The Bundesliga has taken shape amazingly this season, heavyweights such as Dortmund, Leverkusen, Gladbach and Schalke are struggling to pick form while outsiders Hoffenheim, Cologne and newcomers Leipzig are enjoying a remarkable start to the season. League leaders Bayern are finding it much tougher as they lead the points chart only thanks to a greater goal difference compared to Leipzig.
We go into a short league hiatus with the International fixtures. After matchday 10, many players have evolved and proved to be key outlets for their respective teams. The 4th Official will run a series and make a Bundesliga XI lineup after matchday 10! In our first series, we will peek onto best defenders of Bundesliga so far using a 4-4-2 formation!
Goalkeeper – Lukas Hradecky – Eintracht Frankfurt
Lukas Hradecky arrived last season from Brondby following the departure of star goalkeeper Kevin Trapp to PSG. As Eintracht flirted with relegation, Hradecky played a key role in saving their ashes at important times. Most notably, making a save against Dortmund in the last minute when the Eagles famously beat Thomas Tuchel’s team, which proved to be key in their bid to survive relegation.
This season, Eintracht have evolved into a completely different side, thanks to new manager Niko Kovac. The Croatian was appointed following the sacking of Armin Veh in the Ruckrunde. After conceding 52 goals last season, Die Adler have undergone a massive defensive improvement this season. In ten games, the Eagles are sitting pretty at seventh position, conceding just eight goals.
Much of the credit should go to Lukas Hradecky, the goalkeeper. The Finnish international has been a constant figure in Niko Kovac’s side. Keeping five clean sheets in ten games, Hradecky is currently the joint most clean sheet holder in the league along with Manuel Neuer.
Right Back – Benjamin Henrichs – Bayer Leverkusen
One of the young stars of the season, Benjamin Henrichs of Bayer Leverkusen has been a real find for Roger Schmidt’s team this season. Generally, a left back, Henrichs was asked to fill in as a right back due to Leverkusen’s RB problems and the 19-year-old responded very well to the challenge. A 7.41 rating from whoscored, most by any right back pays a dividend to the performances of the Leverkusen fullbacks. In fact, he was handed a first team call-up for the Germany national team due to his impressive performance by Joachim Loew this week!
An extremely versatile wingback gifted with an amazing technical ability as well as a football mind like a sponge. Henrichs fits perfectly into Roger Schmidt’s system. Henrichs is not afraid to go into tackles either, averaging 4.7 attempted tackles per game, proves testament to his courage. Not just the tackles, Henrichs also averages the second most interceptions made by a right back with 2.8 per game. Only Tobias Levels of Ingolstadt has a better record.
While the stats prove Henrichs worth in Roger Schmidt’s side defensively, we can ill afford to ignore his offensive abilities. Henrichs has completed the most passes per game for a right back this season not naming Philipp Lahm of Bayern. 39 accurate passes per game and 1.5 accurate long balls, as well as 1 key pass per game, has been a boon for Leverkusen.
The breakout of Benjamin Henrichs makes him the newest addition to a long list of German football talents and it would be exciting to see the 19-year-old donning the Germany national team kit for the first time.
Right Center Back – Jesus Vallejo – Eintracht Frankfurt
The second defender from Eintracht Frankfurt to feature in our team of the season. Jesus Vallejo was loaned from Real Madrid in the summer, one of many loan signings for the Eagles. The 19-year-old Spaniard has adapted immediately to the demands of German football and is flourishing at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Calm and composed with the ball, Vallejo has completed 88% of his passes this season, completing a total of 433 passes altogether – more than any Frankfurt player. Vallejo’s ball playing abilities defies his traits as a defender and makes it easy for his teammates – something which really impresses his teammate and a team of the season candidate Lukas Hradecky.
Coach Niko Kovac admires the trait of the 19-year-old, “I have not seen a player like him before, neither as a player or as coach. The boy is outrageous,” he said when asked about the teenager. Considering Kovac spent 19 years playing at the top of German football and all his contributions to Croatia, that is quite a compliment to have.
Partnering alongside with Argentine defender David Abraham – the duo has been one of Bundesliga’s hit story this season and a major reason of Eintracht’s much improved and stable defence this campaign.
Left Center Back – Javi Martinez – FC Bayern
After the controversial signing of Mats Hummels from rivals Borussia Dortmund, very few thought players like Javi Martinez are going to get a chance due to the presence of Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in the same team. However, Martinez has proved us all wrong. The early season injury to Jerome Boateng opened the door for Martinez to get first team opportunities for the Bavarians. Featuring alongside Mats Hummels, the Spanish International has been phenomenal, to say the least.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side conceded only one goal when Javi Martinez started the first five games. The adductor problem after the Cologne match saw Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels pairing up for the first time in a pulsating 2:2 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt.
Martinez has been Bayern’s best defender so far this season per Squawka with 317 points, fourth best in the team. An amazing distributor of the ball, Martinez’s pass accuracy of 92% is currently the most by any player at FC Bayern. Not just the passing, however, he boasts an excellent headed duels rate of 83%! Slightly better than Hummels’ which stand at 76%. Even though Bayern mostly prefer to keep themselves away from having to make any defensive job, Martinez is still able to contribute to five defensive actions per game.
The recent hamstring injury is currently keeping him out on the sidelines but one thing’s for sure, Boateng or Hummels’ job would get much more difficult if the former Bilbao defenders continue to impress under Carlo Ancelotti.
Left Back – Konstantinos Stafylidis – FC Augsburg
A surprise inclusion into the team of the season, Konstantinos Stafylidis left back at Bayer Leverkusen since he made his move to FC Augsburg last season as a replacement for departing Abdul Rahman Baba. The Greek took his time at Augsburg but did ever so well, filling in the boots left by Baba. He was once of Augsburg’s best defensive players in the second half of the season last campaign.
This season, Stafylidis has been no short of an unsung hero for Die Fuggerstadter. A great defensive asset, Stafylidis attempts 3.4 tackles per game, with an extraordinary nine defensive actions per game!! Even as a left back, the Greek international has made 46 clearances (fourth best) and his tally of 42 interceptions is the best among any defender in the league at the moment. There also remains a fact that you can’t really dribble past the Augsburg fullback, a 0.6 dribbled past ratio sits among the best in the league for left backs.
With this, we complete our defensive formation for our Bundesliga team of the season after ten matchdays. Sure, it was a tough challenge leaving out some other key players from the rest of the league but these five players have certainly been the core behind the success of their respective teams defensively this season.
Stay tuned for our next part – which will cover the four midfielders in our 4-4-2 lineup.
Anas Ali Molla
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