By Peter Weis@PeterVicey

Bundesliga Tactics Talk: Round 28

The sensational stories just keep coming over on the world's best footballing beat! Our comprehensive weekly recap fixture once again has much to tackle after another top-notch weekend of nine top-flight fixtures.

The latest round of action featured all manner of interesting twists in the races for the title, Champions' League, Europa League, as well as the quest to avoid the drop. From Köln's tremendous comeback to Bayern's latest stumble, we've got it all covered.

Getting their turns on the tactics board this week, we've Köln, Bochum, Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Freiburg, Augsburg, Leverkusen, Union Berlin, and Heidenheim. It's all for fun and all for pleasure over here on Bulinews, so come along for all the latest reverie.

Bundesliga Tactical Banter: Round 28

The "Death of Darmstadt"

SV 98 Trainer Torsten Lieberknecht's official stated position holds that - contrary to what most of us think - his team isn't officially relegated yet. Arithmetically, he has a point. Unfortunately, an intellectual "point" doesn't count for anything in the league table. A paltry total of 14 points at this stage of the season counts as a deafeningly loud death knell. In truth, the collapse against Augsburg some four rounds back essentially heralded the end. This weekend's loss to relegation rivals FSV Mainz 05 - which featured some faint echoes of that result near the end - pretty much wrapped it up. Another "mole" club comes up for air briefly only to have its head bitten off by a rabid car. In German terms, a "Graue Maus" absconds back into the wall.

Darmstadt's almost certain relegation makes it three straight years that we've seen a newly promoted side get relegated in its first year back. SpVgg Greuther Fürth succumbed to the year-one-curse in 2021/22. FC Schalke 04 couldn't survive last season. Such a streak isn't anywhere near as bad as in other leagues. We only just watched both VfB Stuttgart and DSC Arminia Bielefeld survive their freshman-class campaigns in the 2020/21 season. Not long before that, Stuttgart and Hannover accomplished the same feat in the 2017/18 cycle. German football accords plenty of pace for new aspirants. Matters aren't even that bad for Darmstadt. A new reformation under some competent administrative stewardship might see them back soon.

Takeaways from this weekend's result remain scant. Bo Henriksen's Rheinhessen deservedly took a lopsided result with cleaner and more technically sound football. Rear axis actors Fabian Holland, Thomas Isherwood, and Bartol Franjic all fouled up on Mainz's decisive second goal. SV defender Christoph Klarer only escaped failing marks by virtue of the fact that he made some things happen offensively. Apart from that, Lieberknecht's team were simply a good old-fashioned defensive disaster totally unfit to compete at this level. One has little more to add. Chances for survival this year were always slim after Augsburg plucked the roster's two best players from the 2022/23 promotion campaign. The inevitable has come to pass.


Gladbach's "Useless Win"

Yawn. For whatever worth one wishes to ascribe to it, Gerardo Seoane's Fohlenelf did the double over VfL Wolfsburg. Congratulations to the "notorious BMG" for earning their first win since late February. A sordid shame that it came long after most all of us Bundesliga watchers had stopped caring. Seoane - aided greatly by the return of Alassane Plea - got his starting XI back to the promising roots from the beginning of the season. The "French Connection Axis" of Plea, Nathan Ngoumou, and Franck Honorat gradually gelled until what would prove the game-winner was scored. A notably wide 3-4-3 with Luca Netz and Stefan Lainer in advanced positions broke down Wolfsburg and earned a deserved win.

It all comes far too little and way too late to make any sort of a difference for those of us still sour about the way Seoane squandered the potential of this roster. It even comes a tad too late to engender some excitement about the prospect of Wolfsburg rejoining the relegation field. Ralph Hasenhüttl dropping his home debut wasn't something many of us expected, but Germany's green company team still looked far better than they did under the aegis of Niko Kovac. The defensive ranks - with Yannick Gerhardt forced to fill in due to suspensions for Maxence Lacroix and Cedric Zesiger weren't terrible by any means. Tiago Tomas played well at ten. Ridle Baku and Joakim Maehle worked the right effectively enough.

Seoane did employ a clever trick at the half, ordering Honorat and Ngoumou to flip their slants behind Plea. This led to the overtaxed Gerhardt getting toasted on the 58th-minute 2-1. The decision to deploy Ko Itakura in midfield paid dividends both for the Japanese international and the later subbed on Rocco Reitz. All of Seoane's later introductions - including Robin Hack and Tomas Cvancara - slotted into the shape seamlessly. The BMG trainer earns some plaudits for having an full match-plan mapped out from the beginning. Whether or not that shall be enough to give him another season at this mid-table mired club remains to be seen. For now, the columnist keeps thumbs firmly down.

The "Spiegel Specials": Round 28

Köln-Bochum (1:1, 2:1)

Match-day 11's excuse to ruminate on the German "weder Fisch noch Fleisch" idiom leads us to a plethora of interesting relegation race questions and talking points this time around. All of the insanity associated with Köln's improbable late comeback win over VfL Bochum sets the discussions in German footballing circles alight. Wow! How incredible. The phrase "relegation six pointer" was made for such results. Germany's cathedral city side literally rescued themselves from certain doom with two late goals in injury time. On the precipice of the drop, Timo Schultz's Effzeh pulled away from the abyss.

Time shall tell if this incredible match truly sticks in the mind forever. Historic firsts did transpire. Köln have actually never won a top flight match entering second-half stoppage time trailing. Prior to yesterday, the Domstädter hadn't even scored a goal in stoppage time all year. No one expected Steffen Tigges (left out of the senior team for much of this season) and Luca Waldschmidt (fresh off an injury layoff that had sidelined him for most of the current calendar year) to suddenly supply two headed goals to deliver the Domstädter all three points. This was totally epic stuff.

Alas, will it all truly be remembered if Köln don't avoid relegation this year? That happens to be a fair question. The square answer happens to be "no". As chief club executive Christian Keller noted in his post-match remarks, what the hosts furnished prior to Bochum's opening goal didn't technically qualify as "football". What the team put forth afterwards continued to straddle the definition. As irritating an erudite mind as Keller can be sometimes, the "professor" raises the right points yet again. The trained eye sees how bad this team truly is. Die Geißböcke remain far too timid for top flight football. 

The state of Schultz's tactics 

Köln's trainer stuck with a clearly delineated 4-4-2 throughout the match this weekend. Florian Kainz and Linton Maina worked the second axis well enough, ensuring that the home side maintained a slight upper hand during the opening 45. The makeshift fullback duo of Max Finkgräfe (possibly still hurt) and Jan Thielmann (out of position) left much to be desired, but the overall functionality of the starting formation can be described as slightly above average. Kainz, Maina, and the reinstated Eric Martel held their own in direct duels. It all fell under the "good enough for government work" classification.

Lineup—KOE—Match 28 (4-4-2) 

For whatever reason, everyone dipped after the restart. The NRW hosts ceased to look dangerous in the second half, really appearing toothless in their half-hearted attempts to respond to Bochum's 53rd minute opening goal. Schultz's first set of straight swaps - Faride Alidou and Denis Huseinbasic for Maina and Martel in the 63rd. - helped matters a little. Waldschmidt entered on behalf of the injured Selke in the 68th and immediately made his presence felt with a good effort less than a minute after getting on the pitch. Waldschmidt also rifled a good effort on target in the 85th.

The two late goals 

Tigges (on for Sargis Adamyan in the 84th) converted Köln's ninth corner of the match on the 1-1 at 90+1. Benno Schmitz (on for Thielmann as part of Schultz's 84th-minute double substitution) then caught the guests off guard on the match winner a few seconds later. The newly-introduced right-back had way too much space to work in a pinpoint cross for Waldschmidt. Before declaring that Schultz possesses the proverbial "Midas Touch", one should stress that the two goals came off routine plays that Bochum lapsed on. Waldschmidt's energy played a role in shifting the match. The rest was incidental.

Köln's "momentum assessment" 

News that Selke has incurred another injury matters little when one takes Waldschmidt's form into account. The Wolfsburg loanee will still need a skilled striking partner in this set-up. Adamyan unquestionably doesn't fit the bill. Alidou could conceivably serve alongside Waldschmidt, but can likely prove more effective on the right flank. Justin Diehl's comeback from injury continues to lag. Schultz's latest assessment of Damion Downs saw the German-American sent to the reserves this weekend. The trainer isn't satisfied with the youngster's progress.

All of that leaves us with a front axis duo of Tigges and Waldschmidt. The confidence of the former surely soars after securing his first goal of the season. Forgive the columnist if he still feels skeptical about the Tigges' prospects at this level. The former Dortmund academy man's overachieving didn't allow him to exhibit consistency last season and there exists little evidence to suggest it will be different this year. Behind the anemic attack, the team's overall duel rate hovers around 60 percent. More courage - and perhaps some more shoves into the advertising boards - are required.

The questions surrounding Letsch 

Bochum's hitherto untouchable trainer finds himself in hot water for good reason. The VfL gaffer keeps committing tactical errors. An egregious mistake in this one borders on the unforgivable. Letsch's attempt to explain away his overly defensive shift near the end of the match also sounds suspicious. Post-match comments regarding the subbing off of team talisman Kevin Stöger didn't render it clear whether the move was tactical in nature or related to a Stöger injury. Letsch appears confused and not totally cognizant of his own tactics.

Lineup—BOC—Match 28 (4-4-2) 

The 4-4-2 matching Köln man-for-man accomplished its goals in an unproblematic fashion. Letsch began re-formatting into a 5-4-1 shell with the substitution of Takuma Asano for Moritz Broschinski in the 66th. This was followed up by the double switch (Ivan Ordets and Maximilian Wittek for Stöger and Philipp Hofmann) 11 minutes later. The entirely-too-conservative constellation that crystallized soon thereafter effectively invited Köln out of their cowering carapace. In speaking on the Stöger sub, Letsch claimed that Köln were causing his team problems down the left flank. Odd, considering they really weren't.

Lineup—BOC—78th minute (5-4-1) 

The potential of Asano to affect play was truly wasted here. The choice to forgo a natural striker made absolutely no sense. Even a team protecting a slender lead should retain finishing options on the counter. Moving Erhan Masovic up to sweeper so late in the match really backfired. The clearly gassed Serb just didn't have enough left in the tank to hold the pincer in open play. It was such that the hosts were able to cobble together some late drive. All of this left club executive Patrick Fabian legitimately fuming. Tactics-heads watching this one fully understood his grievances.

Prognosis: Pumping the "thrill ride" brakes

Chalking off the Revierklub's survival prospects is damn tempting following this wretched run of form. One point taken from six league fixtures. Two consecutive weeks in which the team has collapsed late. Salty club executives. A schizophrenic coach. Not much breaks the way of the 1848ers at this moment in time. Before declaring that the on-the-march Mainz and Köln can overtake, however, one must take a moment to consider some of the positives we witnessed from Letsch's side here.

Examples include strong set-pieces, a spirited performance from skipper Anthony Losilla, generally fluid work in open play whilst Stöger was on the pitch, and a generally strong game from fullbacks Bernardo and Felix Passlack. Bochum have an easier schedule that both Mainz and Köln in the final six match-days of the season, especially in the final three May match-days. All of the VfL's missed chances to break free of the relegation pack may prove irrelevant as they will get some more. Not time to go for the bold prediction yet.

Interesting, of course.

Let's see if the plot thickens.

Dortmund-Stuttgart (1:2, 0:1)

Yeouch and yikes! Stuttgart with the ultimate gate-crashing of the BVB party! Dortmund apologists (this one included) scramble to find something positive to say about Edin Terzic's Schwarzgelben after Sebastian Hoeneß's Swabians hit them with the full humiliation. Crazy. Stuttgart doing the double over Dortmund? How can one keep the latter side in the Champions' League conversation at this point? The Württembergers stake a clear claim here. A UCL contender knocks a UCL regular off its perch. Out with the stale, old, and rank. In with a fresh breeze from the Cannstatter Kurve.

Shortly after Deniz Undav's decidedly prickly comments about Stuttgart players taking over the German national team locker room made one feel as if it couldn't possibly get more embarrassing for Dortmund, we got this. Seriously? It's not enough that Stuttgart have supplanted BVB actors in Bundestrainer Nagelsmann's camp? They had to go and spoil the 50th anniversary celebrations of the Westfalen Stadion as well? Merciless non-existent God! One feels as if Terzic can go ahead and start crying again now. The long-suffering also-rans have been criminally robbed of their own chance to shine.

From a pure sporting perspective, the columnist does feel as if mercy for Dortmund is justified. Nico Schlotterbeck's assertion that his team were the overall better side is backed up by both optical and statistical evidence. Most of the BVB attack charges boasted creativity and competence. The NRW hosts out-shot their guests 16-10, retained serviceable advantage in possession, racked up a commanding 65 percent win rate in aerial duels, and won the xG battle by a near full 2:1 ratio. They fought hard. They played well. It simply wasn't there day in a tightly contested duel.

Anything of tactical interest? 

Not really. In stark contrast to the reverse fixture, this Stuttgart win honestly didn't have much to teach us. The author shall throw up a VfB graphic solely in the interest of tipping his cap to Hoeneß for moving a few actors around to keep his previous 4-2-3-1 together. Hoeneß truly can do no wrong at this point. Enzo Millot in midfield? Angelo Stiller in central defense? Whatever. Bring it. It all just comes together no matter what. Great performances from Stiller, Josha Vagnoman, and net-minder Alexander Nübel back up Hoeneß' claims that he has more potential national team players on his roster. 

Lineup—VfB—Match 28 (4-2-3-1) 

A very impressive game from Nübel contributed more to the final scoreline than any other factor. The 27-year-old continues to make a case for the German national team discussion. Comically enough, it might be the case that this whole sordid ordeal with his parent club comes full circle and he ends up replacing Neuer at Bayern after all. Vagnoman regrettably saw a solid performance cancelled early via injury. That proved no problem as - to reiterate - Hoeneß can really do no wrong at the moment. Leonidas Stergiou filled in admirably. Everyone, in general, played well. No real nuance to add.

Prognosis: Biting the BVB bullet

The columnist must first concede that last week's Dortmund prognosis ended up being way off. One can totally forget about this team potentially contesting second place at this point. The calculus shifts dramatically. Now we must talk about whether rising Leipzig can hope to snatch the final UCL slot away from them. Hrumph. Tough call. Predicting this outcome obviously gets easier once the brutal BVB month of April closes out. Some prognostications for the rest of the month will have to suffice for now. Off we go.

Dortmund take four league points from Gladbach (win) and Leverkusen (draw). Leipzig do the same against Wolfsburg (draw) and Heidenheim (win). The two teams then meet at the end of the month still tied on points. Whether or not the traditional club overtakes the German Red Bulls on April 27th depends on the team's performance in the Champions' League. Leaning slightly towards his heart, the columnist tips Dortmund for a graceful UCL exit and a workmanlike win over the Saxons.

The writer bites a "half-bullet".

The "Burning Questions": Round 28

Who wants to play for Europe?

Several matches get folded into this section this week as we take a flit down through the most interesting region of the table. While Dortmund and Leipzig fight for the final Champions' League slot, four teams currently vie for either the second Europa League place or the UEFA Europa Conference playoff berth. The journey begins in the Bundesrepublik's commercial and financial capital. For all their issues this year, Dino Toppmöller's Eintracht Frankfurt remain in pole position to grab the UEL rank. The RheinMain Adler maintain a six-point cushion over everyone else.

Despite this, Friday night's lame draw with Bremen left it questionable as to whether Toppmöller's SGE can hold onto their position. As keeper and captain Kevin Trapp correctly pointed out after the full-time whistle, a tough remaining schedule leaves this team vulnerable unless they can start clicking with some reliable chemistry. We witnessed nothing of the sort in this round's curtain-raiser. A constellation that carried with it plenty of potential on paper failed to gel. Toppmöller definitely got his staggers right, but execution from the actors involved was lacking.

Lineup—SGE—Match 28 (4-1-4-1)

Injuries precluded Hugo Ekitiké and (much more importantly) Ellyes Skhiri from featuring in Toppmöller's starting XI. That still shouldn't have been much of a problem with Omar Marmoush fully drilled to work as a lead striker and Mario Götze used to working on a solo service axis. Both Marmoush and Götze struggled against a Bremen side lined up in a predictable enough steady 3-5-2. Fares Chaibi - who continues to dip - barely got any touches in from his short striker slant. Disciplinary problems abounded, with both Marmoush and Eric Junior Dina Ebimbe incurring silly early bookings.

Naturally, the silliest booking of all had to be Tuta's careless assault on Felix Agu's hamstring. Dina Ebimbe himself could have and probably should have been sent off on double yellows for a foul on Bremen's Marvin Ducksch shortly before his subbing off. Toppmöller suddenly has a host of "problem children" on his hands. Niels Nkounkou is another one whose development has been stunted by suspensions and bookings. This SGE crew acts too wildly in open play and seems to have real issues implementing their tactical instructions.

An un-enchanted April? 

Quite possibly. Upcoming league fixtures against Stuttgart, Augsburg, and Bayern could potentially yield zero points. The six-point cushion suddenly appears less comfortable when one considers how far away this team is from getting its overall act together. As we've so often pointed out with respect to Eintracht, however, the fitness of Skhiri and his young partner Hugo Larsson makes all the difference in the world. Whenever these two manage to play together, most of the loose ends in the midfield get stitched together. Götze also benefits tremendously from their rearward support.

How tired is Christian Streich? 

The retiring SCF gaffer took full responsibility for the tactical conflagration that allowed Leipzig to roll over his Breisgauer on Saturday afternoon. Streich unequivocally stated that he had made just about every wrong tactical and personnel decision that a trainer could make. It nevertheless looked to be more a case of overthinking rather than a checked-out brain with frontal lobes already out the door. Streich thought he could exploit Marco Rose's 4-2-2-2 with a pivot-running back three and a slingshot set of wingbacks.

Lineup—SCF—Match 28 (3-4-3) 

An early goal set up by Loïs Openda - for once properly motivated by Rose over the course of the training week - didn't help. Nicolas Höfler and Maximilian Eggestein are often prone to errors when crowded close together and rattled early. Mistakes from the midfield tandem generated some knock-on ripples; one of which culminated in Lukas Kübler floundering whilst attempting to mark Openda on Leipzig's second goal in the 18th. One should note that - had Lucas Höler converted his 41st-minute chance from the spot, matters might have turned out differently.

Streich's half-time adjustments 

A potential 1-2 scoreline at the end of the opening 45 turned into a 0-3 deficit when Höler struck the crossbar and Openda (who foolishly conceded the handball penalty) scored again. Near the end of the first half, Eggestein forced a big save out of RB keeper Peter Gulacsi and Yannik Keitel mistimed a header. Both of these occurrences took place prior to Openda's 3-0. Hypotheticals notwithstanding, Streich had to pull the trigger on some changes prior to the restart. Kiliann Sildillia and Vincenzo Grifo on for Kübler and Michael Gregortisch yielded this:

Lineup—SCF—46th minute (4-4-2) 

One could immediately tell that it still didn't have a great deal of thought (or practice for that matter) behind it. Leipzig were able to slice through the advanced midfield with ease and made it 4-0 before ten minutes of the second half had been played. The consolation goal (Grifo in the 59th) came out of nowhere. The Italian from Pforzheim showed a little artistry with a flick from the edge of the box. Good for him. The Schwarzwaldverein still largely embarrassed themselves in front of a full house of hometown support.

Streich's limp to the finish 

Of the three teams tied behind Frankfurt on 36 points, the Breisgauer engender the least amount of excitement. One maintains the sense that they don't even have the explosiveness in attack to get the proper results against bottom table sides Darmstadt and Mainz in the next two weeks. The go-to striker simply isn't there and moving either the midfielders or the fullbacks forward appears to only lead to more mistakes. A odd thing to predict that this team can't make the most of a soft remaining schedule. That nevertheless looks to be the case unless Streich can pick something out of his tired brain.

Are Hoffenheim prepared to surge? 

A big home win over FC Augsburg gives us this three-way tie on 36 points and gets the mind moving in such a direction. TSG trainer Pellegrino Matarazzo did well to keep his 3-1-4-2 from last week together. The Sinsheimers (for once) achieved consistent early dominance in a home fixture. Ascribing too much credit to the Kraichgauer must still be avoided. Augsburg trainer Jess Thorup faced a full-blown injury crisis. The Fuggerstädter lined up in an ungodly mess of an opening constellation that left them prone to constant attack waves.

Lineup—FCA—Match 28 (3-3-2-2) 

The unavailability of Iago and Kevin Mbabu forced Mads Pedersen, Arne Engels, and Ruben Vargas into unfamiliar positions. It showed. Things nosedived further when Kristijan Jakic had to exit proceedings in the 12th minute with ankle problems that had troubled him since warm ups. Tim Breithaupt came on for Jakic and clearly had no clue how to work his midfield position. Andrej Kramaric took advantage of Breithaupt's poor marking to pin through the decisive pass on the opening goal in the 17th. Three minutes later, no one in white could do anything with a long Finn Dahmen punt. Hoffenheim scored again.  

Coordination problems over the entirety of the first half made it look like amateur hour. The Baden hosts had an absolute field day charging up the center as no one could figure out their marks. Thorup couldn't afford to wait until half-time to get his squad back into something resembling working order, particularly not after already being forced to burn a sub. Pedersen and Maximilian Bauer swung out wide to the fullback positions in order to form a stable back-four. Vargas moved up to ten. The re-jiggering brought stability back to the FCA ranks.

Lineup—FCA—40th minute (4-4-2) 

Something resembling Thorup's regular 4-4-2 diamond led to Vargas, Arne Maier, and Arne Engels getting cracks at goal before Ermedin Demirovic eventually pulled one back in the 61st. The Sinsheimers actually ended up struggling significantly and appeared very disorganized and frazzled down the stretch. The Fuggerstädter were genuinely unlucky not to have equalized before TSG sub Ihlas Bebou gave the match the flattering 3-1 scoreline in second half injury time. Wout Weghorst had to clear the presumptive 2-2 off the line in the 81st.

Augsburg still European favorites? 

The column shall continue to back the Bavarian Swabians. Thorup's crew overcame their early issues to claw back into this one and could have easily attained a better result. While it may not be the strongest form of praise, this team possesses the most natural chemistry of the three tied on 36. At present, they appear a more ordered side than Frankfurt as well. In just about any other year, we'd be carping about Augsburg's disciplinary problems and tapping them for slim survival hopes as the season winds down. This year, Frankfurt can't keep their feet and Augsburg have order in their ranks.

"Weekly Wortschatz": Round 28


The Wortschatz section leads off with something a tad on the easier side this week. Forgive the columnist in advance if there's any chance he's underestimated the intelligence of his readers. No writer wishes to commit such a sin. Just about every creative content-driven mind takes special care to avoid such dangerous pitfalls. One assumes that readers of a language column know the difference between a "translator" and an "interpreter". There nevertheless exists a chance, especially these days, that the two professionals are used interchangeably in improperly parsed discourse.

As anyone who loves the art of language knows, the difference between these two crafts couldn't be larger. A "translator" takes extra time and applies additional care to convert written text from one language to another. An "interpreter" must extemporaneously convert spoken words into another language without the benefit of uncompressed time and space. Overlap between the two arts only extends one way. An "interpreter" is an exceptionally well-trained "translator". A "translator" cannot "interpret" without extensive training. The "translator" writing this column cannot "interpret"; at least not very well.

In Europe's oldest and most complex language, there's no confusing the two. Divergent etymology renders a mix-up. The word for "translation" ("Übersetzung") is about as Germanic as it gets. Germanic scribes translating Latin, embryonic French, Scandinavian dialects, and Eastern European Cyrillic variants had all the time in the world to come up with their own word for their work. Where does the German word for "interpretation" ("Dolmetschen") stem from? It's a derivation of the Ottoman Turkish word "tolmetsche". Neat, no? There we have a case of spoken language needing urgent conversion!

Having all the historical context we need, we'll now snap into the present. How cool was it that 1. FC Union Berlin trainer Nenad Bjelica got a chance to act as a live interpreter for Germany's new Footballing God Xabi Alonso at a Saturday post-match presser? This language nerd considers it possibly the highlight of the season. The unique celebrations we're all set to witness once Leverkusen officially clinch the title may end up eclipsing it, but for now this congenial and genuinely cute act serves as a heart-warming little milestone for the wonderful new Era that we've entered.

No more Bavarian dominance. The new Bundesliga is open to everyone. We've got a Spanish trainer running the league's best Westphalian team. A Croatian trainer with extensive experience playing and coaching in Spain, Austria, Turkey, Italy, and Poland is running simultaneous German interpretation for him. Rock on! Welcome to German "Vielfalt" just in time for the first post-COVID Euro festival this summer. All sorts of fun awaits. Let's delve into a little now by "interpreting" (probably a bad choice of words) the tactics that Xabi and Bjelica put forth this weekend.

Lineup—B04—DFB Pokal (3-4-3) 

The Pokal match proved interesting in that we we treated to the complete antithesis of what we saw in the league last week. The league leaders gracefully tiptoed through the tiki-taka, blissfully prancing around a Fortuna Düsseldorf side hopelessly trying to mirror Xabi's 3-4-3. Jeremie Frimpong scored the opener in the 7th. Florian Wirtz fed Amine Adli on the 2-0 in the 20th. It honestly felt as if the game had been long over before Wirtz dashed through the entire midfield in the lead-up to the second goal. Die Werkself had no problems breaking free of the weak F95 press.

Bjelica's attempt to clog 

After Xabi's crew cruise-controlled past their domestic cup opponents, FCU trainer Bjelica continued to demonstrate his unexpected mettle by devising a plan well constructed to choke out the B04 game. Bjelica knew how to interpret the manner in which Leverkusen's league 3-4-3 achieves dominance either quickly or steadily. Andras Schäfer took over for Mikkel Kaufmann, turning the Eisernen 3-4-3 into a 3-6-1. Yorbe Vertessen's distance from the second axis made certain that exciting football wouldn't be the order of the day. No matter as that wasn't needed.

Lineup—FCU—Match 28 (3-6-1) 

Counterattacking chances might have yielded more were it not for a preponderance of sloppy play out of the back. The Köpenick hosts did eventually work some punches in after the half-hour mark in the form of shots from Vertessen and Robin Gosens. Mostly, however, still very much in-form FCU keeper Frederik Rønnow helped preserve the narrow scoreline. Xabi - as always - had the right answers for Bjelica's hand. Three subtle shifts manifested themselves almost immediately after kickoff.

Lineup—B04—Match 28 (3-4-3) 

Robert Andrich and Granit Xhaka pulled apart. Jonathan Tah dropped deep on an inverted pivot. Alejandro Grimaldo and Nathan Tella moved forward on direct vertical chains with the spaced out central defenders. Wirtz gave the guests a well deserved lead with a conversion from the spot at 45+8. Gosens had just been sent off on double yellows. Christopher Trimmel - in all candor - probably should have been ejected for his flagrant handball on the penalty. The insane finish to the first half might have led to (just like at the presser) something of a "gentlemen's agreement" in the second 45. No more goals.

Xabi's triple lives 

Xabi's surprise commitment to remain with Germany's red company team next year makes a tad more sense when one takes the tone of the press conference into account. It might all come down to a sense of modesty from the Spanish gaffer. Acutely aware that, after all, Leverkusen is his first actual gig with a senior side, Alonso may be wary of making the jump to a larger club too soon. The career trajectory of German coaches such as Niko Kovac and (albeit the current Bundestrainer) Julian Nagelsmann may have influenced his decision.

Recall that Xabi (falsely) downplayed his German skills on Saturday. The columnist assures all readers that there is absolutely no way that Nenad Bjelica's Spanish exceeds Xabi's German. That's total nonsense. The young rookie trainer just likes to keep it humble and unassuming. As to whether he really does have "unfinished business" with this team? Eh. That's probably nonsense as well. Leverkusen have the title. They probably have the Pokal. They stand a fighting chance in the Europa League and can absolutely maintain hopes of an undefeated season.

What will Xabi strive for next year?

Even a UCL title doesn't compare to a triple.

"auf die Piste gehen"

Party time in Heidenheim! The columnist confesses that - even as a native German speaker with BaWü heritage - he had no bloody idea what the hell Frank Schmidt was talking about whilst conducting his post match interview after the big upset over Bayern. This actually applies to pretty much all of Schmidt's statements. The poor old FCH gaffer completely lost his marbles when attempting to describe how his team knocked off the mighty record champs. A brain hemorrhage can't completely be ruled out. Schmidt's words vaguely resembled something one might expect from a drunk Japanese Emcee.

In order to properly translate Schmidt's order to the 49,000 odd denizens of Heidenheim, one must break things down into component parts. The command "Wer nicht auf die Piste geht, den schmeißen wir raus" has several areas to tackle. A "Piste" can mean a variety of things: a runway, a ski slope, a race track, an earthen tunnel, a fencing arena, or even a mechanical bull. Schmidt's Eastern Baden dialect most likely aimed at the skiing reference. He cordially invited everyone to take a slalom down the slope. In more common parlance, everyone needed to get out about the town and have fun.

One then needs to search for an appropriate metaphor for "auf die Piste gehen". The author has actually heard some young Germans use the phrase to reference "a night out on the town", usually one that involves (in American speak) "clubbing". This doesn't really work when it comes to Heidenheim. It would come as a shock to this German if there exists one single nightclub in that sleepy burg. A "night out on the town" also seems out of place. The hell kind of nightlife does Heidenheim have? Bingo night at the senior home?

There were admittedly several revisions to the headline ultimately leading the article on this website. More could have been made, but two further revisions were withheld. It might have been kind of cool to claim that Schmidt urged the locals to "paint the town red". This even fit with Heidenheim's main kit color. Unfortunately, Schmidt made no specific reference to colors. Awesome as it might have been, one can't take such a large liberty. One revision that the author probably should have took involves the second half of the order.

Schmidt's ("den schmeißen wir raus") "or we'll throw you out" was properly translated, but didn't really convey what the FCH trainer meant. No Heidenheim citizens were getting thrown out of town if they didn't join the party. Instead, Schmidt's wished to convey that the party would be coming to everyone's door. Those intent on shutting themselves in would find door-knockers cajoling them to join the street parade. In this sense, a proper translation would read "Paint the town red or we'll smoke you out."

Of course, the problem we then encounter is that two obscure English language idioms (both leaning towards American dialect) populate the same sentence. Would this be comprehensible to non-native English speakers or those more familiar with British parlance? Translation isn't an easy art at all. Interpretation remains much harder, but translators must wrestle with their own set of difficult choices. Extra time brings with it the expectation that the finished product exhibits greater polish.

Polish happens to be something Schmidt excels at.

Lineup—FCH—Match 28 (4-3-3) 

The initial idea wasn't bad at all. Three natural sixes - Lennard Maloney, Adrian Beck, and Jan Schöppner - employed a mixed press to ensure that Bayern would have difficulty finding their way around the crowded midfield even with upwards of 70 percent possession. Schimdt's aim was too frustrate the favorites in a textbook fashion. This worked in theory and in practice. Maloney, Schöppner, Beck, and Jonas Föhrenbach all literally put their bodies on the line to block FCB shots whenever the Bavarians penetrated the box. Solid ideas. Excellent execution.

The late double strike 

Thomas Müller, Serge Gnabry, and Harry Kane finally cracked the code with a sumptuous sequence on the 1-0 in the 38th. Gnabry and Alphonso Davies then caught the FCH ranks ball-watching some seven minutes later. Schmidt had little cause for disappointment with his crew during a strong first half until no one picked up Davies and Gnabry was left completely free to "stir the pot" on the 45th-minute 2-0. It thus came as something of a surprise to see the FCH trainer go all in with a triple substitution at the half.

Lineup—FCH—46th minute (4-4-2) 

This was genuinely radical. Föhrenbach, Schöppner, and Beck were both yanked despite strong performances. Omar Haktab Traoré switched over to his unnatural side. Maloney moved into a position in which his ability to affect the approach play was severely hampered. Odds on this producing something stood at slim to none. It all nevertheless came together courtesy of the fact that no Bayern error went unpunished. Schmidt - fairly or not - looks like a genius for going this route.

The three tallies 

A quick goal-kick from Heidenheim keeper Kevin Müller in the 50th led to the first goal. It all began with a bad aerial loss from Min-Jae Kim against Tim Kleindienst. Last week's hero quickly extended to the just subbed on Marvin Pieringer, who in turn relayed for fellow sub Kevin Sessa. Upamecano couldn't track Sessa in time to stop the 1-2. Kim couldn't recover his composure in time to mark Kleindienst properly on the equalizer seconds later. Bayern miffed up several chances to restore the lead.

Finally, Traoré (on his new side) intercepted a FCB ball to set up sub Pieringer for Kleindienst again on the winner in the 79th. Every last thing worked. Sessa, Pieringer, and Marnon Busch all involved themselves in goals. Kleindienst now has back-to-back scorer's braces, 11 goals on the season, and maybe even (as we were joking about last week) a chance to be the next rookie DFB striker to sit next to Niclas Füllkrug at an awkward German national team presser in some two months time.

Bloody hell.

Can German football even get any weirder?

There's partying in Heidenheim for f**k's sake.

Human sacrifice. Dogs and cats living together.

Mass hysteria!

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. 

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Full color re-posts of the columns are eventually archived on Peter's website.

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