzukic and Muller will be crucial this season.  Source: Bundesliga

Kroos, Mandzukic and Muller will be crucial this season. Source: Bundesliga

As is everyone’s current favourites, I agree that Munich should win the title again this season. They ran away with everything last season and have only improved during the summer so another Bundesliga title should be coming to Bavaria.

However, I also think this is a double-edged sword. I think that if they don’t start well everything will crumble so they need to get off on the right foot and if they do they could win everything again. But there is too much quality in the squad to not pin them as favourites

 

Champions League – Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke 04

Reus will be key again this season.  Source: Bundesliga

Reus will be key again this season. Source: Bundesliga

Again, this is the same as last season and all these sides have moved forward in the summer with promising signings.

Dortmund have lost Gotze but Aubameyang and Mkhitaryan have added real pace to the squad that will trouble any team. Added with other stars Lewandowski, Reus and Gundogan, they should be much closer to Bayern this season but they will end up second.

Leverkusen have also moved on since losing Andre Schurrle and Dani Carvajal, gaining Heung Min Son, Giulio Donati and Robbie Kruse this summer. It will add youth to their squad that still has Lars Bender and Stefan Kiessling, the firepower will push them into Europe again.

Schalke have gone for youth this season, with Christian Clemens and Leon Goretzka joining Julian Draxler and Max Meyer in a midfield that looks exciting. Adam Szalai finally adds strong cover for Klass Jan Hunterlaar so if he is injured they aren’t crippled like last season.

 

Europa League – Borussia Monchengladbach, Vfb Stuttgart

Luuk de Jong needs to be more productive this season if Gladbach are to reach Europe.  Source: Bundesliga

Luuk de Jong needs to be more productive this season if Gladbach are to reach Europe. Source: Bundesliga

All but one of these sides made it to the Europa League last season, but I think these teams will be in the sister competition in Europe next season.

Gladbach have a year of experience now injected into their young side and look ready to fire on all cylinders. Luuk de Jong, Granit Xhaka, Patrick Hermann, Mark-Andre ter Stegen, Branimir Hrgota, Harvard Nordtveit, Max Kruse and Amin Younes will all play a part in what should be an exciting youthful team next season.

Stuttgart have made the most changes but it looks like they should be more competitive this season. They didn’t have enough options and they didn’t quite perform as hoped, but with players like Moritz Leitner and Marco Rojas joining Martin Harnik and Vedad Ibisevic, they should be more potent in attack.

 

Relegation – Eintracht Braunschweig, Werder Bremen

Robin Dutt has a huge job on his hands at Werder Bremen.  Source: spox.com

Robin Dutt has a huge job on his hands at Werder Bremen. Source: spox.com

Not many expect Braunshweig to stay up and unfortunately, I’m in that group too. They just don’t have enough to stay in the league and they will have to all put everything in each week to stand a chance. If they do, and I hope they do, they have a chance.

Bremen is the surprise team in here, as many predict it may be Hertha Berlin. But honestly, on last season and the summer, there hasn’t been anything positive from the club and they need to sort it out fast or they are down. There’s bits of quality but none performed last season bar loanee Kevin De Bruyne, they are in for a long season.

And if I was to predict the relegation play-off side, it would be Hertha Berlin but this year I think they can beat any side they would have to face from 2. Bundesliga.

 

The Surprise – Gladbach will almost make the Champions League

The fans at Borussia Park could be in for an exciting season.  Source: Bild.de

The fans at Borussia Park could be in for an exciting season. Source: Bild.de

This is the team I’m most looking forward to seeing progress this season, Lucien Favre has created a young side that look set to go into this campaign with no fear and I think they could really push the established four above.

The only reason I won’t go riskier and say they make the Champions League is that I think those above them (Bayern, Dortmund, Leverkusen, Schalke) have also improved but they have enough quality to really fight and be there if anyone slips up.

 

The Disappointment – Hannover will struggle this season

Mame Biram Diouf is a little overhyped and will need to produce again this season.  Source: Bundesliga

Mame Biram Diouf is a little overhyped and will need to produce again this season. Source: Bundesliga

For a club I admire, it could be a nervy season for Hannover. They have lost quite a few useful players that they haven’t replaced and missed out on transfers they would have liked to bring in, such as Johan Djourou.

I’m not in the Mame Biram Diouf fan club that’s sprung up and I feel he’ll have a down season and that’s my biggest worry. With Dider Ya Konan not producing as much as he used to, they could find it difficult in front of goal and they could lose a lot of games 1-0. I hope I’m wrong, but I believe Bittencourt will at least be a bright light for the club.

Player of the Year – Ilkay Gundogan

Ilkay Gundogan is in for a big season, he might be Dortmund's most important player.  Source: Bundesliga

Ilkay Gundogan is in for a big season, he might be Dortmund’s most important player. Source: Bundesliga

Many will pick a Bayern player for this award this season, but I’m going for a little Dortmund midfielder. Gundogan was excellent last season, both in Germany and Europe, confident in possession, reading the game superbly and being a consistent workhorse in every game.

This season, he will continue this and score some added goals as he’s occasionally pushed up to the CAM spot. I hope he gets the recognition he deserves, whilst at the same time remain at Dormund come next summer.

Young Player of the Year – Julian Draxler

Draxler could have another superstar season, could it spark a frenzy next summer?  Source: goal.com

Draxler could have another superstar season, could it spark a frenzy next summer? Source: goal.com

I was going to pick someone more out of the blue, like Heung Min Son, Leon Goretzka or Max Meyer, but it’ll be Draxler who will be the name on everyone’s lips again in May after he dazzles us again.

He’s a wonderful footballer, comfortable on the ball whilst possessing the size to pluck the ball out the air with his chest like a striker and he’s even started to score goals. He was my favourite player to watch last season and he’ll continue to amaze this season.