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Bundesliga Review – Week 8

It’s hard to believe that it’s almost been four years since Germany won the World Cup in Brazil. It’s also hard to believe that Joachim Low’s squad could do it again in Russia next summer.

Coming off the back of the long qualification process for the 2018 World Cup, Germany look stronger than ever. Qualification matches commenced just over a year ago when the Germans brushed aside Norway in Oslo. A year on, it was confirmed that the current holders of the prestigious trophy would be back to defend their title, winning all 10 of their qualifiers.

When a team wins the biggest prize of them all, it’s questionable how they will respond and whether a sense of complacency will be evident prior to the success. There was a slight worry over how the German national team could possibly fill the boots of monumental players such as Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and the ever-prolific Miroslav Klose, following their retirement.

Germans seem to have adopted the stereotype of efficiency, economically, politically, socially and most importantly, in football too. Die Nationalmannschaft way, the Jogi Low way, has captured the headlines over the years, as new names grace the pitch as if they’d been sewn into the fabrics of the national team.

Young prospects seem to crop up on a never-ending conveyer belt in Germany, where they are raised and educated in the Bundesliga and then shipped out around Europe to gift glory to their new owners. The history of the German youth system is admirable. The constant identification that the National team requires strengthening, regardless of their success, singlehandedly takes Germany a level above any other global competitor in international football.

The attention to detail is phenomenal when you pick apart the anatomy of playing for the German national team; they have a style of play that’s carefully orchestrated by Joachim Low on the side-lines. No matter how new the player is to international football, they never seem to look out of place, this being the product of having Low’s style etched into their personal game – adaptation is key for efficiency.

It’s the players that few people outside of Germany have knowledge of that are the danger, those that can be deployed to destroy opposition in a surprise attack, having been conditioned to play the German way.

In the semi-final of the Confederations Cup this summer, Germany picked apart a reasonably strong Mexico eleven in a comfortable 4-1 win. The team Germany submitted to play in the Confederations Cup was assumed as a weak one due the absences of the world renowned, luxury players. Who defines luxury players? Watching that game, it would be assumed to a non-football-follower that the likes of Leon Goretzka, Timo Werner and Lars Stindl were in fact the luxury players.

This potent German depth is what puts them as one of the teams to beat in preparation to next summer’s World Cup. There are four different teams that could be sculpted to take to Russia, with experienced club players mixed with experienced international representatives, there is no fear that Germany will struggle to rotate in the group stages when games come fast.

The main responsibility for this overwhelming depth of talent is of course down to the players self-management of themselves. Simply, players have been performing, their individual game has improved and so the national team benefits too. The emergence of RB Leipzig to the Bundesliga, controversial or not, has been a real eye opener to an encouraging footballing project.

Leipzig striker Werner starred at the Confederations Cup, being named as the competitions top scorer with three goals. The 21-year-old from Stuttgart has made quite a name for himself since his move to Leipzig from his home club VfB. In his first season in the Bundesliga with Leipzig, Werner finished fourth in the top scorer table, scoring 21 times.

In the national team too, Werner has always been a prolific forward through the ranks from U15 to the senior team in which he made his debut this year – scoring six goals in eight games.

As previously mentioned, the retirement of Klose momentarily raised questions as to who the next man would be to lead the line for die Nationalmannschaft. Werner could be Germany’s new finisher, like the legendary Klose, his innate goal scoring ability thrives in the national team with such a mixture of creative players behind him.

Low will be hoping Werner will keep firing in the Bundesliga as the World Cup gets nearer and nearer. Can the Germans pull of yet another inspired feat and win back to back World Cups? We’ll have to wait for next summer to find out.

1 | The same old story for Cologne & VAR

Not for the first time this season we find ourselves talking about the luck of 1. FC Köln and the use of VAR (Video Assistant Referee). For the first time in 25 years the Billy Goats qualified for Europe, creating euphoria around the fourth biggest city in Germany. But this season is most certainly one to forget, especially if things don’t start to pick up.

Losing Anthony Modeste in the summer was always going to have an impact on a club like Köln – having scored 25 of their 51 Bundesliga goals last season. They struggled to find the net this campaign having scored just three, despite them creating a number of chances. If only they had someone who could finish. Jhon Cordoba is expected to be out for around six weeks which has paved the way for a 39-year-old Claudio Pizarro to come in and hopefully ease the burden on Yuya Osako – a player who has yet to hit double figures in a single season for any team he’s played for in Europe.

And although they’re creating the chances, it’s their defence and bad luck going against them this season. A penalty was awarded in the dying embers on Friday night with the game tied at 1-1 but after reviewing the incident on VAR, the referee decided to reverse his decision – it’s still unclear as to why, as there appeared to be contact on Sehrou Guirassy inside the area. Cue pandemonium. Following a drop ball that Köln players were unready, VfB had the ball in the back of the net just seconds later – a 2-1 win for Stuttgart and their first at home against Köln in 20 years.

That’s twice already in eight games this season that Peter Stöger’s Köln have been undone by VAR, but you can’t take anything away from Stuttgart. Unbeaten at home, Hannes Wolf has assembled an impressive side following their return to the Bundesliga.

2 | Bayern Munich gain on Borussia Dortmund

Of all the games over MD8, the return of Jupp Heynckes at Bayern Munich is the one that created all the narratives. Starting his fourth spell at the club, the 72-year-old was on the touchline once again – following his retirement in 2013 after a treble winning season. Against a SC Freiburg side that has finally found its scoring boots, it’s fair to say Bayern & Heynckes got off to a comfortable start with a 5-0 win.

Of course, it may just be papering over the cracks left by his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti while only time will tell as to whether it was a good appointment but the early signs suggest it is. He’s already won over the changing room but that’s an easy thing to do if you’re a Bayern Munich legend. Shown instant respect, everyone looked happier playing under Heynckes as they ran riot against Christian Streich’s Freiburg.

Neither of the four summer signings made the starting XI while there was room for both Thomas Müller & Robert Lewandowski, but it’s worth noting the performance of Thiago. Getting on the scoresheet, the Spain international had 122 touches, boasting a 95% accuracy that resulted in three key chances.

And while Bayern convincingly beat Freiburg, Borussia Dortmund lost their 41-match unbeaten run at the Westfalenstadion to a RB Leipzig side that didn’t include Emil Forsberg nor Timo Werner. And so, for all the ‘crisis’ at Bayern Munich they remain just two points behind the Bundesliga leaders after eight games.

3 | Hertha BSC ‘Take a Knee’

It may not have been the most entertaining of games but it’s what took place prior to kick-off that has got people talking. Hertha BSC players and coaches become the first in the Bundesliga to ‘take a knee’ in solidarity with NFL players.

“Berlin in colourful. Hertha stands for diversity and is against violence. For this reason, we are joining with the protest of fellow American athletes to take a stand against discrimination. For a tolerant Berlin, now and forever,” said the Oympiastadion announcer before the game.

Appearing on Sky, Sebastian Langkamp said: “We are no longer living in the 18th century but the 21st, but there are some people who are not ideologically there yet. If we can provide them with some extra tutoring, that’s a good thing.”

By Rosie Tudball & Daniel Pinder.

 

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