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.
In this part of our nine-part series, we take a look at some of the unexpected stars of the campaign so far...
Sitting eighth in the table with four wins and four defeats, Mainz’s 2015/16 season has been somewhat unremarkable so far, but the same certainly cannot be said of midfielder Yunus Malli. Following a superb second half of last season, in which he scored six goals, he signed a new contract in May and has since gone from strength to strength, bagging another six in just eight games, including a hat-trick against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim on Matchday 5. He is now the second-highest-scoring German player in 2015 behind FC Bayern München’s Thomas Müller, as well as the league's most prolific midfielder.
Experienced midfielder Marcel Heller undoubtedly played his part in Darmstadt’s rise to the Bundesliga through successive promotions, but he has already left such an impression on Germany's top flight that he is fast becoming an historic figure for the Lilies. He netted twice on the season’s opening day in the club's first Bundesliga match in 33 years and has gone on to add a thumping volley at Borussia Dortmund (also in a 2-2 draw) and another curling strike in the derby against Mainz. The 29-year-old’s scoring touch has already given Dirk Schuster’s unfancied side a fighting chance of staying up.
Despite a record of 82 goals in 202 Bundesliga appearances by the end of last season, Bosnia and Herzegovina international Vedad Ibisevic needed a new challenge this summer after slipping down the pecking order at VfB Stuttgart. Now sporting the blue of Hertha Berlin, he and the Old Lady look a perfect marriage, evidenced by his snaffling of four goals in just five games. His arrival has empowered Hertha with not only a proven Bundesliga goalscorer and a useful foil to the industrious Salmon Kalou but also an attacking edge to compliment a fast-improving defence, with Pal Dardai’s charges now in the heady heights of fourth in the table.
Athletic striker Luc Castaignos arrived in Frankfurt on the back of a prolific spell at FC Twente in the Netherlands, and his direct style appears to fit perfectly with Armin Veh’s enterprising style of football. The Dutchman bagged braces in a 4-1 at VfB Stuttgart and a 6-2 thrashing of 1. FC Köln, emerging as an ideal partner for senior striker Alexander Meier. With the Eagles also boasting the likes of Stefan Aigner and Haris Seferovic on the wings, Castaignos could well be the missing piece of a very promising attacking puzzle indeed.
From an attacking starlet to a defensive stalwart, Ramazan Özcan has been an integral part of a record-breaking start to Ingolstadt’s season. He started on the opening day but was dropped for Matchday 2’s defeat to Borussia Dortmund, only to then regain his place and keep three straight clean sheets – in addition to that on Matchday 1. Furthermore, the Austrian international’s form helped Ingolstadt to become the first newly-promoted side to win their first three away matches, against Mainz, FC Augsburg and SV Werder Bremen.