Bundesliga restart: What we’ve learnt

Saturday June 06 2020
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Marauding. Alphonso Davis looked shaky in his debut season start as he was thrust into the deep end following injuries to several defenders but has since made the left-back slot his own in Bavaria. Photo/AFP

The German Bundesliga has provided an excellent template on how countries can best resume sporting action during the Covid-19 pandemic. Two coronavirus tests per week for players, social distancing during goal celebrations, disinfecting matchday balls, the number of people admissible into stadia and five substitutions for each team are some of the inspired innovations to behold that will surely be embraced by the Spanish La Liga, English Premier League and Italian Serie A next week.

Home advantage nullified
On the pitch itself, the most important observation after four rounds of Bundesliga action has been the nullification of home advantage. In the thirty six matches played since the league’s resumption in mid May, there have been only eight home victories or just over twenty per cent.
Of these eight, leaders Bayern Munich have registered two wins while second placed Dortmund, third placed RB Leipzig and Champions League chasing Gladbach have posted one victory each.

In other words, Hertha Berlin (with two home wins), Hoffenheim (one win) and Fortuna Dusseldorf the only sides outside of the Top Six to have registered a home victory.
Put another way, there are twelve Bundesliga sides that are yet to register a home victory after four match days. On the other hand, in the thirty six games played to date, Germany’s top flight league has seen eighteen away victories or fifty percent wins for visitors. The Top Five - Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and Gladbach have all posted above average results in away games.
These Champions League chasing sides have already scored 35 goals between them, way higher than the average they were posting in the pre-Covid-19 matches.

Full backs game changers
Regardless of the systems deployed, teams with energetic full-backs are realising amazing dividends. Bayern Munich coach Hansi Flick is deploying a 4-2-3-1 formation but it has not stopped full-backs Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies from notching two goals apiece since the restart.
Borussia Dortmund boss Lucien Favre is using a 3-4-3 formation which has released Achraf Hakimi and Raphael Guerrero to unleash terror on defenses. Needless to emphasise, Hakimi and Guerrero are also onto half a dozen post Covid-19 goals. Even rarely used former skipper Marcel Schmelzer helped himself to a goal and assist in Dortmund’s 6-1 demolition of basement club Paderborn.

Injuries to Thiago Alcantara, Corentin Toliso and Javi Martinez has seen Flick deploy Joshua Kimmich along with Leon Goretzka at the basement of midfield. The pair has given the Bavarians the solidity on which to build an eleven-game winning streak that has taken them to the cusp of an eighth consecutive league title.
This is because both Kimmich and Goretzka are good offensively and on the backfoot. The deployment of the Die Mannschaft duo has also resurrected the career of Jerome Boateng because they offer him excellent cover.