The return of the Bundesliga last month was greeted with some mixed reactions from fans and pundits, as the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt daily lives worldwide.
Whilst many urged the German Football Association to call off the current Bundesliga season, others were relieved to see their favourite players back in action. The German top-flight established proper sanitary practices and health protocols, as they became the first top European competition to resume.
In the past two weeks, we have witnessed football like never before: in empty stadiums, with minimal-contact celebrations, and distanced benches. However, some things did not change in the Bundesliga.
Bayern Munich continued to steamroll their fellow Bundesliga sides, Borussia Dortmund’s youngsters dazzled once more, and Bayer Leverkusen showed that they mean business in the race for Champions League qualification.
In this section, we take a look at the best performers from the last month in the Bundesliga.
Bundesliga Team of the Month: May
Goalkeeper: Jiri Pavlenka (Werder Bremen)
With three clean sheets out of a possible four, Werder Bremen have made a statement return to the Bundesliga. Before the break, Florian Kohfeldt’s side were destined for the drop. But their crucial wins at Freiburg and relegation rivals Schalke have given them a much-needed boost for the remainder of the Bundesliga campaign.
Bremen’s survival hopes could not have been strengthened without their in-form goalkeeper Jiri Pavlenka. The Czech Republic stopper conceded four goals against a free-scoring Bayer Leverkusen in Bremen’s opening game since the restart, but has kept three clean-sheets on the bounce since then.
Against Freiburg, he produced a commendable seven saves in what was a Man-of-the-Match performance. His sharp reflexes against Monchengladbach and Schalke also helped Bremen take one step closer to Bundesliga safety.
Left-back: Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich)
Aptly nicknamed Bayern Munich’s “road-runner” by Thomas Muller, 19-year-old Alphonso Davies has been one of the most eye-catching players in the Bundesliga over the past two weeks.
The Canadian prodigy has been stalwart in defense and almost unplayable going forward. He has established himself as a key contributor to Hansi Flick’s free-flowing, attacking brand of football.
Davies was poised for greatness from the beginning as he became the first millennial, at the age of 15, to feature in the Major League Soccer. He debuted for Canada a year later, before the German giants snapped him up primarily as a left-winger. Former boss Niko Kovac, however, recognised Davies’ ability to play as a high-flying left-back, something Flick has taken on since then.
Extremely pacy and tenacious, Alphonso Davies bombards up and down Bayern’s left-flank, linking up with the forwards and using his speed to recover swiftly. Since the Bundesliga has resumed, Davies has two goals, one assist, and three clean-sheets to his name. His best performance came in Bayern’s crunch tie against bitter Bundesliga rivals Borussia Dortmund.
Centre-back: Dedryck Boyata (Hertha Berlin)
Former Manchester City and Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata has finally earned his reputation in the Bundesliga. The Belgian centre-back has been at the heart of Hertha Berlin’s brilliant run lately with three clean-sheets, and one goal against arch-rivals Union, in the last four matches.
Boyata is known for his aerial prowess and anticipation, whilst his notable partner Jordan Torunarigha thrives on his ball-playing ability. The two have been excellent at the back for new coach Bruno Labbadia, as Hertha continue their rise upwards in the Bundesliga.
The 29-year-old defender was touted to be a world-class player in his youth days, but he never fulfilled his potential. However, his commanding performances in the past two weeks have shown that there is more to come from him.
Centre-back: Niklas Moisander (Werder Bremen)
Werder Bremen captain Niklas Moisander has been rock solid at the back for Florian Kohfeldt, and has showcased his unmatched importance to the team. The Finnish centre-back kept three clean-sheets out of a possible four last month, and also reached a personal milestone of 100 Bundesliga appearances.
The 34-year-old’s experience, leadership qualities and defensive aptitude will no doubt be key if Bremen are looking to play in the Bundesliga next season.
Right-back: Achraf Hakimi (Borussia Dortmund)
If Alphonso Davies has already been touted to become the best left-back in the world someday, we cannot forego Borussia Dortmund’s Achraf Hakimi, who is making significant strides on the other flank. The 21-year-old Moroccan has been one of Lucien Favre’s most important players this season, with 5 goals and 10 assists to his name in 29 matches.
Hakimi is known for his explosive pace and attacking instincts, and he is often found in the final third troubling opposition with his decoys and crosses. The Real Madrid loanee started off his career as a winger, but his defensive know-how has converted him into potentially one of the world’s best wing-backs.
Dortmund’s style of play is tailor-made for someone like Hakimi, and the past four games have represented just that. With two goals and two clean sheets, he has helped Dortmund stay in the hunt in the Bundesliga title race.
Central-midfield: Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Bayern Munich are blessed with some of the most versatile and talented players in world football, with Joshua Kimmich on top of the pile. The 25-year-old’s consistency and reliability has made him an indispensable character for the Bavarians, as well as the German national team, over the last few years.
Almost a replica of his predecessor Philipp Lahm, Kimmich did not stop at being just a world-class right-back as he is now equally adept in defensive midfield. He has been given a permanent role in the centre of the park by Hansi Flick: shielding the defense, winning the ball back and recycling passes.
Although small in stature, he is extremely intelligent on the ball and does not shy away from lunging into tackles. Kimmich is an all-round package, and apart from his astute defensive solidity, he has also shown his attacking intent in the past few Bundesliga games. With two assists and a match-winning goal against Borussia Dortmund since the restart, Kimmich is enjoying yet another excellent Bundesliga campaign.
Central-midfield: Kai Havertz (Bayern Munich)
May’s star performer, however, was Bayer Leverkusen sensation Kai Havertz, who has been in scintillating form since the Bundesliga restart. The 20-year-old has scored five goals in the last four games, with braces at Werder Bremen and Borussia Monchengladbach and the recent winner against Freiburg.
Havertz, who usually operates as an attacking midfielder behind striker Kevin Volland, has spearheaded Leverkusen’s attack in recent games with his German counterpart still recovering from an ankle problem. The goal at Freiburg, however, was a significant milestone for the young Havertz, who became the first player under the age of 21 to hit the 35-goal mark in the Bundesliga.
The lanky playmaker also has 13 goal contributions under his belt since the start of the calendar year, more than anyone else in Europe’s top five leagues. With his incredible versatility and unmatched output, it is not a surprise that some of Europe’s biggest clubs are aiming to splash the cash on him this summer.
Left-wing: Marcus Thuram (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Borussia Monchengladbach attacker Marcus Thuram grabbed all the headlines this weekend after he celebrated his first goal by “taking the knee” in support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement spiralling across the globe. The powerful message was accompanied by another spectacular performance in the Bundesliga by the Frenchman, who continues to turn heads across Europe.
The 22-year-old has always been in the limelight because of his World Cup and Euro-winning father Lilian Thuram. However, his rise at Borussia Monchengladbach could force French fans to associate his name with more than just his legendary father’s.
The Foals have become an extremely exciting side to watch under Marco Rose with Thuram as one of their most potent attacking outlets. His muscular physique, quick feet, and direct style-of-play make him impossible for defenders to stop. With four goals in the last four matches, Thuram has shown why he is one of Bundesliga’s brightest prospects.
Right-wing: Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Dortmund)
Borussia Dortmund winger Thorgan Hazard was thrust into the starting line-up against Schalke minutes before kick-off, following a warm-up injury to 17-year-old Giovanni Reyna. The Belgian took full advantage of this opportunity as he set-up Erling Haaland for the opener, before scoring the team’s third goal himself.
He has started each of the following three Bundesliga games since then, and has added another goal and two more assists. In totality, Hazard has 5 goal contributions in 4 matches, making him Dortmund’s stand-out performer of the past month in the Bundesliga.
The 27-year-old has always been in the shadow of his superstar brother Eden Hazard, but their playing styles are highly similar. Extremely clever and sharp, Thorgan has an impressive dribbling ability as he loves cutting inside from both flanks, and runs rings around defenders. He plays on the opposition’s shoulders, making him extremely difficult to mark.
Against Paderborn, he showed his versatility as he lead the attack in place of the injured Haaland, and went onto play a match-defining role.
Striker: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich)
Perhaps the most unsurprising name on the list, Bayern Munich’s star-striker Robert Lewandowski picked up right where he left off, with four goals in four games since the Bundesliga restart.
The Pole now has 43 goals in all competitions to his name, equalling his most prolific campaign to date. He is not only the league’s top-scorer (29) but is also well-poised to bag the European Golden Shoe award, having pulled clear of Lazio’s Ciro Immobile by two goals.
Lewandowski’s strike against Fortuna Dusseldorf on the weekend, surprisingly his first against the club, meant that the 31-year-old has now scored against each of the 18 clubs in the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich and Hansi Flick will hope that his incredible efficiency and reliability in front of goal can help land the club their eighth-straight Bundesliga title at the end of this month.
Striker: Alassane Plea (Borussia Monchengladbach)
Borussia Monchengladbach front-man Alassane Plea has been in fine form since the return of the Bundesliga, with two goals and three assists in four matches. Often likened to Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, the Frenchman is not blessed with natural pace, but thrives on his clinical finishing and magnificent hold-up play. His unpredictability and movement inside the box make him difficult for defenders to handle.
Plea, who has been linked with a move to the Premier League recently, has justified the hype with two goals and three assists in the past four Bundesliga games. He is as good a scorer as he is a creator, making him a perfect marksman to have up front. The 27-year-old will have to keep firing on all cylinders to ensure Gladbach attain Champions League qualification.
Published 02 Jun 2020, 20:16 IST