Six weeks into the 50th Bundesliga season and it seems like so many others of the previous 49 as Bayern Munich have started like a train.
Quite simply, Bayern had three issues last year. One: a poor backline. Two: no backup for Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery. Three: no backup for Mario Gomez. They add Dante, Xherdan Shaqiri, Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro and boast a 100 percent record after six games with a seven-point lead built upon Borussia Dortmund already. A statement of intent, even at this early stage of the campaign.
The start that Armin Veh’s side has made has the Frankfurt fans hoping of a repeat of Kaiserslautern’s 1997-98 success when Otto Rehhagel’s side won the Bundesliga the year after winning promotion. While they have only dropped two points so far, it is in that drawn game where they proved that they may be around the upper reaches of the league for a little while yet. Going 2-0 and 3-2 to Dortmund, they showed not only the confidence to cope with comebacks, but the ability to live with a side of Dortmund’s quality as well.
Eleven is actually four more points than the Champions had at this stage a year ago. However, the big difference this time around is the fact that Bayern have got off to that flyer, although an increased importance given to the Champions League could perhaps be part of the reason they are off the pace. The draw against Frankfurt and dropping three points to a poor Hamburg side hints at a consistency issue that may derail an attempt to win a hat-trick of titles.
Meanwhile, eleven points will be seen as a decent return from the first six games for Schalke. Their 2-0 defeat to runaway leaders Bayern is more than acceptable while a draw in Hannover is always considered a good result these days. While eye-brows may be raised by the other two dropped points, particularly considering the fact that Schalke had a 2-0 lead before drawing 2-2 against Fortuna Dusseldorf, those two goals are the first conceded by the new boys all season.
It is another good start to the season for Hannover who are starting to become a steady side that qualifies for the Europa League each term. What we have learnt about this edition of Mirko Slomka’s Hannover side is that new signing Szabolcs Huszti has taken over from Jan Schaudlaff as the clubs go-to playmaker. Of the 14 goals Hannover have scored this season, Huszti has hit three of them and had assists in eight others, having a huge impact since arriving from Zenit.
Usually a newly promoted side’s big worry is how to score goals. It may still be for Fortuna but it was only on Sunday against Schalke that they conceded after five consecutive clean sheets. On the back of those they have taken two wins in away games against big potential relegation rivals, Augsburg and Greuther Furth. It is the confidence cultivated by that form that meant that when they finally conceded and went 2-0 down to Schalke, they had the self-believe to salvage a point from that situation.
The improvement under Sami Hyypia at the back end of last season seemed short lived following defeats to Frankfurt, Dortmund and a home draw with Monchengladbach. While they have recovered well in beating Augsburg and Greuther Furth, victories against those sides prove little in terms of a return to true form. In essence, very little is known about the true nature of this Leverkusen side yet.
Despite only having seven points, it is a positive start for Werder Bremen. Their defeats coming at Dortmund and Hannover, as well as at home against Bayern Munich, games that were always going to be tough to get good results. The only disappointing result was dropping two points from a 2-0 half time lead against struggling Stuttgart. If they continue to play with the fervour they have started the season with, a Europa League spot is well within reach.
Following three straight defeats to start the season, pressure was already starting to grow on Markus Babbel in his first full season in charge of Hoffenheim. However, an impressive win against high flying Hannover was backed up with three more points against Stuttgart. A goalless draw at home to Augsburg shows the root of the problem with just three goals from their three home games.
Hamburg sit level on points with Hoffenheim, as they were after three games when they were both at the bottom with nothing. At that time, Hamburg played what seemed a desperation card in bringing Rafael Van der Vaart back to the club. It sparked a stunning 3-2 victory over Dortmund that was the start of seven points in their last three games. The 1-0 victory over Hannover was impressive for completely opposite reasons, with goalkeeper Rene Adler having such a huge game that the Bundesliga’s official Facebook page was reduced to saying ‘Hamburg’s defence = Rene Adler’.
Mainz being up here indicates a steady start. A start that didn’t seem quite so promising after a defeat in their second game at home to Greuther Furth. Despite loses in Munich and Gelsenkirchen since, they have taken advantage of the woeful Augsburg and Wolfsburg sides to record a couple of very important 2-0 victories.
Dieter Hecking will be slightly worried about the turn that this season is taking already. Things looked plain sailing again after following up an opening day win in Hamburg with four points against the two Borussia’s. Three losses since will be worrying but they will be pleased to see Freiburg and Augsburg next up on the schedule.
Second season blues. Out of the Champions League in qualifying, it was always going to be difficult to replace the spine of the team that left after a terrific effort last season. It may sound strange to say it now, but it may well be Lucien Favre’s most impressive achievement if he was to keep them away from the relegation zone without those players that have now gone. With a home game against Frankfurt followed by trips to Bremen and Hannover, they may be right in the mire in three games time.
A 5-3 victory over Hoffenheim has been the high point in the Black Forest sides season up to this point. It is a victory totally out of keeping with the defensive importance that turned around last season when they looked dead and buried. Despite that, their other points have come with a one-all and a goalless draw. Fighting relegation is a fact of life in these parts and every passing week that they stay outside the drop zone is an achievement.
After the fifth place finish last term, this may be a bigger shock than either Frankfurt or Dusseldorf’s start. Battered 6-1 by Munich in their second game hit them for six almost literally as they looked in a muddle for almost an entire month since, minus one half against Werder Bremen. Hopefully an impressive 2-0 win in Nurnburg will signal an upturn in form.
Two goals scored in six games outlines all of Felix Magath’s problems. Visual proof would be perfectly provided by the glut of chances that Ivica Olic missed in their latest 2-0 defeat to Mainz. The replacement for Mario Mandzukic could have won that match by himself, the amount of chances he missed in this one.
In their first six games, Furth have played Bayern Munich, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen. Welcome to the Bundesliga. What the new boys have done is made sure they have picked up points in two out of three of the other games. The key from now is that having hit the bottom two, not to let their heads drop. Getting a first goal at home as soon as possible will be crucial to get that monkey off their back too.
Augsburg are deservedly bottom right now. Without Jos Luhukay, the air seems to have been punctured out of the Augsburg balloon. The only points garnered have been in two goalless draws, one of which came against goal-shy Wolfsburg. A dramatic improvement is not only needed, it is currently impossible to see where it is going to come from.
Tags: Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bundesliga, Schalke 04