Six key figures of the Bundesliga in 2014/15
The Bundesliga in 2014-15 had its moments of brilliance. And these moments were often created by these players who breathed life into the performances of their teams and the Bundesliga as a whole.
The Finisher – Alexander Meier
Despite missing the final 7 matches of the season due to injury, Alexander Meier still managed to acquire the Torjägerkanone (Top goalscorer award), scoring an impressive 19 goals in just 24 starts for Eintracht Frankfurt. The veteran forward has been clinical throughout the season, converting 24% of his shots, usually exuding a composed figure.
Indeed, his strength and collectedness have attributed towards scoring 18 of his 19 goals from inside the box.
The 6ft 5in forward prompted high praise from Paderborn's manager André Breitenreiter, describing him as impossible to stop, adding, “It seems like he's (Meier) 7ft 7in! We need weapons to try and stop him!”
Playing in a much-preferred out and out striker role, Meier has been allowed to flourish alongside Stefan Aigner and Haris Steferovic, both also making telling contributions towards the team.
Appearing at Frankfurt's final match of the season, the man 'The Eagles' fans call fußballgott (football God) collected his award, with his teammates congruously unveiling a banner displaying "What if God was one of us".
Frankfurt could potentially spring a few surprises next season, and are possibly a dark horse for a European spot, especially if they manage to integrate Meier swiftly back into the team after his recovery.
Top Provider – Kevin De Bruyne
VfL Wolfsburg ended the season just 10 points behind champions Bayern, with a second placed finish their highest since winning the Bundesliga in 2008/09.
It's fair to say Belgian playmaker Kevin De Bruyne has been a highly influential figure throughout their ascent in the league. Often seen orchestrating attacks, whilst possessing a deadly delivery, the former Chelsea player has averaged 3.3 key passes per game and 1.6 accurate crosses per game, resulting in De Bruyne accumulating 20 assists this season - the most in Europe.
If there was any need to reiterate that feat, matching the previous record in the Bundesliga for assists (held by Zvjezdan Misimovi?) certainly does just that.
Contributing to 30 goals in total, the 23-year old has attracted interest from the biggest clubs in Europe, with Wolfsburg offering him a bumper deal to entice their prized possession to extend his contract.
Tactical Mastermind – Lucien Favre
When discussing the most entertaining team to watch in the league this season you wouldn't be too wayward to suggest Borussia Mönchengladbach. A third placed finish has earned them qualification to the Champions League group stages next season and Gladbach are a team on the rise, hoping to replicate their illustrious past. Lucien Favre should take his fair share of the acclaim, being at the helm of their recent charge.
Favre has adopted a 4-4-2 formation, and although it’s a system seemingly going out of fashion, Favre has left various opposition managers dumbfounded at times, unable to find a solution to stopping his side. His team is regimented, whilst operating with an alternative style of ‘gegenpressing’ - similar to that of Klopp's at Dortmund but not as aggressive.
Gladbach have averaged the second highest pass success rate of 82.7%, but Favre's side are not overly reliant on possession, preferring to build up the play with a series of passes whilst upping the tempo in the final third and being devastating on the break.
It's a system that is meticulously organised, whilst still maintaining the freedom for his players to be creative. Favre has also emphasised the importance of using the width of the pitch, hence why wide players such as Patrick Hermann have had such a fruitful campaign; netting 11 times this season.
Gladbach will do well to keep hold of their manger, with Bayern possibly readying a replacement for Pep Guardiola, but the fans of ‘The Foals’ would be distraught to see Favre go. A touching moment occurred when Borussia Park rose to display their affection towards the manager, chanting happy birthday during a 3-1 win over Hoffenheim earlier in the season, encapsulating the support for the Swiss.
Surprise Package – Karim Bellarabi
On the fringes of the Bayer Leverkusen side, Karim Bellarabi was sent out to Braunschweig last season, only managing to provide a few glimpses of hope to a side who went on to be relegated. His fortunes were soon to change.
An impressive pre-season saw manager Roger Schmidt provide him with the opportunity to assert himself on the first team, although even the manager admittedly knew fairly little about the winger. Despite being dismissed by the Ghanaian and Moroccan national teams in previous years, a whirlwind campaign has seen the 25-year-old earn himself a call up to the German national team for the first time in his career.
The late bloomer has made 5 appearances for Die Mannschaft since, whilst scoring 12 goals and providing 6 assists in the domestic campaign. As with many wingers, his main strengths lie with his pace and trickery, completing 4.7 dribbles per game - the most in the league - second only to Eden Hazard in Europe.
Bellarabi also put his name in the history books, for now at least, by scoring the quickest goal ever in the Bundesliga, clocked in at just 9 seconds against Dortmund. This record breaker will be aiming to make a similar contribution next season in the hope to carry on his fairytale.
One for the Future – Johannes Geis
Starting all but one match this season, Johannes Geis has proven to be an integral part of Mainz's set-up this season. A dead ball specialist, if corner taking is said to be a dying art, Geis is certainly offering some form of resurrection with his whipped delivery. Geis has created 54 chances from set pieces, which is the most in the league.
He also possesses a calm head and great maturity, often mentalities which take longer to develop within youngsters in a similar position, boasting passing abilities similar to that of Xabi Alonso, averaging 8.3 accurate long balls per match. However, his pass accuracy (72.3%) bares little resemblance to the Spaniard as he often opts for a more difficult outlet, exhibiting confidence in his ability.
All too realistic rumours are building as far as Mainz are concerned, with a potential reunion with former boss Thomas Tuchel at Dortmund on the cards. The 21-year-old midfield maestro certainly has a bright future ahead.
Allow Me to Introduce Myself – Abdul Baba
Bought in from second division side Greuther Fürth to Augsburg for a sum believed to be around £2m, Abdul Rahman Baba has not only foiled opposition wingers but also forced opposite numbers to put in a fair shift too this season.
The 20-year-old left back has been often seen marauding down the left wing without much of an invitation and the pacy athlete hasn't at all shirked his defensive duties, making a combined total of 192 tackles and interceptions all season - the second most in the league. The Ghanaian international has also provided 4 assists this season, as well as 3 WhoScored.com man of the match performances, contributing towards the Bavarian club’s qualification in Europe for the first time in the club's history.
With noise of the top clubs around Europe in the hunt for Baba, Markus Weinzierl's side would be very fortunate to see their consistent left-back line up in their team colours next season.