John Anthony Brooks leads the way in our weekly breakdown of American Bundesliga performers. With everything else going on, it’s quite possible that some missed out on the initial post over at Bulinews. It’s certainly been a week of less prominent stories. That, of course, makes it all the fun to catch up!
Those interested in following the form of US Internationals playing in Germany’s top flight will find plenty of interest in a dissection of the round five action. Personnel moves first. Leipzig’s Julian Nagelsmann left Tyler Adams off his bench squad in the weekend fixture against Hertha BSC. Injuries continue to plague the New Yorker. The 21-year-old remained with the squad as they traveled to Manchester for today’s UCL encounter, however. He should be back soon.
Adams’ absence is offset by the first meaningful action in 2020/21 for Frankfurt’s Timothy Chandler. As a result, four players and one trainer once again receive graded sections in this week’s column.
John Anthony Brooks, VfL Wolfsburg
Minutes played = 90/90 Positions played = CB
Grade = A+
One solitary American receives top marks this week. It proved another sound day at the office for the 27-year-old Berliner. Brooks won 80 percent of his duels by this writer’s (unofficial count), achieved a 90 percent passing rate, and got nearly 100 quality touches of the ball in. Only one poor pass was observed all afternoon.
The importance of Brooks in bolstering midfielder Maximilian Arnold’s best performance of the season cannot be understated. One can already see in the 7th minute how one of his fantastic headers forward initiated the Wolves’ first major attacking drive. After Bielefeld’s Fabian Klos and Ritsu Doan beat him in early duels, this American quickly adjusted his game to ensure that they wouldn’t get the better of him for the rest of the afternoon.
In the 16th and 23rd, one can watch Brooks complete an excellent forward and rearward headers on the same sequences. More great headers away can be found in the 47th and 59th. Fine forward efforts, on the ground and in the air, are on display in the 31st, 45th, 54th and 68th. The American owned the sky with fabulous aerial wins in the 26th, 32nd, 39th, 56th, 63rd, and 90+2.
Both Arnold and right-back Ridle Baku made it into the team-of-the-week thanks in large part to the steadying presence of the American in their ranks. Simply stated, he’s presently a player who brings out the best in all of those surrounding him. Not every journalist covering the Bundesliga beat has the time to closely observe the magnificent form Brooks presently finds himself in.
The criminal underrating of him ultimately matters not. Surely the Wolfsburg coaching staffers charged with cataloging his every move report the good news to trainer Oliver Glasner in quantifiable detail. This American is on fire.
Giovanni Reyna, Borussia Dortmund
Minutes played = 71/90 Positions played = LW, RW
Grade = B-
This weekend’s Revierderby easily falls under the classification of the most uncompetitive version of the fabled rivalry in recent memory. Many German footballing enthusiasts experienced pangs of remorse watching a proud club like Schalke perambulate about far below a Bundesliga level. A cringe-inducing aspect of a fan-free era is the tendency for team talent mismatches to be badly exacerbated before the silent stands. More of this is sadly on its way.
As noted in the tactics column, the preferred topic in German footballing circles with respect to this match remains the lone Schalke fan who stealthily snuck into the ranks of 300 Dortmund club supporters incognito. Apparently, he had close mate amid the BVB ranks. Once in, the brave blue-clad fan took of his jacket to fly his colors and attempted to work his way onto the pitch.
Those BVB professionals actually involved in the proceedings on Saturday executed a significant tactical shift.
Lineup—Borussia Dortmund—Match Five (4-2-3-1)
Trainer Lucien Favre returns to his preferred back-four system, likely to the chagrin of club management. Some players thrived under the revised approach. New number ten Julian Brandt and converted left-back Raphaël Guerreiro turned in magnificent performances under this approach. By contrast, “The American Dream” had more of an average day.
One part of Schalke’s ramshackle defensive arrangement that did work involved the double (and sometimes triple) teaming of Reyna. The teenage phenom found himself stymied early, double-man marked whenever he received the ball. Examples can be observed in the fifth and six minutes.
Königsblauen markers were able to smother this American off the ball immediately. Reyna tried to cut central on a couple of occasions to no avail. Regrettably, he also tried to draw a penalty with a rather thinly-veiled dive in the 8th. Guerreiro and Mats Hummels located him with decent balls in the initial stages. One could easily observe that his touch was off.
Reyna cut central again in the 14th in an attempt to shake off his cumbersome coverage. Favre, who had been furiously scribbling in his tactical notebook for the first quarter of an hour, leapt up to his feet an issued clear instructions for his fullbacks to switch sides. More chances came once Guerreiro and Thomas Meunier shifted the point-of-attack.
Despite the fact that he had little space to work with, Reyna did squeeze in a competent square for Haaland in the 17th. The pair nearly pulled it off again. Some lovely dribbling in the 19th and a legitimate draw of a foul in the 20th signaled that the American had arrived in the match. The fullbacks reverted to their original position and the BVB officially settled in to dominate.
Match flow between the 24th and 36th saw the Schwarzgelben maintain the lion’s share of possession; admittedly often-times overdoing matters with respect to the passing chain. Quality scoring chances wouldn’t emerge until Reyna weakly knocked a Meunier cross wide in the 37th. The American would collect the ball at the end of long passing sequences again in the 43rd and 45th, only to find himself easily closed down as the Schalke ranks deftly took favored target Erling Haaland out of the equation.
The limits of the Reyna-Haaland partnership were again on display in the 49th. It proved all too easily for even a rattled team like the Gelsenkircheners to deduce that this American would always be looking to square for the Norwegian. There were no real novel ideas on behalf of the teenager to supply more effective link-up play. To his credit, Reyna did respond with a more imaginative lay-off for Mahmoud Dahoud in the 50th. He also won the initial corner on the series of plays that would lead to Manuel Akanji’s opening goal in the 54th.
Two minutes before getting subbed off in the 71st, Reyna got his own effort off. An unfortunate deflection denied him a sure goal. Overall one could say that he was slightly above average. The dive in the 8th, and another instance in which he turned an incidental knee knock into a dramatic production in the 39th certainly didn’t help the ongoing maturity debate.
The passing rate still remained high enough to merit a “B” Level grade and the American did, eventually, find the right ideas.
Timothy Chandler, Eintracht Frankfurt
Minutes played = 45/90 Positions played = LW, LB
Grade = C+
Twenty three touches and a ninety percent pass completion rate (both unofficial counts) for this highly respected American in what was his first meaningful action of the season. As many German football commentators have already pointed out, Frankfurt manager Adi Hütter simply surrendered to Bayern in the second half of the SGE’s 0-5 defeat.
The Frankfurt trainer kept the same basic constellation heading into the second half down 0-2.
Lineup—Eintracht Frankfurt—46th minute (3-5-2)
German editorials are awash with complaints that Frankfurt simply made its too easy for Bayern to run up the score with the two halftime changes. One particular opinion piece in “die Zeit” shames Hütter for reverting to experiments when his squad did still maintain a chance of winning the match.
Chandler came on for Steven Zuber to work the left-wing position. We witnessed this positional assignment a handful of times in the closing stages of last year’s first half. Chandler’s audition as a back-up for Filip Kostic didn’t turn out particularly well then and it definitely produced nothing here.
Amin Younes replaced Daichi Kamada in the central distributive role. At least that’s what he plan appeared to be the plan. It remains debatable if there was much of a program at all besides getting some of the underused players a few match-level minutes.
Chandler never truly looked comfortable in his role, but it did prove enjoyable to watch him bravely charge forward with five individual “wind sprints”. The American demonstrated glimpses of the form that unexpectedly rendered him an attacking threat in the 2019/20 campaign.
General rust led to him getting caught offside twice. That notwithstanding, his teammates did undoubtably seek him out with long-balls. That constitutes marvelous news for those who hope to see Timmy make some more waves in this year’s race.
Caught in a loose tactical construct, Chandler still found his moments to exhibit a smidgen of flair. That counts for something.
Josh Sargent, SV Werder Bremen
Minutes played = 90/90 Positions played = SS, AM, RW
Grade = C-
One should credit Bremen head-coach Florian Kohfeldt for devising a largely coherent tactical strategy for the 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim. America’s “Missouri Marvel” fulfilled his role in the arrangement as well. That also deserves recognition.
Lineup—SV Werder Bremen Five (3-6-1)
Juxtaposing this with the Kraichgauer construct, one can easily divine the primary objective: close down a familiar face. Kohfeldt just spect half a season using 29-year-old center-back Kevin Vogt as a pivot runner. He correctly assumed that Sebastian Hoeneß would do the same.
Sargent and Leonardo Bittencourt were tasked with collapsing quickly to snuff out Vogt on forward carries. They accomplished this. The American’s offensive form understandably suffered. He managed no attempts on target for the afternoon and didn’t even assist on an effort.
Those interested can still unearth a few gems. Sargent did well to find Jean-Manuel Mbom on an out swinger in the 4th. A nice string of touches in the 7th led nowhere, but were nonetheless pretty to watch. Observers can watch him out in some good work in on the right for much of the first twenty minutes, even if he wasn’t involved in a play.
A set of egregiously poor duel losses in the 29th were followed up by a solid attacking possession carry in the 31st. The span between the 33rd and 38th features some very solid work, the best example of which was a strong header in Bittencourt’s direction. The American would dip a bit with some stumbling and fumbling at 45+1.
As pleasant as it was to see Sargent assert himself a bit during the above-mentioned stretch, he essentially disappeared in the second half. The (unofficial) count has him at 36 touches in the opening 45, with only eight taps of the ball thereafter. Half-baked ideas characterized the Hanseatean forward march in the torpid stretch.
On a couple of occasions–66th and 71st–the American’s teammates played forward balls for him so ridiculously out of reach that one wondered if they had even trained this past week at all. It’s imperative that Kohfeldt prepare his crew properly this week, as the Niclas Füllkrug injury might see Sargent get another look at the lead striker position above Davie Selke and Nick Woltemade.
Pellegrino Matarazzo, VfB Stuttgart
Grade = D
A consistently lauded trainer proves himself quite mortal after all. Stuttgart drew 1-1 with Köln on Friday night in what was by far Matarazzo’s worst mismanaged fixture of the season. The American coach employed no changes to his starting XI. Unsurprisingly enough, the same actors just couldn’t settle into the type of efficient shape he had likely envisioned.
Analysis of the latest fixture must begin with the grossly negligent fact that Matarazzo irresponsibly allowed Marc Oliver Kempf to continue playing through a nasty injury. Kempf collided with Köln’s Sebastiaan Bornauw on an aerial challenge in the 19th. The obviously concussed center-half, who also happened to be bleeding from a gash to the sensitive flesh on his ear, was needlessly kept on the pitch for another 15 minutes.
One wonders why this didn’t provoke more outrage. Perhaps because the incident occurred during a Friday fixture on a long football weekend meant that German opinion writers simply forgot about it when it came time to summarize the round’s action.
In any event, it proved a gruesome sight. A frazzled Kempf can be seen taking nearly a full minute two complete a throw-in in the 26th. VfB players, rattled by the presence of a walking wounded teammate, couldn’t concentrate on their game plan. Wataru Endo visibly failed to read the match in the manner he ordinarily does so well.
When Mattarazzo finally got Kempf off to the pysios, we saw this:
Lineup—VfB Stuttgart—36th minute (4-3-3)
Köln could take advantage of this by pouring into the pockets of space ahead of the defensive axes. Whether the tight clustering of the center-backs came from the coach’s instructions or a general sense of jarred fear remains unclear. What was clear is that the Swabians never recovered control of the match. One saw virtually nothing from them after the 1st minute goal.
Marius Wolf in particular wreaked havoc on the Stuttgart left. Wüttemberger captain Gonzalo Castro found himself unable to move about when the shaken defensive line failed to supply him with adequate support. By the end of the first half, Markus Gisdol’s Geißböcke essentially played keep away with the ball. Their opponents rarely challenged.
Another Castro motor, a Silas Wamangituka switch, an good Orel Mangala ball win, and a solid Tanguy Coulibaly chip-over constituted the extent of the a action the hosts could serve up until after the hour mark.
Matarazzo tried some innovative moves later on in the match. Endo swung out to the right wing for a bit and Sasa Kalajdzic worked as a pocketed nine for a time. The 57th-minute double substitution counted as a logical attempt to introduce fresher legs into the wide areas. Still, neither Roberto Massimo nor Nicolas Gonzalez brought Matarazzo’s men the additional thrust they needed.
After the 75th, Gonzalez slotted into the top striker role in a reformatted 4-4-1-1 anchored by fellow substitute Philipp Klement. It was a smart move that precludes a failing grade for this American here. Gonzalez did hit the post in the 76th. Unfortunately, nothing else resulted from it.
Some original and inventive solutions in the latter stages can’t offset the badly bungled deal in getting Kempf off. That mistake totally shook the team out if their rhythm.