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The German Football Weekly: Issue #5
Free weekly newsletter highlighting some the biggest news, and headlines from the beautiful game on German soil
by Adam Khan on September 17
A mediocre midweek fixture list of Barcelona v Bayern & Man City v Leipzig is finally behind us (😏), replaced with a relegation 6-pointer between Hertha BSC & Greuther Fürth to kick off Matchday 5 in the Bundesliga this evening!
But, before some shambolic Kleeblatt defending goes up against the comedy show from the nation’s capital, make sure to sink your teeth into ISSUE #5 of the German Football Newsletter, with this week's marquee storyline going deep into the Jamal Musiala v Florian Wirtz debate!
Jamal Musiala v Florian Wirtz:
Two of the Finest Talent’s in German Football go Head-to-Head in This Week’s Analysis
It’s been a pretty hopeful month for the future of German football, with Hansi Flick off to an unbeaten start as the new Bundestrainer, Karim Adeyemi tearing up the Austrian Bundesliga, and the duo of Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz continuing their exponential growth in the German topflight.
Particularly that final point has grabbed my attention, with Musiala & Wirtz combining for 4 goals and 5 assists in just 289 minutes of Bundesliga action (a goal contribution every 32 minutes!) this season. As both teenagers continue to one-up each other with outlandish technical brilliance, it won't be long before Hansi Flick will need to make a difficult decision in picking one over the other to form the creative heartbeat of this new generation.
Whilst my lengthy research and analysis has gotten me no closer to a definitive answer, here are just a couple of my thoughts about what the Bundestrainer needs to take into account when posed with this selection headache!
When it comes to offensive actions, Musiala and Wirtz are both in the upper echelons of European talent, contributing goals & assists at an alarming rate for their age bracket.
However, there are key differences, with Musiala slightly more prolific going for goal, whilst Wirtz has the better eye to bring teammates into action in front of the net.
With 2.10 shots per 90* Musiala is constantly looking to find the back of the net, either full-ending one of his many dribbles, or finding the right position to pick up a loose ball in the opponent's final third.
Musiala (above) doing what he does best, picking up possession in-and-around the opposition box and within a couple of deft touches creating an angle to finish.
Wirtz on the other hand is far more adept at slotting through teammates rather than going for goal himself.
Whilst his 8 Bundesliga goals in just 39 matches is no small feat, it’s his key passes which really catch my eye. With 2.07 per 90, Wirtz is not only head-and-shoulders above Musiala, but also out-performing Kai Havertz’s most prolific season in a Leverkusen jersey (2019-20: 1.94 key passes per 90).
Wirtz (above) showed his playmaking abilities once again over the weekend. The teenager committed both of Dortmund’s defenders before finding the right window to slot through Patrik Schick with a perfectly weighted through ball.
What can we take from this?
Well, whilst both are extremely adept in a variety of roles in the final third, Wirtz’s primary strength comes in his ability to bring teammates into the game with expert passing and bridging runs from midfield.
Playing in a Leverkusen side who look to exploit unorganized defenses with quick vertical football, Wirtz could be best used in fixtures where Germany are on the back foot and will look to counter opponents. Whilst such occasions won’t come often in a World Cup qualifying campaign against the likes of Armenia, Iceland, and North Macedonia, in tournament fixtures, or occasions when Germany are down to 10 men, having a player of Wirtz’s ability to quickly eat up space in midfield can be vital.
A potential Wirtz XI:
To apply to Wirtz’s strengths as a transition player we have a Germany setup that has a good structure defensively to absorb pressure against a possession-dominant opponent, but is also extremely adept at committing bodies quickly into attacking phases. You have flying attacking fullbacks in Gosens & Baku, as well as inverting wingers in Sane and Gnabry to offer plenty of options for Wirtz when picking up possession between the lines and turning goalwards.
On the other hand we have Musiala, not only a more adept finisher, but also a more risk averse player in possession, and better defensive presser. These attributes could help Flick in games where Germany are perceived favorites and will need to break down deep defensive blocks (a potential reason why Musiala started the first game in the Flick tenure against Liechtenstein, whereas Wirtz has only ever come off the bench).
This does however all need to be taken with a pinch of salt, as all of Musiala’s minutes are coming for a very dominant FC Bayern side who go into every fixture as almighty favorites required to unlock defenses through patient possession-based football.
A potential Musiala XI:
For Musiala we have a 3-4-3 with heavy interchangeability in the frontline, and a set of players adept at circulating possession to unlock deep defensive blocks. Musiala is also deployed in a higher starting position compared to Wirtz in order to put the Bayern youngster in more goal scoring positions.
But, who do you think is the bigger talent which Hansi Flick should build his blueprint around? Or are neither Wirtz nor Musiala in your ideal setup for the World Cup in Qatar? Let me know on twitter using #BUNDESLETTER!
GAME OF THE WEEK:
Saturday 20:30 (CEST): SV Werder Bremen v Hamburger SV
A Bundesliga clash, a pokal semi-final, or even a UEFA cup tie, SV Werder Bremen vs Hamburger SV is a duel almost synonymous with German football itself.
However, the Nordderby (North Derby) will take on new meaning on Saturday, becoming the first time these two European giants have ever met in the Zweite Bundesliga. Bremen are new additions this season after suffering topflight relegation last campaign, whilst Hamburg are slowly developing into regulars after failing at 3 consecutive promotion attempts since their Bundesliga demise in 2018.
The two Northern rivals have also had similar starts to this enthralling Zweite Bundesliga season which has lived up to all its lofty expectations!
Hamburger SV have lost just one of their opening 6 matches, however 4 draws and a Stadt Derby defeat to arch-rivals 1.FC St.Pauli means Tim Walter will be under heaps of pressure to not suffer another derby embarrassment this weekend.
On the other hand, Werder Bremen had a tumultuous start to their campaign, losing numerous stars late in the window, suffering elimination in the Pokal to 3rd division outfit VFL Osnabrück, and taking just 4 points from their opening 3 matches.
Many were calling for Markus Anfang’s head following a 4:1 home defeat to SC Paderborn, but with some smart deadline recruits the former Darmstadt manager has turned Die Grün-Weißen (Green & Whites) fate around with two consecutive 3:0 victories that see them now sit in 3rd place.
One of these smart recruits has been Marvin Ducksch, a goal scoring machine in the Zweite-liga (111 games, 54 goals) whose most prolific season came under Anfang at Holstein Kiel in 2017/18 - 18 goals, 11 assists in 33 matches.
Whilst you’ll be hard-pressed to find any Claudio Pizarro or Aílton in the 27-year-old's movements, Marvin Ducksch knows where the goal is, and will be looking to add his 5th of the season after netting in all of his appearances for Bremen so far.
Killer instinct isn’t the only thing to look out for on Saturday evening though, with Bremen v HSV a potential hotbed for those interested in seeing some young talent making waves in Germany’s second tier.
With the youngest squads in the Zweite Bundesliga - HSV average age: 24.3, Bremen average age: 24.7 - two of the former big spenders in German football are looking to reconnect with their roots to rebuild for a sustainable future.
Whilst U21 European Champions Josha Vagnoman (20) and Stephan Ambrosius (22) are both sidelined through injury, it’s another academy graduate in Jonas David (21) who is picking up where they left off for HSV, becoming one of just three outfield players to play every minute for Die Rothosen (The Red Shorts) this season.
Further up the pitch, Hamburg are showing some astute business in the transfer market, picking up La Masia graduate and Dutch youth international Ludovit Reis (21) on a free, whilst fans can look forward to a potential debut for Manchester City loanee Tommy Doyle (19) on Saturday after the youngster finalized a deal on deadline day.
For Bremen, 13 players under the age of 23 have appeared in the Zweite Bundesliga so far, a record not just in the second tier, but all three of Germany’s professional divisions.
Whilst two of the thirteen include the now departed Josh Sargent and Maximilian Eggestein, a player still remaining at the club to keep an eye out for is central midfielder Niklas Schmidt (23). The Bremen academy graduate endured a difficult relegation on loan at Osnabruck last season, but in the first 6 matches of this campaign he has been a shining light, leading the league in chance creation, and contributing 1 goal and 4 assists from the box-to-box role previously reserved for Maxi Eggestein.
Who do you think will win the 137th edition of the Nordderby Saturday evening? Let me know on twitter using #BUNDESLETTER!
Bundesliga GOTW: Friday 20:30 (CEST): Hertha BSC v Greuther Fürth
3. Bundesliga GOTW: Saturday 14:00 (CEST): MSV Duisburg v Eintracht Braunschweig
++TWITTER THREAD THURSDAY++
In this week's edition, I look at 20 U23 players from the Zweite Bundesliga who have caught my eye so far this season!
And that’s a wrap for this week!
Enjoy the weekend of German football, and if you want a bit more to read here is an analysis of Leon Goretzka to celebrate his new deal at FC Bayern :)