It's time to choose your 2016/17 Bundesliga Team of the Hinrunde, so pick two central midfielders from the six below!
Released from the shackles of recurring injury, Thiago has played in 15 of Bayern's 16 games this season, and it is easy to see why. He has touched the ball an average of 117 times per game – more than any other player in the Bundesliga – and when he had possession, has scarcely misplaced a pass. Need more evidence? Look no further than Bayern's 3-0 win over nearest challengers RB Leipzig on Matchday 16: he ran the show.
With four goals, he is the Royal Blues' top goalscorer going into the winter break, after becoming the first Algerian footballer to net two goals in a single game in the Matchday 8 win over 1. FSV Mainz 05. He needs just one more goal to become the most prolific Algerian of all time in the Bundesliga and it is not likely to be long before that record belongs to a man who has already had 22 shots on goal – just one fewer than the trigger-happy Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting – and laid on a further 23 efforts on goal for his teammates.
With six goals and six assists, Malli's contribution to Mainz's season has been remarkable, confirming that the 11 goals he scored last term, when he was Mainz's top goalscorer, was no fluke. Indeed, he has moved onto 29 Bundesliga goals for Mainz and is level with Mohamed Zidan as their all-time top-scorer. Coming from a deep position where he is hard to mark, Malli has found room for a shot on no fewer than 31 occasions.
Although he has struggled with injury, when Castro has played a part for Dortmund this season, he has invariably made an impact. With three goals and five assists, BVB have him to thank for almost a quarter of their goals in the Bundesliga this term. It could arguably have been more too, considering the 24 shots on goal that he had – second only to Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in the black and yellow dress.
A winner of 52 percent of his challenges – no wonder he is known as the warrior. Vidal has significantly cleaned up his game to produce such statistics, committing just 17 fouls this season compared to 60 last term, and that is helping him get more possession for his team with 113 phases of possession per game on average second only to teammate Thiago in the whole of the Bundesliga. When he says "in midfield, I am now the best in the world," it is hard to find arguments to contradict Chile's two-time Copa America-winning captain.
Forced his way into the Frankfurt starting XI on a regular basis this season and has delivered the goods for Niko Kovac with a hand in seven of their 22 goals (including three of his own). By comparison, in those three games in which Fabian did not play, the Eagles scored just two goals without his creative edge. He took aim at goal 39 times and put his teammates into position to shoot on 28 occasions, looking particularly confident as the attacking playmaker of the high-flying Eagles.