Five things we learned from Bundesliga Matchday 14

Thomas Muller hasn’t forgotten how to score, as he finally ended his Bundesliga goal-drought as Bayern returned to form with a 5-0 hammering of Wolfsburg.

Referee blunders throw video tech into the spotlight

As video assistants are put to the test at the Club World Cup in Japan, match officials in Germany are under the spotlight for a string of highly-controversial decisions.

After last week’s episode involving Timo Werner and Bastian Dankert, Schalke were on the end of another poor decision with Deniz Aytekin calling a foul on an excellently-timed tackle from Thilo Kehrer. From the resulting free-kick, Stefan Kiessling scored in the 89th minute to seal the points. Sporting director Christian Heidel said it was a “basic” mistake which was “unjustified”.

Hours before, Mainz were prevented from taking a point off Mönchengladbach after Pablo de Blasis’ late goal at Borussia-Park. The Argentine reacted quickest to slide in with the equaliser, but the referee Robert Hartmann adjudged the player to have unfairly challenged the keeper who wasn’t in possession of the ball. Unsurprisingly, Martin Schmidt was not impressed: “It’s a pity that we have to watch the scene again after the game.”

In Friday’s game between Frankfurt and Hoffenheim, referee Christian Dingert wrongly sent off Timmy Chandler and looked intimidated at the heart of a tempestuous game. “There were more whistles than a basketball game,” said Niko Kovac.

The technical tool is still being tested offline, but “if everything happens, we’ll be online at the start of 2017-18,” said Germany’s Head of Referees. After this weekend’s trials, there can be no doubt about the benefits of technology in making decisions.

Dortmund need reinforcements – and quickly

In some quarters, expectations for what Borussia Dortmund could achieve this season were set unnecessarily high. Many wanted to see the yellow-and-blacks compete for the championship despite losing the spine of their team from last season. Saturday’s 1-1 draw at Köln was evidence that Thomas Tuchel has some distance to go to find the right balance in his squad.

The likes of Ousmane Dembele, Emre Mor and Marc Bartra have given flashes of quality, but the key issue of strength in depth is a pressing concern with Dortmund languishing sixth in the Bundesliga. Much focus is on the return of Raphael Guerreiro to bolster central-midfield options. The Portuguese international has barely managed a run of games in a new position due to persistent fitness issues.

Some are arguing that Tuchel has rotated too much in recent weeks. This summer’s focus on younger players was a clear risk, and while there’s notable long-term potential to develop, the clubs needs to safeguard its position in the Champions League by adding experience in January. Right now, it’s under threat.

Weinzierl’s influence is already clear

Schalke weren’t able to take three points against Bayer Leverkusen, yet there was reason for optimism. If anything, the performance, with ten men for 86 minutes, was evidence that the players are giving everything for their new head coach, Markus Weinzierl.

That might not mean much in quantifiable terms, but at least with a man disadvantage, the Royal Blues proved more than a match for the numerically-superior Leverkusen. For most of proceedings, Weinzierl’s back-three was made up of wing-back Sead Kolasinac, midfielder Johannes Geis and home debutant Thilo Kehrer.

Under previous coaches, Schalke were often insipid and uninspiring, a team devoid of leadership when things boiled down to the fine margins. Right now, leadership oozes from every line of the team: from Fährmann between the sticks to skipper Höwedes, and from homegrown talents like Kolasnic and Goretzka.

Although Schalke’s 12-game unbeaten streak has come to an end, the pattern of performances suggests that a late push for top-four might not be out of the picture.

The difference a few games make at the bottom

Even at this early stage in the season, Hamburg know that every point counts. It’s why the reaction was so buoyant in the Volksparkstadion when Filip Kostic fired in the winning goal to beat Augsburg on Saturday afternoon. Just weeks ago, Hamburg were booed off the pitch; now they were being lauded like heroes for a rare home win.

Markus Gisdol’s side are now unbeaten in their last four Bundesliga games. Although the northern Germans are still third-from-bottom, their prospects are looking rosier than before. Recent victories have now brought Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen, Augsburg and possibly even Mönchengladbach into the picture.

Gisdol’s changes appear to be working.

It has taken time but suddenly the Hamburg coach has found solutions. Gisdol has changed tactics, changed his front men in search for goals – and even changed his captain. Mathenia looked more assured than Adler between the sticks, while Nicolai Müller is having a galvanising effect on his teammates further forward.

With Mainz and Schalke to come, further progress would at least give Hamburg fans a worry-free Christmas.

Thomas Müller finally ends Bundesliga drought

There was lots to cheer at FC Bayern this week: first there was the annual Christmas visits to fan clubs in the south of Germany. Then on Saturday, Thomas Müller scored his first Bundesliga goals in 999 minutes of football. “That was of course a beautiful thing and a beautiful moment, but not world-moving,” he said in the mixed zone.

“I bet him yesterday that he would score a goal today. I probably had to motivate him,” joked Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, the chief executive. The immediate benefits of Saturday’s 5-0 win over Wolfsburg are that RB Leipzig are no longer top of the Bundesliga ahead of a huge encounter between the two next Wednesday.

Instead, Bayern are back in the driving seat, even if it is by goal difference. The longer-term implications are that Thomas Müller is back on the scoresheet and that will do wonders for his confidence which has been shot after a particularly poor 2016.

Ross Dunbar

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