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The first half of the Bundesliga season is over and it’s been an exciting one so far. Bayern Munich sit top but they’ve been pushed all the way by surprise package RB Leipzig, while, far from the usual suspects, Hertha Berlin, Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim make up the rest of the top five.
Here is our Just Football Bundesliga team of the season so far, the players who stood out in the first 16 matches of the Hinrunde 2016/17.
2016/17 Bundesliga team of the season so far
Rune Jarstein (Hertha BSC Berlin)
Although Germany is regarded as a country that reliably produces great goalkeepers, the best rated keeper among journalists this year is a Norwegian. The 32-year old footballer of the year in his country is one of the main factors for the success of Hertha BSC. Heading into 2017, they sit in a Champions League berth.
Niklas Süle (TSG Hoffenheim)
The Hoffenheim defender’s star shone brightly during the Olympic tournament in Rio, when the German team made it into the final and only lost to Brazil on penalties. In the league, the former striker has made a considerable contribution towards Hoffenheim remaining unbeaten.
However, perhaps the best indicator of Niklas Süle‘s outstanding performance are the rumours that Bayern Munich would like to sign him. It seems they view the 21-year-old as the long term successor to Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels.
David Abraham (Eintracht Frankfurt)
The Argentinian represents Eintracht Frankfurt’s strong defence, the second best in the division and one which has earned them a place in fourth at the halfway point. This is even more astonishing considering they were almost relegated just half a year ago. In a team that comprises of 17 different nationalities, Abraham is a key figure, translating his coach’s tactics for his South American teammates defending alongside him.
Willi Orban (RB Leipzig)
Last season, when RB Leipzig got promoted, Willi Orban was part of the best defence in the 2. Bundesliga. This year he also found a taste for scoring goals, having already doubled his tally compared to last season with two goals. Although he had little first division experience when he was relegated as a young player with his former club five years ago, 24-year-old Orban now displays the confidence of an old hand.
Emil Forsberg (RB Leipzig)
Despite his red card in the last match against Bayern, the Swede has been the dominant figure in RB Leipzig’s attacking play. With five goals and nine assists Emil Forsberg is his team’s top scorer and the main player responsible for giving wings to “Rasenball”. With Forsberg forced to watch three games from his couch in January, after a ban for his tackle on Philipp Lahm, it will be interesting to see how the energy drink-powered team performs without him.
Serge Gnabry (Werder Bremen)
Just like Niklas Süle, Serge Gnabry used the Olympic tournament to demonstrate his abilities to a broader audience. Werder Bremen signed the youngster straight after, and there are still rumours that Bayern have some secret deal with the club and player. At Arsenal, they already regret letting him go. The seven goals and two assists he has contributed so far aren’t shabby for a debut season.
Ousmane Dembele (Borussia Dortmund)
After the decadently rich Premier League clubs lured away Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gündogan, Borussia Dortmund once again proved their ability to scout great talent and subsequently filled the gaps in their midfield. The 19-year old French winger (and #JF70 star) Ousmane Dembele contributed four goals and seven assists in his first half of the season. He complements maybe the fastest attacking trio on the planet – alongside Marco Reus and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Thiago Alcantara (FC Bayern München)
“Thiago or nothing”, demanded Pep Guardiola when he joined Bayern Munich in 2013. The club’s bosses fulfilled his wish accordingly. Some feared the Catalan might take his favourite player with him to Manchester, but Thiago stayed.
The Spanish international seems to have reached news heights under Carlo Ancelotti. He’s probably the most technically gifted player in the league, and he’s even taken to scoring goals these days. Not even a virtual Santa wants to miss out partaking in his superb passing game.
— BILD Bundesliga (@BILD_Bundesliga) December 22, 2016
Sandro Wagner (TSG Hoffenheim)
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) December 26, 2016
Not Mario Gomez. Not Mario Götze or Marco Reus. The most accurate German striker of 2016 is Sandro Wagner. After scoring ten goals for Darmstadt in the first half of the year, he added nine more for Hoffenheim in the second half.
Once written off, his refreshingly honest attitude and frank communication with the media makes him unique among all the finely honed, empty statements that other players concoct in the mixed zone.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Borussia Dortmund)
Africa’s footballer of the year 2015 was on fire in 2016 as well. Scoring 16 goals in 15 matches in the league means he’s top of the ladder in the golden shoe ranking.
Even a forbidden short trip to Milan, which earned him a club suspension, couldn’t stop his hunger for goals. Dortmund will painfully miss Aubameyang in January when taking part in the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations with Gabon.
Anthony Modeste (1. FC Köln)
The Frenchman is on his way to pulverising his personal record this year. Having netted 15 times in total last season Anthony Modeste has already beaten goalkeepers 13 times in the half-season so far, making him the league’s second top scorer. His fine share of contributing more than 60% of his team’s goals is the main reason why FC Köln sit seventh in the table, despite struggling with injury problems.
Nils Petersen (SC Freiburg)
Although he rarely makes the starting eleven, SC Freiburg man Nils Petersen almost always scores after entering the pitch. His impressively quick adjustment to the game after being subbed on makes him the second best scoring sub in Bundesliga history. After missing the deciding penalty in the Olympic final, he regained his self-confidence and takes penalties again, thus cementing his status as fan favourite.
Christian Streich (SC Freiburg)
His football expertise is beyond any doubt. Neither is his ability to cope in difficult circumstances. He has to deal with minimal financial means, coupled with the departure of his best players year after year. Despite this, the Freiburg manager is always able to form a competitive team.
His players love him for his honest and unconventional methods; but what makes him unique in the business is his ability to see the bigger picture. He speaks out if he feels the football circus has taken a wrong turn or comments on events in society, which most of his colleagues refrain from doing.
Who would make your Bundesliga team of the season so far? Agree with our choices? Let us know below or on social media and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter @JustFootball and Facebook for more football news, features and analysis.
Words: Thomas Reichart