Kicker crowns Müller, Lewandowski and Aubameyang as attacking kings

The offensive firepower of Thomas Müller, Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang sets them apart as World Class in the third and final part of the Kicker rankings for winter 2015-16.

A reminder of the ranking criteria before we start: a player is evaluated not based on his potential or his career achievement, but on the performances from August to December. He receives a minimum of nine grades in games played in the Bundesliga (or respective league), Pokal, Europe or internationals.

The evaluation is also based on the position he occupied the most within that same period.

Offensive midfield: Müllered!

World Class

1. Thomas Müller – FC Bayern

This was Thomas Müller’s best half-season so far, surpassing already his best Bundesliga tally of fourteen goals, in addition to five goals and two assists in six Champions League encounters.

He found the net four times with the Mannschaft for valuable points against Poland, Scotland and Georgia. His skillful art and positive attitude, added to his hanging tongue, earning him sympathy and World Class rank.

International Class

  1. Shinji Kagawa – Dortmund
  2. Ilkay Gündogan – Dortmund
  3. Yunus Malli – Mainz 05

Dortmund fans and German football observers have rediscovered the old Shinji Kagawa, the one who helped his club earn an unforgettable 2012 double. He has flourished again since the arrival of Tuchel with a total of eight goals and nine assists, with eight pre-assists in the Bundesliga.

The same can be said of Ilkay Gündogan who has regained form after a miserable injury spell. His head may not be scoring many goals, but he is creative enough to contribute to the excellent current campaign of his club. He is credited, like Kagawa, with eight pre-assists, which is the top mark in the league.

Further consideration

  1. Gonzalo Castro – Dortmund
  2. Thiago Alcântara – FC Bayern
  3. Hiroshi Kiyotake – Hannover
  4. Daniel Didavi – VfB Stuttgart
  5. Julian Draxler – Wolfsburg
  6. Arturo Vidal – FC Bayern

Mentions: Pascal Gross – Ingolstadt; Alexander Meier – Eintracht Frankfurt; Marc Stendera – Eintracht Frankfurt

Yunus Malli has not only improved with Mainz, but he also established his leadership at the club. His reward was eight Bundesliga goals, and a call-up by Turkey to play for their national team and an opportunity to dispute Euro 2016.

Gonzalo Castro has rejuvenated since joining Dortmund from Leverkusen in the summer, with a newly established and recognized offensive role. Thiago came back from injury in the autumn, providing four assists in four Champions League matches.

Arturo Vidal may have not been favored by an inadequate summer preparation with his club and a short rest after the Copa America. He however missed only one game since returning to Germany. His fighting spirit earned him a spot in the ranking.

As for Julian Draxler, he performs better in the middle for Wolfsburg, but he has clearly not been able to replace a certain Kevin de Bruyne.

Striker: Lewandowski and Aubameyang dominate

World Class

  1. Robert Lewandowski – FC Bayern
  2. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang – Dortmund

Bundesliga fans are privileged to watch two extraordinary strikers every week-end: Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, both cannot stop scoring goals. At this rate, one of them could be the first one to break the 30-goal mark in a season since Köln’s Dieter Müller in 1976-77. Both have deservedly made it into “World Class”.

Lewandowski had the slight edge in the press room by scoring goals in big games and at international level. Aside from his five goals as a substitute against Wolfsburg, he found the back of the net 15 times in the Bundesliga, seven times in Europe, and extraordinarily eight times in five games with Poland.

Aubameyang striker can also be proud of his figures with twenty-nine (!) goals so far: 18 in 16 Bundesliga appearances, seven in Europa League and two in the Pokal.

International Class

  1. Javier Hernandez – Leverkusen
  2. Lars Stindl – Borussia Mönchengladbach
  3. Raffael – Borussia Mönchengladbach

Chicharito may have been the best buy or the bargain of the season. His 19 goals in 22 matches have done great for Leverkusen. The Werskelf is still in the hunt for a Champions League spot.

The rise of Lars Stindl and Raffael reflects exactly the form of Mönchengladbach since the arrival of new manager Schubert: 12 goals (five in the BL, four in the Pokal, three in Europe) for the former, and six goals with eight assists for the latter.

Kalou’s 12 goals catapulted Hertha BSC in third place. The threat to be sold  in the summer brought out the best from him: fitness, agility, and endurance.

Stefan Kiessling was left out as he often came from the bench. His style does not fit with the in-form Hernandez.

Germans playing abroad: Özil shines again

Focusing on the richest league, Arsène Wenger may finally feel vindicated after signing Mesut Özil back in 2013.  The Gelsenkirchener may have taken much time to adapt, often absent in games that mattered, but this is his strongest season in London.

With 16 assists already, it is a matter of time before he breaks the season-record of 20 set by Thierry Henry. He has taken on more responsibility in offensive phases. He falls short of the World Class category due to the Gunners’ poor start of the season and the appalling Champions League performances against Olympiakos and Dynamo Zagreb.

Per Mertesacker may not be fast anymore, but his game vision, heading and commanding his defence contributed to the stability at the back at Arsenal. Robert Huth is back in the limelight, holding the back line of surprising Leicester City.

World Class

None

International Class

Offensive midfield

  • Mesut Özil – Arsenal

Further consideration

Goalkeepers

  • Kevin Trapp – Paris St.Germain
  • Marc-André ter Stegen – FC Barcelona

Defenders

  • Shkodran Mustafi – Valencia
  • Per Mertesacker – Arsenal
  • Robert Huth – Leicester City

Defensive wing

  • Andreas Beck – Besiktas

Offensive wing

  • Lukas Podolski – Galatasaray

Defensive midfield

  • Toni Kroos – Real Madrid
  • Emre Can – Liverpool

Striker

  • Mario Gomez – Besiktas

Mentions

Central defence: Heiko Westermann – Betis Sevilla; Philipp Wollscheid – Stoke

Defensive midfield: Sami Khedira – Juventus; Bastian Schweinsteiger – Manchester United

Offensive midfield: Steffen Hoffmann – Rapid Vienna

Marc-André Ter Stegen has not been successful in gaining a starting position in the La Liga for Barcelona after Bravo’s early injury. He was restricted to Cup games, conceding seven goals in four games.

Trapp was barely tested in the French league. In two big games against Real Madrid, he was  impeccable in the first and he committed a fatal error in the second.

Mario Gomez recovered his scoring touch after moving to Istanbul, with 13 goals in the League and another two in Europa League. Lukas Podolski can deliver on a good day but he still is absent on bad days.

Toni Kroos was less influent as a defensive midfielder. Sami Khedira’s performances at the Vecchia Signora have been hampered by injuries. Bastian Schweinsteiger’s form was not helped by Manchester United’s system and bad start, culminating into Champions League.

Miroslav Klose was left out due to injuries.

Reference: Kicker Sportmagazin, issue no.3; 7 January 2016

[su_label] Post editor: Michel[/su_label]