HAVERTZ HEROICS, RELENTLESS BAYERN AND MORE: THE BUNDESLIGA ROUND-UP
With German teams playing in front of empty stands for the second consecutive week, the footballing world watched in the comfort of their own homes, adapting to the new normal. Kai Havertz stole the show for Bayer Leverkusen with a brace, scoring 4 goals in the space of less than a week and making Gladbach just sit back and watch the wunderkind do what he makes headlines for once again.
With Der Klassiker on the horizon, Dortmund set pace, despite not being at their fluid best from last week, vanquishing a Wolfsburg side with a 2-0 victory that couldn’t make up for their relentless pressure and hard graft with pure quality.
With Der Borussen having picked up points earlier in the day, 3 points were vital for the Bavarians and so they delivered in a 5-2 thriller that had everything in it, including a Martin Hinteregger brace and an own goal ridiculous enough from the towering centre-half to make it into FIFA’s most ridiculous glitches.
Here are the major takeaways from yet another eventful evening, presented by the Bundesliga.
Kai Havertz: The Jewel in the German Crown
There isn’t much that can be said about Kai Havertz that already hasn’t been said before. He has the silkiest of touches, fabulous timing of runs and deadly finishing in abundance. He’s just owned these two gameweeks with breathtaking performances and in the Rhineland Derby, he was at his clinical best. His first came from an extremely well-measured pass by Karim Bellarabi and a typical Havertz finish by nutmegging the on-rushing Yann Sommer. Havertz then slotted away a 2nd half penalty to take his tally to 14 goals in all competitions this season. The Leverkusen youth product has been touted as the next big thing in Germany for some time now and almost each week, he comes out to just rubber stamp that endorsement.
It’s a matter of time till the big clubs come swirling in for the 20-year old, but till then he’ll definitely have a huge role in getting his team the crucial last Champions League spot.
Full marks for the full-backs
Over the last decade or so, full-backs have slowly began to morph and revolutionise football. Previously regarded as mere ex-centre backs who occupy respective role, the key trait in a modern full-back requires them to contribute substantially more in the attacking phase. In Trent Alexander-Arnold and Andy Robertson, Liverpool and the Premier League can confidently claim that the pair are possibly the best full-back duo in the business. But, to disregard the likes of Raphaël Guerreiro and Ashraf Hakimi as well as Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard would not only be blatantly wrong, but also downright disrespectful.
Kicking things off with the Hakimi-Guerreiro conversation, the pair are right up there with the Trent-Robertson partnership- complimenting the attack and maintaining a steady head in defence with aplomb. The very fact that the Iberian has been used increasingly in the midfield by Lucien Favre shows how highly he’s thought off and how good of a passer he is. These two are gems in the BVB line-up and with Hakimi’s loan ending this summer, they would be desperate to keep a hold of him beyond it, without a doubt.
Moving onto the Allianz Arena, where do we start? Time after time both full backs, especially Davies, were practically wingers and pinned back Filip Kostić and Danny da Costa, only further emphasising Bayern’s dominance. That being said, it’s all well and good simply being a presence, but to back that up with a threat makes them a scary prospect. Davies made several impressive runs and crosses which gave Frankfurt nightmares, and rounded of his excellent performance with a goal. Pavard was as solid as ever and his greatest quality is the balance in his game.
A day for the full-backs.
Bayern are the press kings
One thing from Bayern’s game that stood out from the first whistle to the last was their tenacity in winning the ball game. Frankfurt were never able to get into a rhythm and a flow, and Bayern were able to swarm them all over the pitch. At times, Bayern seemed to have an extra player and Thomas Müller was the one who seemed everyone. The German has had a mini-renaissance under manager Hansi Flick, resorting to his 10 role which has improved his personal numbers, but have made Müller as well as Bayern Munich the efficient German machine once again.
The World Cup winner pressed intensely and smartly and sets the triggers for his teammates. His ability to win the ball back high up the pitch helped Bayern control and dominate the game. And that’s excluding his brilliant assist and finish.
As a result, fans or no fans, the victors were always going to be Bayern.
If pressure makes diamonds, Bayern’s the finished article for all to see, especially Frankfurt.
When Brandt ticks, BVB tick
Amidst the silence at the Signal Iduna Park and the pre-recorded crowd noises at the Volkswagen Arena, Julian Brandt has been in his element almost like the conductor of a symphony. He weaves around the pitch, taking and committing defenders with him and has been excellent with his decision making in the final third, garnering himself 3 assists in the process. His move to the Ruhr valley-based club is one that is paying dividends. Considered as a traditional winger, Favre’s watchful eye has seen him occupy a free-role that complements his deft touch perfectly, signified by a pass that you’d play in slow motion for the Bundesliga pre-show next season and one that set the ball rolling for Dortmund’s opener.
Beat Dortmund, become champions
All eyes now turn towards Der Klassiker. Both teams are on an impressive run of form, and don’t seem to be suffering from the level of rustiness first expected, following the unplanned break. The gap currently stands at four and a win for Dortmund and we have a title race on our hands. However, a Bayern win all but seals their 8th consecutive title. The usual suspects are once again yet to battle it out when the stakes are as high as can be.
Bayern’s performance, and all of their performances since their last defeat to Gladbach back in early December indicate no one can stop them from lifting the Bundesliga crown, an honour that a team as relentless as theirs has made a habit of.
All signs point towards 90 minutes that will definitely prove to be a title-decider and Dortmund will be hoping home advantage applies in an empty stadium. The question is: how do you stop this Bayern team?