Five things we learnt from Bundesliga Matchday 19

It was a weekend of surprises in the Bundesliga as Schalke held Bayern, while RB Leipzig went down at Dortmund. We take a look at five of the biggest lessons learned.

Tuchel deserves huge credit for Dortmund success:

A week ago, Borussia Dortmund were facing the proverbial crisis – a 1-1 draw at Mainz was compounded by continued talks of conflict in the camp. As the dust settles on Dortmund’s 1-0 win over RB Leipzig at the Westfalenstadion this weekend, there is a legitimate cause to send some praise in the direction of head coach Thomas Tuchel.

Though second-placed Leipzig, 11 points ahead of Dortmund pre kick-off, felt the ravages of the flu which had spread around the squad, the yellow-and-blacks played with a sting. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s opener was put on a plate by the devastatingly effective Ousmane Dembele. The Gabon striker and teammate Marco Reus passed up chance-after-chance to put daylight between the sides.

Dortmund weren’t perfect by any means, but Tuchel’s tactical tweaks added important stability, while the focus of the team as a collective was crucial. In truth, Leipzig’s last-minute equaliser, ruled out for offside, was a mere footnote; such was Dortmund’s dominance, they could have won this game by three or four goals.

Transfer politics between Tuchel and the other executives at Dortmund are a problem – but this is tangible at any high-profile football club. Managers and coaches want control over their tools, as they are ultimately held accountable week-to-week, game-to-game. This is completely normal. “The only way to achieve your objectives in competitive sport is to take one step at a time. Always have the next small objective in mind and then achieve it,” the Dortmund website quotes Tuchel.

Despite most elite clubs playing 60 games per season, each game is scrutinised, compartmentalised in its single form as opposed to where it fits in across the year. Small steps require patience and given Dortmund’s rapid accession internationally since 2010, a dose of reality is hard to place in context. But with Aubameyang back ahead of schedule, Dortmund are definitely in the driving seat to achieve their objectives this season.

Bayern top – but unimpressive:

It’s fair to say that Carlo Ancelotti’s reign as Bayern coach hasn’t been as explosive as predecessor Pep Guardiola. The former Barca coach turned the Bavarians into a machine domestically, breaking records by the bucketload. Bayern, who drew 1-1 at home to Schalke on Saturday, are spending too much time in first-gear.

The jury is still out as to the progress of Ancelotti’s team. When it mattered, they delivered under pressure at home to Leipzig before the winter break. But the key objective this season was to turn Bayern into a team capable of winning the European Cup – a target which wasn’t met under Guardiola in his three years in charge.

“Our rearguard and midfield lines weren’t close enough to each other. We failed to win possession in the crucial moments, that’s why we had problems. Overall it wasn’t enough, we’ll focus on the next match now,” analysed Ancelotti after Saturday’s game. With the Champions League clash against Arsenal coming up in a few weeks, the champions will need to improve if they want to progress in Europe’s top club competition.

Most demanding relegation battle yet?

With Bayern Munich utterly dominant at the top, the relegation battle has provided many of the Bundesliga’s key narratives over the last few seasons. This season, the fight at the bottom is fascinating for different reasons – it could be the most demanding tussle to avoid relegation in several years.

While Darmstadt remain locked at the foot of the table, there is a cluster of teams – Ingolstadt, Hamburg, Wolfsburg, Augsburg, Werder Bremen, Mönchengladbach and Mainz – who are currently in the battle for survival. Hamburg, who beat Leverkusen on Friday, have barely moved anywhere in the bottom-three due to results elsewhere.

Hamburg, the only side never to have been relegated, have stayed up in the playoffs in two of the last three seasons. But Markus Gisdol’s work is hamstrung by the fact that this year, Hamburg’s rivals at the bottom are picking up points. On 16 points, Hamburg are six off their tally from last season when they sat in 11th place after 19 league games. The year before, Borussia Dortmund were at the foot of the table at this point.

In the end, someone will pay the price, but there is almost certainly going to be plenty of twists and turns in the last third of the campaign.

When fit, Uth is the quality for Hoffenheim’s top-four push:

Mark Uth took his tally to six for the season in Hoffenheim’s impressive 4-0 win over Mainz, which temporarily gave them some breathing room in the top-four. The 25-year-old has shown on numerous occasions, that he possesses the quality to be the driving force in Hoffenheim’s fight for a place in next year’s European competition.

Signed from Dutch side Heerenveen, Uth is technically brilliant and is particularly effective, finishing off counterattacking moves. Nagelsmann’s side has relied on composed finishing in good positions this season, with Sandro Wagner especially impressive in those positions. There are rumours that the striker is being watched by Tottenham, among other clubs. But if the German remains fit, then Nagelsmann’s chances of leading Hoffenheim to third or fourth are certainly improved.

Gladbach turnaround well underway:

Dieter Hecking’s impact is already visible as Borussia Mönchengladbach racked up back-to-back wins in the Bundesliga in 2017. After putting a miserable away record behind them to come back and win 3-2 at Bayer Leverkusen last week, the Foals turned Freiburg over 3-0 in convincing fashion at home.

Hecking, former coach of Wolfsburg and Nürnberg, has focused on stabilising Gladbach’s defence, which was often porous under previous coach Andre Schubert. Mo Dahoud is taking a more central role in midfield, while Lars Stindl carries the torch in attack. Stindl scored a brace last week and scored in the win over Freiburg – his sixth of the season.

So what can Gladbach achieve this season? Although European football looks a bit far off at the moment, the Foals are now one point behind Bayer Leverkusen. Ground can be made up quickly in the Bundesliga, and if Hecking continues this continual improvement, then Gladbach can be assured of a top-half finish.

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