It was business as usual in the Bundesliga this weekend as leaders FC Bayern Munchen racked up another win, while at the bottom of the table there was another managerial casualty.
Here are five things we learned from Matchday 20’s action.
Don’t poke the sleeping Bavarian
After several lacklustre (but still winning) performances before the winter break, many Bundesliga teams could have been forgiven for believing that leaders Bayern and their 11-point lead were there to be overhauled.
How wrong they were!
As Werder Bremen found out last week, it doesn’t work out too well if you take an early lead against the five-time reigning champions. Hoffenheim were the latest team to suffer after having the audacity to score not one, but two early goals against Jupp Heynckes side.
The response was as swift as it was devastating. Level just 13 minutes after going two goals down, Heynckes’ side then took control in the second half hitting three goals without reply, including a first Bayern goal for “Germany’s best striker” Sandro Wagner (Has anyone told Timo Werner?)
What this all proves is what we all already know. Bayern are head and shoulders above everyone else and the main – and most interesting – battle this season is for second place.
Nagelsmann’s got the blues
Bayern’s defeated foes from the weekend Hoffenheim, meanwhile, continue to be a shadow of their former selves this season. The loss on Saturday means the Sinsheim club have now won just one of their last six league games. More disturbing for coach and master tactician Julian Nagelsmann will be Hoffenheim’s defensive woes as they shipped five goals to add to the four conceded last weekend against Leverkusen.
— TSG Hoffenheim EN (@achtzehn99_en) January 28, 2018
They have given away 32 goals already this season, just five less than for the whole of last term and only two less than rock-bottom FC Koln, a worrying stat for the young coach. The twin loss of Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy in the summer obviously did Nagelsmann no favours, but he needs to come up with a solution to his current defensive woes if the southerners are to salvage a rapidly deteriorating season and challenge for a European place.
Naldo knows no bounds
FC Schalke 04 continued their impressive form at the weekend with a victory over Stuttgart with the evergreen Brazilian Naldo scoring the opener in their 2-0 win. The 35-year old defender is enjoying a prolific season and has now bagged six goals so far, including two crucial last-minute equalisers as the Royal Blues have climbed up the table, losing just once since late September to find themselves in third place.
The most capped Brazilian in #Bundesliga history ???
— Schalke 04 USA (@s04_us) January 29, 2018
The veteran defender’s goal meant it was a double celebration as he also became the Bundesliga’s all-time record appearance holder for Brazilians, making his 337th appearance.
But it’s not all about goals as his defensive form has also put him back in the reckoning for a call up to the Brazil squad for the summer’s World Cup in Russia – what a story that would be.
Wolf thrown to the wolves
As the pressure intensifies at the wrong end of the table we have another Bundesliga managerial casualty as Stuttgart parted ways with coach Hannes Wolf on Sunday following their loss to Schalke on Saturday – the seventh casualty since the season began. The loss left VfB just four points above the relegation places, but more importantly it was a sixth defeat in seven league games for the Swabians.
Wolf, who took Stuttgart up as Bundesliga 2 champions in the summer only signed a new deal in July, but in the cut-throat world of football survival in the top flight comes above all else these days – including loyalty it seems.
All about Auba
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang made his return for Borussia Dortmund this weekend after missing two league games because of a “disciplinary matter,” although his return didn’t make much of a difference as Dortmund laboured to a 2-2 draw with Freiburg.
BREAKING: Arsenal close to reaching agreement to sign to striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang from Borussia Dortmund for club-record fee in region of £60m. Transfer won’t be sanctioned until #BVB have replacement lined up – remains unclear if that will be Olivier Giroud or not #AFC
— David Ornstein (@bbcsport_david) January 28, 2018
The Gabon international has been the subject of much transfer speculation in recent weeks and a big-money move to Arsenal is said to be imminent if press reports are to be believed. Coach Peter Stoger was less than complimentary about Auba at the weekend, and Dortmund officials are apparently okay with him leaving as they consider him a disruptive influence on the squad. Kind of ironic that he is now heading to Arsenal, who have only just managed to offload one disruptive influence of their own. Despite Auba’s goals Dortmund may well be better off without him.