One of The Offside Rule’s resident Bundesliga experts, Susie Schaaf, gives her thoughts on an opening weekend that saw Dortmund rediscover their spark and Bayern’s summer signings tear Hamburg apart.
There is already a narrative running in the Bundesliga, despite the season being just one matchday old. While newly-promoted Darmstadt and Ingolstadt both managed to grab points in their maiden outings, the big teams showed – for better or worse – a bit of what the 2015/16 season may have in store.
Some might have had reason for concern as Andre Breitenreiter was given the reins at Schalke 04, considering his former club, Paderborn, were relegated after their first top-flight season. But he seems to have a firm handle on a club that has a perennial front of office mess. That mess of a front office did at least manage to sign Johannes Geis from Mainz and Werder Bremen forward Franco di Santo. Di Santo featured nicely alongside goalscorer Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, with the potent right-winger Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting also netting.
A defensively stout back four – Joel Matip shone with two assists – coupled with some real attacking talent, gave the Royal Blues that bit of swagger they were lacking under Roberto di Matteo.
The big Bundesliga sharks were circling Bayern Munich after the end of last season, as they were bounced out of Champions League competition and began flailing domestically, but tales of the Reds’ demise may have come a bit too soon. Though their 5-0 thumping of Hamburg was against perennial bottom-dwellers, it did give the world a chance to see just what kind of business Bayern had done in the transfer market.
It turns out that Douglas Costa and Arturo Vidal are pretty good. Who knew? The former seamlessly integrated himself into Bayern’s attack, looking lethal down both flanks with incredible pace and well-struck crosses (and a goal, and an assist, to boot); while the latter led the squad in passes and tackles, and supplying a defensive oomph that’s been missing since Mark van Bommel patrolled the midfield.
Though Wolfsburg ‘only’ beat Frankfurt 2-1, both teams got their scoring out of the way early (all three goals came in the first 20 minutes) on a quiet sort of night for sought-after Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne, at a Bild awards show on Monday evening, was asked whether he would be featuring in September’s second round Pokal match against Bayern Munich (that would be after the window closes, if you are paying attention). “Naturally,” he replied.
When all of that is said and done, Borussia Dortmund were the true stars on matchday one, crushing the life out of Borussia Moenchengladbach, with a 4-0 win. Coach Thomas Tuchel said he’d never expected that sort of result. It is rather stunning, particularly considering Lucien Favre’s ‘Gladbach made nearly everyone’s list to finish in the Champions League places again this season.
Tuchel has given new life to a team that had grown stale under everyone’s favourite trainer, Jurgen Klopp. Especially notable performances on the day came from former want-away Henrikh Mkhitaryan with a brace, left-back Marcel Schmelzer, who looked brilliant both going forward and back, and 19-year-old Julian Weigl. Weigl, partnered with Ilkay Gundogan in holding midfield, gave a performance belying his tender years after joining the Black-and-Yellows from second division 1860 Munich.
While it is not a surprise that Bayern ended up on top of the heap (a position that might not be relinquished) after the first round of battles, the other perennial contenders gave good accounts of themselves, too. There just might be a title race – at least a closer one than has been the norm recently – this season. The Bundesliga is back!
Read more from Susie here!