State Of The Bundesliga – Part Three

Tobi Separator March 2, 2016

In part one of the series, we analyzed the financial situation and found out that the Bundesliga still has tons of potential to grow. The gaps within the league turned out to be barely fixable, as collective revenue is distributed relatively evenly already.

Part two examined the actual success, titles and point gaps. Yet again it could be concluded that the Bundesliga hasn’t reached its potential peak yet. Furthermore, there’s serious proof that two clubs have created a huge gap to the rest of the league, as they’re operating on a historic level.

The third and final part is going to be about a subjective issue. While money is only a stepping stone to success and results aren’t always fair, the tactical and strategical work can be seen as an actual reflection of reality, despite being such a subjective issue.

Unfortunately, subjectivity influences writing way too much from a certain level on. Massively biased and unbalanced articles aren’t what we aim for. That’s why we decided to build most of this article on the opinions of selected football experts. We were lucky enough to be supported by Tobias Escher and Rene Maric (both writers at Spielverlagerung), Alex Truica (sports journalist) and Lukas Tank (an underrated expert of football history). Those bright minds agreed to judge the Bundesliga in terms of international and historical comparison – and actually ended up with very similar results.

Question 1 – What’s the current state of the Bundesliga?

This is arguably the key question of the entire discussion. Is the league valuable or worthless? It’s a topic that can cause hours of discussing. Tobias Escher for example criticizes the huge drop-off in quality. He says that German top teams can keep up with anyone but the second tier of BL teams looks very weak:

“When you look at the positions 5-10, the Bundesliga can’t keep up with Spain, Italy or England. It’s no coincidence that German teams have been more successful in the Champions League than in the Europa League lately.” – Tobias Escher

That being said, there’s an obvious advantage to that weakness, as the gap between the 6th and the 18th is small, leading to less predictable results.

Beyond that, all experts made sure to call the Bundesliga a “pressing league” – surely a big reason why Tobias Escher complains that most of the league is far too similar. Lukas Tank on the other hand makes a very fair remark:

“In itself, a playing style with strong pressing and counter-pressing isn’t a bad thing at all. The league’s obvious flaws shouldn’t make us forget about its strengths.” – Lukas Tank

Miasanrot guest author Alex Truica isn’t as much of a fan of that strength and criticizes the extreme focus on pressing:

“The main priority in the Bundesliga is playing against the ball. Doing things with the ball is neglected. Aside from Bayern and Dortmund, practically every team struggles against an opponent who parks the bus, simply because they don’t know how to get past a defense.” – Alex Truica

As you can notice, the experts felt a strong urge to discuss the tactical ideas of the Bundesliga, which is why there will be a more detailed look at that coming up later. Rene Maric answersthe initial question with brilliant precision:

“Compared to what’s possible, the state of the Bundesliga is bad. Compared to every other league, it’s actually very good.” – Rene Maric

Question 2 – Has the Bundesliga improved lately?

One can’t judge the league’s current state without keeping in mind where it has come from. For example, the Premier League surely isn’t as happy with the current situation as the Serie A, despite them being on a similar level – because their situations were completely different 5-10 years ago.

All four experts deliver a positive verdict for the development of the Bundesliga. Lukas Tank mentions the improved competitiveness in Europe. Furthermore, the tactical progress is lauded:

“By now, almost every BL team has an actual plan about what they want to be like tactically.” – Lukas Tank

“The development has been amazing. Just ten years ago, the Freiburg team of 2012-13 would’ve reached the first or second place easily.” – Rene Maric

Truica and Maric agree that the development of the BL has been helped by the struggles of the English league, where a huge gap was wasted with bad work. Tobias Escher thinks it’s not all perfect, fearing that German clubs have become too comfortable:

“Ever since Jürgen Klopp brought counter-pressing and pressing close to perfection, the league has become very similar in many regards.” – Tobias Escher

Question 3 – What tactical concept rules the league?

Apparently the answer to this question is far too obvious, as it was already mentioned earlier. The most popular keywords were pressing, counter-pressing and compactness – an almost flawless description of the current Bundesliga. Lukas Tank brings up an advantage of the pressing league: the opponent’s mistakes are forced actively now. Nevertheless, the main concept remains a reactionary one:

“Two banks of four, midfield pressing, a high-risk pass in transition, counter-pressing. And the same thing all over again. At least half the teams use that game plan to some extent.” – Tobias Escher

The almost religious adoration of this “sample solution” upsets Alex Truica. The text he wrote about this topic could be easily published as a standalone article. Here are some quotes:

“The question I always ask myself is: why do they always preach the game against the ball? The ball is the most important tool. Shouldn’t you first develop a plan that includes the ball and only after that try to come up with a solution to defend? […] Köln and Hertha are the prime examples for this lack of creativity: incredibly tough to play against because they sit deep, defend as a collective and turn a few counters into scoring chances. That strategy is remarkably successful away from home but limited in home matches. […] You don’t have to play actual football to get close to the top four of the Bundesliga. Destroying the opposing attempts and the occasional counter-attack, that’s all you need. It’s a development that’s as exemplary as it’s alarming. While Guardiola and Tuchel work with the ball, the other 16 teams work against it. Journalist Oliver Fritsch said it well: ‘German football is the most attacking-minded form of defensive football’.” – Alex Truica

On page two, the experts look at the Bundesliga’s tactical innovations, the coaching mentality and an international comparison.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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  1. Thank you for this series. It was a pleasure to read.

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