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…
Time and time again summer transfers prove either hit or miss, but the following six players have hit the ground running at their new clubs in the current campaign.
Blink and you have missed him. Douglas Costa, who has been clocked at a jet-heeled 34.2km/h, is making a habit of turning the Bundesliga’s fastest right-backs into miserable shells of themselves. Explosive, dynamic and – at times – unstoppable, the Brazil international has already racked up more assists in all competitions than Franck Ribery and Arjen Robben managed between them in the entirety of the 2014/15 campaign (eight).
While pin-point outside-of-the-boot crosses and beating his marker on the dribble 59 per cent of the time are his most recognisable qualities, it should be noted that the summer signing from FC Shakhtar Donetsk has also won 53 per cent of his challenges. Whereas last season the loss of ‘Robbery’ proved FC Bayern München’s downfall, Costa’s introduction only has people pondering whether the pair will be able to get back into Pep Guardiola’s starting line-up upon their return.
The greatest compliment that can be paid to Weigl is that he has not looked out of place in Dortmund’s star-studded midfield unit. Making the step up from the second tier is one thing, establishing yourself in the top flight is another, but the summer signing from TSV 1860 Munich has not shied away from the challenge, averaging 95 touches-a-game and striking up a fantastic partnership with Ilkay Gündogan.
The 20-year-old has been in Thomas Tuchel’s starting line-up on every single Matchday and is yet to put in a poor performance, misplacing just 10 per cent of his passes – a club best. Tuchel’s philosophy and style of play demands a lot of his charges, but Weigl has slotted in seamlessly, covering an average of 11.6km per game and demonstrating a maturity beyond his years.
A few eyebrows were raised when Muto turned down overtures from Chelsea FC to join 1. FSV Mainz 05 with the Japan international striker explaining that while the Premier League is a “great league”, he wanted to “develop steadily”. Chelsea’s loss is Mainz’s gain with Muto helping to ease the club through the transition of losing star striker and fellow countryman Shinji Okazaki, despite being a winger by trade.
While his goalscoring record is not the most prolific – both of Muto’s goals were scored in Matchday 3’s 3-0 win over Hannover 96 – his contribution should not be overlooked. His interpretation of being the first line of defence, winning 43 per cent of his challenges, has added more drive to the 05ers’ pressing game, while his work off the ball running the channels when in possession is allowing the likes of Yunus Malli to flourish.
Scoring twice and setting up another was the perfect way for Lars Stindl to endear himself to the Borussia Mönchengladbach fans on his debut in the DFB Cup 1st Round. Things took a turn for the worse for both club and player in the league afterwards, but even in the darkest of times, Stindl has proven a leading light and is now at the forefront of the revival under interim head coach Andre Schubert.
Whereas Lucien Favre could not settle on which position to make best use of Stindl’s abilities, Schubert has allowed the creative midfielder to be at his influential best in his natural position behind the striker. The alteration has not only brought the best out of the 27-year-old, who has either scored or assisted eight of Gladbach’s 14 goals in all competitions, but also allowed him to ease some of the burden on Raffael’s shoulders.
One of just three FC Schalke 04 players to feature in every game this season, early indications suggest Geis is ready to exceed all expectations as the missing piece in the Royal Blues’ puzzle. The 22-year-old has provided a greater sense of defensive stability in front of the backline, but more importantly is the ready-made deep-lying creative outlet Schalke were sorely lacking last season, as proven by the 24 chances he has created thus far.
Brought in from Mainz, Geis has played more long balls than any other player this season (72), but far from being the panicked punts up front Schalke were known for last season, his passes are composed and calculated attempts to threaten an opposition backline. “Despite his age he has such composure on the ball, he’s one of the best holding midfielders in the league,” praised head coach Andre Breitenreiter.
When Anthony Ujah departed for SV Werder Bremen, there was concern that 1. FC Köln, the lowest-scoring team outside the bottom three last season, would face an even greater struggle in front of goal. The concerns have since proven unsubstantiated thanks to Modeste, who has had a hand in at least one goal in seven of the eight games this season, including a league-best three strikes which have broken the deadlock.
The former TSG 1899 Hoffenheim striker is thriving and, scoring a goal every 148 minutes on average in his Bundesliga career, is proving more effective than former frontline greats such as Giovane Elber, Rudi Völler and Ulf Kirsten. “I love my life in Germany,” said Modeste in a recent interview with France Football. “I said very early on this season that I wanted to score between 10 and 15 goals.” At his current rate, keeping his word will not prove to difficult.