Unsung Bundesliga heroes to watch for this season | Bundesliga | DW | 17.08.2017
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Unsung Bundesliga heroes to watch for this season

It's easy to forget the little guys who make teams tick amid Neymar's record transfer, James Rodriguez's arrival in the Bundesliga, and as Ousmane Dembele seeks a back door to Barcelona. DW tries to make amends.

DFB-Pokal Eintracht Frankfurt - FC Ingolstadt 04 (Picture-Alliance/dpa/F. Rumpenhorst)

Who's this, and who will he be playing for this coming season? We take a look at some of the Bundesliga's hidden gems

There are the struggling stars with a point to prove, and the youngsters who look ready to make the next step, but what about the forgotten cogs in the Bundesliga machine that keep the league's teams ticking over?

Timothy Chandler

It's easy for German fans to forget that Timothy Chandler is just 27 years old. Born in Frankfurt, the US international has been in or around Bundesliga sides since his teenage years and feels like a part of the league furniture. He made his name with Nuremberg, but then returned to his home club Eintracht Frankfurt in 2014 after Nuremberg's relegation.

TuS Erndtebrueck v Eintracht Frankfurt - DFB Cup (Getty Images/A.Scheuber)

Chandler got his season off to a flyer with a goal in the first round of the cup

The right-back is not the quickest, or the most confident on the ball, although he does cut a more imposing figure than your average modern full back when defending.

But, ungainly as he may sometimes look when bounding forward, Chandler loves to get involved down the right - a crucial contribution for a team so dependent on its strength in the air. Nobody delivered more crosses in the Bundesliga last season than Chandler (119). 

In the first round of the German Cup last the weekend, Chandler scored and was named man of the match in Eintracht's 3-0 win against TuS Erndtebrück.

Bastian Oczipka

From Frankfurt's current right back to their former left back. Bastian Oczipka switched to Schalke this summer for a reported 4.5 million euros ($5.3 million). Originally a Bayer Leverkusen youth prospect, it took Oczipka several seasons on loan at Hansa Rostock and then St Pauli to establish himself. Unable to break into Leverkusen's team, he moved to Frankfurt and was a consistent performer there for five years.

Fußball Bundesliga 4. Spieltag Eintracht Frankfurt - 1. FC Köln (picture-alliance/dpa/F. Von Erichsen)

Oczipka's crosses and corners provided plenty of ammunition for Alex Meier at Frankfurt

An attacking full back with a very tidy left foot, Oczipka is always keen to get forward and maintains a team's width by gladly hugging the touchline. He can also deliver a decent corner and a dangerous long throw.

Aged 28, it's rather late in the day for Oczipka to return to a club with genuine European ambitions. But Schalke could surely use a consistent performer at left back, especially after losing Sead Kolasinac on a Bosman to Arsenal.

Diego Demme

It's easy to be overlooked among Emil Forsberg's assists, Naby Keita's industry and Timo Werner's finishing. But it was German-Italian central midfielder Diego Demme who had more of the ball than any other Leipzig player last season. In fact, only Bayern's string-puller Thiago Alcantara had more touches than Demme in all the Bundesliga.

Deutschland RB Leipzig v TSG Hoffenheim (REUTERS)

Demme does a lot of the dirty work for RB Leipzig's midfield

Any team brimming with attacking talent needs a midfielder who's lighter on ego and willing to provide cover for his defenders. Demme filled that role with aplomb last season, starting 32 league games in midfield but scoring only once and assisting just three times. Demme's numerous, reliable passes (2,195 passes played, 79 percent completion rate) tend to take place during the build-up instead.

However, Demme did make the off-season headlines for a major clash in training with Naby Keita, ending with Demme limping off the training ground with an injured knee.

Kerem Demirbay

Demirbay had already morphed into a key player under Julian Nagelsmann, but with Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy both at Bayern, Hoffenheim will need him all the more this season.

Last season, he was Hoffenheim's unexpected gem, a signing from Hamburg (though he had been on loan with second-division Fortuna Düsseldorf) who developed in leaps and bounds. Back in February, with Demirbay becoming an increasingly regular starter, Hoffenheim tied the 24-year-old to a new contract through 2021.

Russland FIFA Confederations Cup - Deutschland vs. Kamerun (Reuters/K. Pfaffenbach)

Demirbay probably wasn't expecting a ticket to the Confederations Cup, can he make the World Cup too?

His performances on the pitch were also rewarded with a Germany debut, and a spot in Joachim Löw's experimental Confederations Cup squad.

Demirbay wears the number 10 and is known as an attacking midfielder, but he may need to adopt a slightly more reserved role in Rudy's absence. Much could rest on the partnership Demirbay can forge with Serge Gnabry, who looks set to play as a second striker in front of the midfield general.

Pirmin Schwegler

And now, on to the man Demirbay made homeless at Hoffenheim. It became clear very early in Nagelsmann's tenure that he was not planning on using Swiss international and club captain Pirmin Schwegler very much. Alternatives like Demirbay and Lukas Rupp were swiftly signed for central midfield.

Fußball 1. Bundesliga, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim - RB Leipzig (Reuters/R. Orlowski)

Schwegler struggled to make an impact in Hoffenheim, but he could be a good fit for Hannover

Still just 30, injuries have repeatedly blighted Schwegler in recent seasons, especially hamstring and knee problems. His time at Hoffenheim was not particularly productive.

But for newly-promoted Hannover 96, Schwegler will hope to roll back the years and assume a role similar to the one he used to play for Eintracht Frankfurt. There, Schwegler was a regular fixture in the starting XI, a calm and cultured defensive midfielder who could also threaten the goal from range with his right foot. Eintracht named him club captain at the tender age of 24.

If Hannover can keep Schwegler fit and harness his leadership qualities, he could prove an invaluable asset in the fight against relegation. Schwegler himself is used to a scrap against the odds; he beat leukemia as a child.

Zlatko Junuzovic

The Austrian international is probably the least "unsung" of our selection, broadly acknowledged as a crucial member of Werder Bremen's team for several seasons now. But what sets the captain apart from most modern Bremen stars is simple, he's still there.

SV Werder Bremen - Hamburger SV Zlatko Junuzovic (picture-alliance/ULMER/Bjoern Hake)

Captain Junuzovic will be carrying a lot of weight on his shoulders again in Gnabry's absence

With Serge Gnabry now on Bayern Munich's books and straight back out on loan at Hoffneheim, the pressure will be back on Junuzovic to take the creative reins for Bremen. He'll be responsible for feeding Max Kruse and Fin Bartels up front. Don't let the strong finish last season fool you, Bremen could still struggle if they start the season on the wrong foot. 

The right-footer, born in Serbia, is the archetypal diminutive all-rounder in attacking midfield. Particularly valuable to Bremen are his eye for a killer pass and his lethal set pieces.

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