With January coming to an end, the Polish Ekstraklasa is still on holiday break. However, the top leagues in Europe are already actively playing. Fortunately, the past weekend has been quite fruitful for Polish players playing abroad, with the usual suspects like Robert Lewandowski leading their sides to victory to brand new signings.
He did it again. Robert Lewandowski headed home a brace against Werder Bremen on Saturday in a 4:2 Bayern victory to bring his goal tally to 17 in 18 League games. He was the recipient of a killer free kick from James Rodriguez in the 63rd minute and an equally sufficient delivery from Thomas Mueller in the 77th minute. Sufficed to say, Lewy has become a model of spectacular, sustainable, consistency that should not be taken for granted. This all bodes very well for Poland’s hopes in realizing a solid showing at this summer’s FIFA World Cup in Russia. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 9.17)
Elsewhere in Germany, Lukasz Piszczek is officially back and has re-filled the gargantuan sized hole known as the RB position for Borussia Dortmund. In Friday’s tilt at Hertha Berlin, the 32 year old played a sound game that allowed for the black & yellow to salvage a 1:1 draw. Although it is quite evident that he is not yet at 100% full fitness, he is already significant upgrade over the likes of Jeremy Toljan and Omer Toprak. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 6.84)
In Freiburg, you would be expecting an update on Bartosz Kapustka, right? Wrong. He didn’t suit up for SC Freiburg this past weekend. Instead, a different Pole came up big for the mid-table German club: Rafal Gikiewicz. The 30-year-old keeper was thrust into action after an injury to the incumbent, Alexander Schwolow, and definitely held his own against the might Red Bull Leipzig. Other than allowing a goal in the 66th minute to German starlet, Timo Werner, the veteran from Olsztyn was solid enough to backstop his side to a 2:1 upset over the favoured Die Bullen. Might Rafal be a possible candidate for the 3rd GK role behind Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski? Only time will tell. (Minutes played: 63, Whoscored.com rating: 6.90)
Speaking of fringe players trying to make the kadra this summer, Marcin Kaminski received a valuable 45 minutes of Bundesliga time as his VfB Stuttgart club was downed by Mainz 05, 3:2. Kaminski failed to make a material impact, but it is important to note that playing next to a savvy veteran like Holger Badstuber can only help his development. (Minutes played: 45, Whoscored.com rating: 6.60)
Unfortunately, Jakub Blaszczykowski is still sidelined with the spinal injury he incurred in November. Here’s to hoping that Kuba is blazing down that right wing sooner rather than later.
The trials and tribulations of Gregorz Krychowiak since the beginning of the year have been well documented. Surprisingly, Krychowiak had fallen out of favour with PSG and, even more surprisingly, landed himself on the bench of the fledgling West Bromwich Albion – who favoured the likes of mediocrity such as Gareth Barry. However, I’m happy to report that Krychowiak, much like Stella, has got his groove back. He was one of the better players on the pitch on Saturday during WBA’s 1:1 draw with Everton. His efforts culminated in what was assuredly the EPL’s pass of the week to Jay Rodriguez to put the Baggies up 1:0 early on.
— Arkadiusz Chmiel (@ShappeQ) January 20, 2018
Fans of Krychowiak know that these types of performances echo his sheer class. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 7.60)
Speaking of class, Lukasz Fabianski may be the lone bright spot on a bottom of the barrel Swansea club. The ex-Legia stalwart ostensibly has a weekly spectacular save that appears on a top 10 list – namely due to the paltry defense in front of him. This past weekend was no different as Fabianski was the best player on the pitch and, as a result, his club was able to pull off a colossal upset of Liverpool 1:0. Results like this can only aid the increasingly compelling narrative of who will be Poland’s number 1 GK in Russia this summer. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 8.40)
Unfortunately, there is nothing new to report on the Jan Bednarek front – i.e. he has not made a single EPL appearance for Southampton FC. However, another young Polish defender is joining Bednarek in England’s top league: Jaroslaw Jach. Jach has inked a multi-year agreement with Crystal Palace FC and, based on Palace’s woeful defensive options, his initiation into the EPL could be imminent. Both Bednarek and Jach are very much in the running for one of the CB slots for Poland this summer. Jach may have more to offer given his ability to slot in at LB in a pinch.
Has Sampdoria become the new Borussia Dortmund? The parallels of Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski & Lukas Piszczek to Dawid Kownacki, Karol Linetty and Bartosz Bereszynski are definitely noteworthy. If the Sampdoria triumvirate can produce to anywhere near the level of the BVB trio, then there are some very exciting times for Polish football ahead. All three started this weekend for the blucerchiati as they trounced ACF Fiorentina 3:1 behind Fabio Quagliarella’s hat-trick. Having Kownacki playing next to Quagliarella is a benefit that cannot be quantified. His craftiness and hardworking nature have helped him remain a lethal striker at the ripe age of 34. Being around such a professional can only help galvanize and fuel Kownacki to be world class. On Saturday, both Linetty and Bereszynski played the full 90 and both tallied 3 tackles and favourable match rating. (Linetty Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 7.40) (Bereszynski Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 7.30) (Kownacki Minutes played: 58, Whoscored.com rating: 6.69)
Juventus fans are beginning to sing the praises of Wojciech Szczesny as Gigi Buffon has been on a bit of a decline of late. The polarizing Scczesny seems to have taken the bull by the horns with respect to working hard, learning from an all-time legend, and pumping the brakes on his social media antics. This has resulted in Szczesny being outright outstanding for Juve of late. Although Wojciech was not a busy man on Monday, he stood his ground and landed a clean sheet in a 1-0 win over Genoa. As I alluded to earlier, the race for the number 1 GK slot for Poland this summer is heating up. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 6.50)
How good will Napoli become with a healthy Arkadiusz Milik? Milik has resumed training and is earmarking a return in the coming weeks. In Milik’s absence, his teammates have fared mighty, mighty well, currently sitting atop the Serie A standings. One of the major reasons for this success is Polish wizard, Piotr Zielinski. Piotr had a solid outing on Sunday as his side defeated Atalanta in 1:0. Zielinski has recently become a mainstay in Napoli’s midfield and is brimming with confidence. (Minutes played: 86, Whoscored.com rating: 6.79)
Other noteworthy performances in the Serie A this weekend were Thiago Cionek and Mariusz Stepinski. Cionek played the full 90 minutes for his new club, SPAL 2013, in their nil-nil draw against Udinese. Thiago’s play against the elevated competition of the Serie A could well dictate his spot on the NT. The youthful Stepinski is starting to see some playing time for Chievo Verona, however, his team was lambasted by a far superior Lazio side this past weekend, 5:1. Stepinski wasn’t great, nor was he horrible. Let’s see if playing time like this can help Mariusz enter the conversation of Poland’s 3rd best striker. (Cionek Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 7.02) (Stepinski Minutes played: 61, Whoscored.com rating: 6.01)
Outside of Robert Lewandowski, Kamil Glik may very well be the most consistent Polish performer on a week-to-week basis. This past weekend was no different as the bastion of physicality had his typical solid performance for Monaco. The squad battled to earn an important single point in the race for a Champions League spot with a 2:2 draw with OGC Nice. (Minutes played: 90, Whoscored.com rating: 6.45)
Did you know that Adrian Mierzejewski (3rd) and Marcin Budzinski (15th) are both in the top 15 of goal scorers in the Hyundai A League? Until this past weekend, I didn’t either. Neither scored this past weekend but it is still interesting to see if Adam Nawalka will considered either of the two castoffs should they continue to perform at such a consistent level.
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