With just a few games to play, there is still matters to be decided – even for those who know their fate. Here are some of the most important talking points from the weekend’s action in Germany’s top flight.1. A wasted opportunity for Bayern
With the champagne bottles already popped to celebrate Bayern’s fifth successive title, Carlo Ancelotti was afforded some wiggle room to check out his fringe players. The Italian named his starting XI for the visit of Darmstadt with six changes from the 6-0 thrashing of Wolfsburg, the win which secured Bayern’s 26th German championship.
Tom Starke replaced Manuel Neuer, while Jerome Boateng was restored to his normal centre-back position. But there was an opportunity too for Joshua Kimmich, the young German international who was handed a starting shirt in his most natural position in the heart of midfield. He paired with Renato Sanches, who had just about surpassed the 500-minute mark this season.
But neither player delivered a particularly convincing performance when the opportunity arose. Kimmich and Sanches both looked flustered under the aggressive pressure from Darmstadt. Both players were often caught wrong side of their opponents and impacted the game little in an attacking sense. If Bayern do indeed plan a squad rebuild this summer, Sanches and Kimmich will need to show more to convince Ancelotti that they’re worthy of a regular appearance.
2. Alfred Finnbogason: What if?
For 33 minutes, it looked like Augsburg would be the biggest winners of the afternoon. The Bavarians, who ran out 4-0 winners over Hamburg last week, would have rubber-stamped their Bundesliga status with three points at Europe-chasing Borussia Mönchengladbach. The odds were stacked against Manuel Baum’s side, which had won two of their previous nine games.
However, Augsburg struck first blood with Alfred Finnbogason netting his second of the season. The Icelandic striker’s balance, power and composure hammered home the question of ‘what if’ for both the player and club. The 28-year-old is an irreplaceable cog in Augsburg’s armor; players of such international quality are difficult to come by for one of the league’s smallest budgets.
3. Wolfsburg’s quality shines
There’s never been a doubt about the quality at Andries Jonker’s disposal. Questions of mentality and mettle were well-founded given Wolfsburg’s slump into relegation difficulties. Stuck on 33 points among a cluster of clubs in trouble, Wolfsburg required a strong finish against the German Cup finalists.
Mario Gomez showed his vast experience, assisting the first with a cute layoff and anticipating a surging run from Paul-George Ntep for the striker’s 15th of the campaign. Daniel Didavi strolled through the match in an attacking-midfield berth, while Maxi Arnold looked like a leader in the centre of the park. The 2-0 win was comprehensive and profesionally done, the sign of a team with Champions League experience.
As such it is hard to comprehend how Wolfsburg ended up in this position in the first place. Jonker has faced his struggles since his appointment, but has placed the team in a good position to survive. Wolfsburg need to show the same levels of quality when they face Borussia Mönchengladbach next week.
4. Selke tops up his value
Davie Selke doesn’t have much to prove to Werder Bremen. His breakthrough club as a teenager, Werder saw him as a kid, scoring 10 goals in 36 games before his move to RB Leipzig. Bremen, then in some financial difficulties, welcomed the cash and neither party has looked back – until now.
Selke’s two goals in the 4-1 win over Hertha Berlin, which secured Leipzig’s automatic progression to the group phase of the Champions League, showed he has something to offer. The 22-year-old has managed about 400 minutes of football this season and for most of the campaign, has been the team’s fourth-choice striker. He knows he can contribute more at this level.
Interest from Bremen is real. Alexander Nouri has held personal talks with Selke, who is out of contract in 2020. Sporting director Frank Baumann confirmed Selke was a key target for Bremen at the end of the season. By all accounts, Selke would be keen to return and become the focal point of a top-half Bundesliga side. If there is European football at the Weser next season, then even better.
5. Darmstadt go down
Darmstadt’s relegation to the second division became official on Saturday, despite a credible performance at the Allianz Arena against the champions. Torsten Frings’ side had won three of their previous four games and had shown signs of the fight which had come to define Darmstadt in their first Bundesliga campaign in 33 years. To put it simply, there was no embarrassment in Darmstadt finishing bottom.
The club made a wise choise to pursue Frings in the winter break. He comes with a concept of how to play the game, and if he remains, brings continuity ahead of next season. Given Darmstadt’s size and resources, piecing together a side to consistently challenge in the 2.Bundesliga with better-funded teams around them will be the threat.