By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Tactics Talk: Round 27

Another thrilling weekend of action on the world's best footballing beat is on the books! The first Bundesliga round back from the international break absolutely delivered the goods. Fabulous football, unexpected twists, and plenty of history.

The 2024 Easter Weekend in the Bundesrepublik - exactly as was the case after the very same round of action some three springs ago - gave us the presumptive end to this season's title race. A dramatic late win makes Leverkusen's historic championship all but a mere formality. Bayern's home loss to Dortmund - the first for the record champs in ten years - fittingly sealed the deal.

There's full coverage of everything and everything Bundesliga-related in the latest edition of our comprehensive recap column. Amid the most relevant talking points from all nine fixtures, we've draw-ups for Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, Bayern, Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Gladbach, Freiburg, Stuttgart, Heidenheim, and Darmstadt this time around.

Bundesliga Tactical Banter: Round 27

Lessons from the SGE stalemate


As clichéd as it may be, the first 0-0 draw to receive coverage in this week's installment really did constitute an intriguing tactical battle. Nenad Bjelica's righting of the 1. FC Union Berlin ship (a topic regularly covered in recent weeks) deserves additional praise. How far die Eisernen have come since the 0-3 declassing at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in the Hin-runde placed the Urs Fischer regime on its last legs. Just prior to the international break, we were discussing how Bjelica has located a winning tactical formula. That thesis found more supporting evidence this week. A damn good job from the FCU this week.

The FCU trainer stuck with the exact same personnel and tactical constellation from the 2-1 win over SV Werder Bremen. A big adjustment saw Brenden Aaronson, Mikkel Kaufmann, and Yorbe Vertessen cluster much closer together than before on the top attacking axis. In a couple of more subtle tweaks Robin Gosens and Christopher Trimmel moved back behind the halfway line and the back-three flatten out. This not only did a magnificent job of absorbing early Frankfurt pressure, but also greatly abetted the squad's performance on the counter. Vertessen, Kaufmann, and Aaronson all had early chances to score.

Aaronson regrettably missed the most obvious opportunity to net the 1-0 with a very poor decision on the ball during a 27th-minute counter. Vertessen spurned the best look of the second 45. Eintracht had their moments as well. SGE trainer Dino Topmöller utilized his lone personnel change (Hugo Ekitiké on for the injured Hugo Larsson) to radically alter his own constellation. The 3-4-3 from last round's 1-3 loss to Dortmund morphed into a 4-3-3 spearheaded by the newly introduced Frenchman. One generally liked what one saw from this. It produced optically sound football.

An interesting idea from Toppmöller placed Omar Marmoush behind Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe and alongside Mario Götze on the third axis. This didn't click right away, but Niels Nkounkou and Ansgar Knauff punched through on several quality SGE attack charges on the left during the first half. Poor finishing from both actors left the game goalless. Philipp Max replaced the ineffective (and carded) Nkounkou in the second 45. The Hessians' offensive play improved significantly. The Eintracht 4-3-3 really hit their stride with an exceptionally strong ten-minute-spell between the 56th and 66th.

Narrow misses from Ekitiké, Knauff, Tuta, and Marmoush very nearly broke the deadlock. FCU net-minder Frederik Rønnow made a critical save against Ebimbe at the tail end of the phase. Götze and the subbed-on Chaibi then made bids for a late-winner. An entertaining encounter in which both teams produced 1.6 xG unfortunately ended without any goals. No complaints to register, however. Great tactics from both coaches. One of the more absorbing goalless draws one is ever likely to watch. Kudos to the two sides and the respective staffs.

Lessons from the RBL stalemate


Phrew. This 0-0 simply left one with the taste of ashes in one's mouth. About all any of us wanted to hear from RB Leipzig trainer Marco Rose - especially after he conducted himself with such class in a recent post-match presser - was some baseless and pedantic whining about the officiating. Rose stood unhappy with no fewer than four VAR decisions that didn't break his side's way. The Video-Assist team took away two RB penalties, scratched one goal off for offside, and failed to compel match official Frank Willenborg to take another look at a crucial scene in the 61st when Sepp van den Berg took down Xavi Simons in the area.

Was there any merit to Rose's claims? Sorry, but no. An early handball penalty in the 9th was correctly overturned. Loïs Openda's goal at 45+1 was rightly disallowed for offside. The scenes in the 61st and again at 90+2 fell within the purview of the referee's discretion. We're left talking about a Leipzig squad that simply cannot find the back of the net as much as they should. Rose's RB continue to underperform. Openda and his (out of position) striking partner Christoph Baumgartner routinely failed with their finishing. Benjamin Henrichs and Kevin Kampl turned awful, error-ridden games that wasted midfield errors from opponents FSV Mainz 05.

The Saxons in no way deserve to earn a place in the Champions' League conversation this year. So many points needlessly dropped. They even allowed a woeful Mainz to snatch all three points from them in the Hin-Runde; the only match Mainz's ill-fated trainer Jan Siewert managed to win during his doomed tenure. Some questions about Rose must surface after this year. While players such as Xavi Simons, and (when healthy) Dani Olmo proved consistent bright spots, the list of duds (Baumgartner, Henrichs, Castello Lukeba, and David Raum) runs far too long. Personnel management with some players (Benjamin Sesko and Xaver Schlager) raises questions.

In the interest of fairly appraising the latest disappointment, we'll note that FSV keeper Robin Zentner did his bit to rob Leipzig of some excellent scoring chances. Rose's side - secure in their normal "RBL system" 4-2-2-2 - nevertheless must find a way to score against a team as thoroughly wretched as Bo Henriksen's Mainz. The Rheinhessen were bad beyond measure in this one. Right wingback Anthony Caci (on his unnatural side) gifted them at least a dozen turnovers via stray passes. Nadiem Amiri (with three stripped dribbles and a 25 percent duel rate) was even worse. Thoroughly amateurish football from the Nullfünfter went unpunished.

Tsk, tsk, tsk.

Lessons from the FCA stalemate


At least we got some goals in Sunday's early kickoff. Our website's Sunday match reporter - honestly without any verbal communication - seemed to intuitively know how the theme of this column's first section was developing. Weird stuff. Sometimes minds accidentally fall into line. In any event, hosting Augsburg will certainly feel bitterly disappointed after a 1-1 draw against visiting Köln. Jess Thorup's Fuggerstädter missed out on a chance to make history with their first ever run of five consecutive league wins. The Bavarian Swabians - unquestionably the better team - simply didn't get the result they deserved. Thorup's FCA could have also made progress in the race for Europe. Alas, it wasn't to be. A shame on several levels.

Augsburg's game was especially impressive in light of the fact that the team's talisman, Ermedin Demirovic, couldn't partake due to accumulated yellow suspension. Thorup compensated by moving Ruben Vargas up top to pair with Philipp Tietz. Elvis Rexhbecaj took over Arne Maier's position on the right hand side of the 4-4-2 diamond while Maier himself moved up to fill in for Vargas in the ten slot. It all functioned very well. Vargas and Tietz looked as if they had always been playing together. The ball moved fluidly through the FCA ranks. Set-piece-design was top notch. Something straight off the training ground enabled the hosts to take an early 1-0 lead. Maier scored in the 18th after relays from Vargas and Tietz off a Kevin Mbabu long throw.

Timo Schultz ordered die Geißböcke out of their previous 4-2-3-1 and into a flatter 4-4-2. Denis Huseinbasic and Dejan Ljubicic handled the double-six slot. Jan Thielmann ended up taking over at right back. Davie Selke and Sargis Adamyan worked the double striker set, followed closely by Florian Kainz and Faride Alidou as advanced wingers. This happened to create some offensive impetus, though the passing game in the final third remained far too chaotic to make much of an impact. Adamyan held the ball up splendidly against the otherwise very strong Felix Uduokhai on Köln's 33rd minute equalizer. That play - along with some distance misses from Thielmann and the later subbed on Max Finkgräfe - were all die Effzeh truly managed offensively.

Domstädter keeper Marvin Schwäbe, as has often been the case, did far more than any of his teammates in preserving the final scoreline. Thielmann, Finkgräfe, (the possibly still injured Leart Paqarada) and Timo Hübers contributed more than their fair share of defensive errors. Schwäbe and central defender Jeff Chabot bailed the guests out on numerous occasions. Schwäbe made two strong saves on Kristijan Jakic near the end of the first half. Chabot made several crucial interventions against Vargas and Tietz. Thielmann - for all his issues - did clear an effort from FCA sub Dion Drella Beljo off the line. In the final analysis a point doesn't do Köln much good in the relegation race either.


Why couldn't we find a winner here?

The "Spiegel Specials": Round 27

Leverkusen-Hoffenheim (3:2, 2:1)


Incredible. Could there have been a better way for Xabi Alonso's Werkself to all-but-arithmetically clinch the title? Germany's red company team are a special set of sheer awesomeness. Leverkusen followed up one of the Hin-runde's most insane results with more spectacular late absurdity. Bayer have gone and done it again. After kicking off the year with amazing stoppage time heroics against both Augsburg and Leipzig, they topped themselves with yet another spectacular comeback win. Whew. The Bundesliga delivers. Period. Adding much to that isn't easy.

We shall nevertheless try. How about the fact that the league's best trainer - now confirmed to prowl the sidelines for the title winners next year - continues to supply all the evidence one needs to back up the claim we all made at the beginning of the season. Xabi simply knows precisely what he's doing. This grand statement keeps manifesting itself both in terms of his tactical decisions and the way he preps the team for each individual opponent every week. More mastery from the Spaniard. With the utmost humility, the column shall attempt to lay it out for any and all curious readers.

88 minutes of grit 

Leverkusen's overall game during the long goalless spell that dominated the match wasn't bad at all. A brief attacking spurt from visiting Hoffenheim didn't trouble the hosts. Xabi's league 3-4-3 established their positional game inside of ten minutes. Unfazed by the fact that Pellegrino Matarazzo's Sinsheimers defended as deeply as possible, the Westphalians kept finding sneaky ways behind the TSG defensive line. The superb Florian Wirtz proved the most adept at attaining penetration. Wirtz produced a pair of efforts in the opening 45, as did fellow starters Jonas Hofmann and Granit Xhaka. 

Die Werkself absolutely should have netted the equalizer on what was a truly brilliant corner design from deep in Xabi's playbook at 45+3. The league-leaders headed into the tunnel a goal down only by virtue of the fact that a fluky series of events enabled Maximilian Beier to notch the 1-0 in the 33rd. TSG keeper Oliver Baumann kept the guests up by a goal with several stellar saves in the second half. At no point, however, did one retain the sense that morale wilted among Xabi's crew. The squad - having already comeback so many times this year - never took their foot off the gas.

Alonso initially refrained from making a major tactical change with his first substitution. Amine Adli entered for Hofmann in the 58th. It looked to be a non-panicky like-for-like. Tactics-heads across the Bundesrepublik surely remained fully locked on the overhead to see if Wirtz might slide right. The German phenom didn't. Adli kept his place on the right slant in the 3-4-3. The real masterstroke arrived when Borja Iglesias relieved Piero Hincapie in the 72nd. Tactics-lovers then bowed before Xabi's brilliance as Adli did slide right. This audacious re-format captured the win.

Lineup—B04—73rd minute (4-3-3) 

Schick and Adli sent efforts on target almost immediately. Baumann saved efforts from those two in the 76th. Ten minutes later, Baumann got some big help from the goal frame as Iglesias was only denied the equalizer via the crossbar. Robert Andrich finally restored parity on a super slick sequence in which Jonathan Tah headed a Wirtz cross back across the face of goal. Alejandro Grimaldo - an eminently successful project of his Spanish compatriot gaffer - barely missed the winner a couple of minutes after that. The winner still seemed within the team's grasp.

Schick grabbed the winner at 90+1, polishing off a beautiful low-driven cross from (on for Jeremie Frimpong as part of a straight swap in the 86th) Nathan Tella. All the right moves. Everything breaks Xabi's way. This is how one captures league titles. Don't be surprised if this team claims a seemingly impossible triple-crown. They're very much alive and kicking in the Pokal and the Europa League. Xabi's announcement that his work with this club wasn't finished took us all by surprise this week as it might be the case that he wins all there is to win with this organization this year.

Absent the Champions' League, of course. Maybe Alonso just knows a team carried by unshakable belief when he sees one. That's the only explanation that  springs to mind. It could also be the case that Xabi secured promises from the team's front office that the roster will be kept together. Club executive Fernardo Carro is on record as saying that Florian Wirtz will stay in town despite all of the outgoing exit links. If true, that's huge. We naturally all know that such a thing cannot be guaranteed. Assuming a successful Euros alongside Jamal Musiala, Wirtz may favor an FCB switch.

Any tactical foul-ups from Matarazzo? 

Partially. The American trainer escapes this column's usual ire courtesy of the fact that he did select a serviceable opening XI well arranged to keep the favorites at bay. Matarazzo wisely ditched the deplorable 3-4-3 he used against Stuttgart via the insertion of Andrej Kramaric and Ozan Kabak over Kevin Akpoguma and Ihlas Bebou. Kramaric and the dual striker set of Beier and Wout Weghorst generally played very well. Florian Grillitsch also earns plaudits for his stellar work anchoring and organizing the defensive ranks. The Austrian - vocally - kept everyone tightly packed at the back.

Lineup—TSG—Match 27 (3-4-1-2) 

Good stuff. We then have to address the later match re-format. It's difficult to ascertain exactly what Matarazzo hoped to accomplish after using four of his five subs. New introductions Grischa Prömel and Dennis Geiger were clearly meant to help Anton Stach clog the midfield. Late attacking changes Bebou and Marius Bülter - deployed very far apart - were intended to lurk on the counter. Wingbacks David Jurasek and Pavel Kaderabek scooted back in protection of the lead. Okay. This formation still suffered from a soft underbelly.

Lineup—TSG—79th minute (5-3-2) 

The reorganization only yielded more room for Wirtz and Adli to exploit. Alonso's more proximate front three had all the room they needed for penalty box "tiki-taka". It almost appeared as if Matarazzo declined to even consider the most important strength of his opponent. As a result, one has little choice but to accord the Kraichgauer head-coach mixed to negative reviews. The club really looks to miss out on Europe now. More losses won't bode well for Matarazzo's chances of retaining his position once it comes time to reassess at the end of the season. It's all too inexplicably poor.

Prognosis: A Xabi "triple crown"


Yes, we're going there. Recall where one read it first. Wednesday's Pokal fixture against Fortuna Düsseldorf counts as "must-watch" viewing. The Flingeraner are coming off a big league win, but probably won't be able to dethrone the soon-to-be crowned champs. A win at the DFB Pokal Final in Berlin (against either 1. FC Kaiserslautern or 1. FC Saarbrücken) then renders the second domestic cup triumph for Bayer 04 Leverkusen almost a forgone conclusion. Germany's red company team are simply too strong against a historically weak field.

As for the rest of the Europa League path, the author freely admits that getting past West Ham in the Europa League quarters won't be easy. Call this one a hunch; a gut feeling perhaps falsely buttressed by Frankfurt's recent UEL success over the London-based side. A team en route to an undefeated season qualifies as an excellent candidate to burst another bubble. Either AC Milian or AS Roma appear beatable in the semis. A problematic side could easily qualify from the other side of the bracket. Bayer can hope to claim their second UEL trophy too.


Bayern-Dortmund (4:0, 0:2)


More history this weekend for all the history buffs out there. Borussia Dortmund at long last snapped a ten-match winless run against Bayern in the league. Additionally, Edin Terzic's BVB accomplished quite the feat by beating the record champs at the Allianz for the first time in over a decade. At long last, the "winds of change" presaged by many of us back when Dortmund finally got a draw against the mighty Bavarians in round ten of the 2022/23 season begin to blow through the Bundesliga. Kind of interesting that Xabi also happened to get his ass handed to him in that round. 

Change occasionally takes its time, but does find a way of arriving eventually. Admittedly - especially after the 4-0 Hin-runde massacre - few of us tipped Dortmund to break the hex this weekend. A lot spoke for another FCB "cruise control" victory here. Minds began to shift as soon as the team sheets were released, however. Trainer Thomas Tuchel didn't have the answers for the loss of Manuel Neuer, Aleksandar Pavlovic, and Raphaël Guerreiro to injury/illness. The opening 4-2-3-1 fizzled out following early chances from Leroy Sané and Harry Kane.

Dortmund's 1-0 

A team scoring on their first real counterattack of the game sometimes has a devastating effect on an already shaken squad. Emré Can, Niclas Füllkrug, and Julian Brandt sliced through the FCB constellation with ease. Karim Adeyemi then cooked off a lumbering Matthijs de Ligt and caught back-up keeper Sven Ulreich off his line with a tight-angle finish in the 10th. This early tally proved all that the Westphalian guests needed to proceed with total domination. Mats Hummel's nearly scored the 2-0 in the 18th.

BVB's complete game 

Hummels and defensive partner Nico Schlotterbeck - potentially motivated by their German national team snubs - turned in top-notch performances on both sides of the ball. Strong tackling from the duo prevented Bayern from producing any real danger for most of the rest of the half. Hummels himself cleared Bayern's best chance at an equalizer (Eric Dier in the 35th) off the line with a ridiculously excellent kung-fu kick. The whole Dortmund defensive line took all the spirit out of Bayern's approach play.

Adeyemi only just missed out on a brace before the first half was out. Leon Goretzka had to intervene twice to stop a BVB forward line accorded way too much space by the frazzled FCB defensive line. De Ligt and Ulreich had to be at the top of their game to stop Adeyemi, Hummels, and Felix Nmecha from adding more goals just after the restart. Ultimately, Tuchel had to pull the trigger on a triple-sub-gamble. Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, and Mathys Tel received Musiala, Müller, and Sané in the 63rd.

Lineup—FCB—64th minute (4-4-2) 

Dortmund had even more space to work with now. Hummels and BVB back-up keeper Alexander Meyer did well to repel the best Bayern endeavors to equalizer, but it was the guests who enjoyed the better chances. Terzic stuck with straight-arrow subs in his opening 4-1-4-1. Ivorian hero Sebastien Haller would be the one to finally hit the gaps properly. Haller set up Julian Ryerson on the all-important 2-0 in the 83rd. To their credit, Bayern didn't stop playing. A Kane goal disallowed for offside in the 89th was nevertheless all they could muster.

Assessment of Terzic's latest tactics 

In addition to the aforementioned center backs, a number of BVB actors shined in the historic victory. Brandt, Adeyemi, and Emré Can benefited from the extra time on the training pitch during the international break. Nmecha really impressed in his long awaited return. Strange as it even seems to write the sentence itself, die Schwarzgelben happened to appear very confident on the ball throughout. Without much warning, Dortmund suddenly decided to play the sort of football we've rarely seen from them in recent years.

Lineup—BVB—Match 27 (4-1-4-1) 

One presumes that this arrangement - which can also work as a straight 4-3-3 - shall remain in place for the next league fixture against Stuttgart. It stands a fighting chance of helping the team advance in the Champions' League as well. The author has been largely backing this bunch to punch at their optimal level for some time. Nice to see that - with some timely help from Bundestrainer Julian Nagelsmann - motivation among this squad awakens together at precisely the right time. Hopefully the discussion of potentially sacking Terzic gets relegated to the back-burner for now.

Prognosis: A moral victory


Consider the fact that the weekend results leave Dortmund alive in the race for second place. Why does the quest to be crowned "Vize-meister" even matter, one might ask? Because overtaking Bayern in the table for the first time in fourteen long years will provide some solace to long-suffering BVB enthusiasts. The schedule - combined with the fact that Bayern have nothing left to play for in the league - speaks in favor of the perennial also-rans. Watch as they overtake the FCB this year. That actually a huge development.

The "Burning Question": Round 27

What's up with the new coach?


All football league devotees absolutely love checking in with the tactics of a newly appointed trainer. The case of Wolfsburg left one with plenty sense that Ralph Hasenhüttl's appointment carried with it the potential to straighten out a talented roster and help Germany's green company team start picking up points. The new VfL trainer inherited an easy enough assignment. Bringing order to chaos brimming with capability proves easy with some fresh impetus. Moreover, slumping SV Werder Bremen constituted almost the perfect opponent for Hasenhüttl to debut against.

The Austrian gaffer made four personnel changes to Niko Kovac's final XI. Only one, courtesy of Patrick Wimmer's suspension, was enforced. Amine Sarr, Kevin Behrens, Yannick Gerhardt, and Sebastiaan Bornauw came on in place of Wimmer, Jonas Wind, Tiago Tomas, and Mattias Svanberg. The new shape remained loose 4-4-2, though one significantly different than the 4-4-2 seen in Kovac's final match against Augsburg. Hallelujah. Sensible logic returns to the northern Autostädter. Hasenhüttl's prudent tweaks furnished much better football.

Lineup—WOB—Match 27 (4-4-2) 

Kevin Paredes moved back up to his slot on the left wing. Moving Cedric Zesiger from central defense out to the left fullback role did bring with it some risk. The astute move to keep Gerhardt and Maximilian Arnold in a flat double-six set-up nevertheless ensured that the makeshift defensive railer maintained adequate support. Tight axial chains were kept up in attack while the German Wolves shifted into either a 3-5-2 or 5-2-3 off the ball. Hasenhüttl clearly directed the flexible Joakim Maehle to serve as the most malleable piece of the puzzle. It proved fun to watch.

It took surprisingly little time for all the cogs to mesh. Even if open play in the opening quarter-of-an-hour left much to be desired, Zesiger and Gerhardt came close to grabbling the opener off well designed set-pieces. What Hasenhüttl's men lacked in precision and technical finesse, they more than compensated for with some discernible hustle and commitment. The author honestly hasn't witnessed that from this team in a very long time. As halftime approached with the affair still goalless, one definitely had an ironclad impression as to who the better team was.

The turning point? 

Wolfsburg opened up the scoring just before the break in what was - from the perspective of the hosting Hanseaten - something of an unfortunate series of events. Ole Werner's SV were undeniably beginning to grow into the game near the end of the opening 45. The Werder trainer - missing Senne Lynen, Jens Stage, Justin Njinmah, and Mitchell Weiser to suspension/injury - had to cobble together an awkward formation with Skelly Alvero working Lynen's bolt-lock role in the regular 3-5-2. With Felix Age moving right to take over for Weiser, everyone settled in very deep.

One still beheld plenty of potential on the released team-sheet. Leandro Bittencourt and Romano Schmid returned to bolster Mavin Ducksch and rising Germany U21 international Nick Woltemade in attack. Predictably enough, Woltemade emerged as the biggest goal-scoring threat once the squad settled in a bit. The 22-year-old helped orchestrate a pair of good chances just prior to Anthony Jung's straight red card in the 43rd. It initially didn't look as if the Lower Saxons would be able to capitalize. Hasenhüttl had nothing in place for the close-range free kick after Jung's sending off.

Maxence Lacroix's 1-0 came off a much better arranged corner, although horrible set-piece defending from the hosts remained the real culprit. Everyone in green switched off after SV keeper Michael Zetterer fumbled away Gerhardt's effort at 45+4. Lacoix rolled the ball in with ease from 11 meters out. No one even attempted to get a foot on it. After that devastating tally at the end of the first half, the match effectively ceased to be a competitive affair. Lacroix's own sending off generated little anxiety as the new coach hand matters well at hand.

Lineup—WOB—77th minute (3-2-2-2) 

Very sharp and avant-garde. High regular pressing prevented Bremen from making much out of the restored nine-vs-nine outfield. Hasenhüttl also freshened things up in all the right areas with his triple substitution in the 83rd. Wind, Aster Vranckx and Kilian Fischer replaced Gerhardt, Sarr, and Behrens on straight swaps. Paredes' strong effort against Zetterer deserved to be the decisive 2-0. The young American winger can still take something from the fact that the SV net-minder, clearly injured on the play, failed to sort his feet out in front of Majer on the actual 2-0 one minute later.

Predictions for the VfL finish? 

Basically unchanged from last round. Now that the 11-game-winless-run has been snapped, die Wölfe have the proverbial psychological monkey off their back. April features eminently winnable fixtures against weak opponents such as Gladbach and Bochum. Though the arithmetic suggests that this team still have something to fear from the relegation back, the schedule doesn't bear that out at all. The season concludes with Darmstadt and Mainz in the final three weeks. Safety looks to be secured long before those matches can fall into the "six-pointer" category.

"Weekly Wortschatz": Round 27



Oh yes. Now we're really rocking! Nothing quite like a rammed-together German concoction with 23 words, eight vowels, two prefixes, and an "uphill umlaut" placed at the beginning of a pronunciation nightmare. Readers are encouraged to approach this one carefully. Through some vertical bars and hyphens in there before trying to say this one out loud. Take some time tackling the inflection first. Only afterwards can one begin to try and comprehend what it means. Sop up the saliva from below your lip and we'll proceed to get even crazier.

We can further complicate matters by introducing such phrases as "wirtschaftliche Auflösungserscheinungen", "Wandel und Auflösungserscheinungen", "zunehmende Auflösungserscheinungen", and "Auflösungserscheinungen am Saum". What is it we're covering here? Believe it or not, a fairly simple concept. Native English speakers may not think too much about how complex the word "disintegration" may seem to those for whom English is not a native tongue. At least English doesn't add more mania to contexts in which "disintegration" is used.

"Auflösungserscheinungen" translates to the much easier to wrap one's tongue and head around "signs of disintegration". The jumbled mess that is "wirtschaftliche Auflösungserscheinungen" coverts to "signs of economic disintegration/decay". "Wandel-und-Auflösungserscheinungen" ("signs of change and dissolution"), "zunehmende Auflösungserscheinungen" ("increasing signs of decay"), and "Auflösungserscheinungen am Saum" ("signs of coming apart at the seams") all follow the English-language-learner's "tipping point" much easier than the German-language-learner's one.

Regular readers of this column may easily surmise which Bundesliga team we prepare to discuss here. The irate columnist returns to the side that consistently caused him consternation at this time of year: Borussia Mönchengladbach. Damn useless foals and the "long walks" they keep sending this author on! No one covering sports truly enjoys being proven 100 percent correct. One prefers surprises. Knowing that Gerardo Seoane's BMG were completely coming apart even before their loss to 1. FC Saarbrücken in the Pokal counted as neither fun nor vindicating.

What's wrong with Seoane's crew? Just about everything. Kicker's assertion that - following this weekend's 0-3 loss to Freiburg - Gladbach were showing "signs of disintegration" - is pretty bloody generous to say the least. Seoane's constant personnel rotations totally torpedoed this team's potential to the point that what one assumes to be Gladbach's best possible XI cannot perform anywhere close to the proper level. Seoane had his top players (including keeper Jonas Omlin) fit. This constellation should have done much better against a depleted Freiburg side.

Lineup—BMG—Match 27 (4-1-4-1) 

The attacking trident of Jordan, Robin Hack, and Franck Honorat has scored a combined total of 13 league goals. Honorat (nine assists), Jordan (four assists, and Hack (two assists) aren't exactly slouches when it comes to setting up tallies either. The frequent use of the phrase "Hack Doppelpack" isn't an accident. The left flanker has netted a pair of braces for the Fohlenelf. When we discuss the axis directly behind the forwards, it's also worth noting that Germans Julian Weigl, Rocco Reitz, and Florian Neuhaus aren't far off the senior German men's national team level.

The back-four features regular internationals from four separate countries. Luca Netz - a regular Germany U21 starter - also looks to be on the German senior team trajectory. Nico Elvedi (Switzerland), Ko Itakura (Japan), and Joe Scally (USA) earn regular starts for their respective countries. Omlin too has what it takes to be the Swiss #1. This assemblage simply has no business occupying the lower reaches of the table. Many of us tapped Gladbach to compete for Europe at the beginning of the season for good reason. Watching the reasoning melt away (again) this year hasn't been pleasant.

Specific cases of disintegration 

BMG attack charges in the opening five minutes maintained a decent feel about them. Honorat and Hack both worked quality cycles up the wings. Jordan, however, never seemed prepared for the final ball. The former USMNT international embarrassingly let some quality services bounce directly off his unsorted feet. This only became worse after Michael Gregortisch scored the opening goal in the 7th. Jordan miffed up two more chances off well put-together set-piece designs before the opening 45 was out. Elvedi also missed two dead-ball chances in the first half.

Defensive lapses from Scally and Omlin led to the first two Freiburg goals. Scally, Itakura, and Weigl all blew marks on the third. The team's collective posture slumped further downward with each mistake. It's fair to say that ideas in open play remained pretty minimal on this day. The above average set-piece playbook nevertheless should have kept this match competitive. Itakura and Scally failed to convert subsequent opportunities off corners and free-kicks late in the match. So many individual blunders on perfect scoring chances here.



Gladbach--2.36, Freiburg 2.12 

That speaks volumes.

Can Plea's return help? 

A triple change shortly after the hour mark at least got one of the team's brightest performers back on the pitch. Alassane Plea's struggles with injury ended up costing this squad a lot this year. The same applies to all the injury baggage dragging Czech forward Tomas Cvancara down. Seoane again lined up everyone in a formation boasting plenty of potential on paper. A well-constructed stagger placing Reitz ahead of Weigl and Plea so deep that he might as well have been a midfielder ostensibly left the team with a clear path up the pitch.

Lineup—BMG—63rd minute (4-3-3) 

As noted above, however, the side found no way forward. The foals couldn't even get the straightforward lanes here figured out. Disintegration, decay, demise. Any way one wishes to put it, Gladbach traverse the "road to nowhere". One will most definitely hear the word "Auflösung" associated with this team.  Coming - at the very latest - at the end of the season, "Auflösung des Vertrages" ("dissolution or cancelation of contract" will crop up when the club decides to part company with Seoane. Another year. More underachieving. Something of a shame that Ralph Hasenhüttl is no longer available. 

How will Streich bow out? 

Signs here point to the legendary head-coach ending his long reign in a dignified fashion. In all likelihood, one of the seven final columns shall seek to make Christian Streich the focal point of the analysis. Germans genuinely love their "cult trainer". Streich essentially made all the right moves here. The 58-year-old began his "farewell tour" by unquestionably accomplishing quite a lot with very little. Missing central defenders Philipp Lienhart and Matthias Ginter (not to mention attacker Roland Sallai), the SCF gaffer constructed a serviceable 3-4-3.

Lineup—SCF—Match 27 (3-4-3) 

The flat nature of the back-three - assisted greatly by Nicolas Höfler's vertical chain with Maximilian Eggestein - went a long way towards ensuring that the BMG box was well defended. Eggestein produced perhaps his best game ever in a Freiburg tricot. Lucas Höler and Merlin Röhl frequently dropped back to engage in their fair share of defensive work. Michael Gregoritsch turned in a beastly defensive performance on set-pieces. Were it not for two vital clearances off the line from the Austrian striker, the result might have turned out very differently here.

Freiburg can probably hope to compete for the UECL slot in spite of the fact that Augsburg and Hoffenheim feature stronger rosters. It all really comes down to whether Streich's mind can conjure up more clever plans to bring the best out of the actors he possesses. That would make for some story as the campaign winds down. Streich's ideas must overpower the "disintegration" of his frazzled and burnt-out mind. Anyone who has ever struggled with such things knows how difficult it is to piece together the right strategy. It shall be interesting to see what he comes up with next.



Time to dive into all the exciting Sunday action in our final section this week. The columnist - not really having any other ideas after immensely enjoying a pair of high-scoring dramatic fixtures - went for one of the more obscure ways of describing either "pandemonium" or "all hell breaking loose". Such ws the feeling whilst watching VfB Stuttgart's wild 3-3 draw with Heidenheim and the kooky capper that saw four goals produced between attack challenged Bundesliga basement dwellers VfL Bochum and SV Darmstadt 98. Madness in the second match; one that we all anticipated wouldn't produce any goals. 

The selection of "Höllenlärm" also had much to do with the fact that there aren't really any uniquely German words one can find to describe Sunday's fixtures. Both Heidenheim and Darmstadt came back from 0-2 deficits. What's the German word for comeback? Er - to the writer's knowledge - it's just "Comeback". We don't have a native-tongue equivalent; not in such a context anyway. A "comeback" in discourse ("Konter") or in one's general station in life ("Rückkehr") doesn't apply to sports. A team that erases a deficit completes a capitalized "Comeback". That's all there is.

What about Deniz Undav's "last-minute" goal? Germans don't really have an equivalent of "last-minute" either. The author hasn't heard the archaic "in letzter Minute" ever; not even from his German grandparents. Ostensibly, Germans just got accustomed to the fact that the signs they encountered while traveling (i.e. "last minute-parking", "last-minute tickets", "last-minute gifts", "last-minute offers", "last-minute rush", and "last-minute discounts") were the order of the day. One can use "in letzten Augenblick" ("in the final blink of an eye") in a sporting context, but most Germans opt for the cooler English.

We'll stick with "Höllenlärm". Maybe the columnist remains bitter about all the hell/devil-related idioms he didn't get a chance to trot out when Thomas Tuchel pre-empted him in Round 24. The sirens of the underworld were certainly blaring amid all the exciting twists and turns in the two draws that wrapped the round. Over to the MHP-Arena in Stuttgart first to check out the "Swabian Derby". Missing Atakan Karazor due to a cold, VfB trainer Sebastian Hoeneß gave Mahmoud Dahoud (in spite of some rocky PR during the international break) his first start since returning to German football. The "joyful" 4-4-2 from last round shifted to a 4-2-3-1.

Lineup—VfB—Match 27 (4-2-3-1) 

At first, virtually all of the joy from the famously joyous win over Hoffenheim carried over to the latest match. Scoring sensation Serhou Guirassy appeared to put the home side in front early with an 8th minute goal narrowly pulled back due to an offside ruling. Guirassy and Deniz Undav continued to pile the pressure on at the end of highly slick back-builds again characterized by excellent passing forward from Alexander Nübel and the Stuttgart defensive line. The Swabian hosts had Frank Schmidt's attempt to mirror Hoeneß' constellation under full control.

Lineup—FCH—Match 27 (4-2-3-1) 

Nothing much doing from this as Schmidt had clearly instructed his lads to engage in tight man-marking and look for their chances in transition play. Only one such opportunity emerged in the entire opening 45. Newly minted German international Maximilian Mittelstädt - otherwise excellent on the day - sent a pass stray. Tim Kleindienst's finishing woes nevertheless continued. Heidenheim's lead striker failed against Mittelstäfdt's new national team colleague Waldemar Anton. Get used to the Nationalmannschaft references. Plenty more of those are coming. Way too many, one might say.

After some more fine saves from keeper Kevin Müller, Guirassy finally pushed the 1-0 over the line in the 41st following some beguiling set-up work from Germany U21 star (and potentially next in line for an international call-up) Angelo Stiller. All proceeded according to plan. Stiller registered the 2-0 in the 53rd via a nice combo with (do we really need to press this point home?) German national team newcomer Undav. Alexander Nübel - perhaps not so ready for Nagelsmann as Hoeneß believes - gave the guests an unexpected lifeline by letting a soft Kleindienst header skip through his legs in the 62nd.

The "sub game" 

Hoeneß was the first to pull the trigger on some changes, introducing Karazor and Jamie Leweling for Dahoud and Enzo Millot in the 68th. Schmidt went for a double change (Kevin Sessa and Nicola Dovedan for Marvin Pieringer and Norman Theuerkauf) shortly thereafter in the 70th. The VfB trainer then countered a clear tactical re-format on behalf of Schmidt with Silas for Führich in the 72nd. Lots of maneuvering from both sides during this fluctuating phase. It appeared that Hoeneß had made the better moves when Silas struck the post in the 74th.

But we weren't finished yet.

Lineup—FCH—71st minute (4-4-2) 

Kleindienst suddenly opted to break out of his finish slump with a "blitz brace". Two goals came in quick succession in the 84th and 85th. The struggling striker first dusted off a Jan-Niklas Beste cross with a gorgeous bit of technical skill on the equalizer. An emphatic header of an Eren Dinkçi service a second later then gave the BaWü border club a shocking lead. Where has this been all season? Now that Nagelsmann has reached out to Beste, should we start contemplating Kleindienst and Dinkçi for the Nationalelf? The Euro headache begins to reach skull-splitting proportions.

We still weren't finish as Hoeneß had one last tactical tweak in store for us. It got crazier still when Woo-Yeong Jeong and Pascal Stenzel entered for Josha Vagnoman and Hiroki Ito in the 89th. Undav's late equalizer may have had nothing to do with tactics and everything to do with Dovedan's stupid red card, but the VfB trainer's creative "last-minute" push merits some respect. Very clever to pair Silas with Mittelstädt and move both Leweling and Jeong central. This re-format put Heidenheim under pressure. Maybe we'll see a back-three like this again. Stiller also looks good on a solo axis.

Lineup—VfB—90th minute (3-1-4-2) 


Takeaways from the result 

Stuttgart - having lost to Heidenheim in the Hin-Runde - have now helped the small-town wonders make an enormous leap towards the goal of securing safety for next year with four dropped points. Schmidt's Albogener still require at least five more points to make it official, but (As has been the case since the end of the previous calendar year), Heidenheim have effectively moved beyond the relegation discussion. Accordingly, the most important takeaway from this match must be the fact that we can look forward to more meetings between these two teams as part of an emerging "Swabia Rivalry".

As for the above-posed question concerning more national team players surfacing out of the FCH ranks, the author insists that he's deathly serious about the prospects of Kleindienst and Dinkçi receiving invitations from Bundestrainer Nagelsmann. Anyone considering this far-fetched should consider the case of Undav this year. Could his rise be predicted. Kleindienst - now that he's shaken off some of the confidence sap - is a true towering number nine. At the very least, he could make for a great "super sub" when an aerial advantage is needed late. Stay tuned. It might happen if Kleindienst can keep it up.

Moving to the "Blau-Weiß" showdown 

When covering Bochum's 2-1 win over the Lilies back in the Hin-runde, the author sardonically remarked that no one would remember which relegation-threatened "blue-white" team took the points back in early November. As prophesied, he forgot and had to look it up. Okay. Bochum. Who the hell else knew? For that matter, who the hell cared about either that encounter or the one that capped this round? This match had all the hallmarks of a sleepy 0-0 draw. Thankfully, we play the matches to find out who wins. We also stand ready to report on them if they provide something of interest.

Here we had another case of everything at proceeding according to one set script. Thomas Letsch's Revierklub were initially imperious in front of a raucous hometown crowd at the Vonovia Ruhrstadion. Letsch followed the columnist's prediction by selecting the right man to lead his line. Philipp Hofmann completed a scorer's brace before three minutes of the second half had been played. Felix Passlack, Keven Schlotterbeck, Patrick Osterhage, and (above all others) Kevin Stöger played an awesome first half. Former Bochum man Gerrit Holtmann even let his nerves get the better of him on Hofmann's second.

Stirrings of "pandemonium" 

SV trainer Torsten Lieberknecht did his level best to piece together something coherent together from the ashes of the Bayern drubbing just prior to the international break. An inherently weak 4-4-2 nevertheless wasn't anywhere near good enough to keep up with the hosts. Braydon Manu and Mathias Honsak got ruthlessly pummeled by flanking counterparts Christopher Antwi-Adjei and Takuma Asano. Stöger danced around the midfield pairing of Klaus Gjasula and Julian Justvan with ease. Absolutely nothing about this worked.

Lineup—SV98—Match 27 (4-4-2) 

Lieberknecht's half-time adjustment (bringing on Holtmann for Honsak) immediately backfired when the German-Filipino lost the ball near the byline on the 48th-minute 2-0. The SV98 gaffer went with a double change in the 62nd; the same minute in which Justvan collected the first of his two marvelous assists on the day. We had a match after the 1-2. While Vilhelmsson's 76th minute equalizer owed much to (and one has unfortunately been saying this a lot this season) a bad goalkeeping error from Manuel Riemann, Lieberknecht's late tactics were equally as cool as that of Hoeneß.

Lineup—SV98—74th minute (4-3-3) 

Too cool!

Thanks to both coaches for an amazing Sunday! Justvan and Gjasula both benefited from the new positioning. Aaron Seydel worked very well as a false nine. The re-organization of the defensive ranks was pretty neat. It definitely took some stones from Letsch to pull goal-scorer Tim Skarke and throw Matthias Bader against the danger duo of Antwi-Adjei and Bernardo. This naturally had its flaws too, with Asano, Antwi-Ajei and Anthony Losilla missing late efforts during a stronger VfL phase at the finish. We'll still accord Leiberknecht some credit for the notions.

Effects on the relegation race 

Minimal at best. It's "as we were" after Bochum, Mainz, Köln, and Darmstadt all picked up a point this weekend. Six points separate Mainz from safety. The same total stands between Darmstadt and the coveted relegation playoff place. Bochum did miss a near-perfect opportunity to pull away, but six points remains an above-average comfort cushion for this stage of the season. Now that we've had a little time to contemplate all hell breaking loose, we might as well note that the same three teams stay in relegation territory.

Only more "Höllenlärm" can change that fact.

Thanks so much for reading! You can catch the release of all Peter's columns (and occasionally catch him goofing off) on whatever the hell they're calling twitter these days @PeterVicey. 

Twitter DMs are open for football conversations, corrections, and (if you truly insist) general abuse. Full color re-posts of the columns are eventually archived on Peter's website.

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