Five things we learned from Bundesliga Matchday 9

Nine games in and this season’s Bundesliga has been turned on its head by a number of upstart teams with no respect for the existing order. FOX Sports Asia takes a look at what is behind this strange phenomenon in our five things we learned from Matchday 9.

Embrace the new Bundesliga order
Few expected a race for the German championship this season. Bayern Munich, top of the league, are unbeaten under new coach Carlo Ancelotti. Borussia Dortmund are down in sixth following a recent slump, while Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen are scrambling for consistency.

The absence of the ‘traditional’ top-four has shaken the league violently. RB Leipzig, the highly unpopular club backed by Red Bull, lie in second, with Dietmar Hopp’s Hoffenheim closely behind. Coming up the rear is Hertha Berlin and Cologne, the two surprise packages, while Eintracht Frankfurt have turned in a superb start to the campaign.

This freshness should be embraced. While the Bundesliga has been regularly the highest-scoring league in Europe, it has threatened to stagnate with a Bayern and Dortmund duopoly of sorts. Further competition from Leipzig, Hoffenheim and Cologne should force the underperforming traditional clubs to change.

Brilliant Bentaleb
Unbeaten in seven matches, Schalke are back on track. The Royal Blues gained a highly credible draw at rivals Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby on Saturday. Schalke dominated the first half, creating the clearest chances. However, although it split opinions, the more cautious second period allowed the Royal Blues to shore up a vital point.

Crucial to the turnaround under Markus Weinzierl has been Nabil Bentaleb, the 23-year-old on loan from Tottenham. Answering a longstanding issue in Schalke’s midfield, Bentaleb is bringing an abundance of quality and zip in the middle of the park. The Algerian is not just offering security in possession, like Johannes Geis, but he is shifting games in Schalke’s favour. Reports in his homeland claimed Schalke were ready to activate a buyout clause this week – and in this form, it’s easy to see why.

The Nagelsmann Effect

Conventional wisdom tells us that league tables don’t lie when, in fact, they often do. But what cannot be undersold is the outstanding performance of Hoffenheim since Julian Nagelsmann, the youngest coach in Bundesliga history, took control in February. Penciled in to take over this summer, Nagelsmann was forced to take the reins after Huub Stevens’ health declined.

Twenty-three games later, Hoffenheim are third in the Bundesliga and one of the few sides in Europe’s top-four leagues to be unbeaten so far. Attractive on the eye, a mesh of quick, precise passing and tactical flexibility, Nagelsmann’s side are one of the best to watch in the league. In beating Hertha Berlin, a side that gained all sorts of praise for their start to the season, Hoffenheim laid down a marker. Nagelsmann is already tipped to be Germany’s next coaching sensation, and if he can steer Hoffenheim towards European football, he won’t be short of his suitors.

Sound of alarm bells in Hamburg
The longer that Hamburg preserve their famous status as the only side never to have been relegated from the Bundesliga, the more shambolic the club becomes. It feels like a shackle on the northern German team, a club playing a percentage game with the aim of avoiding the drop. A 3-0 defeat in Cologne leaves HSV bottom of the Bundesliga for the third successive week.

Markus Gisdol – the fifth Hamburg coach since the start of 2014 – hasn’t been able to address the glaring weaknesses in the team. The lack of leadership is clearer than ever, the goal difference is the worst in the division. If recent seasons have shown, Hamburg have plenty of time to turn things around.

But it remains to be seen, if this squad is good enough to navigate a playoff once again – and especially against a stronger 2.Bundesliga opponent. Given Hamburg’s extremely unstable financial predicament – the club is over 150 million euros in debt – relegation would have bigger consequences than ever. Just how long, though, can the northern Germans stay afloat?

Freiburg continue to grow into Bundesliga status
SC Freiburg are the epitome of stability and nous. Last season’s 2.Bundesliga champions have adapted seamlessly to top-flight football and secured their first away win of the season this weekend at Werder Bremen. It was the best response from Christian Streich’s side following a surprise German Cup exit at the hands of SV Sandhausen.

Freiburg’s business this summer was typically shrewd, a blend of established pros and low-risk, high-reward transfers. The club has a style of football, a strategy and recruits accordingly. With three wins from their last four games, Streich’s high energy team have lifted themselves comfortably out of relegation problems into eighth place. Although many fancied them for automatic relegation, Freiburg currently look at ease in the Bundesliga.

Ross Dunbar

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