Following on from Bundesliga Hinrunde Review Part 1, the second instalment of the review will rate the first half performance of the remaining nine clubs this season.
Hoffenheim – 7th: Won 8, Drawn 3, Lost 6, Scored 25, Conceded 28, Pts 27
It has been a strange season for Hoffenheim, whose form has fluctuated dramatically. Aside from a run of five successive league wins, they have often looked poor especially at home. At the PreZero Arena, their season has included 3-0, 5-1 and 4-2 defeats to Freiburg, Mainz and Augsburg respectively. At the other end of the scale, Hoffenheim have beaten Schalke, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Post-Julian Nagelsmann life was always going to be difficult to adjust to, and the club have also had to deal with the loss of key players such as Nadiem Amiri and Kerem Demirbay. Consequently, Alfred Schreuder has done well to have Hoffenheim in 7th. It might well be that the side are too patchy to qualify for Europe next season, but if the side manage to find more consistency they could well maintain their current position.
Hinrunde Highlight- Bayern Munich 1-2 Hoffenheim
Star Man- Florian Grillitsch has been one of the most consistent players in an inconsistent side this campaign. The Austrian acts as a lynchpin in defensive midfield and could well become another player the side struggle to hold on to.
Performance Rating- 6/10
Köln – 15th: W 5, D 2, L 10, F 19, A 32, Pts 17
FC Köln have looked out of their depth for much of the season so far, in particular when Achim Beierlorzer was in charge. They have often lacked ideas going forward, having one of the poorest scoring records in the league, and the strong-on-paper attack of Jhon Cordoba, Simon Terodde and Anthony Modeste have only mustered up eight goals so far between them.
Yet, for all of their lacklustre performances in the Hinrunde, Köln will enter the Rückrunde above the bottom three in 15th place. They have made steady improvements under new coach Markus Gisdol, and went into Christmas riding a wave of momentum with three successive victories. As such, Gisdol would rather continue with league fixtures while in this rich vein of form but instead has to contend with the halt of the winter break. Despite this, he will be deeply encouraged that they can continue battling their way out of trouble, with a real fighting spirit evidenced in Frankfurt as Köln came from 2-0 down to win 4-2. Whether the Billy Goats have the top-flight quality to keep their heads above water is another matter.
Hinrunde Highlight- Eintracht Frankfurt 2-4 Köln
Star Man- Much of the Köln side have been largely mediocre so far, but young defender Sebastiaan Bornauw has made an impression. A notable highlight was the 20-year old’s back-to-back goals against Bayer Leverkusen and Eintracht Frankfurt.
Performance Rating- 4/10
RB Leipzig – 1st: W 11, D 4, L 2, F 48, A 20, Pts 37
It is becoming increasingly likely that if any club is going to halt Bayern’s consecutive run of titles, it will be RB Leipzig. They now seem to have the squad depth to compete in the on domestic and continental fronts, and in Julian Nagelsmann one of the best coaches in world football. The Leipzig players have adapted relatively seamlessly to Nagelsmann’s tactical ideas, and he has brought the best out of the likes of Timo Werner and Marcel Sabitzer.
The picture of Leipzig’s season will appear much clearer after the month of February, during which they host Borussia Mönchengladbach and travel to Bayern Munich. They managed four points from these sides in the reverse fixtures in the Hinrunde. Match this, and the Saxony side could well be on their way to a first Bundesliga title.
Hinrunde Highlight- Borussia Mönchengladbach 1-3 RB Leipzig
Star Man- Timo Werner is on course for his best season yet, with 18 goals in 17 so far in the Bundesliga. This already beats his total of 16 last campaign. If he continues this form, his importance to Leipzig will match Lewandowski’s to Bayern.
Performance Rating- 9/10
Mainz – 14th: W 6, D 0, L 11, F 25, A 39, Pts 18
It has been all or nothing for Mainz so far this season, with no draws in the Hinrunde. The season got off on the wrong footing, with elimination in the DFB Pokal to local rivals and 3. Liga side Kaiserslautern followed by eight defeats in the first 11 Bundesliga matches. The final game in this run was a home defeat at the hands of Union Berlin, which culminated in the sacking of Sandro Schwarz.
Achim Beierlorzer, already let go by Köln this season, took over and made an immediate impact. Remarkably, in his first game he masterminded a 5-1 victory away against Hoffenheim despite being down to ten men for the full second half. Mainz went one better a few weeks later, defeating Werder Bremen 5-0 at the Weserstadion. Things have certainly improved under the new coach, but Mainz remain dangerously close to the relegation zone. The side have the second-worst defensive record in the Bundesliga, so while the back line remains vulnerable Mainz will likely remain in danger.
Hinrunde Highlight- Hoffenheim 1-5 Mainz
Star Man- Jean-Paul Boetius has continued his impressive form from last season for Mainz, and is the key man in their midfield. He has made five Bundesliga assists this season to supplement his three goals.
Performance Rating- 5/10
Paderborn – 18th: W 3, D 3, L 11, F 20, A 36, Pts 12
Paderborn have only recently got to grips with playing in the top flight, with two of their three victories this season coming in the month of December. Whatever happens this season, Steffen Baumgart’s job will be safe given the circumstances of Paderborn’s Bundesliga rise. The story of the club is well-documented, following a narrow escape from relegation to the Regionalliga with two successive promotions. A number of the current squad were part of the 3. Liga-winning side, so just to be playing at this standard is a success in itself.
Their aim is not to just make up the numbers, however, and despite often appearing naive and out of their depth so far, Paderborn have given some big clubs a scare this season. From being 3-0 up at the Westfalenstadion at half-time to defeating Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt, the Hinrunde had real high points despite the current bottom position. The latter victories will give Paderborn hope, but unsurprisingly the team will likely lack the quality to survive.
Hinrunde Highlight- Werder Bremen 0-1 Paderborn
Star Man- Last season, Streli Mamba was part of a struggling Energie Cottbus side relegated from 3. Liga. This year, he has been Paderborn’s biggest goal threat, netting five.
Performance Rating- 5/10
Schalke – 5th: W 8, D 6, L 3, F 29, A 21, Pts 30
Schalke have had a remarkable turnaround under former Huddersfield boss David Wagner. After 2018/19’s dreadful relegation battle, a comfortable mid-table finish would have been sufficient to stabilise this season, so to be in contention for Champions League qualification at this point is an achievement in itself.
For all their strengths, die Königsblauen lack the firepower to be listed as serious title candidates. Wagner often persists with Guido Burgstaller up front who is still yet to score this season, so in turn Schalke have to rely on goals from midfield. Nonetheless, they still possess a greater attacking threat than last season, with 29 Hinrunde goals, only eight short of 2018/19’s total.
For the Rückrunde, Schalke lack the European distraction of other clubs challenging for the top four, so this should provide them an advantage and allow them to better replicate their form so far.
Hinrunde Highlight- RB Leipzig 1-3 Schalke
Star Man- With midfield goals key to Schalke’s success so far, Amine Harit has been a valuable contributor with six. He is the main attacking threat for the side, also assisting five thus far. Suat Serdar has played a similarly critical role, and both players are representative of Wagner’s turnaround having disappointed in the side last year.
Performance Rating- 8/10
Union Berlin – 11th: W 6, D 2, L 9, F 20, A 24, Pts 20
Union Berlin have been the strongest performers among the promoted sides by a distance, currently in a strong mid-table position. The Hinrunde had a host of memorable moments for the Köpenick side, from victories over Dortmund and Mönchengladbach to a first home win against city rivals Hertha. It has been Union’s form at the Stadion an der Alten Försterei that has resulted in their current placing. In fact, they went from late-September to mid-December without conceding a goal in their home stadium.
Goals have been a little more problematic as the side lack creativity going forward, with many of the goals they have scored coming from set pieces. The fear is that sides could come to nullify this set piece threat and Union end up struggling to score goals from open play. Survival is still not assured but there is at least cautious optimism that Union Berlin’s first Bundesliga season will be a very successful one.
Hinrunde Highlight- Union Berlin 3-1 Borussia Dortmund
Star Man- Union’s excellent Hinrunde has been built around their impressive defensive record, and goalkeeper Rafal Gikiewicz has been the main component in this. His 69 shots saved are the highest number in the Bundesliga.
Performance Rating- 9/10
Werder Bremen – 17th: W 3, D 5, L 9, F 23, A 41, Pts 14
Werder Bremen have been the most disappointing side this season. After impressing in 2018/19 with an 8th place finish, the expectation was that they would push on and be in contention for the European spots. However, Florian Kohfeldt has failed to continue the form of Werder which saw him named Germany’s Coach of the Year for 2018, and the northern club end the Hinrunde in the relegation places.
In fairness, Kohfeldt has had to deal with several injury concerns. Niclas Füllkrug started the season promisingly with two in his first four, but he is now out long term. The mounting defensive injury problems in the early part of the season go some way to explaining Werder’s league-worst record for goals conceded, however since the likes of Veljkovic have returned the side have only plunged deeper into crisis. In the month of December alone the team suffered losses to relegation rivals Paderborn, Mainz and Köln along with a 6-1 crushing by Bayern.
The likelihood is that Werder Bremen will be strong enough to pull themselves to safety, but given the high expectations at the start of 2019/20 the season is already a failure. Survival should not be taken for granted either, and they can only look to the likes of Stuttgart and Hamburg for warning.
Hinrunde Highlight- Wolfsburg 2-3 Werder Bremen
Star Man- Werder Bremen have struggled with the departure of Max Kruse, who admittedly hasn’t been adequately replaced. Milot Rashica has stepped into his shoes somewhat as Werder’s best attacking player, and has been one of the only shining lights in the team so far.
Performance Rating- 2/10
Wolfsburg – 9th: W 6, D 6, L 5, F 18, A 18, Pts 24
Wolfsburg have been the definition of mid-table mediocrity so far, sitting in 9th place with neutral goal difference and almost equal wins, draws and losses. The club are within reach of the Europa League qualification they achieved last year, but they have to find a way of turning more of these draws into wins to reach this goal. Finding the net on more occasions would be a start, as Wolfsburg’s 18 goals are the joint fewest in the league along with Fortuna. With such a poor scoring record it is credit to the defence that die Wölfe remain in the top half of the table.
On a positive note, the side have coped well with Europa League distractions, managing to qualify from their group but not much to the detriment of their league campaign. Nevertheless, early elimination from the knockout stages may aid the side in their quest for a high Bundesliga finish, with the single league focus perhaps allowing for more consistent form.
Hinrunde Highlight- Wolfsburg 2-1 Borussia Mönchengladbach
Star Man- Wolfsburg’s attacking woes have been documented, but Wout Weghorst has been impressive all the same. His seven goals have outshone his attacking counterparts, and without the Dutchman’s forward play die Wölfe’s situation could be far worse.
Performance Rating- 6/10
By Colin Moore.