With the first half of the Bundesliga 2019/20 season having come to a close, the winter break gives us the opportunity to assess the performance of each side and separate the top performers from the underachievers so far.
Augsburg – 10th: Won 6, Drawn 5, Lost 6, Scored 28, Conceded 31, Points 23
Augsburg’s ninth consecutive Bundesliga season started off with concern, as they looked to be one of the league’s weakest sides. Coming into the season on the back of DFB Pokal elimination at the hands of fourth-tier Verl, one win in the first ten matches did little to dispel concerns that the Bavarians were in for a long season.
However, the club hierarchy stuck by Martin Schmidt and he appears to have got the club on the right track again. Five wins from the last seven games have propelled Augsburg into mid-table, and for yet another season it seems that in spite of their lowly status, they still have the tools to find their way out of trouble. Survival and a tenth Bundesliga season next year would be considered a fantastic achievement, and as the season progresses this seems likely.
Hinrunde Highlight- Hoffenheim 2-4 Augsburg
Star Man- Florian Niederlechner surely has to be seen as one of the signings of the summer. The former Freiburg striker has not only scored eight league goals but has also contributed the same number of assists, including three in one game against Hoffenheim.
Performance Review- 7/10
Bayer Leverkusen – 6th: W 8, D 4, L 5, F 23, A 31, Pts 28
Currently in 6th place, Bayer Leverkusen will hope to push on in the second half of the season and achieve Champions League qualification as they did last year. The club’s performance so far seems hard to judge. The current position and Europa League qualification would be seen as a disappointment, but there is the hope that die Werkself will find some consistency under Peter Bosz, whose attacking football philosophy has so far been varied in its results. For instance, statement victories over Bayern Munich and Schalke were followed by lacklustre defeats to much poorer sides in FC Köln and Hertha BSC.
If Bosz finds a better way to implement his strategy which takes advantage of the wealth of attacking talent at his disposal, another top-four finish is possible.
Hinrunde Highlight- Bayern Munich 1-2 Bayer Leverkusen
Star Man- Leverkusen’s attacking talents this year have largely disappointed, with the team’s 23 goals the lowest in the top eight. Perhaps surprisingly, the side’s defensive record appears more favourable. This has been partly due to the ever-reliable Lukas Hradecky in goal who has contributed five clean sheets, the joint-highest in the league.
Performance Review- 6/10
Bayern Munich – 3rd: W 10, D 3, L 4, F 46, A 22, Pts 33
Much like last season, Bayern Munich’s poor Hinrunde performance has given neutral fans hope of an alternative Bundesliga winner for the first time since 2012. It remains to be seen whether Bayern will surge to the title again as they did last year. The 2018/19 double wasn’t enough for Niko Kovac to save his job in November after a humiliating 5-1 loss at Eintracht Frankfurt, so interim coach Hansi Flick has the responsibility to deliver an eighth consecutive title.
A look at the table- which shows Bayern in 3rd and only four points off the top- seems ominous, as what has been considered a poor first half of the season still leaves the Munich side within touching distance of the top. There have still been signs of the side’s strength, with the 4-0 crushing of Borussia Dortmund a reminder of the ruthlessness of the Bayern attack in top form. If they manage their traditional Rückrunde form, the blips in this half of the season will be quickly forgotten.
Hinrunde Highlight- Bayern Munich 4-0 Borussia Dortmund
Star Man- In Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich hold perhaps the deadliest striker in world football. The Pole has already netted 19 times and is the Bundesliga’s top scorer. Such is the side’s reliance on him, however, that a long-term injury to Lewandowski could be catastrophic to Bayern’s hopes domestically and in Europe. As such, the club will hope the forward recovers quickly from his winter break groin surgery.
Performance Rating- 5/10
Borussia Dortmund – 4th: W 8, D 6, L 3, F 46, A 24, Pts 30
Borussia Dortmund have to be one of the Bundesliga’s most frustrating sides. Despite holding one of the most talented squads in the league, the side seem to lack the solidity and consistency to truly threaten at the top. There have been occasions when coach Lucien Favre has seemed perilously close to the sack- none more so than going in at half-time 3-0 down at home to Paderborn- but for now Favre remains. Is he the right man to lead the side to the Bundesliga title? His lack of a major trophy for over a decade suggests otherwise.
Dortmund certainly have the attacking talent to sustain a title challenge- with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus and new recruits Thorgan Hazard and Julian Brandt at their disposal- but their vulnerable defence seems to hold them back and leave them vulnerable. The side were widely tipped to win the title this season, which is still possible, but only if Favre manages to bring more balance to the side.
Hinrunde Highlight- Borussia Dortmund 1-0 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Star Man- Much of Jadon Sancho’s season has consisted of speculation surrounding his future destination away from Dortmund, but amid all the transfer rumours, he still exists as die Schwarzgelben’s most threatening attacking player. His nine assists are second only to Thomas Müller in the Bundesliga, and he has also contributed the same amount of goals.
Performance Rating- 5/10
Borussia Mönchengladbach – 2nd: W 11, D 2, L 4, F 33, A 18, Pts 35
Recruitment has perhaps been the main secret to Borussia Mönchengladbach’s success so far this season. Players such as Marcus Thuram, Stefan Lainer and Ramy Bensebaini have taken no time to fit in, but it has been the acquisition of Marco Rose as coach that has been the real key. The former RB Salzburg manager has successfully implemented his attacking philosophy that brought so much success in Austria, has got Gladbach playing some of the most attractive football in the division having previously been under the rather one-dimensional Dieter Hecking.
In a word of caution for Gladbach supporters, the side were in a similarly high 3rd place at this point last season and fell away, albeit this time much closer to the top in terms of points. If Mönchengladbach can avoid their traditionally poor spring form and maintain consistency, they could well be in for a shout for their first Bundesliga title since 1977.
They have excellent squad depth, and the recent exit from the Europa League may be a blessing in disguise for their Bundesliga hopes. Whether the side’s lack of experience at the top will cost them remains to be seen, but the signs so far are hopeful.
Hinrunde Highlight- Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 Bayern Munich
Star Man- Marcus Thuram has been the most impactful signing for Gladbach and perhaps in the league in general, with six goals and five assists. It would also be unfair not to mention Yann Sommer, who is having yet another excellent season in goal with five clean sheets and only 18 conceded.
Performance Rating- 9/10
Eintracht Frankfurt – 13th: W 5, D 2, L 4, F 27, A 29, Pts 18
Eintracht Frankfurt were never going to repeat the heroics of last season, where they achieved European qualification alongside their march to the Europa League semi-final. This was particularly apparent with the loss of their front three of Sebastien Haller, Ante Rebic and Luka Jovic in the summer. Even so, Eintracht Frankfurt’s Hinrunde has been extremely disappointing, and coming into the Rückrunde die Adler find themselves three points above the bottom three.
The season has had its highlights such as a 5-1 crushing of Bayern, but the side have failed to win in the subsequent seven league games since this game. Goal threat was always going to be a problem after the aforementioned departures, and although Goncalo Paciencia has stepped up somewhat with seven league goals, new signings Andre Silva and Bas Dost only have the same amount between them. Additionally, while Eintracht coped admirably with the demands of both league and continental competition, the squad has shown signs of fatigue this campaign. In fact, in the matches following Europa League group stage games, the side have collected only two points. Rückrunde improvement will be necessary, or Eintracht have a real relegation battle on their hands.
Hinrunde Highlight- Eintracht Frankfurt 5-1 Bayern Munich
Star Man- Signing Martin Hinteregger on a permanent deal following his loan last campaign was vital in the summer, and the Austrian has continued his standout performances. He is solid in defence but it is his threat at the other end of the field which is often noticed. Six goals in fifteen matches is an excellent record for a centre back.
Performance Rating- 3/10
Fortuna Düsseldorf – 16th: W 4, D 3, L 10, F 18, A 36, Pts 15
Fortuna represent another side suffering from player departures. Much of their goal threat last season came from former players such as Dodi Lukebakio and Benito Raman. Rouwen Hennings has certainly stepped up to the plate, but he has scored over half of the team’s league goals. Fortuna look toothless generally in attack and other forward players need to make a greater contribution if the club are to survive this season.
It should be noted that Düsseldorf’s situation at this point last season was similar, only being three points ahead of where they are now. It was their second half showing that propelled them to 10th place, and strong Rückrunde form again could bring them up to mid-table security. However, it remains to be seen whether this Fortuna squad has the personnel to do so. A greater likelihood is that the side face a real battle to survive in the Bundesliga and will remain in the lower reaches of the division for the rest of the campaign.
Hinrunde Highlight- Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-0 Köln
Star Man- As mentioned, Rouwen Hennings has been indispensable to Fortuna Düsseldorf this season. Without the late-blooming striker’s 10 goals, the side would be in a far worse state. Similarly, at the other end of the pitch Zack Steffen has produced some impressive performances in goal despite a leaky defence.
Performance Rating- 3/10
Freiburg – 8th: W 7, D 5, L 5, F 27, A 23, Pts 26
SC Freiburg enter every season with the same survival goal and more often than not under Christian Streich they achieve this comfortably. The Black Forest club’s best finish since the coach took over was 5th place in 2013, and signs from the first half of this season indicate that they could potentially replicate this European qualification. Just being in mid-table security is a credit to the stability of Freiburg, as they continue to outperform clubs of a larger budget.
Looking at the squad, there should be less surprise of Freiburg’s performance as they have strength in key areas. Robin Koch’s performances in central defence have earned him a place in the Germany squad, as has Luca Waldschmidt in attack. The ever-reliable Nils Petersen has scored seven, and the side have set-piece expertise in Jonathan Schmid and Vincenzo Grifo. The performance of these key players will be vital if Freiburg are to maintain their solid form in the second half of the season.
Hinrunde Highlight- Freiburg 2-1 RB Leipzig
Star Man- Freiburg’s re-signing of Jonathan Schmid has proven a masterstroke, as the Frenchman has rediscovered his best form after spells away from the Black Forest with Hoffenheim and Augsburg. His free-kick ability has particularly caught the eye, scoring two in the space of a week against Gladbach and Wolfsburg.
Performance Rating- 8/10
Hertha BSC – 12th: W 5, D 4, L 8, F 22, A 29, Pts 19
Hertha BSC abandoned the stability of Pal Dardai in the summer and embarked on a new journey under new coach Ante Covic. After starting off so promisingly with a 2-2 draw away to Bayern on the opening matchday, it soon became clear that Hertha’s new direction was backfiring as the club sat in the lower reaches of the table. Particular low points were the flat derby performance against Union Berlin and the 4-0 hammering at the hands of Augsburg. As a result, Covic’s reign was extremely short and he was dismissed after 12 league games.
The team are slowly but surely improving under Jürgen Klinsmann, who has taken over until the end of the season. Undefeated in the last four coming into the winter break, it seems that Hertha BSC’s fears of a relegation battle are diminishing. Fans should come to accept this season as a transitionary period; however Hertha’s squad are much more capable than consistent mid-table mediocrity and going forward should be aiming for regular European contention.
Hinrunde Highlight- Bayer Leverkusen 0-1 Hertha BSC
Star Man- Hertha have so far lacked any particular standout performers, such has been the disappointment of their season. However, Vladimir Darida has played well consistently having managed to wrestle his way back into the starting eleven ahead of Ondrej Duda.
Performance Rating- 5/10
By Colin Moore.