1. Are Dortmund even better this season?
After a sublime performance against HSV on Friday night, the question has to be asked. Dortmund’s quick passing and interchange left HSV bewildered. The return of Kagawa has given fresh verve to Dortmund’s attack. In particular, the sickeningly talented 19 year old Mario Götze seems to love playing with Kagawa and the two combine brilliantly. New signing Gündo?an has also slotted nicely into the Nuri Sahin shaped hole in the midfield. With Barrios and Subotic still to come back from injury, and Ivan Perisic on the bench, there are even more reasons to be optimistic. However, it remains to be seen whether Dortmund can play that well after a tough midweek Champions League tie.
2. Is Patrick Helmes the man to solve Wolfsburg’s goalscoring issues?
Helmes fired home twice in Wolfsburg’s 3-0 victory away to Cologne. Helmes had an impressive strike rate at Bayer Leverkusen, but struggled to make an impact in his first 6 months after signing for Wolfsburg last January. Unfortunately for Helmes, Wolfsburg manager Felix Magath doesn’t seem to rate him. Instead, Magath is desperate to sign Papiss Cisse. Wolfsburg’s problem is that Magath doesn’t want to pay Freiburg’s €15 million asking price. Either Magath needs to stump up the cash soon, or find himself relying to Helmes.
3. Do Schalke already face problems?
Schalke were pretty poor in their 3-0 defeat away to Stuttgart. Admittedly, Stuttgart isn’t an easy place to get a result, but the game exposed a number of issues with Rangnick’s team. Rangnick favours a high tempo fluid passing game. However, to play that kind of style, Schalke need a central creative figure, which was sadly lacking on Saturday. Baumjohann doesn’t seem capable of providing the necessary creativity. Jan Moravek, who played quite well on loan to Kaiserslautern last season, is still young and yet to be given a real chance in the Schalke team. The obvious option is Jurado, who excelled in spells last season, but Rangnick doesn’t think he works hard enough to fit into the Schalke system. However, without him, Schalke’s play looked laboured.
Perhaps more worryingly, Schalke’s defence also looked shaky against Stuttgart. Rangnick has placed his faith in young defender Papadopoulos, but at only 19 he may not be ready to play week in week out. In addition, Rangnick favours new signing Marco Höger at right-back, but Schalke miss the dynamism provided by Uchida.
4. Is Thomas Tuchel the next Jürgen Klopp?
To a certain extent, the comparison is lazily drawn because both got their first taste of managerial experience at Mainz. However, there are other similarities. Both are representative of the young breed of German coaches currently plying their trade in the Bundesliga. Klopp’s Dortmund won last year’s title with high tempo pressing and passing, much like Tuchel’s Mainz team. Tuchel has done a remarkable job firstly keeping little Mainz in the division and then taking them to fifth place last season. Mainz suffered the ignominy of going out of Europe after their first tie, losing on penalties to Gaz Metan Medias. But Tuchel cannot be blamed for the profligacy of his players, both during the game and the shoot-out.
Despite losing several key players, Tuchel has rebuilt well. Even after playing 120 minutes on Thursday, Mainz still played a remarkably high-intensity pressing game on Sunday. Bayer Leverkusen just couldn’t live with it. Constantly harassed and harried by Tuchel’s men, Leverkusen often found themselves under pressure and going backwards. Indeed, the first goal, when Sami Allagui profited from a horrendous error by Leverkusen’s goalkeeper Fabian Giefer, only happened because of the striker’s pressing.
Mainz look more than capable of a mid-table finish once again. After impressing on a limited budget by instilling a well thought-out systm into his players, buying well and improving young players, many bigger clubs will wonder if he could do so well for them too.
5. Are Bayern already in crisis?
No. Not yet anyway. Despite being overwhelming favourites for the league, Bayern crumbled against a very well organised Borussia Mönchengladbach team, who, in should be noted, played very well. Bayern once again looked lethargic and one-dimensional. The main tactic was: get it out wide and hope Robben or Ribery does something good. The problem was that they can be stifled by a well organised team. After Toni Kroos made way for Ribery, Bayern lost the only player who was making the team flow and the only player who seemed interested in trying something different.
Even worse, the revamped defence produced a fatal blunder. After a defence mix-up, Neuer came charging out of his goal, didn’t get the ball and allowed De Camargo to nod home into an empty net. Neuer, who was a controversial signing for some of Bayern’s ultras, needs to adapt to having very little to do for much of the game, while pulling off the one brilliant save when required. As Neuer gets more playing time with his new defence, mix-ups like that one should become rarer, but Neuer can’t afford many bad errors without incurring the simmering anger of certain Bayern fans.