In Simon Rolfes, the Bundesliga and its partner AWS have an expert who knows the Bundesliga from A to Z. Bayer 04 Leverkusen's Sporting Director, Rolfes wore Die Werkself's colours 288 times between 2005 and 2015, and represented Germany on 26 occasions. Rolfes is the ideal man to write a weekly column for the 'Bundesliga Match Facts Zone' on bundesliga.com, analysing current trends and giving unique insight on the Bundesliga Match Facts.
This time, the fastest players in the Bundesliga this season is the topic of discussion.
By Simon Rolfes
After another round of midweek fixtures, with games coming at the rate of one every three days, the Bundesliga has final reached its midway stage after Matchday 17 has been played. This is as good a moment as any to take stock and review the season so far.
The new Speed Alert Bundesliga Match Fact powered by AWS not only registers the quickest players in a single game, it also ranks the best sprinters of the season. In 2020/21 so far, 14 players have already broken through the barrier of 35 km/h (21.75mph), which equates to around ten metres per second. There can be no question about it – such a speed advantage can prove decisive.
At the very top of the rankings are a duo who are both at home on the FC Bayern München left wing, and it doesn't surprise me much at all to see Alphonso Davies once again leading the way. He was clocked at 35.94 km/h (22.33 mph) on Matchday 11 against 1. FC Union Berlin, which is the quickest recorded speed of a player in the Bundesliga this season. Following just behind him is his teammate in a slightly more advanced position on the left, Kingsley Coman. On Matchday 10 against RB Leipzig, the Frenchman was clocked at 35.68 km/h (22.17mph). One thing is for sure: when you are a right full-back faced with this Bayern duo, you are in for a very busy, tiring day at the office.
Trend: defenders are getting faster
Generally, attacking players are considered to be the fastest on a football field, especially those operating in wide positions. A Bundesliga winger should boast pace as one of his fundamental characteristics nowadays, and that is why VfB Stuttgart's Silas Wamangituka and Union's Sheraldo Becker regularly feature among the quickest players of each matchday, for example. Both have almost literally hit the ground running this season, not just in terms of their blistering pace, but also thanks to their regular contribution of goals.
Watch: Bundesliga launches AWS Speed Alert
What really does catch the eye, though, is the growing number of defenders whose names are figuring in this classification. With Davies, Wolfsburg's Paulo Otavio and Leipzig duo Dayot Upamecano and Lukas Klostermann, as well as Mainz's Jeremiah St. Juste, exactly half of the top ten quickest players so far this season are defenders. This shows a clear trend: a modern-day defender needs good pace in order to keep up with increasingly sprightly strikers. Players like Mats Hummels or also Lars Bender, whose game is focused more on good positioning and experience, are becoming more and more of exceptions in the modern game.
Very few midfielders and centre forwards on the list
If you are looking for central midfielders among the fastest players, you are going to struggle to find them, on the other hand. Their role is more about finding gaps and distributing balls, which means they are very rarely drawn into a race with wingers or rushing back to provide cover at the back. Interestingly, the quickest midfielder so far this season, Borussia Mönchengladbach's Denis Zakaria, ranks only 27th in the classification of the league's fastest players. But even the classical centre forward is hard to find in the upper echelons of the rankings, unlike their teammates out wide. They are generally built physically more pronounced and are taller than wingers and do not tend to reach speeds in excess of 34 km/h (21.12mph), with the exception of Dortmund's Erling Haaland.
Furthermore, it appears like some clubs put a greater focus on speed than others. Stuttgart and Leipzig together provide three of the 14 players to have broken the 35 km/h barrier. It is also part of Bayer 04 Leverkusen's DNA to attack with very quick wide players. Leon Bailey, Karim Bellarabi and Moussa Diaby are particularly pacey players, with Diaby's 35.29 km/h (21.93mph) ranking him ninth overall.
Who will be first through the 36 km/h barrier?
I am quite certain that players are going to get even quicker, though. Since speed has been measured in the Bundesliga, only four players have broken the magical barrier of 36 km/h (22.37mph). Alongside Davies and former Dortmund defender Achraf Hakimi, two Leverkusen players in Bailey and Diaby have already broken that barrier last season. So who is going to be the first to spring their way through the 36 km/h barrier in the 2020/21 season? Let's wait and see!
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