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Bundesliga Bulletin: RB Leipzig finish 2019 top of the table

December 22, 2019

The final Bundesliga matchday of the decade saw another Robert Lewandowski goal, more Borussia Dortmund errors and a new winter champion. All the latest from Germany's top flight.

Image: Reuters/A. Hilse

Good week for: Joshua Zirkzee, Markus Gisdol, RB Leipzig, relegation fight

Bad week for: Borussia Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Werder Bremen

The headlines:

— Brilliant Borussia, bad Borussia, baffling Borussia!

Borussia Dortmund showed their worst side as they slipped to a 2-1 defeat away at Hoffenheim on Friday night, a result which has left them seven points adrift of Bundesliga leaders RB Leipzig at the halfway stage of the season. Despite taking the lead through Mario Götze, BVB conceded twice in the final 11 minutes to gift Hoffenheim all three points.BVB finished the year handing out more gifts than Santa Claus.

— RB Leipzig are winter champions

For the first time since 2009, a team other than Bayern or Dortmund finished top of the table at the halfway stage. RB Leipzig have been flying under Julian Nagelsmann, and finished the year 12 games (all competitions) unbeaten. Not even going a goal down to in-form Augsburg was enough to stop RB. The question now is, can they go all the way?

— Schalke gonna Schalke!

After an acceptable 2-2 home draw with Freiburg to finish the year, it was time for Schalke to put their feet up and feel pretty good about the work done to solidify themselves this season. Well, not quite. In typical Schalke fashion drama ensued. The day after the game, the club released a bitter and frustrated statement explaining that captain and number one Alexander Nübel would be leaving the club for free in the summer (reportedly to Bayern Munich, following the steps of Manuel Neuer). With talented back-up keeper Markus Schubert pushing to start, head coach David Wagner now has a tough decision on his hands.

— Teenage talent arrives in Munich!

Since David Alaba emerged from Bayern Munich's academy, the progression of talented youth products has been worrying thin for Germany's biggest club. In the last four days, 18-year-old Dutch forward Joshua Zirkzee has saved Bayern from drawing two games with late winners. After performing heroics off the bench in Freiburg, Zirkzee only needed 150 seconds to find a winner against a Wolfsburg side that deserved more for a stubborn defensive performance. For Bayern, the emergence of Zirkzee, as well as the quietly impressive Alphonso Davies, is a sign that Christmas has indeed come early for the club. The news that Hansi Flick will be staying on as head coach until the end of the season is not only a boost to Bayern's academy talents but also to the club's stability.

— Relegation-zone drama!

Markus Gisdol will enjoy his winter break. The new Cologne boss finished the year with three straight wins that lifted the club three points clear of the relegation zone. Scrappy wins are the order of the day in any relegation battle, as Werder Bremen will know as they have too often found themselves on the wrong side of the result. The defeat in Cologne was made worse for Werder Bremen on Sunday when Fortuna's late win against Union Berlin pushed them into an automatic relegation spot. Paderborn's win later on in the day left Bremen looking over their shoulder too.

— Frankfurt freefall!

Last season, Frankfurt were riding high and enjoying an adventure in Europe. This season, another Europa League campaing has proved fruitful and will continue in 2020, but their form in the Bundesliga hit a worrying low at the end of 2019. After that memorable 5-1 win against Bayern in early November, Frankfurt have not won in the league. The 2-0 defeat to Paderborn to finish the first half of the season was the peak of that poor run, and proof that it's not just the injuries that have blunted this team.

The quotes:

"That was dumb."
BVB coach Lucien Favre about his team not taking their chances.

"What's true is that we now have different opportunities that we can use in the upcoming transfer window."
Hertha Berlin sporting director Michael Preetz about the club's new financial situation, particularly in regards to the speculation that the club is interested in Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka.

"It was his first touch again. I'm happy for him to continue to do that when we bring him on."
Bayern head coach Hansi Flick on Joshua Zirkzee's goal.

"You have to say it: Bayern Munich are Bayern Munich."
Wolfsburg's midfielder Maximilian Arnold on the two late goals in Munich

"It's not Walt Disney. You don't always get what you deserve. We'll take the point."
Schalke head coach David Wagner on his side's 2-2 draw with Freiburg.

"Enough to put you to sleep, for those watching."
Gladbach defender Matthias Ginter after the 0-0 against Hertha Berlin

"We wouldn't be in Cologne if the dreams didn't start again. All I can say is, stay calm."
Cologne head coach Markus Gisdol after his side's hot streak to end the year.

Fußball Bundesliga FC Schalke 04 - SC Freiburg Nils Petersen
Nils Petersen is now level on goals with Joachim Löw at FreiburgImage: picture-alliance/dpa/R. Vennenbernd

The stats:

— Borussia Dortmund's last seven matchday 17 fixtures going back to 2013 have all ended with a 2-1 (four defeats, three wins) scoreline.

— David Alaba made his 250th Bundesliga appearance on Saturday, 233 have been for Bayern Munich while the other 17 came on loan at Hoffenheim almost a decade ago. He's still just 27.

— For the first time since Leverkusen in 2009, a team other than Bayern or Dortmund were crowned Herbstmeister. RB Leipzig were six months old back when Leverkusen claimed that unofficial crown. Now they have the chance to win it all, and it's worth noting 38 of 56 Herbstmeister have gone on to win the title.

— Thomas Müller is the first ever player in Bundesliga to history to provide 11 assists in the first half of a season.

— More history for Augsburg's Florian Niederlechner, who becomes the first Augsburg player ever to be involved in 14 goals in the first 17 games of the season.

— Nils Petersen scored his 83rd goal for Freiburg in all competitions, which makes him the joint all-time leading scorer for the club along with Joachim Löw.

— With 30 minutes played in the relegation battle between Cologne and Werder Bremen, Cologne center back Rafael Czichos had played more passes (33) than the entire Bremen team put together (32).

Fußball Bundesliga Bayern München v VfL Wolfsburg Tor Joshua Zirkzee
Joshua Zirkzee was the hero for the second time in a matter of days for BayernImage: Reuters/M. Dalder

The fans:

Borussia Dortmund's traveling fans were already on a warning ahead of their trip to Hoffenheim on Friday night. After displaying insulting banners and singing insulting songs about Hoffenheim owner Dietmar Hopp on recent visits, the German FA (DFB) had issued a collective ban on Dortmund fans in Hoffenheim, a punishment suspended for three years pending further offenses.

But that didn't stop sections of the Black and Yellows' support, notably the hardcore ultras, from again displaying insulting banners in the away end, including messages regarding the legal action Hopp has taken against individual Dortmund fans in the last year. Having reoffended, it now seems inevitable that the away end will be closed for Dortmund's next three visits to Sinsheim - not something that Dortmund's ultras seem particularly bothered about.

Software entrepreneur and SAP co-founder Hopp, who has financed Hoffenheim's rise from the regional amateur leagues to the Bundesliga to the tune of over €350m and was granted an exemption from the 50+1 rule in 2015, is an unpopular figure among some supporters of Borussia Dortmund and other more traditional clubs, who oppose such ownership models in the Bundesliga.

The weird:

This week's weird is more of a wonderful weird. Fortuna Düsseldorf hadn't won since the beginning of November, and after three straight defeats at the start of December, the club were looking at a quiet Christmas. In the 2-1 win against Union to finish the season, Fortuna scored two goal of the season contenders in 90 minutes as Rouwen Hennings and Erik Thommy both hit strikes that will surely make the top 10.

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