Cologne - This week, the second international break of the still-young season gives the Bundesliga Preview Show the opportunity to cast an eye back over some of the very best Germany's top tier had to offer in September.
We've got the overview on a spectacular month for you in our special highlights programme...
They may both be lagging well behind expectations in terms of the early standings, but all such humdrum considerations go by the board when FC Schalke 04 and Borussia Dortmund lock horns in a Ruhr district showdown which not only seeks its like in the Bundesliga, but has its own place in the pantheon of the world game's great local derbies. Schalke had home advantage for the first season meeting of the two arch-rivals, separated by a handful of miles in Germany's traditional industrial heartland. The Royal Blues took full advantage of it as well, to even up the all-time top-flight balance in this fiercely-contested duel. Ecstasy for the Royal Blue majority at the Veltins Arena – and for the losers, as ever, a defeat “the fans won't forget for a long time,” as BVB's Neven Subotic despondently summarised at the time.
Player of the Month
If had a long and strenuous summer with the Dutch national team in Brazil, it appears to be well and truly out of his system now. FC Bayern München scored six goals and conceded none in the two league games the 30-year-old attacking midfielder ran out for in September – and Robben himself was directly involved in five of them. A Bundesliga superstar, back to his best.
became the highest-scoring player from his country in the history of the German national top flight; put in a man-of-the-match performance to help FC Schalke 04 see off local rivals Borussia Dortmund; and then there was the small matter of fans' favourite 's return to the club where he first rose to international prominence, a comeback topped off with a 'debut' goal and a mutual love-in with the massed ranks of the Signal Iduna Park faithful. In short, it was a memorable month all-round for Japanese players in the Bundesliga.
Every season brings its own fresh swathe of class acts to the Bundesliga from elsewhere, some of them already familiar names to even casual followers of the international scene, others homeland heroes still on the way up. 2014/15 is no exception and Ivorian striker Salomon Kalou, undoubtedly a member of the former camp, is one who has wasted no time adapting to his new surroundings at Hertha Berlin. Ciro Immobile, a rather more recent addition to the ranks of European football's forward elite, has not found it altogether smooth going thus far with a Borussia Dortmund side struggling for form, while nonetheless showing compelling glimpses of the prowess that made him last season's Serie A top scorer. Still only 22, Haris Seferovic already has top-flight stints in Italy and Spain as well as his native Switzerland under his belt. The move to the Bundesliga, however, is promising to take his game up to another level again. Three goals, two assists, over 30 chances carved out and a regular starting berth from the off all add up to a very productive start for the new man in the fast-lane to stardom at Eintracht Frankfurt.
The big surprise
If there was general agreement among fans and pundits about anything going into the current campaign, it was that FC Bayern would be mighty hard to stop at the top – and SC Paderborn would have a mighty tough time steering clear of the bottom. On the latter count, at any rate, there has been the need for a rapid and radical re-evaluation. Two wins, three draws and two defeats provide the bare statistical bones to a start that sees Andre Breitenreiter's men go into the international break in the unexpected comfort of mid-table. Impressive enough in itself, but only hinting at the drama, surprises and odd moment of the simply sublime served up over the opening weeks by the modest North Rhine-Westphalian outfit on their maiden Bundesliga adventure.
The most memorable of those aforementioned Paderborn moments was booked by Moritz Stoppelkamp with an 82-metre strike against Hannover 96 on Matchday 4. That established a new long-range record for the Bundesliga with something to spare, and it was by no means the only milestone to fall by the wayside in September. Shinji Okazaki's Japanese best-mark has already been alluded to, while Jürgen Klopp overhauled Ottmar Hitzfeld as the coach with the most top-flight touchline appearances for Borussia Dortmund. Arguably the most remarkable statistic of the lot, though, was recorded by Xabi Alonso on Matchday 6. FC Bayern's new midfield maestro racked up 204 touches of the ball at 1. FC Köln, easily outstripping the 'old' best-mark set just last season by his compatriot in Munich, Thiago Alcantara.
Goal of the Month
Record-breaker or not, it was still given a run for its money by a few other real gems: but summer signing Moritz Stoppelkamp's last-gasp 82-metre effort to seal victory for Paderborn against Hannover prevailed in the end, voted Goal of the Month by bundesliga.com users.
At the other end of the scale, how do you manage to miss an open goal from two yards out? It can happen – in the Bundesliga or, just as easily, in the Second Division. And when it does, it's one for the Bundesliga YouTube channel, dutiful archivist of moments some would doubtless much rather consign to oblivion.