The Bundesliga never disappoints and Matchday 2 again lived up to expectation. With 31 goals scored across nine games, three less than last weekend, the Bundesliga again provide us with plenty of talking points.
Hoffenheim staged a monstrous comeback against Bundesliga newcomers Heidenheim with three goals in the final 13 minutes to secure three points while Wolfsburg overturned a 1-0 deficit in Köln to maintain their 100 percent record. Harry Kane also netted a brace and Leroy Sané again impressed. Both Union Berlin and Freiburg look strong after two games- it’s no longer a surprise to see both clubs near the top.
GGFN’s Daniel Pinder looks at three things we learnt from the latest round of fixtures.
RB Leipzig have great strength in depth
The squad planners at RB Leipzig faced a difficult task heading into the 2023/24 season following the departures of Josko Gvardiol, Dominik Szoboszlai and Christopher Nkunku, but they’ve recruited well and on Friday night, they showcased their excellent strength in depth. Marco Rose made two changes heading into their game against Stuttgart: Nicolas Seiwald and Timo Werner dropped to the bench following an opening day defeat against Bayer Leverkusen, and were subsequently replaced by Kevin Kampl and Yussuf Poulsen.
Stuttgart’s Serhou Guirassy capitalised on a defensive error by David Raum and Leipzig went into the break 1-0 down. Frustrated at Leipzig’s performance, Marco Rose clearly said something at the break as the second half, Lois Openda and Co. came out guns blazing. Five goals in a 25 minute spell, Leipzig cruised into the lead and were relentless going forward. But it’s their strength on the bench that impresses the most.
Leipzig replaced Gvardiol with Lyon defender, Castello Lukeba- one of the best defensive prospects in French football. Seiwald arrived from RB Salzburg as a replacement for Konrad Laimer while Max Eberl and Co. identified Xavi Simons and Openda as the duo to replace Nkunku- who can’t be replaced by one sole player. Both Simons and Openda have impressed in their opening three games while Dani Olmo has stepped up in Nkunku’s absence, scoring five in three games this season.
The aforementioned players is only a snapshot of the deals that Leipzig have done in the market this summer. Christopher Baumgartner arrived from Hoffenheim and Benjamin Šeško – a forward highly thought of – arrived from RB Salzburg, and offers a different skillset to what Leipzig already have in attack. Factor in Emil Forsberg, Fabio Carvalho and Timo Werner, and you have a versatile attack that will keep the opposition guessing. And when the European and Englische Woche (mid-week domestic games come), Rose has several options to ensure his squad is fully fit.
Bayer Leverkusen can challenge Bayern Munich
Bayer Leverkusen comfortably beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3-0 at Borussia-Park in the Bundesliga Topspiel on Saturday evening. Victor Boniface opened the scoring in the 18th minute before Jonathan Tah doubled Leverkusen’s lead heading into the break. Boniface added a second, his third in as many games, not long after the break. It was another commanding performance under Xabi Alonso, with the Spaniard finding a balance in this team.
Like RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen identified areas of improvement and have recruited well. Alex Grimaldo is a significant upgrade on Mitchell Bakker, Granit Xhaka arrives from Arsenal with plenty of experience, while Jonas Hofmann offers a different skillset to Leverkusen’s attack following the departure of Moussa Diaby. Boniface has also come in from Union SG and offers B04 a focal point in attack in the absence of Patrik Schick- all while Florian Wirtz is flourishing. Wirtz created 10 chances from open play on Saturday- the last player to exceed this in Europe’s top five leagues was David Silva (11) in 2015, according to Opta. Leverkusen’s attack is also one that impressed against RB Leipzig on the opening matchday.
Perhaps the only area of concern is defensively, more so in goal with Lukas Hradecky. An excellent servant to the club, the Finn is prone to making a mistake and until Bayer Leverkusen have a world class goalkeeper, they may just fall short of Bayern Munich. That said, the arrival of Manchester United’s Matěj Kovář may provide Hradecky with some much needed competition that will help elevate his game.
Borussia Dortmund need to find a ‘Plan B’
In 180 minutes of Bundesliga football this season, Borussia Dortmund have been underwhelming. It took Dortmund 88 minutes before Donyell Malen found the net against a resilient Köln, who had every right to earn at least a draw from the game. On Saturday afternoon, they went behind to neighbours Bochum after 13 minutes before Malen scored his second of the season just before the hour mark. Although dominating possession against both teams only five shots in 180 minutes, in comparison to a combined 12 shots by the opposing teams, found the target.
It’s an area of concern for Edin Terzic and Sebastian Kehl, who are clearly in the market for another striker with just four days of the transfer window remaining. Teams have finally sussed Borussia Dortmund out and they’re happy for Julian Brandt and Co. to dominate possession, knowing they struggle to break teams down sitting in a low block. Instead, BVB like to look for quick transitions on the break but this season, they’ve looked lethargic and passive in possession.
Sébastien Haller has struggled and when Youssoufa Moukoko has been introduced 59th and 81st minutes, Dortmund remain persistent on looking for that focal point in attack, something that Moukoko doesn’t offer. With the likes of Marcel Sabitzer, Julian Brandt, Karim Adeyemi, Malen, et. al, you would certainly expect more from Dortmund going forward. Heidenheim, who travel to Dortmund on Friday night, will have looked at Bochum and Köln, and gained confidence and belief that they could come away from the Westfalenstadion with a point.
Until Borussia Dortmund find a ‘Plan B’, which shouldn’t be RB Leipzig’s Poulsen – a forward they’ve been linked with – they could well find themselves in a uphill battle against Bayer Leverkusen, Leipzig and Union Berlin, all of whom again look like teams that will challenge for the top four.
GGFN | Daniel Pinder