Image Credit: Arne Müseler
Guten tag and welcome back to football as the Bundesliga is set to get underway this weekend. We kick off with a great set of fixtures as well including the Reveirderby between Borussia Dortmund and Schalke, a relegation six pointer between Fortuna Dusseldorf and Paderborn and Bayern’s first trip to Union Berlin. We’ve missed football so much over the last two months and to catch you up with how the Bundesliga looked when we left it on March 11th, we’ll look at some of the biggest talking points.
Bayern is back
Since 2012/13, one name has ruled over German football with an iron fist, stopping anyone who attempts to get in their way. Bayern Munich. Seven straight titles in a row, some more comfortable than others. This season, they looked vulnerable, they drew poorly in their opening game against Hertha Berlin and by the time they lost 5-1 away at Eintracht Frankfurt, it looked like the game was up. It definitely was for Niko Kovac who parted ways with the Bavarian side straight after the game. His replacement, Hans-Dieter Flick has adapted to the role well and the side find themselves in their usual spot at the top of the Bundesliga. If you’ve been watching Bayern over the last few seasons, then the reasons will be obvious to you. Their dominating possession of the ball, Lewandowski has scored 39 in 33 and the defence have been as stout as usual. This is the best that Bayern have been statistically since one Pep Guardiola was their manager. There will be as many people rooting for Bayern to win their 8th title as people begging that anyone else wins it instead. The big problem in the past has been that there hasn’t been a team really suited to challenging the Bavarian side, there are hopes though this time around.
Dortmund’s Young Guns
If any team is going to challenge the reigning champions, it’ll probably be the team from Signal Iduna Park. Borussia Dortmund were the pick of many as the team best suited to overthrowing Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga this season. Dortmund should have won the league last season but struggled defensively in the latter half of the season. The offence has an embarrassment of riches with the likes of Jadon Sancho, Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Erling Braut Haaland. The question that continues to remain is whether the defence can live up to the offence, at times the back has looked completely non existent. They’ve lost their last two games to Bayern by an aggregate 9-0, and with the leaders coming to the Rhine later this month, big answers still need to be found to Dortmund’s biggest questions
Other Title Contenders
The great thing about the Bundesliga this season is there are plenty of other teams still pushing for the title. One point and one place behind Dortmund are Rasenballsport Leipzig (or RB Leipzig as they prefer to be called) who have a wealth of young talent and Julian Naglesmann as manager, they’ve shown that they can contend throughout the season and this team will only get better with time (unless they all leave). Alongside Leipzig, Borussia Monchengladbach have been top more than any other side and have had more than enough stand out performances to take them seriously, Marcus Thuram might also be one to look out for a big move this year or some time down the road. Finally, we should not entirely rule out Bayer Leverkusen, who may be 8 points off, but boast Kai Havertz (for now) and one of the more astute in the league.
The surprise overachievers this Bundesliga season may be the new boys on the block (and my personal favourites) in Union Berlin. Union are playing their first ever season in the top flight and off the pitch, do all they can to embody the Bundesliga’s slogan of ‘football as it’s meant to be’. On the pitch they have been grinding out results so that they can live another season in the top flight, with the hope of eventually pushing for a more ‘football as it’s meant to be’ expansive type of play. Still, Union have impressed and getting through the next few weeks could yield a top half finish, which would be great for the dissidents, rebels and blood-givers that line the terraces at Stadion An der Alten Försterei.
Hertha Berlin’s Circus
It’s fitting then that the biggest underachievers in Germany this season are Union’s western neighbours. To say Hertha’s season hasn’t gone to plan would be to understate it, to look at their 13th place in the table would be nowhere near telling the full story. Hertha have been pushing their desire to be the club that Berlin deserves, maybe the one big capital in Europe without a powerhouse team. Jurgen Klinsmann’s back and fourth of accusing ownership of not putting the money require in, and Solomon Kalou’s handshakes and lack of pandemic awareness have definitely not given off the aura of powerhouse so far. At best it’s been bad and at worst it’s been a downright joke. Whether Hertha can turn it around (preferably without more covidiots) is an interesting question, though they certainly look on the right path with Bruno Labbadia.
The Relegation Picture
Finally there’s the bottom of the league. There was the somewhat worrying prospect for Bundesliga officials that the first game back would be Dusseldorf vs Paderborn, 18th (out of 18) vs 16th in what is a stereotypical relegation six pointer. That was avoided but the situation at the bottom of the league is still interesting. Paderborn want to play football in the mold of Guardiola and Bielsa and have got some great results over the season, just not enough. Werder Bremen finished in the top half last season and won the league back in 2004 but now find themselves looking towards the second tier next season. Dusseldorf play the standard rock and roll football Uwe Rosler (that’s the second Leeds manager in this paragraph) usually demands, but results haven’t come their way and all the teams from Union Berlin (and maybe even Koln) down should not be celebrating survival just yet.
If you're new to the Bundesliga, then there are many faces you'll recognise from English football. The most obvious being the aforementioned Jadon Sancho at Borussia Dortmund who now has 11 England caps under his belt. At Schalke, David Wagner is manager after his stint at Huddersfield Town, where he took the Terriers to the Premier League. He also has Jonjoe Kenny on loan from Everton and the right back has impressed for Die Königsblauen. Over at Rasenballsport Leipzig is Chelsea loanee Ethan Ampadu and former Everton and Charlton winger Ademola Lookman, who made his loan permanent last year. Meanwhile, former Manchester City player and Brentford, Leeds and Wigan manager Uwe Rosler is now the manager at relegation threatend Fortuna Dusseldorf.
We don’t know how the season will pan out or how the teams will cope with this new reality, but we do know that the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga return on Saturday and we’ll finally get to see what this new landscape of football looks like whilst the coronavirus still dominates all that we do. The Bundesliga’s slogan is ‘Football as It’s Meant to Be’, what we’re about to see might be more of a case of ‘Football as It Has to Be’.