Christmas is usually a time of acrimony at Deutsche Welle sports, as we argue about who should make our top XI. This year, the only fights were over how many Dortmund players we could include.
A whole lot of these guys made our best-of list
Nick, Ben and Jefferson are all great admirers of what Juergen Klopp has done at Dortmund, but Matt has obviously come down with a serious case of yellow-and-black fever. Left to his own devices, he would have included no fewer than eight Dortmund players in his top 11.
In the end, the rest of us applied the restraints (that is, we tied him to his bed), so that a few players from other teams got the credit they deserved as well. We begin with a pair of excellent African strikers.
Cisse has carried a huge load for Freiburg
One player we all agreed on, even Matt, was Freiburg's Papiss Demba Cisse. With his 13 goals, the Senegalese striker has the small southwestern German club sniffing the rarefied air at seldom experienced elevations in the table. Matt put it best: "Cisse is from another planet - one where one man is enough to propel a team like Freiburg up to sixth." Not shabby for a player who came from the French second division. Chapeau!
On numbers alone, Frankfurt's Theofanis Gekas would have been a logical choice, but we all felt that he has gotten a number of lucky goals. Matt wanted Dortmund's Lukas Barrios, while Nick preferred Schalke's Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but Jefferson and Ben went for Didier Ya Konan. How important is he to Hanover? Consider this. Since he joined the club in 2009, Hanover haven't earned a single point with him out of the starting line-up. That's truly a most valuable player.
No arguments at all about where to start in midfield: Dortmund's Nuri Sahin and Shinji Kagawa. But what can be said about this dynamic duo that hasn't been said thousands of times before?
Well how about this? Sahin is the smartest player in German football. To watch him is to see a player who seems to know exactly what's happening in all areas of the pitch at all times. That's the definition of a rudder, and you can bet lots of huge European clubs will be vying for his services in the summer. There's room for improvement, though - from the spot. Sahin failed to convert the two penalties he took this season, about the only thing he did wrong in the latter half of 2010.
Moving on to Kagawa, the three things most often mentioned are 1) he's from Japan, 2) he only cost 300,000 euros and 3) he runs around a lot. That's all true but being Japanese and cheap hardly guarantees footballing success, and lots of players run around lots without posting eight goals as he has. What's often neglected is his fantastic on-the-ball technique. When he cuts into the middle of the pitch, the only player who's more dangerous from medium range is Arjen Robben.
This man's spectacular goals have fans saying "play it again, Sam"
Matt went purely Dortmund for the rest of midfield, but the aesthetes among us agreed that we just had to have Leverkusen's Sidney Sam. It's not just that the 22-year-old Sam has scored six goals - It's the way he's scored them. For example, his 20-meter-plus volley against Kaiserslautern. Or his curling left-footer against Hoffenheim. Or ... oh, just go to YouTube, and check them out for yourselves.
He's joined by teammate Arturo Vidal. Six of his eight goals may have come on penalties, but nerves count in football, and the Chilean converted all his attempts. And they weren't meaningless ones either. They resulted in seven points. Vidal is a main reason perennial unstable Leverkusen are playing with consistency and are the only team with a slight chance of overtaking Dortmund.
Dependable defenders and one great goalkeeper
Dortmund have by far and away the best defense in the league, so it's no surprise that Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer were unanimous choices.
It's been mighty hard getting by Hummels
Hummels is quite simply the best defender at the moment in Germany. Bayern's Uli Hoeness is man of few regrets, but he surely must rue the decision to let Hummels go in 2008. (There are rumors, terrifying to Dortmund fans, that there's a buy-back clause in the defender's contract.)
Schmelzer, meanwhile, makes the squad because he excels at the position, left back, that most teams struggle to fill. His ability to get forward make Dortmund ambidextrous, so to speak, and that's one reason why only two teams this season succeeded in stopping them.
The new Lahm is an Ochs
At right back, you could pencil in Philipp Lahm most years, but this time round the honors go to Frankfurt's captain Patrick Ochs. Never heard of him? You're not alone, but for years now he's been one of the Bundesliga's best value-for-money players, equally adapt at protecting the back and going forward. He's also versatile, sometimes moving up to midfield, and dependable, having played all but a handful of minutes in Frankfurt's matches.
The other central defender was the trickiest. Nick and Matt were in the majority, preferring Dortmund's Neven Subotic, and Ben had the funniest argument for Hanover's Emanuel Pogatetz: "No team should be without a mad Austrian bastard." But Jefferson intervened, dictatorially, because he felt someone from Mainz had to be included.
And since Mainz coach Thomas Tuchel rotates all other positions, that man had to be their captain Nikolce Noveski. The 31-year-old Noveski hasn't missed a single minute, and while Lewis Holtby and Andre Schuerrle have grabbed the press attention, Mainz have the second-best defense in the league - and the second-best spot in the standings.
Last but by no means least, there's Schalke's Manuel Neuer. A homegrown product, he kept the Royal Blues within striking distance during their horrid start - without him, Schalke would almost certainly be in the relegation zone. And his first-half performance in Schalke's 2-0 win over Bayern was truly heroic, as he turned away shot after shot.
Best goalkeeper in Germany? No question about that - even Dortmund-phile Matt put him on the list. Best goalkeeper in the world? Maybe. And that's a mark of just how good our Bundesliga top XI is at the back.
Author: Jefferson Chase
Editor: Chuck Penfold