Usually, only one club makes the headlines in Bavaria. Talk of the state is often monopolised by Bayern München’s dominance. Bar a shock defeat in Sinsheim and a few aloof words from a certain Polish talisman, Munich are comfortable near the top of the table (with Dortmund and Hannover to play this evening).
I began the first ‘Englische Woche’ of the season with Schalke vs. Bayern. Following a routine first half performance from Munich and realising the game was as good as done, I switched to a game where an early goal had set up an intriguing second forty-five.
A much smaller, humbler voice is starting to make some noise just up the Autobahn 8 from the Bavarian giants. I say ‘smaller’, but the din erupting from the WWK Arena last night was absolutely electric.
Many people, myself included, have tipped FC Augsburg for relegation. A stretch during last season’s Rückrunde saw FCA take four points from a possible twenty-one. Eventually FCA concluded in 13th position and stamped their ticket for a seventh consecutive Bundesliga campaign.
The cohort of young talent that came in as replacements for departing players – including top scorer Halil Altıntop, Dominik Kohr and veteran Paul Verhaegh – didn’t seem like enough to save the club from its doomed future. An opening day loss against HSV confirmed many suspicions that it was going to be a long season for Manuel Baum.
However, since then Die Fuggerstädter have taken ten points from four games, winning three on the trot. A last minute equaliser against Gladbach was followed by wins versus Europa League’s Köln, Pokal finalists Frankfurt and the pinnacle so far – RB Leipzig.
Three points over one of the ‘big boys’ this early is a huge for any team, let alone one flagged for an ill-fated year. Granted, RBL made nine changes, were without suspended Naby Keïta and took to the pitch for the third time in a week. But a side including the red hot Timo Werner and Emil Forsberg need to be winning these games if they are to reach the dizzying heights of last year.
Augsburg’s defensive display halted the RBL advance. Die Bullen dominated with 65% possession, but just couldn’t break the FCA wall. They became increasingly frustrated and desperate as the clock ticked on. It wasn’t all ‘park the bus’ stuff from Augsburg, they aggressively attacked on the break, a tactic which led to their early goal.
Not only do the FCA defence look impressive, Daniel Baier and Rani Khedira are solid in front of the back four. Caiuby should be praised for his work and up top Alfreð Finnbogason has already beaten his goal scoring tally from last term. Michael Gregoritsch now has a goal to propel him on. The support in the stands was uninterrupted, they willed the team on and jeered relentlessly as Leipzig retained possession.
There will be an investigation into Baier’s “obscene gesture” towards Leipzig boss Ralph Hasenhuttl. Baier cited the situation in an interview with Sky Sports: “…you might do things which are a bit emotional…I let myself get carried away”. It would be a damper on an otherwise incredible start for FCA if the DFB take action against their captain.
It’s still early days, but Augsburg gained a huge three points. They in sit third place, with only a drop to fifth possible following this evening’s fixtures. If it were not for the exploits of Hannover, FCA would be the shock of the Bundesliga thus far. They next travel to Stuttgart before entertaining Dortmund, followed by Hoffenheim and Hannover after the international break. I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the ‘other’ Bavarian team as they enter this tough stretch of fixtures. Will they continue their best ever start to a Bundesliga season and keep on proving many of us wrong?
Follow Tom on Twitter at @tomscarb_REF