No player in Europe’s major leagues has outscored 1.FC Köln's Anthony Modeste as we head into the international break; FC Bayern München’s Joshua Kimmich has gone from stopgap centre-back to goalscoring midfielder; and the champions are undefeated - yet so are RB Leipzig and TSG 1899 Hoffenheim…
It has been a thrilling season in Germany’s top flight so far and, refreshingly, incredibly difficult to predict. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scoring and Manuel Neuer keeping clean sheets will have raised few eyebrows, but that the following players have also starred is rather more surprising.
bundesliga.com takes a closer look with Part I of the surprise team of the season so far. First up, the defence!
Goalkeeper: Lukas Hradecky (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Expected: Hradecky haemorrhaged 52 goals last term as Eintracht finished in 16th before narrowly ensuring their survival with a 2-1 aggregate victory over 1. FC Nürnberg in the promotion/relegation play-off. Another difficult campaign seemed likely.
Reality: Only Bayern’s world champion and four-time Bundesliga winner Neuer has matched Hradecky’s five clean sheets after 10 games played. The Czech-born Finland No1 even managed to frustrate the free-scoring Modeste on Matchday 10, pulling off a string of saves to help Die Adler soar to seventh with a 1-0 win.
Watch: Highlights of Eintracht Frankfurt's 1-1 draw with 1. FC Köln:
Right-back: Timothy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Expected: Pastures new perhaps? The right-back only started five games last season as he struggled with a torn meniscus in his knee. The Frankfurt-born American international missed his country’s run to the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario, and the summer arrival of Uruguay’s Guillermo Varela on loan from Manchester United FC did not augur well for the 26-year-old.
Reality: Frankfurt coach Niko Kovac has adopted an attacking 3-5-2 formation, the club have the fourth-best defensive record in the division, and Chandler - who has played every game - has proven his mettle further forward, assisting teammate Marco Fabian for the equalising goal in the 2-2 draw against Bayern on Matchday 7. He’s back in the USMNT squad too. "He's having a very good season so far,” said coach Jürgen Klinsmann ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualifier with Mexico. “He's almost been playing as a winger… he deserves his place here."
Watch: Chandler looks forward to facing teammate Fabian in USA vs. Mexico:
Centre-back: Willi Orban (RB Leipzig)
Expected: Orban helped Leipzig to promotion last term, with the eastern upstarts conceding a league-low 32 goals with the 24-year-old at the heart of their defence. Leipzig nonetheless remained an unknown quantity on becoming the Bundesliga’s 55th club, and Orban - eligible to play for Germany by birth and Poland and Hungary through his parents - had not received an international call-up since an appearance for the Germany Under 21s in 2014. A solid, if not magnificent, season beckoned.
Reality: Leipzig are alongside Bayern at the top of the pile with 24 points after 10 matchdays. The team that couldn’t beat SC Freiburg to the Bundesliga 2 title have only conceded a single goal more than the Bavarian record champions, and Orban has played all 900 minutes. Greece international Kyriakos Papadopoulos, signed on loan from Bayer 04 Leverkusen, has been kept out the team, and a three-way race for Orban’s international allegiance is on.
Centre-back: Mergim Mavraj (1. FC Köln)
Expected: Mavraj missed 20 games with injury last season, watching on as Dominique Heintz and Dominik Maroh held the fort at centre-back. Köln finished a respectable 10th, and there was a question mark about Mevraj’s place in the team, let alone the team’s ability to repeat a season so bereft of relegation worries.
Reality: Mavraj is one of four players not to have missed a single minute as the Billy Goats have galloped up to sixth in the table. Only leaders Bayern have conceded fewer goals, and the Albanian has managed to stand out in a team allegedly lacking star individual performers.
Left-back: Marcel Schmelzer (Borussia Dortmund)
Expected: A fan-favourite at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK, there was nonetheless concern for Schmelzer’s Dortmund future when the club signed Portugal’s UEFA EURO 2016-winning left-back Raphael Guerreiro from FC Lorient. Coach Thomas Tuchel guided BVB to second last season, but there was a sense he had done so with a team built by predecessor Jürgen Klopp.
Reality: With captain Mats Hummels returning to Bayern, Schmelzer was handed the armband when his Germany teammate returned to open the season in the Supercup, and has kept it since. Guerreiro has featured - and excelled - but he has done so playing in front of Schmelzer in midfield, rather than ahead of him in the first XI.
Watch: The Borussia Dortmund success story: