Bundesliga Talking Points: Goetze Lifts Bayern and Youngsters Save Schalke
The Bundesliga has picked up right where it left off before the international break with exciting play around Germany's top flight. Following Leverkusen's controversial win over Hoffenheim on Friday, Marco Reus' early penalty was enough to see Dortmund draw level on points with the Werkself in second place.
BVB and B04 were both leapfrogged by leaders Bayern, however. The Roten were a goal behind in the first half, but Mario Goetze came off the bench after the half-time break to inspire the hosts to a 4-1 victory.
Elsewhere, Schalke saved it late to take three points in Braunschweig, with Roman Neustaedter's injury-time strike lifting the Koenigsblauen into second place. Meanwhile, Bremen vs. Freiburg was the first match of the season to end in a scoreless draw.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a roundup of the biggest talking points from Saturday's Bundesliga action.
Goetze Explodes into Form
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Mario Goetze's young career at Bayern Munich has been blighted by injury. But on Saturday he put his best foot forward and completely changed the Bavarians' fortunes against Mainz.
At half-time, Goetze entered the game as a substitute. Six minutes later, Bayern were 2-1 ahead and on their way to a 4-1 win. Goetze directly assisted the equalizer and played a critical role in setting up the go-ahead goal before setting up another later on.
Goetze's explosion of form was somewhat foreseeable. He had a similar effect on Tuesday as he came on as a halftime substitute for Germany in their World Cup Qualifier with Sweden. In that match, he scored the equalizer within eight minutes of his substitution and later assisted a key fourth goal. He was very important in changing the result of that match. Then he turned the Mainz game seemingly at will. It won't be long before someone makes way for the €37 million man in the Bayern starting lineup.
The International Break Was Good for Dortmund
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International breaks have a reputation for harming club teams, especially elite sides of the squads which are packed with players who start for their respective national teams. The common complaint is that they break up a club's rhythm and risk injury for players that, at the time, can do nothing to help their clubs.
On Saturday, however, it was evident that Dortmund had benefited from the latest round of World Cup qualifiers. After their previous match, Marco Reus, Sven Bender and Nuri Sahin were all injured. Marcel Schmelzer was still two weeks from being fit.
With Lukasz Piszczek and Ilkay Gundogan already long-term absentees and Mats Hummels suspended, Dortmund would have been woefully understaffed had they played in midweek or even on the weekend after their previous domestic fixture against Gladbach. They needed the international break, and it helped: Reus, Bender, Sahin and Sokratis Papastathopoulos started on Saturday, and Schmelzer was fit enough for a spot on the bench.
Of equal importance was the fact that Dortmund's players not only had time to recover from injury but to rest and recharge after a grueling spell with club. Many played international matches, but most were at somewhat less of a pace than their usual with BVB. The injured contingent's time off the pitch, of course, offered time not only to heal, but also to rest.
Schalke's Kids Step Up
Schalke's squad has been blighted with injuries as of late, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Kevin-Prince Boateng, Marco Hoeger, Jermaine Jones and Kyriakos Papadopoulos missing playing time. Jens Keller was forced to field somewhat of a makeshift lineup to face Braunschweig and things went from bad to worse when Hoeger was forced off after 36 minutes.
Hoeger made way for Leon Goretzka, who along with Max Meyer, Julian Draxler, Christian Clemens and Roman Neustaedter, formed a Schalke midfield that was a combined 103 years in age. And of Schalke's many talents, it was the two youngest—Meyer and Goretzka—who stepped up and delivered. Meyer equalized after S04 conceded an early opener, and Goretzka later made it 2-2.
Beyond the goals, Meyer and Goretzka played quite well. For the former it was a second consecutive game with a goal. The latter was very lively and comfortable despite having gone several weeks without playing. Schalke conceded twice to a very poor Braunschweig side and accordingly could have no complaint had they lost. But their youngsters saved their blushes and gave the club a boost of confidence ahead of their Champions League clash with Chelsea.
Guardiola Learns from His Mistakes...Again
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When he first took the reigns at Bayern, Pep Guardiola made some rather fundamental mistakes. For example, playing without a recognized holding midfielder resulted in Dortmund dominating the play in the middle third in the DFB Superpokal.
Bayern were vulnerable on the counterattack until Guardiola began to use Philipp Lahm in midfield. He paired well enough with the out-of-position Toni Kroos to form a stable core. And ever since Bastian Schweinsteiger's return, the solid trio of Lahm, Schweinsteiger and Kroos has made Bayern strong against counterattacking opposition.
Guardiola made another fundamental mistake on Saturday as he selected a starting lineup to face a defensive Mainz without a true playmaker in the final third. His midfield consisted of Arjen Robben on the right, Thomas Mueller out of position on the left and Kroos in the center, ahead of Schweinsteiger and Lahm.
There is no doubting that Kroos is a good distributor in the playmaker position, but on the regular he decidedly plays second fiddle to Franck Ribery. With the Frenchman sidelined, Kroos was entrusted with the majority of playmaking duties. As his record of one assist in nine Bundesliga matches this season might suggest, the 23-year-old was unable to break through the Mainz defense.
Bayern were in trouble at halftime. A goal behind and devoid of any creativity, they could have capitulated, but it helps when Mario Goetze is available on the bench. Guardiola learned from his mistake and brought on the natural playmaker, and the result was turned around within minutes.