Picking a Bundesliga Best XI Team of the Season so Far
With the return of the Bundesliga less than a week away, now seems like a good time to take a moment to count up all the success stories of the campaign thus far and put together something that can equate to a half-way point in the season.
We may have played just 17 rounds, with plenty of drama still to come as slumping sides regain lost form or early dark horses run out of steam, yet we've seen enough to make comments and judgements about most of the players in this league.
Here is your Bundesliga best XI of the season so far.
The process of picking all 11 players essentially came down to how their form has continued rising throughout the season and, effectively, how it compared to other players in their position and their own record in previous years. This is not simple a squad of the best 11 players in the Bundesliga, which is exactly why we have numerous players who don't play for Bayern Munich.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen
It's no secret that young Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Gladbach will most likely play for Barcelona one day. Yet until then, he continues to dazzle supporters and opposing fans alike each and every week in the Bundesliga with stunning saves, outstanding dives and a head for the game that far outdates his own experience.
This season, Ter Stegen has been at the heart of a defence that has conceded fewer than Dortmund and just three more than Leverkusen. It's this solidity that Gladbach have built on to take them where they are today.
Few thought Bayer Leverkusen could do any better than Daniel Carvajal once he left to return to Real Madrid last season, yet the smart move to sign Giulio Donati from Inter Milan for a cut-price has since paid off tenfold with his outstanding performances and quick transition in to the first team.
Leverkusen sit second in the league table because they're the second-best side in the Bundesliga this season, and young Donati has played a large part in that.
Our first centre-back on the team may come to some as a surprise. Bayern have been outstanding this season and have a number of players who excel above all else in their position, yet it's Jerome Boateng who stands out amongst many as the most improved in the side.
A week doesn't pass by that doesn't see the German champions linked with one centre-back or the next to partner Dante, yet it has been Boateng that Guardiola has stuck by throughout the season. For good reason, too. The defender has had a great campaign and is continuing to improve every week.
Another club that have been doing remarkably well this season are Wolfsburg, and one player in particular who has excelled beyond belief is 31-year-old centre-back Naldo.
The towering Brazilian defender is just one of a dozen top-class players to walk through the doors at Wolfsburg, yet his brilliance at the heart of their defence is rarely distinguished as something of note. Naldo is the beating heart of the Wolves defence and one of the best in this season's Bundesliga.
As well as Naldo in the heart of defence, another standout player for Wolfsburg is young Ricardo Rodriguez at left-back.
There's no denying that Bayern's David Alaba is the best left-back in the Bundesliga and one of the best throughout the world of football. Yet Rodriguez has quickly established himself as a close second, and with clubs such as Chelsea sniffing around for his signature, it's quite easy to see just how good a season the young player is currently having.
A few seasons ago, the thought of Nuri Sahin being anything but the brightest light coming from Dortmund's Westfalenstadion would have seemed odd. Yet almost three years on, with failed stints at Real Madrid and Liverpool, the young Turkish international has now returned to Dortmund like Jurgen Klopp's prodigal son.
This season has seen that renewed trust from Klopp thoroughly repaid for in Sahin's fantastic return to the centre of Dortmund's midfield. It is there, and now we are finally seeing glimpses of the joy the player once was.
Like so many young players throughout the German top division, Lars Bender has come through at Leverkusen and gone on to become an important first-team player. Yet what sets this famous twin apart from others in his age group is the extent to which his responsibility falls at one of the biggest clubs in the Bundesliga.
This season, we have seen Bender go on and become not only an important player for Leverkusen—that much was always the case—but become an invaluable member of a side that have managed to split the Dortmund-Bayern dominance. And that's something you can't quite say about too many players right now.
Sidney Sam may be ruled out of action for the foreseeable future, and he may be a Schalke player before too long, but this season will always be remembered as the year in which he truly came of age and showed the Bundesliga just how much talent he's had bottled away for all those years.
His seven goals and five assists in just 12 games set him aside as a league leader and were undoubtedly essential to Leverkusen's push for second place this season.
Of all the wonderfully talented players to have left during the unfortunate exodus from Freiburg last summer, it would be fair to say that Max Kruse has been the player to have made the most of his move.
At Gladbach, he has found a role up front that has been left dormant since Marco Reus left for Dortmund, and with eight goals and five assists in 17 games, he is undoubtedly one of the most improved forwards this season.
Hoffenheim's ability to huff and puff throughout the season, despite scoring more goals than any other side apart from Dortmund and Bayern, has truly been something to behold. The creaky back line may be substandard and holding this team back, but their front line of attack has been as excellent as any.
At the heart of this daring group of forwards is the young Roberto Firmino. A 22-year-old Brazilian playmaker, who has been touted for greatness for a few seasons now, with eight goals and six assists in 16 games. All from the role of No. 10.
There were a few candidates for this position, yet no player has came on and truly excelled quite like young Firmino this year.
Picking a striker for this team proved near enough impossible. In a league that sees so many goals fly in each and every game, it's only natural, then, to see so many strikers flourish and make a name for themselves each season.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga of Hamburg is perhaps the real surprise package, considering where he was playing last season, whilst the likes of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Raffael have walked into the Bundesliga season with remarkable ease and continued goalscoring records that did them so well elsewhere.
Yet the one striker who has really outdone himself so far this year is Adrian Ramos of Hertha BSC.
With 11 goals in the Bundesliga at the halfway mark, Ramos can quite happily point to the fact that he's scored more than all but Robert Lewandowski in a league that he and his side have only just been promoted to.
His goals count for an astonishing 41 percent of Hertha's total so far this season, making him without doubt the most relied-upon forward in the league. When Ramos scores, Hertha win. It's as simple as that. As the capital side rest in sixth place, it's not hard to appreciate just how well Hertha and their one-man team have done so far.