Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bundesliga Week 7 Round Up: Mainz in Heaven, Bayern in Hell

Time for some plain speaking. Bayern Munich were fortunate last season. Their Bundesliga title rivals lost momentum towards the end of the campaign. In the Champions League they were the beneficiaries of generous refereeing against Fiorentina, a self destructive Manchester United and a compliant Lyon.

The gaping holes in their defense were there for all to see last season and while it is to Louis van Gaal's credit that he has persisted with youth it is to his detriment that he did not re-enforce his back line from the transfer market. Van Gaal stood by and watched Heiko Westermann go to Hamburg and Arne Friedrich go to Wolfsburg while, at the same time, dropping the hapless Martin Demichelis from the first team in favour of the unremarkable Daniel van Buyten and inexperienced Holger Badstuber.

Now, with Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery injured plus Thomas Muller, Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez out of sorts, Bayern's shortcomings are cruelly exposed and Van Gaal is now being rightly criticised for ignoring the obvious warnings. FCB's 2-0 defeat to Borussia Dortmund on Sunday marks their worst ever start to a Bundesliga season and Van Gaal stands accused of negligence.

As bad as the champions were, Dortmund were excellent, particularly in the second half. Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa were superb and had Marc van Bommel reaching for his imaginary card. The opening goal came from a deflected shot from Lucas Barrios who capitalised on a mistake by second half substitute Martin Demichelis (returning to the team for the first time this season). Sahin's beautifully taken free kick after a handball by... Martin Demichelis, sealed the points for BVB who are firmly ensconced in second place. Jurgen Klopp deserves to be congratulated for slowly transforming a moribund squad of players into a youthful, dynamic and energetic unit.

Jakub Balszczykowski seems to be finding some consistency and Kevin Gro├čkreutz contributions have earned him a call up to the Germany squad. At the back, Mats Hummels and Nevan Subotic have formed a settled centre back pairing that, assuming it is not separated, stands to protect Dortmund from attack for years to come. BVB would be the story of the Bundesliga so far, were it not from a certain club to the South of the Ruhr giant.

Of course, I'm referring to FSV Mainz 05 the current leaders of the Bundesliga. Despite foolish predictions by some that they would come unstuck against Hoffenheim, Thomas Tuchel's men prevailed with a fantastic 4-2 victory. Once again Lewis Holtby wa the man of the hour and a half. He had a hand in the first two goals by Sami Allagui and Adam Szalai before scoring Mainz' third with a deflected shot. The on loan Schalke midfielder was then brought down in the box by Hoffenheim's Josep Simunic who was sent off as a consequence. Andre Schurrle converted the spot kick.

The game was not all one way. Hoffenheim brought the score back to 3-2 with two lovely goals worth mentioning. Denber Ba controlled a through ball with one foot by flicking it casually on to his striking foot before burying the ball, first time, into the back of the net for Hoffenheim's first. Then Gylfi Sigurdsson enhanced his reputation as a special teams player with another goal from a free kick after have just come on as a substitute.

Mainz win equals the record for consecutive league wins at the start of a season. The other record holders are Bayern Munich and Kaiserslautern. Their next match is against Hamburg and if they win that, no one will be able to say they don't deserve their record.

Elsewhere, Hannover are still in third place despite their abject performance at home to FC St Pauli which they deservedly lost 1-0. Hamburg ended a four game streak without a win at the expense of Kaiserslautern. Freiburg continue to heap the woes on Koln with a 3-2 win. Schalke could not lift themselves after their Champions League boost during the week and lost 2-1 to a determined Nurnberg team. There are signs that Borussia Monchengladbach's defensive problems maybe easing with a 1-1 draw with (Steve McClaren's) Wolfsburg. The two misfiring title challengers Werder Bremen and Bayer Leverkusen settled at a 2-2 draw.

Finally (or perhaps lastly would be more apt) Stuttgart lost again. This time to Eintracht Frankfurt. Christian Gross team never managed take control of the game and were unlucky when Christian Trasch hit the woodwork after three minutes. They went a goal down with a strike from the prolific Theofanis Geikas. As the home side pressed for parity they were caught out by another strike from Chris. Pavel Pogrebniak finally pulled one back to give Stuttgart hope and Cacau had a goal disallowed but it was not enough.

All of which leaves Stuttgart rooted to the bottom of the table. Inevitably, Christian Gross will be keeping his phone switched off for the next few days lest the board choose to make a change during the international break. That would make him the third consecutive Stuttgart coach to be side in the first half of the season. Maybe they should stick with him and see if the team improves without having to pay off another man's contract.

That's it. Results and tables here.

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