With the Champions League group stage approaching its close and the anticipation for the World Cup entering its climax, it’s hard to not feel a little overwhelmed with the amount of high-quality football on the calendar. Even the Bundesliga – oft-maligned for its predictable nature, and one-horse title race – has been enlivened this season with exciting storylines and open competition.
To dig below the surface, we take a look at each of the 18 top-flight sides in this week’s newsletter, highlighting one statistic that tells a deeper story. This article was inspired by Lewis Ambrose of FusballinEnglish, another fantastic German Football newsletter you should subscribe to! This article is an adaptation from Adam Khan’s German Football Newsletter. Want Bundesliga & Bundesliga 2 updates throughout the entire season? Subscribe here.
Season after season Urs Fischer’s side defies the odds in the Bundesliga, and this year looks to be no different as Union Berlin sit fifth in the Bundesliga, seven points behind league leaders Bayern Munich, three points behind Freiburg, level with Eintracht Frankfurt and one behind third-placed RB Leipzig. The fact that they are doing so with just 42.7% possession is truly breathtaking. No other side topping one of Europe’s 46 top flights holds less average possession this season.
It’s hard not to talk about Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The Cameroonian forward has contributed 6 goals and 2 assists in the league and 11 goals and 3 assists in all competitions, and the 33-year-old stop-gap striker is slowly developing into an undroppable figure for Julian Nagelsmann’s XI.
Though it’s hard to see him maintaining this pace over an entire season, the 1.59 goals and assists he is averaging per game (in all competitions) are the numbers one would associate with an elite center-forward in his prime. For context, across 8 seasons at Bayern, Lewandowski was never able to maintain such remarkable output for an entire campaign.
#ChoupoMoting is averaging 1.59 Goals + Assists per game in all competitions this season.
For context, this is #Lewandowski's entire FC Bayern career…
The new 🐐! pic.twitter.com/F4lsYCIAkK
— Adam Khan (@XxAdamKhanxX) October 27, 2022
Christian Streich continues to do a remarkable job at SC Freiburg since taking over as head coach 12 years ago. For the first time in club history, SC Freiburg are into the knockout stages in the Europa League, and Streich’s side have successfully mastered the first two rounds of the DFB Pokal, and are just 4 points off of taking the top spot in the Bundesliga.
Freiburg are even developing a true identity in possession, however, their tremendous threat from set-pieces nevertheless reigns supreme. No team in the Bundesliga has scored more goals from set-pieces this season, and since the start of the 2021/22 campaign, only Manchester City have bettered Freiburg’s 25 set-piece goals in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Die Adler are steadily developing into a winning machine, but along the way, their league fixtures remain amongst the wildest goal scoring affairs. With 56 goals scored and conceded, games involving Eintracht Frankfurt have seen the most goals in the Bundesliga.
BVB’s misfiring attack has been one of the biggest issues since Edin Terzić took over on a full-time basis. After 11 matchdays, Dortmund had only 18 goals in the league, the fewest Die Schwarz-Gelben have managed at this point in the campaign since 2014 — they have since beaten Eintracht 2-1, VfL Bochum 3-0, and lost 2-0 to Wolfsburg and 4-2 to Gladbach.
Particularly compared to last season it’s a stark drop in goalscoring form. Whereas last season BVB averaged 2.5 goals per game, this year their record has fallen to just 1.6. That’s almost 31 fewer goals over an entire season.
It’s been a crazy Bundesliga season, and the unpredictable nature has even left its mark on the penalty spot. 11 penalties were missed in this year’s Bundesliga after 11 matches — the last time so many spot kicks weren’t converted after 11 matchdays were all the way back in the 1999/2000 season.
That’s a wild statistic on its own, but perhaps even more shocking is that it has hit the oh-so-reliable Mainz 05. Before Aarón Martin’s missed spot kick on matchday 3, Mainz 05 had successfully converted their last 36 Bundesliga penalties in a row. A 100% record that had lasted more than 9-years!
While all of our previous stats focused on performances on the pitch, the real highlight surrounding TSG Hoffenheim is their formidable structure off of it! Since 2019, TSG Hoffenheim have accumulated €75m more in player sales than what they have spent during the same time frame on the transfer market.
In simpler terms, TSG Hoffenheim have made a €75m net profit since the summer of 2019. No other club in the Bundesliga has boasted such substantial profit margins during this period, however this development model is clearly not holding Die Kraichgauer back on the pitch where they sit 11th in the league.
The Red Bull Arena in Leipzig isn’t known for being a raucous atmosphere, but it’s clearly done the trick for the home side this season. With 28 points and a +9 goal difference, RB Leipzig have the best home form in the division. The measly away form is then keeping them back from having a say in this season’s title race. Across their first 6 away fixtures they had collected 3 points, a record bettered by every Bundesliga club bar the relegation duo of Schalke 04 and VFL Bochum.
Borussia Mönchengladbach have had a topsy-turvy season under new manager Daniel Farke. In controlled phases of possession they look impressive – and Marcus Thuram is back to his best – but in transition they are routinely undone, and are still searching for balance in midfield.
One way Farke may look to add more consistency then is by adding a renewed focus on the fundamentals. After 11 matchdays, no side had covered less distance or made fewer sprints, than Borussia Mönchengladbach. With Die Fohlen-elf out of the Pokal and not competing in Europe, one should expect to see a more impressive showing in their intensity in and out of possession.
1. FC Köln
Anthony Modeste may be gone, but FC Köln are still the crossing kings of the Bundesliga. Steffen Baumgart’s side made 40 more crosses than any other team in the division after 11 matchdays, and only 2 sides in Europe complete more on average.
SV Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen have been an exciting watch for a number of reasons this season, but chief amongst them is the side’s ability to strike late. Less than a third of the way through the season, Bremen have already scored 9 goals in the final 10 minutes of matches. It’s more than what 8 Bundesliga sides managed across the entire campaign last year, and 2 more than any other team in one of Europe’s top 5 leagues this season.
After 11 matchdays, FC Augsburg had 14 points in the Bundesliga. At no point in the last 5 seasons have they ever had so many on their account after 11 gameweeks. But that’s not the stat that has caught our attention. Rather, it is the manner in which they have achieved this moderate form of success. No side in the Bundesliga attempts fewer passes than Die Fuggerstädter, and no side in Europe’s top 5 leagues completes fewer passes as well!
There’s quite a bit of optimism surrounding Sandro Schwartz’s start to the season at Hertha BSC. The former Mainz 05 manager has added much-needed defensive structure, is getting the most out of Dodi Lukébakio, and has even united a locker room that was as fractured as ever over the last 24 months.
Nevertheless, one thing that has yet to really come to fruition are points on the pitch. Hertha BSC were knocked out of the DFB-Pokal first round and had picked up just 11 points after 11 matchdays. Since their last promotion to the Bundesliga in 2013, Hertha have never had fewer points after 11 games played.
VfL Wolfsburg remain one of the most boring possession-based outfits in the Bundesliga, however, there is one aspect in their game that could be cause for some future optimism. Die Wolfen are the second-youngest squad in this season’s top-flight, have dropped their average age by a larger proportion than any other Bundesliga outfit, and, alongside VfB Stuttgart, are the only side to get younger compared to their average age last year.
Bayer Leverkusen are a shadow of their former selves. The defence is shambolic and the attack is misfiring. Nobody embodies this stark decline better than striker Patrick Schick. After an impressive 24-goal campaign last year Schick is yet to score in the Champions League and has just two in the Bundesliga. In fact, no player in the division is underperforming their non-penalty expected goals by a larger margin than Schick this season.
As many foresaw ahead of the season, VfB Stuttgart are in the thick of another relegation battle in the Bundesliga. They lost their star forward over the summer, parted ways with influential manager Pellegrino Matarazzo in October, and had won just 1 of their first 11 matches in the Bundesliga.
Thus, in many senses it is much the same as at the same point last year, but one thing has drastically changed. Whereas last year Stuttgart averaged 50.7% possession, this year they only have 44.3%. Matches against FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund have obviously impacted this figure, but it’s nevertheless eye-catching that of the 16 teams who remain in the Bundesliga from last season’s top flight, nobody has seen a more drastic drop in possession than Stuttgart.
VfL Bochum have slightly rescued their campaign since the appointment of Thomas Letsch in September. In 4 Bundesliga matches the German manager has taken 6 points, and Bochum have advanced to the 3rd round of the DFB-Pokal for just the 5th time this decade.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine them staying up. The side simply lacks individual quality, highlighted by the error-prone defence around goalkeeper Manuel Riemann. At the time of writing, no team in Europe’s top 5 leagues have made more errors leading to an opponent’s shot than VfL Bochum.
Following their DFB Pokal debacle against TSG Hoffenheim, a 5-1 defeat, Schalke 04 parted ways with manager Frank Kramer. It’s not the first time Schalke have been quick with a sacking, and it probably won’t be the last. Throughout their 54-year Bundesliga history, Schalke 04 have sacked 37 managers during the season. No other club in German football has had more managerial turnover.
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By: Adam Khan / @XxAdamKhanxX
Featured Image: @Juanffrann – Martin Rose / Getty Images