Winter break: 1. FC Köln

10th place

Grade: C+

Köln is an interesting team to watch. They are chaotic in defense but can score. Or rather Lukas Podolski can score. The German international has already bagged 14 goals and is single-handedly keeping this team afloat. If they sell him in the winterbreak, surely they will collapse and go down…

Goalkeeping is pretty decent. Michael Rensing failed at Bayern, but has done fairly well on the Rhein. He hasn’t been spectacular, but has been steady. He’ll never be an international, which would have been almost automatic if he had made it at Bayern, but he’s proven enough that he should have a decent career.

The defense has been a disaster. Everybody sucks. Brazilian Geromel is at least valued highly, although he hasn’t really shown it on the field. Clearly they need more from him if they’re not going to fall. Ammar Jemal has had a couple of decent games as a starter, but is not a regular.

The midfield is even worse. Sascha Riether is supposed to hold things together as DM, but has been barely passable. Others such as Martin Lanig, Mato Jajalo and Christian Clemens have been largely horrible. It’s pretty sad when your only hope for improvement is 35 year old Portuguese Petit, who will hopefully be able to recover from his injury and get his first matches after winterbreak.

Prinz Poldi is a god in Köln. He’s scored more than half the teams goals, and has assisted on many others. In the past he’s had Milivoje Novakovic to at least help out with scoring goals, but he’s been out injured. He should be back, but Novo is getting up in years and could be losing effectiveness. Until he comes back, rest assured Köln should stick with a single attacker. So it’s all on the shoulders of Podolski. He’s almost becoming a mythical figure for Köln fans, sort of like Matt Le Tissier was for Southampton. He’s only 26 and has fully recuperated from his disastrous time at Bayern. (Although oddly enough, he has generally always been effective with the national team). It’s been rough since Köln basically stinks, and he’s often on his own, but his goals are keeping the team afloat. However, most pundits expect him to leave. Köln can’t afford him, and Poldi should be entering his prime years with a fat-ass contract. Perhaps the last service he can give to his club is some massive transfer fee.

If Podolski leaves, things become very difficult for coach Stale Solbakken. If Novakovic doesn’t come back, they won’t be able to score, and the defense is crap. Köln could easily sink like a stone right into relegation.

 


Winter break: 1899 Hoffenheim

9th place

Grade: C+

Looking at Hoffenheim now, it’s hard to remember that when they joined the Bundesliga, they were roundly criticized as a “money-bags” team with no tradition that merely was buying their way to success. And that was largely true, but since then Hoffenheim has been mainly investing in youth schemes, and actually selling players at a profit. There remain some decent players, but nobody that really jumps out and says “I’m a budding superstar!”

This is a somewhat schizoid squad, as sometimes you feel they’ll just phone in the rest of the season, and other times they look pretty good.

Veteran GK Tom Starke anchors a fairly decent defense. Oddly enough, nobody has really stood out at the back, so clearly a team effort has led to the results rather than individual effort. Andreas Beck is the best known, having played 9 times for Germany, but his form has been pretty weak. Fabian Johnson is one of two Americans on the squad, and he perhaps has been the best performer, which isn’t saying much. Disappointments include Dutch leftback Edson Braafheid, and neither Marvin Compper nor Issac Vorsah have been overly impressive.

The midfield is basically nobodies, but central mid Sebastian Rudy (21) has been playing fairly well and his stock has been rising. Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Bosnian Sejad Salihovic have been decent, and importantly have 9 goals. American Danny Williams has also not embarrassed himself. Overall, the midfield has held things together fairly well.

It’s in attack that Hoffenheim has suffered. Central striker Vedad Ibisevic has shown signs of recovery of his pre-injury form, but remains brittle. 5 goals in only 9 matches. Ryan Babbel‘s attempt to resuscitate his career has only been partially successful. Chinedu Obasi was listed as one of those high-priced players that Hoffenheim’s money bought, but he certainly isn’t living up to his reputation. The rest you’ve never even heard of.

With this weak attack, coach Holger Stanislawski will have to continue to rely on a tight defense. At times Hoffenheim has looked disinterested, so if the trend continues, they could find themselves in trouble, although not likely this season.

Winter break: VfB Stuttgart

8th place

Grade: B -

Stuttgart seems to be on the road to recovery after some lean times. They struggled much of last year until righting the ship, and this season seems to be at least stable. This follows Stuttgart’s MO, some strong seasons followed by suckiness, then recovery.

Stuttgart pulled GK Sven Ulreich (23) from nowhere, and he has continued some outstanding play. They also loaned out Bernd Leno to Leverkusen, where he has done quite well. So I would expect VfB to be solid for several years at keeper, although most likely they will benefit from a nice sum as Bayer buys the option for Leno.

The defense has been pretty good. Usually, Stuttgart is outgunning their opponent, but this edition has been the opposite so far. Tight defense and so-so attack. The jewel in the crown is German international Serdar Tasci (24), one of many talents that have popped up recently in Germany. His play has been solid. New Mexican defender Francisco Rodriguez “Maza” has been OK, but I would have expected more from Dutch international Khalid Boulahrouz. Italian Christian Molinaro has been ho-hum also.

Midfield has been serviceable, with Danish DM William Kvist excellent. He’s probably been the best field player. Veteran Christian Gentner (26) and Zdravko Kuzmanovic have also been pretty good. Veteran Tamas Hajnal rounds out the regulars; he’s been only OK, expected more from him. There isn’t a lot of depth, but VfB should be satisfied with what they have now.

The attack has not been up to usual VfB standards. You probably won’t see Brazilian born German international Cacau anymore in the black-and-whites. His form at Stuttgart has been poor this season. He probably has some more goals in him, and he usually goes in streaks. Must be his “down” streak, since he’s only managed 3. Austrian Martin Harnik has been the best (6 goals), Russian Pavel Pogrebnyak largely a flop. Stuttgart tried to pull a “Kagawa” with Japanese striker Shinji Okazaki. He’s scored 3 goals, but there’s a reason you’ve never heard of him…he hasn’t shown that he’s worth paying attention to.

The coaching has been fine. Bruno Labbadia has steadied the ship, so now lets see if he can bring VfB back to the heights before they take a torpedo broadside, sink and he gets his ass fired, like many of his predecessors.

 

 

Winter break: Hannover 96

7th place

Grade: B

Hannover surprised a lot of folks last year, so certainly their fans figured they could do even better. Haha. The 96ers don’t look like they’ll ever move into the next echelon, and I think last year was an aberation. Of course, they have proven that they’re a pretty solid squad, capable of fighting it out. And the highpoint of their season will undoubtedly be the 2-1 win over Bayern, at a time when the Bavarians looked invincible. So they did the whole league a favor and deserve our thanks. I’m still not willing to jump on the bandwagon, as in 2-3 years, they could get relegated again, but I guess for now, they’re pretty respectable.

Youngster Ron-Robert Zieler has solved the chaotic GK situation. In fact, he recently even made his debut in the national squad. Just one of many fine young keepers. Oddly enough, he spent a lot of time warming benches in England behind crappy keepers, which shows you what the English know about goal-keeping.

Zieler is fronted by a disciplined defense, led by ex-Schalker Christian Pander and Austrian Emmanuel Pogatetz. They’ve been solid. American Steve Cherundolo has sometimes been captain, but his best years are behind him and he has largely sucked. Of course, that’s hardly news for followers of the US National squad, but I’m not kidding: Cherundolo had some decent years at Hannover. Swiss Karim Haggui has been decent, Christian Schulz less so, but the collective is greater than the sum of the parts.

The midfield is just a bunch of hackers. It’s pretty much up to Portuguese veteran Sergio Pinto for any creative ideas, he and Cherundolo being the oldest guys on the squad. There are a couple of promising youngsters, such as Manuel Schmiedebach and Moritz Stoppelkamp, but they’ve been ho-hum so far.

The attack is somewhat anemic, as Hannover doesn’t score much. Yet there is surprisingly some talent up front. Norwegian Mohammed Abdellaoue has 9 goals, and Jan Schlaudraff has played well, always a touted forward, but unfortunately for him, not scoring much. Didier Ya-Konan has been unable to continue last season’s breakthrough, largely ineffective.

The coaching has been first rate. Mirko Slomka has bounced around a bit, but has found a home in Hannover, and he’s made them respectable. That’s pretty impressive considering the 96ers pedigree.

 

 

Winter break: Bayer Leverkusen

6th Place

Grade: B-

Booooooooring! Booooooooring!

The Bayer company should offer free aspirin and alka-seltzer to everyone forced to watch this team…Usually you expect some good play from this squad, but this year’s edition really seems uninteresting.

Things started poorly in that GK Rene Adler was injured before the season started. Leverkusen had to scramble, but came up with a nice loaner from Stuttgart, 19 year old Bernd Leno. Leno has played very well, and speculation is that Leverkusen will excercise the option to buy. Of course, this is clouded by the fact that there is also speculation that Adler may not be the future of Bayer goal keeping. However, in any case, this seems a fairly solid position.

The defense has been stingy for the most part, but hasn’t really looked good. Gonzalo Castro is a German international, but has only barely been acceptable. I’d say he’s disappeared from Joggi Löw’s depth chart. Everyone else has pretty much stunk. I suppose oldie Manuel Friedrich has had a couple of decent games.

The midfield was supposed to be the strength. However, star midfielder Brazilian Renato Augusto went down with a knee injury. Captain Simon Rolfes hasn’t played up to standards, but youngster Lars Bender has been impressive as defensive midfielder. Of course, the main distraction is grandpa Michael Ballack, Germany’s superstar…of the previous decade. In again, out again, feuding with the national team (where he is certainly no longer needed). It’s really too bad, because it would be nice to see him go out with a nice swan song, but I suppose hanging out at Chelski for the last few years got rid of any humility he might have still had. He hasn’t been total crap, just sorta crap. Better than Rolfes or Sidney Sam.

The attack has largely been underwhelming, to be charitable…they’ve only managed 11 goals. Stefan Kiessling seems like he’s 40, but is actually only 27. He’s been the least crap, but only has scored 3 times. New German international André Schürrle was supposed to be the new superstar. He was great at Mainz, and has done decently in the national team. But so far he’s been a flop at Leverkusen. Swiss international Erden Derdiyok has scored 6 goals, but little else. I would call him a stealth striker, as he’s largely been invisible.

Last season Bayer did quite well, possibly because Jupp Heynckes was in charge and kicking their asses. I’m not really familiar with new boss Robin Dutt (he was successful at Freiburg), but whatever he’s doing ain’t really working. Seriously, Leverkusen should be a top 3-4 team every year, and at least threaten for the title (until they inevitably choke and live up to their “Luserkusen” or “Vize-kusen” moniker). They might do so yet, but certainly haven’t looked the part.

 

Winter break: Werder Bremen

5th Place

Grade: B-

Werder is tough to grade. But I suppose the following should be relevant: 1-4, 0-2, 0-5, 0-5. What is that you ask? That’s how Bremen did against the four clubs ahead of them, Bayern, Dortmund, Schalke and Gladbach. They also lost against 6th place Leverkusen. So lame results against all contenders, that is is sure to thrill your fans. It also means that they need to be graded harder, because frankly I expect more from them.

Werder has truly been a Jeckyl and Hyde squad this season. For one thing, they’ve got the job done in many instances, racking up nine wins. But as the stat above showed, they’ve gotten their asses reemed in big matches. Since Werder has spent a lot of their time getting their ass kicked, they actually have a negative goal difference.

Veteran GK Tim Wiese has played well largely, and anchors a very young squad that depends on seasoned players in all the key roles. Defenders Naldo, Andreas Wolf and Clemens Fritz are all around 30 or over. Actually, the defense hasn’t been too bad when the olides had their pre-match nap time, since about half their conceded goals were in those top 5 matches. Newcomer Sokratis, a 23 year old Greek, has shown promise, but others such as Austrian Sebastian Prödl or Lukas Schmitz have largely bombed.

The midfield has been hurt by injury. Veteran Tim Borowski has been out all season, and talented Marko Marin has also been missed recently. Borowski would provide steel, and his absence has clearly been felt when Bremen just phoned it in and got their asses ripped. Marin (still only 22), who seems like he’s been in the spotlight for a decade, is a dribbling wonder. Some creativity has clearly lacked, especially when the chips are down. Another youngster, Aaron Hunt has been OK, but highly-touted Mehmet Ekici (a 5 million buy from Bayern) hasn’t made the hoped for impact.

Up front, old-man Claudio Pizarro continues to get the job done. In fact next to Naldo, the Peruvian has been Bremen’s best player. He passed Giovane Elber recently for most career Bundesliga goals by a foreigner (154 and counting). But Pizarro has essentially been a one man wrecking crew. A lot has been expected of hot-headed Austrian international Marko Arnautovic, but he really hasn’t impressed. The next attacker, veteran Swede Markus Rosenberg also hasn’t looked great. Still, scoring goals is generally not a huge problem for Bremen.

Coach Thomas Schaaf is one of the longer serving bosses, although the crap past season and those embarrassing ass thumpings this year made some wonder whether the axe was coming. But both he and general manager Klaus Allofs just extended their contracts, so I suppose they’ll be around. And too be fair, they haven’t been the problem. Bremen is rebuilding, and whether they become a factor will depend on the young players reaching their potential.

In terms of potential, if Borowski and Marin come back, Bremen looks solid enough to stay in the top 3rd.

Winter break: Borussia Mönchengladbach

4th Place

Grade: A+

The Gladbachers are the surprise of the season so far. Certainly just about everybody expected them to struggle once again. Last season, it took a late season miracle run to avoid relegation: and that only finally came by defeating Bochum in a playoff. So the very idea of Gladbach being anywhere near the top seems outrageous, but here they (deservedly) are…As a result, I have to give them an even higher grade than the teams above them, just for the shock value.

How they are doing it is anyone’s guess; I suspect it’s with mirrors. In reality, it’s been with stout defense and fighting spirit. This is a young team, and it starts at the back. 19 year old GK Marc-André ter Stegen has been quite good. (Germany seems to produce good keepers on a conveyor belt). Gladbach has only given up 11 goals, only 1 more than stingy Bayern. The defense seems to be filled with nobodies, but they’ve been getting the job done. Brazilian Dante has emerged as quite a find, but most of the others I’ve never heard of.

The midfield continues with nobodies, although Venezuelan Juan Arango deserves some recognition. He’s been a key player for Gladbach over the last couple of years. But it really has been yet another young emerging German superstar that has caught everyone’s attention: Marco Reus (22) has stormed to the top in a true breakout season. He leads the team with 10 goals, and rich clubs look to come calling. He’s already been called up to the national squad, but of course, there is a lot of young talent now vying for spots in the DFB squad. Reus has had some lingering injury problems that has kept him out of recent matches, but has been a force when he’s played. The midfield has been excellent, but you’d be hard pressed to recognize any of the other players.

The Gladbach attack has been pretty ho-hum. Veteran Mike Hanke scores once in a blue moon, Raul Bobadilla and Ivan Camargo are about the same. Not really going to scare too many teams.

The real success story is probably that of the Swiss coach, Lucien Favre. He’s bounced around a bit, but he took over late last season in a hopeless situation from Michael Frontczeck, and not only saved them from relegation, but has steered the club in the upper echelons. I would think that the wheels will eventually fall off. The “big IF” is whether Gladbach can hold on to their young talent as they develop. They’ve been in this situation before and sold out with almost catastrophic results.

It would be quite surprising if they can maintain this pace through the second half.

Winter break: Schalke 04

3rd place

Grade: A

Schalke kinda-sorta sucked last year. They ended on a high, as they won the DFB-Pokal. But the Bundesliga campaign was miserable, and they could have been relegated if they hadn’t got their act together. However, judging from the results so far, it was probably the result of coach Felix Magath going amok, and giving him the boot has since righted the track.

Things were certainly murky when the season started. Ralf Rangnick was brought in as the new coach, and there was a fair amount of excitement. Rangnick is known as “der Professor” for his cerebral approach to the game, and there were high hopes he could slap Schalke’s underachievers into shape. (Of course Magath was doing the same thing, only he was really slapping them, booting them in the ass, etc.). However, Rangnick wasn’t having the effect, and Schalke had uneven results. It was increasingly clear that der Professor wasn’t right, and he soon resigned due to “mental exhaustion”. Schalke and their fans were stunned, but soon rallied around his replacement, Huub Stevens. This has proved to be an ideal appointment so far, as Schalke quickly turned around and started winning. (Stevens had led Schalke’s previous mini-run of success in the 90s, when they won the UEFA Cup – when it actually meant something. In those days, it seemed like the requirement was you had to speak Dutch…)

Foremost among Schalke concerns starting the season was the sale of GK Manuel Neuer to Bayern. This was inevitable, as Schalke needed the money, and Neuer’s head had obviously got too big anyway. But subtract a world-class keeper from a team with a wimpy attack, and that’s sure to be a recipe for trouble. They did find a nice replacement in Frankfurt GK Ralf Fährmann, who came in on a free. He was doing quite well until he went down injured. The club did pick up veteran Timo Hildebrand (who basically ruined his career by going to Spain and then sucking), but youngster Lars Unnerstall has stood in nicely. Overall, the goal keeping has been pretty decent, so the sale of Neuer was a very good move.

The defense has been OK, typical of Schalke. The star is clearly international Benedikt Höwedes, but there’s been somewhat of a revolving door on other positions. Christian Fuchs came over from Mainz, and appears to have established himself. His forays and crosses down the left flank have helped the attack considerably. Greek youngster Kyrgiakos Papadoupoulos has had some growing pains, but appears to be getting stronger. I would say veteran defender Christoph Metzelder has been a mixed bag, his best years clearly done despite being only 31. The most promising player from the rest seems to Japanese Atsuto Uchida, but he hasn’t really played enough. Tim Hoogland has been out injured (as usual) and youngsters Marco Höger and Joel Matip have seen considerable playing time, but have not risen to the next level yet. Still, defense is has been solid, so it’s not much of a worry.

The midfield has shown improvement. Huub Stevens has clearly got things back on track. Jermaine Jones is back from Felix Magath’s doghouse and brings his usual thug-like play. But since Schalke lacked backbone last season, a few muggings can’t hurt. Youngster Lewis Holtby is clearly a major attacking talent, but hasn’t fully established himself. Spaniard José Manuel Jurado has shown flashes of brilliance, but it’s not clear that he can be consistent enough to carry the attack. Alex Baumjohann was one of Germany’s top young talents a couple of years ago, but his transfer to Bayern stunk up his career. He’s not back, but at least he’s till young enough that maybe he can recuperate at Schalke. (Magath of course f%^&ed him up too.)

However, the difference is that Schalke has remembered how to attack. In fact, half way through this season, they have scored as many goals as the entire 2011 season!! The Blues trail only Bayern in goals scored, a remarkable turnaround. Largely responsible has been red-hot Klaas-Jaan Huntelaar, who is clearly relishing his recovered scoring form. 15 goals is quite a haul. And ageless Spanish wizard Raúl is still effective, scoring 10 times. His cleverness and experience work wonders. Peruvian winger Jefferson Farfan has been Schalke’s best attacker in the last couple of years, and has continued his good form. However, he has been slowed by injuries, and with a high price tag, I wouldn’t be shocked if Schalke accepts an offer in the winter break. The new stadium cost money, and Schalke (like rivals Dortmund) over-extended themselves, and now are looking to consolidate financially. The main problem is that the attack is a bit thin. Sell Farfan, and have either Raúl or Huntelaar go down, and now you’re relying on retreads like Ciprian Marica or Finnish youngster Teemu Pukki. Pukki scored a couple of goals late, but has a lot to prove.

In summary, I don’t think Schalke is that much of a threat to Bayern. However, they clearly have turned things around, and have gotten the maximum out of the first half of the season.

 

Winter break: Borussia Dortmund

2nd Place

Grade: A

The defending champions were due for a let down. Last Bundesliga season was unbelievably good, but playmaker Nuri Sahin left for the bright lights of Madrid (spending most of his time under the bright lights of the physio table, since he promptly got injured.) So there was some question over whether Dortmund would be a factor this season. And the Neons got off to a poor start, whereas Bayern blitzed out of the gate. Game, Set, Match?

Well, Dortmund showed that they are made of sterner stuff, despite having the youngest squad in the Bundesliga. Mario Götze has emerged as the new playmaker, and the other players have all latched onto last season’s form. Götze has stormed into the national squad, and no one even remembers Sahin anymore. The biggest change has been that center forward Robert Lewandowski has forced Lucas Barrios to the bench. The Polish striker has been a force, and Barrios returned from the Copa America injured. With Japanese star Shinji Kagawa back to his pre-injury form, Barrios hasn’t been able to break into the starting lineup. Kagawa is a typical Klopp find. He was a *decent* player in Japan, but nobody really cared about him. I think Dortmund paid about 300,000 euros for him. That’s what you pay for someone out of the 3.Liga. He fits in perfectly in Dortmund’s scheme. He can score goals, but his passing and combining with the other players make him especially valuable. Lewandowski has been a wrecking crew up front, and the Neons have been scoring like last season.

On defense, Matts Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer have emerged as two of Germany’s prime defenders, with excellent skills going forward as well. Brazilian Felipe Santana has been quite effective. The injury to excellent center back Neven Subotic has been covered adequately. “Oldtimer” Sebastian Kehl seems to be enjoying his revival as a defensive midfielder. (At only 31, Kehl and keeper Roman Weidenfeller are the oldest players on the squad!)

Under Jürgen Klopp, Dortmund has played an aggressive attacking style, and although it took a few games to get rolling, they look to be in fine form. With plenty of young talent, this team can only get better. The main problem will be fending off suitors in the January Transfer window. Although Dortmund has recovered from the financial brink of a few years ago, they don’t have the resources (yet) to offer the big contracts that some foreign clubs can. Management has indicated that stars like Götze and Hummels are “not for sale”, but let’s face it, everyone has his price.

My personal feeling is that Bayern will probably be able to hold them off and grab the title, but Dortmund appears to be well on the way of building a consistent challenger to the Bavarian giants.


 

Winter break: Bayern München

1st Place

Grade: A

It would be pretty hard to give anything less than top marks for Bayern’s first half performance. Even by their lofty standards, they’ve played some impressive football up through winter break

Bayern was certainly wounded last season, as they struggled and watched Dortmund romp home to the title. So in typical Bayern fashion, they vowed not to let that happen again. They plumped down some 45 million euros to shore up the squad, and let some marginalized players leave. The big move was of course grabbing German international keeper Manuel Neuer from Schalke. Initially, some of the Bayern fans were unhappy, because Neuer had previously stated he was a die-hard Schalker. (And why not, he grew up in Gelsenkirchen?! But I suppose nobody has ever accused the Bayern fans of intelligence, hehehe). But Neuer has proved to be the real deal as Bayern management promised. He still has instances like a wanker, where he gets himself in trouble, but his reaction/reflexes and skill make him one of the world’s best keepers. Bayern has always relied upon solid long-term GKs (Maier, Pfaff, Kahn), and they probably are set for at least 10 years now. Already 10 shutouts, a league leading defense, I’d say the Bayern fans are shut up now…

But Bayern also made a couple of other clever buys to shore up last season’s shaky defense. Jerome Boateng came from Manchester City, and Rafinha returned from Italy. Whereas Boateng certainly could have stayed, Rafinha was one of these players who did well in Germany, but couldn’t adjust in Serie A. (Can you say “Diego”?). Another “addition” is Holger Badstuber. He has basically sucked for several seasons, but under Jupp Heynckes has seemingly found his way, and appears to be a solid defender. Even oldtimers like Daniel Van Buyten seem to be enjoying a recovery. Plus you have captain Philip Lahm, one of the world’s best outside backs.

Up front, Mario Gomez is banging them in, and Miroslav Klose is forgotten. (Although doing quite nicely at Lazio. Klose doesn’t do much except score a lot of goals where ever he is). Franck Ribery is terrorizing defenses, and  Thomas Müller has been solid. Youngster Toni Kroos has shown lots of improvement. He was heralded as the next great super talent, but was eclipsed by Müller. However he’s become a solid starter, and looks to be on the way to fufilling his potential.

So after a stunning opening defeat, Bayern was off to the races and ripping up the league. In fact, the title looked wrapped up. But then Bastian Schweinsteiger got injured, and Bayern looked somewhat vulnerable to charging teams like Dortmund and Schalke. Schweinsteiger was truly in world-class form, and the squad lost some of it’s focus. Even though Arjen Robben is back from long injury, he’s more of a prima-donna. “Schweini” provided steel, and Bayern was brought back to earth.

Not all things have been rosy on the squad either. Defender Breno burned down his house and now faces legal problems. Maybe it was just a cry for help and attention since he wasn’t playing. I would say that players like Ivica Olic and Daniel Pranjic feel a bit underutilized and could want to jump ship. Certainly they would be starters somewhere else, but hell, if Robben often starts on the bench, what do you expect?

Appointing Jupp Heynckes as boss seems to have worked nicely. He’s been able to manage the egos and keep the squad focused in all competitions.

All things said, they’re still Germany’s strongest club, and the Bundesliga title is their’s to lose.