Bundesliga Season Review

As the Continental season finishes it is time to reflect on what has been an exciting season of drama, ecstasy and controversy across Europe. Before Euro 2012 gets underway in Poland and Ukraine, we can look back on the performance of teams within various leagues in Europe. Here is my German Bundesliga Review.


1st Place: Borussia Dortmund – It has been another season to remember for Der BVB as they secured back-to-back titles under exciting  young manager Jurgen Klopp, 44. A flamboyant team with a low average age triumphed not only in the Bundesliga, but in the DFB Pokal as well, emphatically beating Bayern Munich 5-2, thanks largely to a hat-trick by Polish superstar Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski has been one of many breakthroughs this year capitalising on the injuries of Lucas Barrios. Dortmund have achieved an attacking blend of experience and youth, a strong defensive foundation of Mats Hummels and Neven Subotic in the heart of defence and holding midfielders Sven Bender and Sebastian Kehl allow attacking fullbacks Lukas Pisczek and Marcel Schmelzer to flourish, also taking the defensive pressures off talented attacking players such as Shinji Kagawa, Mario Gotze and Jakub Blaszczykowski. Their reign seems set to continue as well, with stars Hummels and Gotze recently penning long-term contracts amidst transfer rumours. With the arrival of talented Marco Reus in the summer, the young team seems set to stay at the top. Season Rating – A.


2nd: Bayern Munich– Despite reaching two major finals and challenging for the league title, this campaign will probably be viewed as disappointing by most Bayern fans. After surprisingly losing out to Borussia Dortmund last season, Bayern immediately strengthened – securing the services of National team goalkeeper Manuel Neuer for 22 million euros. Many were tipping Die Roten to lift the Bundesliga under experienced new coach Jupp Heynckes but the most successful side in German football history were comfortably beaten by a younger and more likeable, Dortmund side. Despite the presence of lethal striker Mario Gomez, who grabbed 26 league goals this term, Bayern struggled – suffering shock losses to Gladbach and Mainz. This is partly due to a shaky defence and the disruptive influences of players like Breno as well as the ongoing feud between Arjen Robben and Frank Ribery. The team will have to spend big and improve massively, in order to win silverware next year. Things may have been viewed differently had the side won the Champions League, but the league campaign was bitterly disappointing for the Bayern faithful. Season Rating – B.


3rd: Schalke 04– Last season Schalke were very successful in Europe and the Cup under Felix Magath but struggled in the league, finishing poorly in the bottom half. The board sought change under Huub Stevens and their decision turned out to be a wise one. Dutch striker Klaas Jan-Huntelaar finally found his form, top scoring in the league for Schalke and for the Netherlands in Euro 2012 qualification. Talismanic forward Raul proved his doubters wrong, displaying his class on numerous occasions despite his age. The defence was solid too, Kyrgiakos Papadopoulos and Benedikt Howedes shining at the back. Schalke also possess some quality young players in Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby and the future looks bright for the side from Gelsenkirchen. Season Rating – A.


4th: Borussia Mochengladbach– Borussia Mochengladbach had an absolutely brilliant campaign under Lucien Favre this year as the Bundesliga’s ‘surprise package’. When Swiss maestro Favre took over the reigns the club was in dire straits, languishing at the bottom of the table. However, their form improved and in his first full season, Favre took his team to fourth and the Champions League. This year Gladbach beat Bayern twice and one stage looked like they might clinch the title, had they not faltered slightly towards the end of the season. Their young players flourished – Marco Reus, Marc ter Stegen and Patrick Herrmann particularly shone. Gladbach combined attacking prowess through Reus, Hanke and Herrmann with defensive stability as they became everyone in Germany’s second team. It is a shame that some of their players are going elsewhere – Reus to Dortmund, Dante to Bayern and Neudstater is bound for Schalke – but with the signing of Junior Hoilett seemingly in the bag, Gladbach are signalling that they are here to stay – and want to genuinely challenge in the Champions League. Season Rating – A*

Bundesliga Season Review

5th: Bayer Leverkusen– Bayer Leverkusen achieved another year of stability in the league this season. Although not setting the world alight, the team dubbed as ‘Never-kusen’ had another relatively solid term. They qualified from their Champions League group but where absolutely destroyed by Barcelona in the knock-out round and suffered some embarrassing results in the league – resulting in the sacking of Robin Dutt. In order to improve and challenge in Europe they need a striker as this is the position where they are seriously lacking. The teams around them had the likes of Huntelaar, Gomez, Lewandowski and Reus and Leverkusen were stuck with Stephan Keissling who has yet again disappointed. Eren Derdiyok is bound for Hoffenheim and they will need to spend this summer. They are a team lacking some quality, one exception being Andre Schurrle. Season Rating – B.


6th: Vfb Stuttgart– Stuttgart have had a fairly productive season under Bruno Labbadia, finishing 6th, a solid platform for next year. With previously star striker Cacau faltering it seemed as if Stuttgart might struggle for goals but the late season form of Bosnian Ibisevic and Martin Harnik helped Die Schwaben secure a Europa League spot. Should Stuttgart begin next season with Harnik and Ibisevic they could challenge for the Champions League spot with Gladbach likely to be not as good and they might even challenge for the Europa League title. A solid season. Season rating- B+.


7th: Hannover– Hannover’s season suffered as a result of a long and tiring Europa League campaign but, in spite of this, was fairly successful as they secured a Europa League spot again. Mirko Slomka’s side reached the quarter finals this year, losing to eventual winners Atletico, and their Bundesliga season undoubtedly suffered as a result. However, the side was spurred on by the immensely successful capture of Mame Diouf from Manchester United as he formed a potent partnership with Ivorian Didier Ya Konan. A promising side aided by the reliability of Ron Robert-Zieler in goal, another from United, Hannover could well challenge once more, if Diouf, Ya Konan and Abdellaoue can keep scoring next year. Season Rating- B/B+.


8th :Wolfsburg– Managed by the unpredictable, fine-happy, and incredibly unpopular Felix Magath Die Wolfe had a mixed season, eventually missing out on a European spot. It seems a long time ago that Edin Dzeko and Wolfsburg won the Bundesliga in 2009 and the club has struggled since. Despite possessing some good players such as Diego Benaglio, Mario Mandzukic, Patrick Helmes and Makoto Hasebe, Wolfsburg were abysmal away from Volkswagen Arena. In-fact, at home Die Wolfe won more games than Leverkusen and Gladbach, but away they won a miserly three times. Wolfsburg also have some good players out on loan, like Simon Kjaer and Diego, but will need to sign some quality and (according to the fans at least) change their manager to improve. Season rating – B-.


9th: Werder Bremen– A slightly disappointing season for popular long-term manager Thomas Schaaf, who has been at the club since 1972 in one form or another featuring as player, coach and manager. Werder have some stand-out players such as Marin, Naldo, Arnautovic, Pizarro and Wiese but many of these individuals are disruptive, none more so than Austrian Arnautovic, who has come out with some ridiculous quotes in the past. Indeed, on paper Werder look a good side so a 9th place finish is under-achieving. Furthermore, star players are on there way out with Marin going to Chelsea and Pizarro likely to join Bayern. Will loyal servant Schaaf remain? Or is it time for a change at the Weserstadion? Season rating – C+


10th: FC Nuremberg– Nuremberg had a time of dominance in the early 20th Century but have struggled pretty much ever since. Their recent history is littered with ups and downs, promotions and relegations but they have remained in the Bundesliga for three seasons in a row now, a seemingly remarkable feat. A 6th placed finish last year was a particular highlight but one the club could not replicate this year under Dieter Hecking. However, this season was nonetheless an enjoyable one for the Nuremberg fans who are used to a relegation battle, which was largely avoided this season. Some good performances from Thomas Pekhart and Alexander Esswein have helped them on their way but the team seemed a little too reliant on loanee Daniel Didavi. It will be interesting to see how they cope without him. Rating – B/B+


11th: Hoffenheim-TSG Hoffenheim fans have seen a rapid rise in their club’s stature since receiving serious financial backing in 2006. Now an established Bundesliga club the investment is ongoing and the signing of Dutch forward Ryan Babel was a sign of things to come. Furthermore, in preparation for next season, the club has already gained players such as Eren Derdiyok as the club continues to expand into a force to be reckoned with. Hoffenheim have sold some of their best players such as Luiz Gustavo recently but have also strengthened gaining a level of consistency in the last couple of years. However, TSG will want to improve their position next year with new manager Markus Babbel and a new-look side. One very exciting talent they do have already is Brazilian Roberto Firmino, a midfielder with an eye for goal. Rating – B.


12th: SC Freiburg– When Freiburg announced the sale of star striker Papiss Cisse to Newcastle this January it looked like their season was going to tail off, possibly resulting in relegation. However, Christian Streich’s team rose to the occasion, eventually finishing 12th. A team small in stature and squad, Freiburg were tipped by many to be relegated, with or without Cisse. Despite this, the team rallied and thanks to the performances of players such as Karim Guede and Daniel Caligiuri, Freiburg stayed up. Will they stay up next year? The doubt remains. Season rating – B+.


13th: Mainz– Mainz were last season’s surprise package, rather like Gladbach this season, finishing 5th under Thomas Tuchel. The influence of Lewis Holtby on that season cannot be underestimated and without him Mainz lacked a certain flair. A slightly less ambitious season was to be expected and the general consensus from the fans is that of satisfaction. Mainz seemed stable and have some good attacking players – I am a big fan of young Cameroon striker Eric Chuopo-Moting – and Mohammed Zidan had an instant impact when he rejoined his beloved Mainz from Dortmund. A safe, but satisfactory, season led by the sought-after Tuchel. Season rating- B. 


14th: FC Augsburg– At some points this season newly-promoted Augsburg looked destined for the drop. However, a brilliant run of form towards the end of the year carried the team out of the relegation zone and into 14th place. Jos Luhukay impressed but chose to take over at Hertha BSC and Augsburg appointed young Markus Weinzierl instead, only his second managerial position. Doubts are circulating over Weinzierl and the forthcoming season, inflamed by the probable departure from star man, Axel Bellinghausen. Season Rating – A.


15th: Hamburg– HSV are one of Germany’s all-time-great football clubs but they had an extremely disappointing season in 2011/2012, narrowly escaping the drop. A regular top-flight side in the last ten years, HSV slumped to 15th, one place off the relegation play-off. Hamburg have some promising young players such as Dennis Aogo, Son-Heung Min and Per-Cilan Skjelbred but their main players failed to deliver. One famous case of this is striker Paolo Guerrero’s, who Hamburg seriously relied on, attack on goalkeeper Sven Ulreich . It was disgraceful and resulted in a long-term ban for Guerrero, damaging Hamburg’s morale and results. HSV face losing some of their best young players and relegation unless drastic improvements are made. Season rating – D.


16th: Hertha Berlin– Hertha started the season off quite promisingly under young coach Markus Babbel, in front of their devoted fans (all 77,000 of them) at home in the Olympic Stadion. However, a poor run of form resulted in the sacking of Babbel and the appointment of Otto Rehhagel, 73, who won the 2004 European Championships with Greece. Rehhagel did little to change the tide, especially in the early stages of his reign, and the club slumped to 31 points and 16th place – the relegation play-off. This they lost to Dusseldorf, so Die Alte Dame will be playing their football in Bundesliga 2 next year. Season rating – C.


17th: Koln– Another season which started off well and ended in catastrophe. The Goats were going OK with Lukas Podolski firing on all cylinders for club as well as country. However, with Podolski sidelined the season fell apart culminating in the firing of Stale Solbakken (now of Wolves). Koln were comfortably relegated and the season ended dramatically with a mini-riot from the fans. They will struggle without Podolski and we may well not see them in the Bundesliga again for some time. Season Rating – C-.


18th: Kaiserslauten– The team who won Bundesliga 2 the previous year never delivered in the Bundesliga, gaining a pitiful 23 points from the entire campaign, only winning 4 games. A side lacking quality never looked like staying up as Marco Kurz was sacked and replaced by Krasimir Balakov, who was even worse. A dreadful season, and a dreadful finish. Painful. Season rating- E.


All in all, a very exciting season in Germany. From the triumph of Dortmund to the despair of Kaiserslauten it was an incredibly dramatic season for everyone in the Bundesliga. What will next year bring? Furth, Frankfurt and Dusseldorf for one thing…

 

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