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Bundesliga Mid Season Review 2011-12

December 21, 2011 By Samrin Hasib
The Final Weekend of 2011 in the Bundesliga ended with plenty of drama as Markus Babbel was sacked as coach of Hertha Berlin.
Markus Babbel is an ambitious man. He spent long years as a player with Bayern and Liverpool and thus has a winning mentality. He perhaps saw Hertha as a club that was not going to move forward. As a result, he opted not to extend his contract and he said as much to Hertha’s general manager Michael Preetz. Preetz according to Babbel refused to be truthful to the media.

Babbel was sacked this week. He will be replaced by Michael Skibbe. Hertha’s final result under Babbel was a 1-1 draw against Hoffenheim in Sinsheim. Hertha is seated not too securely in mid table. Babel’s former team meanwhile secured the Autumn Championship in Bavaria.

In many ways, normalcy has resumed in the Bundesliga simply because Bayern is the top team half-way through the campaign. Bayern has also conceded the least amount of goals (10). They have been the most prolific side at the other end due to the 43 goals they have scored.

Nonetheless, the way Bayern started the season had everyone questioning whether they are the best ever Bayern side. Those thoughts have been quelled slightly following defeats to Dortmund, Hanover and Mainz. Bayern did not concede in eight Bundesliga matches after Match-day One. Their ninth clean-sheet came on the final day before the winter break against Koln, a match they won despite playing with ten men.

The teams who are second and third are playing brilliant football and seem prepared to give Bayern a run for their money. Both of them hail from the Ruhr region and both of them beat Bayern twice last season. Schalke and Dortmund are just three points behind the leaders. The rivals are separated only by goal difference with Schalke sitting third.

When Ralf Rangnick stepped down from his post at Schalke at the beginning of the season and Huub Stevens stepped in, everyone felt Schalke might start playing ‘boring’ football. Schalke thus surprisingly has conceded the most number of goals amongst the top four sides and has played wonderful expansive football which has left their fans on the edge of their seats.

Nonetheless, the Ruhr derby proved to be a very dull affair as Dortmund outplayed Schalke. The score-line (2-0) did not do justice to Dortmund who could have won by a much bigger margin against their hapless opponents.

Schalke meanwhile has Klaas Jan Huntelaar competing for the top scorer award with Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski. There are a bunch of other players involved in that list including Raul Gonzalez, Robert Lewandowski, Marco Reus and Claudio Pizarro. Gomez leads the standings with 16 goals which really isn’t a surprise.

Lukas Podolski, who is only two goals behind Gomez, is having the most stellar season of his career so far. He has scored more than half of his team’s goals and has been involved in five more. Podolski finally seems to be ready to move away from Köln- he deserves a chance to play in the biggest club competitions.

Koln’s fierce rivals Monchengladbach has been the surprise package of the season. Thanks to Reus and great teamwork, they sit fourth in the league only four points off leaders Bayern, who they have already defeated at the Allianz Arena. This is Gladbach’s best tally of points at the halfway point of a season for 35 years. 35 years ago, Gladbach won the Bundesliga title.

Two sides in the league currently have ‘zero’ as their goal difference: Leverkusen and Hoffenheim. Some of Leverkusen’s displays have left fans wondering just what exactly has gone wrong with their team. Rumours of dressing room problems with Dutt is said to be the cause of the poor displays

Holger Stanislawski was brought in to put some life into Hoffenheim. Unfortunately for him, their season went downhill after a bright start. They still lie a respectable ninth but they have to improve their form if they are do not want to be a part of the relegation battle at the end of the season.

Whether Robin Dutt and Stanislawski will return as coaches in the Bundesliga in January is doubtful. Dutt’s successor at Freiburg, Marcus Sorg, is having a torrid time there. Freiburg is bottom of the league and thus is the top contender for relegation. Joining them in the bottom three are Augsburg and Kaiserslautern.

Other teams involved in the relegation battle are Wolfsburg, Nuremberg and Mainz. Felix Magath is perhaps already busy preparing for winter transfers. Wolfsburg’s efforts at times have almost been laughable. They lost 4-1 to Bremen in a match they should have lost 6-1 considering the chances Bremen missed.

Two team in the top seven have a negative goal difference: they are Hanover and Bremen. Hanover has played reasonably well but has drawn too many games. Nonetheless their performances show that they will be contending for Europa League spots in 2012.

Bremen has conceded 31 goals, 14 of which were conceded in just three matches against Bayern, Gladbach and Schalke. A Champions League spot might be beyond them due to poor performances against bigger sides. Their fierce rivals HSV started the season terribly under Michael Oenning but have since improved with the hiring of Thorsten Fink.

Fink’s former side Bayern drew Stuttgart in the quarter-finals of the DFB Pokal. Stuttgart has finally found consistency in a strange way: they are not in the relegation battle and they are not fighting for top honours. Stuttgart is now a mid-table side.

So, for now, we head into a break. When January arrives, we should have a real title race in our hands.

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