The official “Player of the Month” award is being introduced to the Bundesliga for the first time. The new award has been created by DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga in cooperation with the Bundesliga’s official licence partner, EA SPORTS FIFA 19.
It will be awarded in a two-stage selection process that will consider both the players’ individual performance data and a vote by fans and experts. The honour will be bestowed for the first time in October in recognition of achievements in September. These are the candidates:
Ondrej Duda (23, MF, Hertha Berlin)
Hertha Berlin have had their best ever start to a Bundesliga season with 13 points from their first six games. And that upturn in the capital is closely linked with one name: Ondrej Duda. The 23-year-old has been Hertha’s leading light in September with five goals in as many outings. The Slovakia international was almost solely responsible for the 2-0 win at Schalke with his brace, before the attacking midfielder netted again in the draw at Wolfsburg and the home victory over Borussia Mönchengladbach. The icing on the cake, however, was when he scored in the 2-0 win over Bayern Munich. It was the first time Hertha had beaten the record champions since 2009, and it took Duda’s goalscoring tally in September to a league-best five. But it’s not just for his goals that the Slovakian has been stealing headlines. He has shown himself to be a team player, creating a further five chances for teammates, completing an impressive 76.4 per cent of his passes and is often at the heart of the Old Lady’s attacks. “Ondrej has stepped it up a notch this year,” stressed Hertha head coach Pal Dardai when asked about the midfielder, who appears to have put two difficult seasons in the German capital behind him. “I’m finally happy in Berlin,” Duda stated to explain his current run after initial difficulties. “It wasn’t easy at the start here. I was very young, couldn’t speak the language and was often injured. Now I’ve got plenty of friends here and have gotten used to German culture.”
Max Kruse (30, FW, Werder Bremen)
With 10 point from five games, Werder Bremen can be pleased with their September haul. And that return is in no small part down to the performances of their captain, Max Kruse. The 14-time Germany international started the month as coach Florian Kohfeldt’s primary centre forward, but after a tactical switch, the 30-year-old was deployed out wide and then as a false nine. It’s a new position for Kruse and he has impressed there, completing 81.1 per cent of his passes and creating 14 chances, but he has remained clinical in front of goal himself. He scored the opener in Bremen’s 3-2 win at Augsburg, and three days later confirmed his status as a penalty expert when he netted from the spot against Hertha Berlin. The Werder captain has converted all 12 of his penalties in the Bundesliga – only Hans-Joachim Abel (16), Ludwig Nolden (15) and Otto Rehhagel (12) can boast a flawless record from a dozen spot kicks or more in the German top flight. “I just concentrate and try to put the ball in the goal. I’m not concerned about anything else at that moment,” Kruse said of his clinical nature from 12 yards. However, he also admitted, “I’ve worked on it a bit in training over the last few years, but I don’t practise them all the time. The important thing is just to have the concentration.”
Marco Reus (29, FW, Borussia Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund are finally back where their fans wish to see them. The Black-and-Yellows’ attacking display saw them claim top spot in the Bundesliga table, and that was in no small part down to their captain, Marco Reus. The 7-0 thrashing of Nuremberg showed the world yet again just how good the Dortmund native is as he bagged a brace and laid on an assist. His first goal that evening was a special one as it took his total at BVB to 100 in all competitions. “It means a lot to me, it’s a huge honour,” the Germany international said after the game. The Dortmund captain has had an excellent season in general, and his total of four goals and three assists in September made him the Bundesliga’s most prolific player this campaign. Above all, though, he’s been setting a perfect example for Borussia’s young attack of Jadon Sancho and Christian Pulisic. The captain has also sacrificed himself for the good of his team, and in the absence of striker Paco Alcacer has often be used by coach Lucien Favre as a makeshift centre forward. It isn’t Reus’ preferred position but he carried out the role with the same determination as he would any on the pitch. “I’m not a centre forward. People can see I feel more at home in an attacking midfield role,” the BVB poster child revealed. For anyone who saw his performances in September, they may struggle to believe that.
Timo Werner (22, FW, RB Leipzig)
RB Leipzig got off to a slow start this Bundesliga campaign, but September saw Die Roten Bullen unleashed – and that was also the case for their striker Timo Werner. The Germany international took some time to get going this season, however, he has looked more and more the part once again with each passing game. A stellar month was exemplified by his match-winning brace in the 3-2 triumph over Hannover on Matchday 3. His goal to put Leipzig 2-1 ahead was just his first of this Bundesliga campaign, but had all the hallmarks of his previous 34 in the top flight for RB. Leipzig won possession back and Emil Forsberg sent the rapid Werner on his way with the striker coming out on top one-on-one against goalkeeper Michael Esser. It was another example of what his coach Ralf Rangnick has often stressed: “He’s a born goalscorer, and you don’t lose that. Especially not at that such a young age.” The combination between Werner and playmaker Forsberg is especially fruitful. “I’m pleased I'm the one at the end of the chain who has the chance to put away the balls from him,” the striker said humbly, downplaying his own role in the process. Everyone in football knows that no matter how good the final pass, a team needs someone who can put the ball in the back of the net. And Timo Werner is as good as anyone in the Bundesliga at that fine art, including in September.
Thorgan Hazard (25, FW, Borussia Mönchengladbach)
After a breakthrough season last year, Thorgan Hazard has raced out of the blocks for Borussia Mönchengladbach this term. The Foals have made a superb start to the season, and the Belgium international is proving more important than ever in the Borussia attack. With his quick dribbles, his technical ability (almost 75 per cent pass completion) and assured finishing, the 25-year-old has frequently left opposition defenders red-faced. With goals against Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg, as well as an assist in the win over Frankfurt, Hazard had a hand in 12 attempts on goal in September and is the instigator in the Gladbach attack. “The season has started well for him with three goals in the cup and another three in the league. You can see it’s given him confidence,” said Borussia coach Dieter Hecking. It’s confidence that Hazard is exuding both on and off the pitch. “I scored 10 goals last season – I want to top that this year,” the ambitious Gladbach forward declared. There could’ve been more than that last season if the Belgian hadn’t lost his nerve in front of goal. But he’s worked on that and in September Hazard boasted a record of a goal every 156 minutes.
Alassane Plea (25, FW, Borussia Mönchengladbach)
An out-and-out centre forward is what Borussia Mönchengladbach fans and staff wished for ahead of this season, and they have found that in the shape of Alassane Plea. The summer signing from Nice in France was immediately thrown into the deep end at Borussia because of injuries, but he has done much more than simply tread water. The Frenchman began September with his first Bundesliga goal against Augsburg, and since then the floodgates have opened. He followed that up with an assist against Schalke before further goals against Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and Wolfsburg. And his strike against the Wolves didn’t just impress the fans: “It’s great that he’s shown straight away why we signed him. We put a lot of thought into Alassane’s transfer. He’s a special type of striker we didn’t have,” enthused Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl. Direct, strong with and without the ball, and highly athletic, Plea has already shown in his few performances that he has “the Gladbach gene,” according to Eberl. With four goals last month, the Frenchman was the most prolific new signing this season. “I’m very pleased with my goal haul. I feel great in this team and in the position I play,” Plea recently stated. But numbers speak for themselves, and Borussia finally have a true centre forward again.