What to Expect From the Bundesliga This Season
As the first of the traditional big leagues is set to kick off, the world will be watching with a renewed interest at the happenings in Germany’s Bundesliga. After the league suffered heavily during the 2000’s, the Bundesliga has regained its reputation as one of the world’s best.
After Germany’s painful experience at the European Championships in 2000, the league form also underwent some restructuring, and their steady supply of teams to the Champions League final halted when Zidane’s memorable volley defeated Ballack’s Leverkusen. While Bayern Munich rebounded quicker than the rest of the league, reaching the Champions League final in 2010 against Mourinho’s Inter, Bayern’s progress is usually not necessarily seen in tandem with that of the league. Dortmund’s disappointing Champions League campaign in 2012 reminded everyone that German football and Bayern Munich are not necessarily two sides of the same coin.
Last year however, the Germans deserved the accolades that accompanied their historic feat; they did so by demolishing their opposition and in doing so, created fans for life.
The start of the Bundesliga season will also be watched with interest from Spain and the rest of the world, to see whether Pep Guardiola can emulate the success of Jupp Heynckes and also live up to the reputation he left behind at Barcelona.
Unfortunately, many are not expecting a tight race at the top. While the Germans generally believe that the Bundesliga does not go more than 3 seasons without being won by Bayern, the talent they have acquired may lead to a long-term success. Bayern are currently light up front with no top class striker present to fill in for Mandzukic in case of an injury, but their midfield can score an overwhelming amount of goals. Bayern’s biggest problem is at the back where they did not strengthen after Badstuber’s lengthy injury spell was revealed. They settled dealings with Kirchhoff from Mainz in January, but the young center-back is inexperienced and will have a hard time settling in especially for the Champions League.
After being able to wrangle Lewandowski from the clutches of Bayern for at least another year, Dortmund has been busy spending that Goetze money on Armenian Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Dortmund also signed Aubeymyang, who is relatively unknown outside of France, but an absolute hero back in Gabon. The young striker has a good strike ratio and should act as a back-up for Lewandowski, although his agility and vision may be used to fill in for Goetze. How Dortmund will finish is always a gamble, but if they play anything like they did in the Supercup, Dortmund could be in the running for the title.
The Bundesliga may be perhaps best known for the unpredictability of its teams, and although in the past couple of years, FC Schalke have fared well in the Bundesliga, their status among the top 4 isn’t necessarily cemented. They have not made any significant signings this window besides bringing in youth talent Leon Goretzka, but also have not lost any main players during the summer. The constant speculation surrounding Huntelaar has subsided after signing an extended contract in January. Their main competition for a Champions League spot, Bayer Leverkusen, have seen their star player Schurrle depart for greener pastures and have brought in Korean international Son Heung-Min as his replacement. While the Korean has proven himself in the Bundesliga and his tricky wing play can accompany Kiessling up front, Schurrle will be a tough loss for Leverkusen to stomach, leaving Sami Hyypia hoping for another big signing before the window closes.
Fallen giants Werder Bremen have struggled in the past couple of seasons and will be entering their first season in more than a decade without club legend and former manager Thomas Schaaf. The club appointed Robin Dutt, who has previously overseen operations at Bayer Leverkusen and SC Freiburg. He will have big shoes to fill with a squad that has lost their main attraction in Kevin De Bruyne. Besides making Nils Petersen’s loan spell from Bayern Munich permanent, the club has failed to make any substantial movements in the transfer window and will find it hard to compete for Europe this season. Players like Elia and Akpala have failed to impress after their much hyped transfers to Werder and their employers will be hoping that they can find some new inspiration in their second season at the club.
Last season’s surprise package, Eintracht Frankfurt, will want to continue improving their form, which saw them clinch a Europa League place after having been promoted the same year. Their talisman and captain, Pirmin Schwegler, has decided to stay in Frankfurt for the season, despite heavy interests from clubs around the Bundesliga. This means Frankfurt will likely start the new season with the same players with which they ended last season, and for a team that overachieved, that can only mean a good thing.
This season will also see Hertha BSC Berlin rejoin the Bundesliga after having been relegated controversially in 2012 against Fortuna Dusseldorf. Berlin has been struggling to maintain their stay in the top flight and have been bouncing between the two divisions. Berlin won the 2. Bundesliga by a healthy margin and will have to continue their streak in order to avoid a third relegation in 5 years. The other promoted team, Eintracht Braunschweig, have found their way back into the Bundesliga after a lengthy absence, which saw them toil away in the country’s Regionalliga. The team will have a hard time staying up and most likely will end up getting relegated this season.
The Bundesliga will have more eyes looking at it this year and this cannot only be attributed to Guardiola’s appointment or the Champions League final, but also a football model that has prided itself in a strong governance model, fan based initiatives, cheap season tickets and vociferous fans. It will be a priority for any football fan to watch whenever Dortmund faces Bayern this season and hopefully German football will continue its slow and steady upward path.