Just five points separate leaders Borussia Mönchengladbach and tenth-placed Hoffenheim after of Matchday 9, making the Bundesliga Europe’s most competitive league, with four teams having already been top this season. But why exactly is that?
bundesliga.com examines the reasons behind Germany's top flight being the tightest it has ever been since the introduction of the three-point rule in 1995…
1) New coaches, fresh ideas
Six of the current top 11 teams have a new boss on the touchline this term: Marco Rose (Gladbach), Julian Nagelsmann (RB Leipzig), Oliver Glasner (Wolfsburg), David Wagner (Schalke), Ante Covic (Hertha Berlin) and Alfred Schreuder (Hoffenheim).
This is significant because, for starters, players are always extra motivated to impress a new head coach in a bid to play regularly. This could go some way to explaining the number of stars in fine early season form: Alassane Plea (four goals, four assists), Wout Weghorst (five goals, two assists) and Timo Werner (six goals) are just three of those to have stood out so far.
Watch: Rose's Gladbach side under the tactical microscope
Perhaps more importantly, though, the coaches bring a fresh approach and fresh ideas to their team, instilling exciting brands of football. Nagelsmann aside, none of the aforementioned newcomers had ever been at the helm of a Bundesliga side prior to this season, giving their teams a sense of the unknown; the opposition are still sussing them out and deciphering out how to play against them.
2) Similar styles
Formations and tactics tend to follow certain trends in football and in the Bundesliga there are a number of teams currently employing similar approaches. High early pressing, rapid transitions, non-stop intensity and clinical finishing are the name of this particular game, with Gladbach, Bayer Leverkusen, Wolfsburg, Eintracht Frankfurt, Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund among the chief exponents, while Freiburg and Schalke also play this way to a degree.
As a result, head-to-head matches between the teams in the top half of the table have often produced draws – subsequently packing them closer together in the standings. "There are currently about 12 sides that can call themselves 'top teams' in the Bundesliga," said Schalke boss Wagner recently.
Watch: Dortmund's tactics under Lucien Favre
He's not wrong. For example, so far this season, Gladbach have shared the spoils with Schalke; Schalke with Dortmund; Wolfsburg with Leipzig and Hoffenheim; Leipzig also with Leverkusen and Bayern Munich; and Freiburg with Dortmund. And that is by no means an exhaustive list.
Meanwhile, Hoffenheim boss Schreuder even went as far as to say that "Schalke are the strongest opponent we've played against so far," after his side beat the Royal Blues on Matchday 7. That is quite the statement considering Hoffenheim defeated Bayern 2-1 the week before, and have also already faced Wolfsburg, Gladbach, Frankfurt and Leverkusen this term.
3) Shrewd signings
It's fair to say that fees on the European transfer market have been a bit crazy since Neymar's high-profile move from Barcelona to Paris St. Germain in 2017 skewed things.
Yet Bundesliga clubs have refused to get caught up in inflated bidding wars, preferring instead to scout smartly and invest wisely.
Marcus Thuram (Gladbach), Bas Dost (Frankfurt), Thorgan Hazard (Dortmund), Nadiem Amiri (Leverkusen) and Philippe Coutinho (Bayern), to name but a few, are all top-class new signings that have hit the ground running. With quality improving across the board, it stands to reason that the playing field will also level itself out.
"How tight things are at the top of the Bundesliga is testament to the league's quality," said Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl recently. "We want to keep picking up as many points as possible and stay top for as long as we can."
4) No parking the bus
You might think that the fact seven Bundesliga teams are competing in European competition in 2019/20 – and the added strain and fatigue this inevitably brings – plus the presence of three newly promoted sides (for the first time since 2012) could lead to teams adopting a more conservative approach, sitting back and happy to play for a draw. In fact, the opposite is true.
Teams are very much viewing attack as the best form of defence and are employing increasingly forward-thinking styles. After Matchday 9, an astonishing 32 per cent of all games have been won by away sides (26 matches), compared to 29 per cent last season, 27 per cent in 2017/18 and 25 per cent the year before that.
Watch: Highlights of Hoffenheim's surprise win over Bayern
Furthermore, teams that would be considered underdogs on paper have not been shy about making their presence felt on the pitch. For example, Paderborn scored in each of their first seven league matches, taking the lead three times and finding the net inside the opening 15 minutes on five occasions over that period.
They even ran defending champions Bayern close at home in a narrow 3-2 defeat. And what of Union Berlin beating Dortmund 3-1? And Hoffenheim's 2-1 win away to Bayern, or Schalke and Freiburg beating Leipzig? One thing's for sure: they all point to an ultra-competitive division that shows no sign of slowing down, where anyone can beat anyone and title contenders can be picked from half of the league.