It's that time again. The final whistle has blown and it's time for DW's soccer pundits to choose their best and worst XI's from the 2010-2011 Bundesliga season. If you're a Wolfsburg or Werder fan, look away now...
Dortmund players celebrate being named in the DW Best XI
So that's that then. The trophy has been lifted and beer has been drunk, spilled and cried into across the length and breadth of Germany. The Bundesliga is over for another season and for a few weeks at least, until the round of summer training camps and inexplicable foreign tours begin, the players from Germany's top flight can take a well-earned breather away from all the pressure and demands.
Except they can't - because there is one last ecstatic/traumatic event they must face before they jet off to Dubai or wherever it is they go to spend their millions when they're not kicking a bag of air around. Yes, it's the assessment that all Bundesliga players look to for an honest appraisal of their performances over the season just gone: Deutsche Welle's Best and Worst XI's of the 2010-2011 season.
It's hard to ignore the champions of any season when compiling the Best XI. The Bundesliga winners normally have some of the best performers of the whole campaign even if the success is deemed a team effort. This year, it's very difficult to ignore Borussia Dortmund players in all categories but we've tried to spread it out a bit and give credit where credit's due to those non-BVB stars of the season.
Schalke's Manuel Neuer, despite his team's erratic form in the Bundesliga, was the overwhelming choice to be the Best XI's Number 1. Neuer consistently showed the form which has made him Germany's first choice keeper with displays of agility and intelligence - ignoring the Champions League semi-final second leg against Manchester United, of course.
Subotic (l.) and Hummels added attack to BVB's defense
When it comes to the defenders in front of him, the general consensus of the DW punditry team was that writer Jefferson Chase had it spot on when he called Dortmund's back four "arguably the best defense ever." Neven Subotic, Mats Hummels and Marcel Schmelzer got the nod from writer Nick Amies and editor Matt Hermann for not only shutting teams out but providing attacking support for a team that pressed from the back to the front.
Matt singled-out Schmelzer for particular praise: "Schmelzer was so durable, we may find out later that he was bionic," he said. "He played every minute of every game, ran like hell in all of them, and in only three could he be described as anything less than solid."
To avoid a clean sweep, the Dortmund trio was joined by one of writer Ben Knight's non-BVB choices, the ever-consistent Philipp Lahm of Bayern Munich, a choice validated by Nick.
The midfield engine of the Best XI also had a yellow and black feel to it with Dortmund's Real Madrid-bound star Nuri Sahin handed the creative role after getting a full house of approval from the DW punditry team with Jefferson saying that Real already have the bargain of the season: "If I had 10 million euros, I would have bought him myself," he said.
Sahin's (former) team mate Mario Götze also got the nod along with Ben and Nick's choice of Arjen Robben - the Bayern flyer who helped turn their season round once back from injury, and Gladbach's Marco Reus.
"Reus deserves inclusion because his supporting cast was so comparatively poor, yet he willed Gladbach out of the drop zone to the relative safety of the play-off spot," said Matt. "That's big time stuff from a 21-year-old."
When all around him lost their heads, Gomez kept his
Leading the line, it's hard to ignore Mario Gomez - the league's top scorer - so we didn't. The Bayern striker has had his best season for the Bavarians yet and was the biggest positive in a team that underperformed for much of the season. The issue of who should partner Gomez had been a contentious one, with Nick favoring Raul for his overall influence rather than his modest return in front of goal. But democracy ruled and the last spot in the team went to Matt and Jefferson’s choice, Papiss Demba Cissé who performed miracles in an over-achieving Freiburg team this season.
(Ben, however, wanted to include an honorable mention for Theofanis Gekas: "A thought needs to be spared for the Frankfurt striker who scored in every other game, ending the season with 16 from 30, and yet still got relegated for his trouble.")
Leading the Best XI from under a floppy fringe and from behind steamed-up designer spectacles was Dortmund's coach Jürgen Klopp. Who would have thought he could not only talk a good game but play one on the pitch too?
It's a well-known fact that DW's soccer pundits can be hard but fair and these annual reports can sometimes prove to be tough reading for some, especially if you're the Wolfsburg back four. Speaking of which, and without further ado, let's move onto the Worst XI.
Ben turned his back in disgust on Werder Bremen's Tim Weise and was so upset by him that he couldn't offer an explanation. The other three all went for Diego Benaglio at Wolfsburg who spent the season flapping so often he should be given the nickname the Hummingbird. He'll have to make do with the moniker: Worst Keeper of 2010-2011...which is less catchy.
The spectacular collapse of 2009 champions Wolfsburg proved to be something of a car crash for Nick, who was unable to tear his eyes away from the wreckage of the wolves season. "Either Simon Kjaer bought the title of 'world class defender' off the Internet or playing in this team has affected him in the same way Kryptonite affects Superman," he said when picking the Dane as one of the worst defenders in the league, a choice echoed by Matt.
VfB's Molinaro in typical pose: being beaten to the ball
Jefferson agreed that the Dane failed to click, and threw in an equally disappointing signing, the hugely ineffective and immobile Mikael Silvestre who swapped lumbering around at Arsenal for standing about in Bremen. Jefferson also elected to drag VfB Stuttgart's Cristian Molinaro's name through the mud as "a representative of a Stuttgart defense which leaked unnecessary goals and undermined the whole team."
Hamburg's Heiko Westermann made up the slack four with Matt saying: "He came to HSV as one of the best defenders in the league, and has been busy tearing down that reputation ever since. Wearing the captain's armband from day one might have been too much for a guy whose communication skills are a work in progress." Ouch.
In midfield, it saddened Nick - apparently - to have to include Wolfsburg's Diego, a player he liked immensely at Bremen but whose only contribution to the excitement of this Bundesliga season was when he "ignored team orders, took someone else's penalty, missed it and ultimately got Steve McClaren the sack." Jefferson also chose the once-talented Brazilian.
Matt argued for the inclusion of the pacy Dutch winger Eljero Elia in the worst team, mostly out of immense disappointment. "Elia showed last season at Hamburg, and last summer with Holland, that he's capable of special things," said Matt. "This year, he didn't show up."
Jefferson, Matt and Ben all opted for Aaron Hunt at Bremen as the biggest waste of midfield space while Ben added his team mate Marko Marin: "Surely the most over-rated player in the league...or is that just me?" In this case, Ben, it was just you.
Marko Arnautovic: Nemesis of plasma TVs everywhere
Up front, Bremen's Marko Arnautovic was deemed so lackadaisical on the pitch that Jefferson reports his friend Martin, a huge Werder fan, shouted obscenities and threw things at his brand-new plasma-screen TV every time he touched the ball. It's an opinion shared by Nick who lamented the blunting of Bremen's attacking verve by the clueless Austrian.
Matt also picked Arnautovic and chucks in the hapless Marius Ebbers at St. Pauli to complete the team. "Twice before this season Ebbers has been a torrid scorer for a second division club only to flop the following year in the top flight, so it shouldn't be a surprise he did it again at Pauli," he lamented. "When will clubs finally learn to stop trusting this guy?"
Coaching the Worst XI is Steve McClaren, the choice of both Matt and Nick. The Wally with the Brolly may not have lasted the season at Wolfsburg but he did enough in his short tenure to mess things up enough that they turned to Pierre Littbarski and then Felix Magath to try and put it right - and that amount of ineptitude could not go unmentioned.
So there you have it: the gold stars and the go-stand-in-the-corners from the Class of 2010-2011. Make of them what you will.
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Matt Hermann