Cologne - Eight Matchdays down, 26 to go. The 53rd Bundesliga season is in full swing and already a different picture is being painted to the previous campaign.
Accordingly, bundesliga.com is focussing on the issues providing the brushstrokes at this early stage of the season…
Looking at the the current top three could conceivably retain their positions for the remainder of the season, but rounding out the top six are three teams who are currently exceeding expectations in Germany's top flight having collected 14 of the 24 points on offer.
The capital city side have come on leaps and bounds in 2015/16 after surviving last season in fortuitous circumstances. Hertha have reaped the rewards of Pal Dardai stepping down from his head coach role with the Hungarian national team, a decision which has allowed the 39-year-old to focus his powers purely on injecting a much-needed fighting spirit into his side.
Though Dardai's decision has in no doubt helped Hertha, the reasons behind their successful start boil down to two things: rock solid home form and a dynamic duo up front. The Olympiastadion finally boasts an intimidation factor worthy of its stature in German football with Berlin picking up 10 of a possible 12 points on home soil this term, thanks in no small part to the scoring feats of Salomon Kalou and summer signing Vedad Ibisevic, who have combined for seven of Hertha's 11 goals in the current campaign.
Köln are no strangers to the dreaded concept of second-season syndrome, a fate they suffered in the 2001/02 campaign, but any fears of repeating the feat have been allayed by their form thus far. The Billy Goats proved a tough nut to crack last season and are still providing unpleasant opposition, conceding more than once on just two occasions.
The big-name departures of Kevin Wimmer and Anthony Ujah were offset by the signings of Dominique Heintz, Leonardo Bittencourt and top goalscorer Anthony Modeste, who with six goals to his name, is just one goal shy of matching his tally for the entirety of last season. Köln's last foray into European competition came in the 1992/93, but while that may be a step too far in 2015/16, head coach Peter Stöger's rebuilding process has put his charges on a positive upward trajectory that could breed long-term success.
Plucky newly-promoted sides making a promising start to a season have become commonplace in the Bundesliga of late. Following in the footsteps of Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hertha Berlin and SC Paderborn 07, die Schanzer are the latest to make an early splash, but have outdone their predecessors by breaking a Bundesliga record in the process.
The 54th team to feature in Germany's top flight, Ingolstadt became the first debutants in Bundesliga history to win their first three away games, and are still unbeaten on foreign soil following their 1-1 draw with Köln on Matchday 7. FCI are the lowest-scoring outfit in the top flight, but a ruthless efficiency is making them the envy of several sides, while only league leaders FC Bayern München have conceded less often in 2015/16. The key now for Ralph Hasenhüttl's men is maintaining form as they look to survive their debut top-flight campaign.