By Jonathan Gold
I do love a romp through the collected online bounty of sports punditry that accumulates – like that weird scaly stuff in the shower – with mechanistic regularity. There’s plangent mockery, high-flown rhetoric, and the occasional genuinely insightful analysis to be had. (The latter is mostly at Zonal Marking, from some of the Guardian’s guys, and, of course, on this illustrious site.)
Of course, there’s also woefully dumb crap like this, in which Peter Staunton says it’s somehow a bad thing that moneyed powerhouses like Bayern are occasionally undone by less-wealthy competitors, pointing to Dortmund’s struggles in the Europa League as evidence of the terrible damage that can be done when the likes of Mainz and Hannover get ideas above their station.
This is, as I’ve said, crap. Staunton’s idea is that, by gearing themselves solely to take on heavyweight domestic sides like Bayern and Schalke, teams like Dortmund, Mainz, and Hannover are essentially one-dimensional and unable to compete with serious European heavyweights like Barcelona and Chelsea. News flash – NO Bundesliga teams can stack up to the big-time powerhouses right now, period. I for one would much rather see exciting teams like BvB go out there and take a swing at Real Madrid than watch “perennial Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich and thank God they’re there because they’re the only German team the commentators know anything about” crap out in the first knockout round.
And it’s not like Bayern is breathing down anybody’s neck right now, either. They barely hung onto a draw with Wolfsburg last weekend, who are just four points clear of the drop, and international ZOMG superstar Franck Ribery (France’s Rooney) got hurt again and will have yet another spell of not producing the brilliance he only really displayed briefly beforehand.
It seems deeply myopic to suggest that the Bundesliga’s reputation will somehow suffer because of the influx of less prominent teams having success. As Bundesliga watchers will know all too well, meaningful things like Champions League places get reassigned at a glacial pace. How can you carp that the league is eating itself alive when the games are so good and the competition – from a long-term standpoint, at any rate – is so fierce? Most of the domestic leagues in Europe would kill for the kind of problems the Bundesliga has.
A couple of Bundesliga notes:
* Papiss Cisse was tremendous against a St. Pauli side that overwhelmed most of his Freiburg teammates. He bagged a brace and was the best player on the field by a considerable margin, despite, no joke, missing a damn penalty. I’d have to say St. Pauli were a bit unlucky, given that they’ve got the worst goalscoring record in the league. There are some weird goal differential outliers in the Bundesliga this year, like Hannover sitting in second place ahead of Mainz despite having a mark of +1 compared to Mainz’s +10, and Stuttgart sitting second from bottom despite being at just -2. Or maybe it’s just me.
* No Shinji Kagawa? No problem. League leaders Dortmund flogged Bayer Leverkusen senseless, scoring three times in an incendiary ten-minute spell early in the second half. Kevin Grosskreutz scored twice – both were, as they say, right out of the top drawer so I will hereafter call them socks because that’s what’s in my top drawer – and then teed up teenager (teenager!) Mario Goetze, who put Leverkusen away with a cool finish. It’s not even a question anymore – barring a truly epochal collapse, one to make the record books and even get American sports fans interested – Borussia Dortmund are going to win the league by about six hundred thousand miles.
* Stuttgart got a much-needed and somewhat fortunate win against Mainz, whose slide continues after beginning the season on a wild hot streak.
* Ruud Van Nistelrooy scored a totally legitimate goal to rob Schalke of all three points. Hey, stop sniping at him, he’s not that kind of player.
Jonathan Gold is a guest writer for The Soccer Guys.