Bayern hit top gear for their annual thrashing of Hamburg while Dortmund bamboozled Freiburg with an amazing display of attacking football.
Is the real Thomas Müller back?
Everyone has had their say on Thomas Müller’s form over the last 18 months. His 2016 was insipid, lacking in the same infectious enthusiasm for the game and his innate ability to anticipate what is going on around him. The European Championship displays were unequivocal: he had played too much football.
A recent report in Bild, a German magazine, calculated that Müller was playing, on average, over 60 games per season – the most of all Bayern and German players. Since Bayern have given him some time to work on his core fitness and recovery, Müller looks another player entirely from the one we saw before the winter shutdown.
In Bayern Munich’s 8-0 destruction of Hamburg, Müller was involved in four goals. Across the 90 minutes, he was the driving force in Bayern’s attacking play. Such was his impact, that he was practically doing everything: running, linking, challenging, combining and working where he is at his best, the box. “Müller was the key to this victory. He moved well and was involved in every attack,” sang the Italian coach Carlo Ancelotti.
It remains to be seen what kind of role the German has in ‘big’ games. But a fresh, familiar player like Müller might be what sees Bayern through in the Bundesliga.
Peak Borussia Dortmund
Yes, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was on the scoresheet – twice – in Borussia Dortmund’s 3-0 win over SC Freiburg on Saturday. However, the striker was largely on the periphery of the game as his teammates put on an exhibition of brilliant positional and combination football in the last-third.
“They played extraordinarily well,” said Dortmund head coach Thomas Tuchel. “The team delivered an outstanding display in all areas, showed great alertness and had the required spirit.”
— Martha Leah Nangalam (@mlnangalama) February 26, 2017
It felt like perfection for the observers. The 3-5-2-turn-3-4-3 formation was fluid, interchangeable and caused Freiburg all sorts of problems. Perhaps it showed why Aubameyang could be replaced next season. If Dortmund had a forward who could lead the line and help the balance of the team, we could see this more often under Tuchel.
This was as good as you’ll see from Borussia Dortmund this season.
Hecking turnaround impressive
It was quite understandable that many weren’t keen on Dieter Hecking as the next trainer of Borussia Mönchengladbach. After all, the 52-year-old focuses on defensive play, first and foremost, and his tenure at VfL Wolfsburg ended a little negatively with his side dropping into the relegation battle.
— Gladbach (@borussia_en) February 26, 2017
But Hecking does bring some guarantees: organisation, a clear structure in the team, with clear leaders and room for the precocious talents to shine. He has shown this in the Bundesliga for years with successful spells at Nuremburg, and at least in the beginning, Wolfsburg with Kevin de Bruyne in the side.
He was ideal for Borussia – a return to simplified football from the unclear instructions of the previous coach, Andre Schubert. Since his appointment in the winter, Hecking’s side have claimed 13 points from a possible 18 in the league, whilst securing a place in the last 16 of the Europa League on Thursday.
Gladbach are six points off a European place for next season. It’s hardly inspiring football, and perhaps not a long-term idea that has much potential, but the small steps are important for Mönchengladbach – as seen in their narrow, but important 2-0 win over Ingolstadt.
Marcel Sabitzer and RB Leipzig
After 22 games, we shouldn’t be too surprised that RB Leipzig are a fantastic, well-refined football team. However, one of their star performers perhaps hasn’t received his just amount of the praise this season. The 22-year-old winger-cum-attacker, Marcel Sabitzer, actually shows why the whole ‘Red Bull’ project in a sporting sense is worthwhile.
— RB Leipzig English (@RBLeipzig_EN) February 25, 2017
After bursting through with Admira Wacker and Rapid Vienna, RB Salzburg took Sabitzer under their wing, aged 20. Under the ‘Red Bull’ banner, he has developed profoundly over the last three years and has now become a Bundesliga player, performing superbly on a consistent basis for his side.
His clear strength is his rapid, turbo-charged pace. Sabitzer has used that to great effect, when Leipzig move from defensive situations into attack. But it must be emphasized, that his game isn’t just predicated around speed; it’s his game intelligence likewise, of how, when, and where, to use it.
For a winger, which can a deceptive role on the pitch, the Austrian internationalist is showing what he has to offer this season: Brain and Brawn.
What can Kovac do next?
Though Eintracht Frankfurt currently occupy sixth place, which would assure them of European football next season, the recent trend isn’t positive. Niko Kovac’s men are now three games without a win in the league. Next up, the Eagles are back in German Cup action, hosting Arminia Bielefeld and aiming for a place in the semi-final.
Conundrum for Kovac.
But for Kovac, the signs aren’t good. Since Jesus Vallejo and Alex Meier dropped out of the team, Frankfurt are certainly lacked presence and power. There’s also the leadership question when you see the embarrassing red card awarded to Haris Seferovic, who lost his temper in an unimportant situation.
You see how good a manager truly is when the chips are down. After a brilliant two-thirds, now Kovac and Frankfurt will need to battle for their place in continental competition next season.
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