Can Andre Schürrle really play striker for Dortmund? Who is that new star forward at Wolfsburg? And what is going on at Hamburg? All that and more covered in Matchday 17’s talking points.1. Can Schürrle play striker?
How will Borussia Dortmund fend without Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang? That was the question every fan in black and yellow was asking themselves when they arrived in Bremen on Saturday afternoon.
Fortunately they didn’t have to wait long to find out. After just five minutes, an ill-timed back pass from Werder Bremen’s Serge Gnabry found a lingering, make-shift striker in Andre Schürrle who was more than happy to pick up the ball, round the goalkeeper and casually tap it in to the net.
It was a much-needed goal for Schürrle, who has had a rather unremarkable debut season at Dortmund, as he seemed to fit in to the role as lone striker. Despite Dortmund’s relatively poor performance, Marco Reus and Christian Pulisic linked up well with the new striker and offered constant support and an impressive counter-attacking threat.
If Thomas Tuchel was looking for a new striker, he may have just found one.
2. Ntep kicks things off with a bang
Wolfsburg raised plenty of eyebrows earlier in the month when they signed promising wide forward Paul-Georges Ntep from Stade Rennes, along with Mainz forward Yunus Malli, to replace the departed Julian Draxler.
Although Malli seemed to fit in perfectly well, it was Ntep who truly stole the show against an unsuspecting Hamburg defense. With pace, quick feet and a notable confidence to take on defenders in a league he’d never played in before, the 24-year-old was Wolfsburg’s most potent threat throughout the game.
Indeed, his stellar performance reached a deserving conclusion just 10 minutes from fulltime when a one-two with Borja Mayoral played the French forward through before he lay off a simple pass to goalscorer Mario Gomez. A wonderful debut to the Bundesliga for what seems like a very special talent.
3. Hamburg still hibernating
The winter break probably didn’t come at a bad time for Hamburg. Despite a bumpy start, new coach Markus Gisdol’s hard work was clearly beginning to take hold at the northern club. Just before the Bundesliga finished up for the year, Hamburg had won three of their last four games and had earned points in six of their last 10 results.
Against a spirited Wolfsburg team, Hamburg did not look up to the challenge from the very first minute. After Albin Ekdal’s second yellow card just after the half hour mark, it was clear that the visitors were in for a difficult afternoon.
With just one shot on goal, Hamburg looked nothing like the side that had seemingly got their act together at the end of 2016. But Gisdol and his side may not have much time to try and find that lost form with Ingosltadt, Bayer Leverkusen and Cologne on the horizon.
4. Burgstaller saves Royal Blues blushes
One of the more discrete signings of the January transfer window was that of striker Guido Burgstaller from Nuremberg to Schalke. The move has already paid off for Markus Weinzierl’s side, his last-minute goal enough for his side to earn all three points against Ingolstadt on Saturday.
Although the goal itself was a lucky deflection followed by a clumsy finish, Burgstaller added a notable impetus and physicality to Schalke’s lackluster forward line when he came on at half time.
Burgstaller was in the midst of a stellar season with Nuremburg after scoring 14 goals in 16 second division games before making the move to Gelsenkirchen. With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar on the decline and Breel Embolo out with a long-term injury, such success may continue for the striker as he begins new life to Schalke’s attack.
5. Goalkeepers losing their cool
The Bundesliga may enjoy a strong reputation for the manner in which it routinely creates world-beating goalkeepers, but this weekend wasn’t exactly a great example of that. Although blunders can happen all over the pitch, whenever it happens to a shot-stopper it routinely leads to a red card, penalty or indeed a goal.
One obvious example of that came in Bremen, when goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobny rushed out to meet the breaking Marco Reus and managed to bring the forward down without touching the ball. The challenge itself – which involved Droby’s studs reaching Reus’ hip – was worthy of a red card, but the keeper was sent off for an illegal challenge as the last man.
A similar act of stupidity came later in the day when the Eintracht Frankfurt keeper undone all the hard work and preparation Niko Kovac’s side had no doubt put in ahead of the game, when three minutes in he mistimed a through ball and ended up catching the ball outside his box.
As expected, the player was duly sent off and condemned his side to a truly brutal 3-0 defeat to RB Leipzig in a game that Frankfurt would have certainly fancied their chances in, ahead of the incident.