If you happen to be a fan of club football over country, like myself, then you tend to find this first upcoming international break more of an annoyance than anything else. Just as teams in the various European leagues are just getting started/starting to jell, along comes a week off to throw off rhythm, and bring chances for injuries, with either Euro qualifying or international friendlies.
For some in the Bundesliga, though, it will be a much needed break; allowing some teams to assess where it has gone off the rails in first couple of matches. Yes, Borussia Moenchengladbach, I’m looking at you.
Dead last in the league after two matches, a shellacking by Borussia Dortmund, 4-0, and a tight 2-1 loss to Mainz 05 means Lucien Favre must go back to the drawing board after their latest chance to grab points at Werder Bremen this upcoming weekend. Defense matters most, as Favre certainly misses captain and center back Martin Stranzl, but profligacy in front of goal is also an issue for the Foals as they wasted several clear cut chances against the Nullfuenfer.
Though Schalke 04 put three past Werder Bremen to open the season, they stumbled a bit in week two, only picking up a single point against a surprisingly resilient, promoted Darmstadt. I mention Schalke, as well as ‘Gladbach, because only three teams have taken all six points after just two matchdays: usual suspects Dortmund, Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen.
If you made a table of the top seven finishers last season, solely competing against each other, Bayern would have placed deadlast. Yet, they still managed to win the league. How did they accomplish this? By beating the “lesser” teams, winning the matches they were “supposed” to win. Even Wolfsburg, wholly distracted by the ongoing Kevin de Bruyne transfer saga, should have picked up three against Koeln. It’s a draw that may hurt them later on.
Speaking of de Bruyne…
Nobody is quite sure exactly how the protracted “de Bruyne to Manchester City” deal will end, but I am of the opinion that the talented Belgian midfielder should stay at Wolfsburg for at least this season.
By now all are aware that I am a massive Bayern homer, but my thoughts on the matter have little to do with the rumors that de Bruyne wants a move to Munich for the 2016-17 season. More thoughtfully, I want him to stay with the Wolves to give the Bundesliga as a whole a boost, and Wolfsburg, specifically, to create a sustainable, attainable European team over the long haul.
The gobs of cash every Premier League side now has is distracting, and heads can easily be turned as the top flight teams throw their money around willy-nilly. But Wolfsburg, owned by Volkswagen, is not a club in any sort of dire financial straits.
Figures ranging from 70-80 million euros have been bandied about, and yes, every club and player eventually has a price. But if Wolfsburg were able to keep together their core group of players – de Bruyne being the biggest key — the club will find themselves picking up UEFA cash over the next few seasons. as they will be able to continuously qualify for Champions League competition.
The metric system
While Fox’s Bundesliga coverage means I no longer have to leave my house to watch matches, I still find myself inexorably drawn to my local pub, the Lion and Eagle, most Saturday mornings. I have a specified TV, seat and crazy routine where I check stats from my laptop, live tweet from my phone, take notes for reviews, and keep an eye on other matches, too. And yes, I’d be lying if I said a pint or two wasn’t involved.
Saturday found me seated at my regular table with a group of American guys, all relatively new fans of European football. We watched the Hoffenheim -Bayern match together as they peppered me with questions (that I’m always glad to answer) throughout.
Bayern’s Jerome Boateng left the pitch in the second half after seeing two yellow cards in two minutes, Hoffenheim’s Eugen Polanski stepped up to take the penalty after the second. Bayern weren’t meant to pay for it as he struck the post and the rebound fell to Manuel Neuer, and after getting a good chuckle out of the miss, they asked me a question: “How far away is the penalty spot from the goal?”
“Eleven meters,” I replied; not looking up from my notes, as I was recording the play.
When finished, I finally looked up at the table around me, and was faced with five different blank stares. “What,” I said, laughing, “you don’t know how far 11 meters is?”
“Sheesh! Americans!” I thought to myself, but said out loud. “Guys, guys … it’s 36 feet.”
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