Germany’s top flight is simmering nicely ahead of a midweek card of league fixtures. Bayern were second-best to Ingolstadt, while Dortmund dismantled Darmstadt and Leverkusen became the latest casualty at the Commerzbank Arena. Here are five things to take away from Week Three in the Bundesliga.
Birthday boy Pulisic shines for Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund are expected to thrash a team like Darmstadt on any given day. But anyone who follows the Bundesliga will know just how uncomfortable the Lillies have been since promotion last year. In the meeting in September 2015, Darmstadt held Dortmund to a 2-2 draw at the Westfalenstadion.
So, Thomas Tuchel, the club’s head coach, will be more than satisfied with a 6-0 victory, their second win by this margin in a week. At the heart of Dortmund’s scintillating performance was American starlet Christian Pulisic, who turned 18 on Sunday. He assisted in the Champions League on Wednesday, and set up another two and scored one himself on Saturday.
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The cameo impact of the American towards the end of last season was enough to suggest he could compete for a place in the squad this season. While the likes of Ousmane Dembele are slowly getting up to speed, Pulisic mixes great physical attributes with a German-like precision in forward positions.
Age – so it appears – is just a number. It’s understandable that many were naturally relaxed about the teenager when he was 17 and playing first-team football. But if this week has shown anything, it’s that Pulisic, with the right management and guidance, is the football star that the United States has been after.
It’s still early days, but Eintracht Frankfurt are proving themselves to be quite a force at home. The Eagles dispatched Schalke and Leverkusen in their first three fixtures, with Niko Kovac bringing an energising effect to the club. The Croatian kept Frankfurt up last season through a relegation playoff, but the start to the season is more than positive for them.
At home, Frankfurt look well-organised, aggressive and direct, bringing into play their attacking quality as quickly as possible. Schalke collapsed under pressure on the opening day, while Leverkusen went down 2-1 on Saturday. The 1-0 defeat at Darmstadt last week, the result of a last-minute cross-cum-shot, was exceptionally unlucky. If Kovac can harness this for the next eight months, then the Eagles will have no problem staying in the Bundesliga.
Euro exit hasn’t hindered Hertha
Following a tougher second half to last season and Europa League elimination to Brondby, there were question marks around Hertha. Would such a disappointing exit from European competition have any effect on the form in the Bundesliga this season? Well, the answer is already clear: Dardai’s side have brushed off any Euro blues.
The Berliners end the third week of the season in second-place, winning 2-0 against Schalke on Sunday evening. Dardai’s side are put to the test over the next six days with Bayern Munich (away) on Wednesday and Eintracht Frankfurt (away) next weekend. It’s not season-defining by any stretch, but given the struggles of the Bavarians against Ingolstadt this weekend, Dardai may sense an opportunity.
What next for Werder Bremen?
As expected, following a 4-1 defeat to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Werder Bremen have cut ties with head coach Viktor Skripnik. The Green and Whites have won three of their last 15 games and have conceded 12 goals in their opening three matches of the new campaign. Defeat to Sportfreunde Lotte in the German Cup first round felt like the final nail in the coffin.
Since the departure of long-term coach Thomas Schaaf in 2013, Bremen have struggled for stability. Robin Dutt’s stint in office was short-lived and Skripnik, despite keeping the club’s head above water, was on borrowed time. Aesthetics and attack will be on the back burner as new sporting director Frank Baumann assesses potential options going forward.
Interestingly, Bremen have a lot of quality in a squad, which has been improved over the summer. Players of the caliber of Max Kruse, Serge Gnabry, and Thomas Delaney, who will join from Copenhagen in January, arrive in Bremen with aspirations of success and European football. But there’s a toxic atmosphere around the club, one similar to that at Stuttgart last season when they were relegated.
According to the GoalImpact stats model, which “measures the extent that a player contributes to the goal difference of a team”, Bremen have a 40% chance of being relegated this season. Whoever takes the reins will find it hard to turn around this mess, even with 31 games left.
Leipzig are in the groove
— RB Leipzig English (@RBL_eng) September 18, 2016
RB Leipzig, regarded by many as “the most hated club in Germany”, have taken to the Bundesliga like a duck to water. The side from the former East Germany added to the scalp of beating Borussia Dortmund last week by hammering Hamburg 4-0 away from home. Emil Forsberg and Timo Werner were particularly impressive, as the former European champions were beaten on their own patch.
Ralph Hasenhüttl’s side lie third in the Bundesliga after three matches and look like they could be in the top-six by the end of the season. A pressing machine off-the-ball and rapid on the break, Leipzig have a squad blessed with talent, potential and depth.
There was no room for Scottish kid Oliver Burke on Saturday, while the likes of Werner and Davie Selke were kept on the bench. With this sort of depth, Hasenhüttl will be quietly optimistic that his side can secure European football much quicker than many expect for RB Leipzig.