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Five observations from Matchday 12 in the Bundesliga

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Dortmund increase the gap at the top, Bayern falter, and the middle of the table remains tightly packed.

1. FSV Mainz 05 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga
MAINZ, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24: Lukasz Piszczek of Borussia Dortmund celebrates after scoring his team's second goal during the Bundesliga match between 1. FSV Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund at Opel Arena on November 24, 2018 in Mainz, Germany.
1. FSV Mainz 05 v Borussia Dortmund - Bundesliga MAINZ, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 24: Lukasz Piszczek of Borussia Dortmund celebrates after scoring his team’s second goal during the Bundesliga match between 1. FSV Mainz 05 and Borussia Dortmund at Opel Arena on November 24, 2018 in Mainz, Germany.
(Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images)

VfB Stuttgart continues to struggle, stay bottom of the table

It looked as if there might be some hope after all for Stuttgart after they picked up their first win under new manager Markus Weinzierl over FC Nürnberg before the international break, but that shred of hope was short-lived. Bayer Leverkusen has also had its struggles this season, but they were, by far, the better side at the BayArena as a Kevin Volland brace gave Heiko Herrlich’s men a well-deserved win. To be fair, the scoreline could’ve easily been far worse for Stuttgart, but Leverkusen missed a flurry of chances in either half; Volland could’ve had three or four goals himself.

Despite the win over Nürnberg, it’s still gone from bad to worse for Weinzierl and Stuttgart, who have firmly cemented their place at the bottom of the table with only eight points on the season and a goal difference of -18. To add insult to injury for Weinzierl, the Swabians have now conceded a total of 13 goals from only five matches and have only scored twice themselves - a goal difference of -11. They’ve also made a nasty habit of conceding goals late on, which surely has a demoralizing effect on the squad after they work tirelessly to stay in matches and give themselves a a chance. Needless to say it’ll be back to the drawing board for Weinzierl and his men to try and sort themselves out if they want to claw their way out of the drop zone.

Bayer Leverkusen - VfB Stuttgart
23 November 2018, North Rhine-Westphalia, Leverkusen: Soccer: Bundesliga, Bayer Leverkusen - VfB Stuttgart, 12th matchday in the BayArena. Stuttgart coach Markus Weinzierl before the game. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa - IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with the requirements of the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga or the DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund, it is prohibited to use or have used photographs taken in the stadium and/or the match in the form of sequence images and/or video-like photo sequences.
Plenty of thinking to do for Weinzierl and Stuttgart.
(Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Dortmund and ‘Gladbach get the job(s) done

Both Borussia Dortmund and Borussia Monchengladbach picked up massive wins to keep the top two spots in the table (Dortmund 1st, ‘Gladbach 2nd). Both sides have enjoyed impressive campaigns thus far and Dortmund remain unbeaten, stretching their current win streak in the league to three matches.

For Lucien Favre, there’s an easy recipe for his side to shake any stalemate and the main, primary ingredient is Paco Alcacer. After Dortmund failed to make to the most of its chances in the first half against Mainz, Alcacer scored just two minutes after Favre brought him on in the 64th minute for Mario Götze. Mainz did equalize in the 70th minute through Robin Quaison, but just six minutes later Lukasz Piszczek scored Dortmund’s winner with a beautifully finessed shot that struck the underside of the crossbar and went in. SB Nation’s Fear The Wall page had a field day with us on Twitter for this just after Quaison had equalized for Mainz while Bayern were beating Düsseldorf:

For ‘Gladbach, giving up a goal against Hannover 96 through Bobby Wood within the first minute proved to be nothing but a minor blip in what was otherwise one way traffic at Borussia Park. Goals from Thorgan Hazard, Michael Lang, Lars Stindl, and Denis Zakaria sealed the 4-1 win for ‘Gladbach and saw the Foals reclaim the number two spot in the table, which Eintracht Frankfurt had provisionally held having played a day earlier.

What’s important to note here is that both Dortmund and ‘Gladbach are winning the games they should be winning, whether they really have to grind it out, or if it’s a complete routing, they get the job done. This is part of what’s creating separation for these two sides from the rest of the league and where Bayern have struggled.

Same old defensive woes for Bayern Munich

After going 2-0 up against Fortuna Düsseldorf inside of 20 minutes, it looked as if Bayern’s rut was a thing of the past. However, costly lapses in defense and some uncharacteristically deficient goalkeeping from Manuel Neuer saw Dodi Lukebakio bag a hat trick for the visitors en route to a 3-3 draw. For Niko Kovac and Bayern, it’s gone from bad to worse as serious questions now surround his future with the club.

Bayern’s backline was once again resolute for the majority of the match, but were made to pay for the handful of costly mistakes they made. For at least two of Düsseldorf’s goals, both Niklas Sule and Jerome Boateng were caught out trying to play a dangerously high line to try and force offside calls. Düsseldorf manager Friedhelm Funker even called out Boateng after the match, accusing the center back of being too lazy to chase after the pacey Lukebakio:

When I see how Boateng tried to play the offside trap on the second goal — my dear fellow, that was alarming. No coach in the world can do anything about that when Boateng plays the offside trap only because he’s too lazy to run after him. He takes two steps forward and wants to get out of a race with Lukebakio. That shouldn’t happen to a such a world-class player.

Lukebakio’s third and final goal was a direct result of said dangerous and “lazy” tactics from Boateng. You can see him completely misjudge his header and Lukebakio enters a foot race with Sule:

The middle of the table remains TIGHT

After 12 match weeks, only eight points separate positions seven through 14 in the table, and seventh-placed Werder Bremen are only four points behind fourth-placed RB Leipzig. Additionally, only 6 points separate positions 2 through 6, which means there’s plenty of opportunity for sides in the middle of the table to break through into a Champions League spot before the conclusion of the Hinrunde.

Results in the middle of the table seem to be flip-flopping from week to week too, so climbing up the table is there for the taking for any of the sides in the pack. Of the teams in 7th through 14th, Bayer Leverkusen, Schalke, and VfL Wolfsburg were the only teams to have won in match week 12, with the result at the Volkswagen Arena coming as the most surprising as Die Wölfe blanked Leipzig 1-0.

Here’s how the table looks right now:

Hertha Berlin’s Valentino Lazaro scored the goal of the match-week

Hertha Berlin and Hoffenheim played out to a scintillating 3-3 draw at the Olympiastadion. Berlin were 2-0 down inside of 10 minutes thanks to goals from Hoffenheim’s Kerem Demirbay (1’) and Andrej Kramaric (10’). By the way, Kramaric’s goal was officially assisted by keeper Oliver Baumann after he’d made a long, sliding clearance outside of his box. Berlin responded with a goal of their own from Vedad Ibišević in the 13th minute.

Ermin Bičakčić made it 3-1 to the visitors just ten minutes into the 2nd half before Mathew Leckie grabbed a 2nd goal for Berlin in the 71st minute. Julian Nagelsmann’s side looked as if they were on their way to their third straight league win, but Valentino Lazaro popped up with this (see below) for Berlin in the 87th minute:

Lazaro also scored a late goal for Austria in their 2-1 win over Northern Ireland in the UEFA Nations League during the most recent international break. Needless to say, the 22-year old has been enjoying quite the season thus far for both club and country: