2018/2019 Bundesliga Awards (August 2018)
The book closed on the first month of Bundesliga action just over a week ago, and it’s fair to say that August provided enough drama to get us pumped for the rest of the season. Most teams were only treated to one August matchday, but the limited action didn’t deter to the excitement of opening weekend. There was a special buzz surrounding the return of Bundesliga football, and as a reward for our summer patience, we were treated to a spectacle of electrifying goals, superb saves, and heartwarming stories across from across Germany.
It would be criminal of us to let all of these moments be forgotten. August produced some notable narratives, and to not give them their proper due would be unjust. So, I decided to highlight these moments through the first of what will be my monthly 2018/2019 Bundesliga awards. Starting with August, I will immortalize some of the best moments of the season with monthly Bundesliga awards. These will include awards for the best player, the best goalkeeper, the best goal, and the best story, among other focuses.
What was your favourite August moment from the 2018/2019 Bundesliga?
Note: Only games played in August 2018 will be considered. All games played in September 2018 will not be eligible for this month's awards, even if another game from the same matchday was played in August 2018.
Best Player: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)
Many questions were asked of Thomas Muller going into the 2018/2019 season. After a poor 2017/2018 campaign and a disastrous World Cup, it seemed like his time as a top-club footballer was coming to an end. Opening weekend provided him with a chance to forget about the past and rediscover the form that made him one of Bayern’s top performers for so many years though, and the 28-year old made good on that opportunity.
Thomas Muller was by far Bayern’s man of the match in their league opener versus Hoffenheim. The German international was statistically their best performer, scoring one goal and assisting Arjen Robben’s late marker. It was the third time he had scored in his last five season openers, and it could be the spark that Thomas Muller needed to regain his former form. The 28-year old displayed tenacity and hunger, and although his style has never been the prettiest, his August showed that it can still get the job done.
Best Goalkeeper: Roman Burki (Borussia Dortmund)
When Borussia Dortmund signed Marwin Hitz from FC Augsburg in July, few thought Roman Burki would last long as the club's number one. After all, he was often criticized last season for his shakiness and inconsistency, and the instability he brought to the position led to much backlash among Dortmund fans. With the 2018/2019 Bundesliga set to begin, Roman Burki was written off to be a dead man by the season’s end.
Come the end of August and it seems that perceptions of him are slightly shifting. After two matches; home to RB Leipzig and away to Hannover 96; Burki conceded just a single goal, keeping a clean sheet in the latter game. He played particularly well versus RB Leipzig, stopping six of seven shots on target to preserve the win. Burki had a respectable August, and he could keep a hold of BVB’s number one role if he continues producing performances like the ones he had last month.
Best Goal: Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund) vs RB Leipzig
Despite August’s limited league action, Bundesliga players scored some quality goals in their openers. There was Axel Witsel’s point-blank bicycle-kick versus RB Leipzig, Fabian Johnson’s well-worked team goal versus Bayer Leverkusen, and Adam Szalai’s one-man show against Bayern Munich, just to name a few.
But despite the quality at display on all of those goals, it’s Mahmoud Dahoud’s wonderful header that takes the crown as the goal of the month. Not known for his heading ability, the Syrian-born German’s goal against RB Leipzig was one of the finest quality. Marcel Schmelzer had delivered a cross behind Dahoud, and the 22-year old had to stretch his body backwards in order to connect with the cross. It seemed very improbable that Dahoud would get a shot off, let alone a decent effort on goal, but with a little bit of readjusting, Dahoud beautifully converted the delivery. Not bad for your first career Dortmund goal!
Best Save: Rune Jarstein (Hertha Berlin) vs FC Nurnberg
Rune Jarstein is not known for making penalty saves. Far from it, actually. Going into the 2018/2019 season, Jarstein had only saved two Bundesliga penalties in his career, despite having faced 15 on target. His first penalty save came in October 2016, and his last penalty save came in November 2017. Between that span, Jarstein conceded seven penalty goals in the Bundesliga, and that’s not including those scored before and after them.
Jarstein was obviously bugged by the streak, and he decided that things would change with the new season. When Mikael Ishak stepped up to convert FC Nurnberg’s penalty in their season opener versus Hertha Berlin, Jarstein clearly had other ideas. The Norwegian goalkeeper read Ishak’s run-up superbly, going to his right and slapping Ishak’s shot away from the goal. It was a save that was unmatched in August by other Bundesliga goalkeepers, and it gave Hertha Berlin all three points that day.
Best Game: Wolfsburg 2-1 Schalke
It seemed as though every major Bundesliga matchup from opening weekend provided quality entertainment. Bayern Munich fought hard against Hoffenheim on opening day, Borussia Monchengladbach edged Bayer Leverkusen with some excellent team efforts, and Borussia Dortmund did just about everything they possibly could when they thumped RB Leipzig. That said, no match proved to be more thrilling (and controversial) than the Wolfsburg-Schalke game from August 25.
From first club goals and flaring tempers to VAR controversy and last-minute winners, this game had everything going for it from an entertainment perspective. Fans were at the edge of their seats for all 90 minutes, and viewers found it difficult to even miss a moment of the action. In the 33rd minute, John Brooks scored his first career Wolfsburg goal in his 100th Bundesliga appearance. In the 65th minute, VAR declared that Matija Nastasic had dangerously fouled Wouter Weghorst, resulting in the former’s sending off. In the 69th minute, Weghorst was sent off for physically altercating with Schalke defenders, only for VAR to rescind the sending off. In the 85th minute, Nabil Bentaleb scored the equalizer just two minutes after coming on as a substitute. And in the 94th minute, Daniel Ginczek secured Wolfsburg’s first Bundesliga win over Schalke in three years with a dramatic last-gasp goal. This game was the definition of non-stop action and entertainment, and it’s the one August viewers regretted the most for missing.
Best milestone: Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund) scores his 100th career Bundesliga goal
Going into the 2018/2019 season, only 52 players had scored 100 or more career Bundesliga goals. The last player to do so was Thomas Muller back in January 2018. By the end of August though, there was a 53rd name on the list; Marco Reus.
The BVB captain reached the golden highlight in Dortmund’s season opener versus RB Leipzig. Marco Reus dominated much of the game with his tidiness and collected play, and the BVB skipper capped off a tremendous performance with the milestone. After Jordan Sancho played him into the box, Reus hit the ball away from the outstretched leg of Peter Gulacsi and into the opposite corner for goal number 100 of his league career. Marco Reus is often regarded as one of the Bundesliga’s modern greats, and his century of goals confirms his status among the league’s best.
Best story: Hendrik Weydandt’s (Hannover 96) rise from the fourth division to the first division
On August 25, Hannover 96’s Hendrik Weydandt scored on his Bundesliga debut just a minute after coming on as a substitute. The 23-year old received the ball from Ihlas Bebou and slotted it under Jiri Pavlenka for his first career marker. But while that’s special in and of itself, Weydandt’s story going into the game was what made the goal so sweet.
Just two months before the season opener, Hendrik Weydandt was a fourth division footballer with 1.FC Germania Egestorf/Langreder; a Lower Saxony-based club. He didn’t have much hope in a football-focused future, and although he was signed by Hannover 96 in July, it was only to strengthen their reserve squad. Something about his play caught the eye of first team coach Andre Breitenreiter though, and after impressing in Hannover 96’s DFB Pokal tie against Karlsruher SC, Weydandt was given the opportunity to participate in the Bundesliga. He scored Hannover 96’s only goal in their draw versus Werder Bremen, and as a reward for his play, Die Roten signed him to a two-year contract with the first team. It’s a very feel-good story to start the 2018/2019 season, and an important lesson of perseverance for all up-and-coming footballers.