Season Preview: State of the Bundesliga
We are a Bayern blog, so first things first: Will anyone be able to challenge the champions of Europe for the league title this season?
Based on what we saw in the Rückrunde last season, no. Bayern under Hansi Flick were just on another level as they showed by winning the treble. The veteran players like Neuer, Alaba, Müller and Lewandowski all hit top form, the new defensive line-up clicked, newcomers Alphonso Davies and Benjamin Pavard blended in superbly and there developed a mentality that said ‘we are going to win no matter what’. If anything the gap between Bayern and the chasing pack grew last season as the Bavarians reached new levels. Add Leroy Sané, Nianzou, and whoever else they sign this summer to the equation and it is very difficult to see past another league triumph for Bayern. Everyone else will be hoping for a hangover, or fatigue, to kick in, but that seems unlikely.
If you can’t win the league, you might at least try to qualify for the European cups. Which teams will secure those five other international spots?
Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig will finish in the top four and I expect another good season from Borussia Mönchengladbach. It is hard to argue against them occupying the places behind Bayern again. It is going to be a tough scrap for the remaining Europa League berths, but I think Eintracht Frankfurt are going to be giving Bayer Leverkusen and VfL Wolfsburg a run for their money. Hertha could get themselves in the mix, but they could go either way this season.
Everyone loves surprises – good and bad. Which two teams might leave us staggered as they shoot for the moon or fail to achieve their goals?
It might not come as a complete surprise, but I fear Schalke are going to have another tough time this season. They are going to have to blood a host of young players and the whole mood at the club just seems to be on a downer before the season has even started. As for a positive surprise, I’d like to say Werder are going to put the nightmare of last season behind them and get back to the way they were playing in 2018-19.
And now it’s time to look all the way to the bottom of the table where we find the likes of
Hamburger SV Werder Bremen. Which teams will be fighting relegation from the first matchday and who’s your pick to end up taking the elevator down to the second league?
Even though they were promoted as champions, I think Bielefeld might have a tougher time of things than VfB Stuttgart. Even though they have defied the odds for many years now, both Augsburg and Mainz will be down there fighting the drop. At the end of the season I reckon it could be Bielefeld and Augsburg who face the drop.
Bayern will meet their own Sebastian Hoeneß as the new coach of Hoffenheim this season. What can we expect from him in his first season as a top-level head coach and what can we expect of his team?
Hoeneß showed what he could do with Bayern II last season and it will be interesting to see how he makes the step up to the Bundesliga. I can’t see Hoffenheim finishing higher than last season’s sixth place, but he definitely has the squad available to get into the Europa League places. Hoffenheim enjoyed their visit to the Allianz Arena last season and have become a bit of a bogey team for Bayern over recent seasons, so all eyes will be on him when he entertains Bayern on matchday 2.
Other than that no other coaching position saw a change this offseason. The clubs are apparently trusting their current staff to take the team to the next level. Which coaching project are you the most eager to follow?
There are a number of coaching projects that are of interest this season. In season 2 of Julian Nagelsmann at Leipzig it will be fascinating to see if he can build on last season’s Champions League success and close the gap on Bayern. Without the goals of Timo Werner, can they maintain their push for the top? Bruno Labbadia has huge expectations at Hertha, and we’ve already mentioned Sebastian Hoeneß. Many were surprised that Werder kept faith with Florian Kohfeldt and it will be interesting to see if the young coach can turn things around at the Weser Stadion.
Havertz and Werner to Chelsea, Hakimi to Inter, Volland to Monaco and Waldschmidt to Benfica – are we once again seeing a massive talent drain away from the farmer’s league Bundesliga?
It is a shame, but an unavoidable fact of life that the ‘top’ players are lured away by the prospect of playing at a (supposed) higher level for more money. The league does lose talent, but every year it does seem to succeed in generating more. Havertz is a big loss, but then Leverkusen have the exciting Florian Wirtz coming through. The pool of young talent in Germany looks capable of keeping the farmer’s league more than competitive. At least Bayern have bucked the trend a little by signing Leroy Sané.
Despite the Covid pandemic, Bundesliga clubs spent a total of €225m on new players, which however is the lowest since the 2012/13 season. For which newcomer should we be most excited?
I think Dortmund have a couple of really interesting players to keep an eye on. Jude Bellingham has shown in pre-season that he’s ready to make a real impact in the first team and the loan signing of Reinier from Real Madrid gives BVB another really exciting prospect to add to their attacking options.
What team had a sneakily good transfer window and found that one talent in the Lativian second division who might end up surprising everyone?
There has not been the usual amount of transfer action because of the financial restrictions due to Covid-19, but there are still one or two potential nuggets that have arrived. Bayern have one in Nianzou and he could turn out to be a real steal, although it is a shame he will miss the start of the season. Bayern are still going to bring in a few interesting players I feel, and based on the past few transfer windows, they will get their purchases spot on. If Sergino Dest arrives from Ajax, he will be one such signing.
Elsewhere Wolfsburg are going to hope that 18-year-old Bartosz Bialek turns out to be the new Robert Lewandowski, but if he even produces even a quarter of what Lewi does, he will be doing well.