It´s time. Finally, I am back from the disastrous spring Eintraxht had and I can finally step out of the dark and breathe again. It´s been a tough spring, I must say. Eintracht´s form has truly had its effect on my motivation, which has faltered, I must admit. But now, leute, I am back. Recuperated and ready for the new season, which we will, in even broader fashion, try to describe for you as well as we can here at Fresh off the Gegenpress.
Ali has been keeping us afloat, for which I am extremely grateful, but now it´s my turn to entertain you, so please- a’la Robbie Williams, let me entertain you!
New season, new expectations, so it´s called. Some teams might have completely new set-ups, new coaches, new players, new managers or a new, refurnished stadium. For some teams it´s their first season in the new division, without a clue of what to expect. For some it´s a seasoned view on the beginning of the season. But as the Hinrunde slithers closer, we felt that it was time to look over some things, basically what we can expect from some teams during the Hinrunde, based on what we saw this spring or basically based on their signings during this transfer window.
Now, Bundesliga is known for its improbability, but last season was still something extraordinary. Last season was something we canb´t expect to see every season. We saw a Leipzig basically shock Europe with their freeflowing football and extreme pressing under Ralph Hasenhüttl. We were lucky enough to watch Julian Nagelsmann´s Hoffenheim and their attacking spririt. We had the luxury of watching Anthony Modeste in amazing form week in and week out and even though the rest of the team let him down at times, Köln are actually in Europé again, for the first time in many years. Eintracht Frankfurt reached the DFB-Pokal final, whoch was a shock in itself after their horrible spring and Werder Bremen went from being relegation candidates to being contenders for Europe. Last season was something special, but this season should make everything, almost, normal again.
Leipzig are just getting started. They just refused the sale of Keita and Forsberg and seem to be keeping both players. According to Mintzlaff, the director, they are exploring the possibilities of making their arena much bigger through a few extensions of stands. It´s like they are slowly burning all bridges to their empire, soon they´ll be untouchable.
Hoffenheim have lost two key players, but have replaced both Rudy and Süle quite well and under Julian Nagelsmann both Grillitsch and Håvard Nordtveit can excel and develop into top players. They have extended Szalai´s contract (?) and seem adamant on keeping hold of Kramaric, which would be a wise move. Let´s remember, Hoffenheim isn´t a poor club, money truly exists at Sinsheim and they have got the power to keep their key players, as long as their contracts don´t run out and Bayern comes calling.
Bremen are strengthening more than I could´ve imagined. A few very smart signings from Bremen, Augustinsson and Gondorf, makes them one of the most interesting sides this season. Considering their form this spring and their summer signings, things point to similar success for the Bremers and I´m sure Adam of Bremen would´ve been proud of his compatriots. Alexander Nouri has truly created something beatiful at Bremen and I´m actually amazed by what he has achieved.
Mainz have lost Malli, obviously, and Lössl is loaned out to Huddersfield. Jhon Cordoba has been sold to Köln for a large sum, but Mainz have strengthened quite well. Kodro and Adler are perhaps the best signings made by Nullfünfer so far, but their team just looks so much more solid than it did last season and now they´re not reliant on one star player, but can work together as a team. My question is how well Martin Schmidt can do and how well he has to do to keep his job this season, considering he´s already on loose turf.
Eintracht Frankfurt have lost Jesus Vallejo and Bastian Oczipka. Other than that, their signings have truly surprised even me, a very pessimistic fan. In a bid to replucate their autumn 2016, ”we” have signed Sebastien Halller from Utrecht, a truly marvellous striker. We have replaced Oczipka with Jetro Willems from PSV, a dutch international who broke a record as the youngest player ever at the Euros when he played for the Netherlands at Euro 2012 in Ukraine/Poland. He looks like a seasoned wing back and will bring something extra to our left flank, perhaps some speed, which Bastian Oczipka lacked. Other than these two star signings, we´ve truly tried to create a true depth at both midfield and attack through some very smart sigings. Luka Jovic, a big serbian talent, came on loan from Benfica, but with an option to buy, which is marvellous. Gelson Fernandes signed from Rennes, Jonathan de Guzman from Napoli, Carlos Salcedo from Chivas Guadalajara. These signings will definitely prove to be great for our depth and once again I thank my lucky star that we have Bruno Hübner and Fredi Bobic instead of Jens Todt and Heribert Bruchhagen.
So, err… Maybe… Maybe last season was no once in a lifetime occasion..? Maybe this season will be even more insane? Maybe I take that back...? Yeah, I think I do. Basically, never mind! This season will be absolutely insane, and you can count on that when it comes to Bundesliga. The teams that against the odds did well last season look even stronger now and it looks like it´s another case of the rest of the teams just stepping it up when Bayern are on their way to complete dominance. Just enjoy it, this season will be even more exciting than last. Lean back, crack open a cold one and relax. I know I won´t.
The season is almost over and Axel Falk tries to look at what this turbulent season might mean for a few clubs.
It has been a turbulent season for the guys in black and yellow, but the future does look bright. I was always going to be wrong when I claimed Dortmund would be the champions this season, it was a hopeful guess. However, they've fought well and having to endure unjustice from DFL, terror attacks and an inner power struggle, they seem to be able to take on anything. The club from Rühr has a bright future, maybe one of the brightest of all clubs in the world. They've got some great talent, but still have the money and the power to be able to keep most of their stars. If they can keep hold of their team, maybe only losing Aubameyang (if that), they will give Bayern a proper run for the title come next season.
It's all about Nagelsmann. If he stays, they could reach the knockout rounds of Champions League, but if he leaves, they could be facing a relegation battle next term. That's how even the Bundesliga is and that's how good Nagelsmann is. I mean, he's transformed Adam Szalai into a reliable goalscorer. If that doesn't convibce you of his quality, I don't know what will! Nagelsmann tacticts has made him a wanted man and his calm nature can turn even the wildest of squads into a proper 'mannschaft'. Hoffenheim, a team that fought the drop last April are now all but confirmed for the Champions League next season, an astonishing feat that can't be overestimated or overrated. One should not forget that Hoffenheim is a club backed by SAP and that "Hoffe" do have some money to spend. They will need to replace Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy quickly. Having already signed Florian Grillitsch from Werder Bremen, they will still need a quality centre-back to be able to fight on both fronts noch einmal. If they are able to keep their team, despite lurking bigger clubs, next season could become even more spectacular for TSG from the beautiful Heidelberg.
The Bavarians with the best hymn in Bavaria, trust me, it's amazing, have some work to do. It all depends on how this season turns out. Judging from their form and their schedule, one would suspect them heading for the drop, but the other big candidates for the drop, FC Ingolstadt (FCA's rivals), are extremely hard to predict. Both teams have suffered this season. They've fired managers, Augsburg's Dirk Schuster was fired on loose grounds, and have had lapses of horrible form. Augsburg are right now in their worst form this season and will desperately need to turn it around yesterday. Editor Ali Haggis soft spot in Bundesliga might just be going down for the first time in their history. If they do, they will stay there. If they manage to stay up, then they can continue to build. It's all about that drop.
Hamburg, Hamburg, Hamburg. The enigma of German football. Despite one of the worst starts to a season in Bundesliga history, they might still, probably, prevail once again. They might even avoid play-off. After a terrible autumn, their spring has been much much better and they are one of the best teams this Rückrunde. Players like Bobby Wood, Lewis Holtby and even Aaron Hunt have started to show why they play for one of the biggest clubs in Germany and their continued form will be pivotal for their success and the club's future. Because if HSV go down, if they finally get relegated, they will probably stay there for a few years. Sure, a rebuild might be positive, but they will loose much of what HSV is. The Dino won't be as big a dino as before, their fear factor will be washed away like a sand castle after a tidal wave and HSV's players will jump ship. But if they manage to prevail once again, the rebuild will be less negative and the club's personality won't be in peril. It's all about that drop.
No history, no tradition, but still second. They are the rule breakers, the opinion dividers, the influencers and the main antagonist in the amazing story of the 16/17 season. Their future success is more or less guaranteed. As long as RB don't pull out, they will have the money to strengthen even further and will still be able to keep their key players. Next season's success is down to a few factors. How well will they manage both Bundesliga and Champions League? We've seen examples of their debatable depth and that's where they will need strengthening. Hasenhüttl looks set to stay and the sensational lads from Saxonia are set for another monster season. I can't see any signs of them slowing down. Knowing my prediction luck, I'm probably wrong.
editor and the "Enigma of Sturefors"
Der Klassiker is disrespectful to German footballing history. Editor Axel Falk explains why.
So, it's time. It's time for the most cringe-worthy of all Bundesliga-holidays, the one and only "Der Klassiker", a game which magnitude is completely made up by the marketeers of Bundesliga and distributed to the perhaps less knowing parts of the world. Dieses Ding has poisoned our Bundesliga for too long and it's been time for a while to stop the madness.
While the game itself is a gem in many apects. It's the most well-fed teams in Germany, arguably the two most sucessful, even though both Kaiserslautern and Borussia Mönchengladbach might be willing to dispute Dortmund's role in the Klassiker. The two clubs have amassed great squads with decent depth and both play woonderful football, even though the games between these two are often tight affairs with few or few good chances and with often dominant goalkeepers.
But let's take a minute to analyze this exact game, the very one that will kick off tonight, between FC Bayern and Borussia Dortmund. Bayern are in great form, and will be looking to bounce back after their disappointing performance against Hoffenheim which saw them lose for the first time since their away game against Dortmund. Bayern have struggled, Iwithout a doubt, but considering the quality of Bundesliga, it's not more than natural. And considering the quality of Bayern München, it'n not more than natural that thay still pick up points when they struggle away against Mainz or Hertha or Frankfurt.
Dortmund have not done that, which is a monument to their weaknesses. Their mental strength and their depth isn't as good as their superior rivals Bayern, their top players aren't at the level of Bayern's, at least not this season with Aubameyang actually looking a bit stale at times. And another clear weakness at Borussia Dortmund is the goalkeeper. I never thought Roman Bürki would be good enough for Borussia and while he is a great goalkeeper, Dortmund need an upgrade if they are to challenge Bayern next season. That being said, Manu Neuer is injured, Ulreich was a great goalkeeper a few years back when he played regularly and that position poses as an opportunity for Borussia. One might recall a game a few years back when few people believed in Dortmund away at Bayern and they won 3-0.
But it's not a classic, not at all. There are so many games that are closer to classics than this game. The Revierderby between Schalke and Dortmund, that's a classic. Borussia Mönchengladbach-FC Köln, that's a classic. Hamburg-Bremen, that's a classic. Bayern München- Schalke 04, that is a classic much more worthy of the tag "Der Klassiker" than Bayern-Dortmund. But the marketeers of Bundesliga have had it their way and now most people consider this game a classic, which it certainly is not. Due to Borussia Dortmund having their most successful spell ever in the 2010s, a real rivalry between Bayern and Dortmund has never had time to grow. Instead teams that were big during the 70s and 80s, Gladbach and Hamburg mostly, have more of a reason to hate Bayern. Schalke, who were big in the 50s, have a good reason to dislike them as well. To seriously call Bayern-Dortmund a classic is to disregard the German footballing history and all the teams who have been Dortmunds before Dortmund. It's blatantly wrong.
I personally don't hate Bayern at all. I genuinely only dislike three teams in Germany. Wolfsburg, Leverkusen and Hansa Rostock. The latter is due to Frankfurt's 91/92 campaign which should have ended in a title.
And nobody likes VFL Osnabrück.
Editor Ali takes a look at the relegation battle in the Bundesliga and dismisses out of hand the idea that the Bundesliga is not a competitive league.
Firstly, I feel I owe an apology to all those who come to the site regularly for updates and fun articles filled with intelligence. Thanks to illness, job applications and a very busy university schedule I have been very behind with the site. We will hopefully be far more active over the coming weeks, so keep an eye on us!
The idea that the Bundesliga isn't a competitive league often comes from the fact that Bayern are usually the champions by about this time of year, in all but name at the very least. In previous seasons they have seen off VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund and, this year, RB Leipzig by the time the Champions League quarter finals come around. However, if you're interested in more than just who wins the title (which I'm sure most people are) then you will discover that the Bundesliga is rich in competitiveness. To bear witness to that this season is the frankly overwhelming relegation battle.
To put the fight to avoid the drop into perspective, there are 15 points separating Bayern in first and Dortmund in fourth, meaning simultaneously that the title race is over (Bayern are 10 points ahead of Leipzig in second) but that the fight for automatic Champions League places is still on. There's then a gap back to FC Cologne in fifth, currently leading the way for the teams chasing Europa League qualification. Now, remember that 15 point gap? If you apply that gap to the rest of the table it encompasses every team other than the clearly doomed Darmstadt. 5th to 17th can all be found within 15 points of each other. Now, with 7 games to go you have to say that anyone within 6 points of the play off place is still at risk of having to at least go into a post-season tension-filled match with the third place team in 2. Bundesliga, by which logic every team up to Bayer Leverkusen in 10th is at risk. That's the entire bottom half of the table who could still end up in the play-off.
If you thought that the teams in the top half were well clear, you'd be wrong. Gladbach are only 7 points clear, Frankfurt 8 and Freiburg 9. They look safe, but all it takes is a badly timed bad run of form and they could well be drawn straight back into that fight. It's frankly remarkable to think that with so little time left in the season there is no clear candidate for that play-off place, and with Ingolstadt claiming a vital three points in midweek at Augsburg there's actually no certainty that even the second relegation place is sealed yet! (Sorry Darmstadt, there's just too far to go for you to reach safety. It'll be a sad end to a fantastic story).
So, the five most likely to be reduced to two are Wolfsburg (yes, the same team challenging Bayern for the title just two years ago. How's that for competitiveness in the league?!), Hamburg, Mainz, Augsburg and Ingolstadt. Whilst Ingolstadt are still favourites for the drop they have certainly shown more fighting spirit than Augsburg and could possibly even consider themselves unlucky to be so far adrift. Mainz and Augsburg are mid-sized clubs on small budgets who have been overachieving for a while now, but Mainz have been really disappointing this season and will be concerned about their real drop off in form. Hamburg and Wolfsburg are financial and historical giants, having both won the Bundesliga. Hamburg have an incredible home support and are finally showing the home form to match it under Marcos Gisdol, but their away form will leave them nervous until the last day once again.
Above them, Schalke have been inconsistent and will be nervous if they fail to pick up points this weekend at home to Wolfsburg. Werder Bremen have defied the odds and are starting to look like a genuinely good team; it sounds crazy given their terrible start, but they could even be looking at sneaking into Europe given their current run of form. Bremen are historically incredibly well supported all across Germany and it will be making a lot of people very happy to see them move away from the bottom. Bayer Leverkusen are the final team who need to maintain their form; they are still in with a chance of a Europa League place and you have to imagine they will need high level competition to keep the likes of Julian Brandt, Jonathan Tah and Kevin Kampl at the club next season (especially given Schmidt's departure, in the case of Kampl).
A lot is riding on the next few weeks; the majority of the table still have to fight to remain in the league, while a good proportion of them know that a run of good form could even get them into Europe. The ridiculous nature of this relegation battle means that Schalke in 12th are 4 points away from Freiburg in the final European qualification space but only 4 points above Augsburg in the relegation play-off space!
If that isn't reason enough to watch and love the ultra competitive Bundesliga then I don't know what is.
Editor Axel Falk discusses the perhaps the most polarized issue of German sports.
I've been feeling the tension for quite some time now, a growing feeling of misconduct from both me and my site for not bringing the subject up enough. This is a piece about the most polarized issue in the history of German sports, its traditionalism versus commercialism.
The two isms first clashed a sunny summer afternoon when Red Bull bought the rights of local Leipzig club SSV Markranstädt, a club in the fifth division of Kreisfussball in one of the worst integrated parts of Germany- Saxony. This is a part where fascists and their counterpart more or less roam free among the different fan groups of the many teams in the area. It's a place where hatred and an anti-establishmentism can grow without boundaries. Without fences, without punishment.
RB Leipzig is a direct consequence of this exact area and that exact mentality. They are the product of hatred and the product of a city whose only teams are known for being extremists in any direction. Lokomotiv Leipzig have a history of fascism and Chemie communism. If you are a normal football fan like myself, you'll probably look somewhere else in a desperate fight for political stability in your fandom. To be able to understand the commercial side of football, you need to know where it came from, you need to understand where RB Leipzig emerged from.
As stated earlier, the city of Leipzig is not the best integrated part of Germany. This is partly down to it being divided from the rest of the country, but it's also down to the incompetence and corruption of some of the companies and governing institutions in the area around Leipzig and Dresden, institutions that contribute quite a lot to the minority-feeling of East German football.
Looking at the commercial side of this big polarized clash, one can only feel for them. The hatred towards the people supporting these commercial clubs is as always merely based on a lack of understanding from the other side. In a city like Leipzig, the people needed and still need football to be able to survive. It's not a poor city, not by any means, but considering it's divided structure and the already existing clubs' political agendas, RB Lepzig was a necessary project for the survival of football culture in Leipzig, one of the biggest cities in Germany.
Traditionalism and understanding the issue
It is naturally easy to understand the blind hatred towards the commercialisation of German football. Being afraid is natural and being afraid of change is probably one of the most human things. The fright of a change in mentality and structure in the footballing institutions of Germany and a big structural haul is one of the things German football fans seem to fear most of all. And it's understandable. Why change something that works?
This is one of the main arguments from the traditionalists and it's absolutely reasonable, why change something that works? Well, you have to consider it a sacrifice. To be able to implement the old "traditional clubs" of East Germany, it's perhaps necessary to let go of some traditional fears of structural change.
However, Germany does have the 50+1 rule, which does not allow a takeover like Red Bull's, so this is another aspect of the hatred. It's about rules and the bending behaviour of DFB and the fear of structural change is probably felt as most here. DFB is one of the main institutions in German football, they make all the tough and easy decisions that someone has to make. In the case of Red Bull, one can definitely argue that they wronged themselves. And isn't it all just black and white? Either the rule is active or it isn't, there is no middleground.
Demise of top clubs
Another aspect of the hatred against commercialism is of course the demise of the traditional clubs. Kaiserslautern, Nuremberg, 1860 Munich, Bochum, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Bremen and a few others have already felt the consequences of a structural change, a change that allows companies to finance clubs in the top tiers of German football. The change is still small, but the consequences have been dire so far. Kaiserslautern find themselves cemented in the second tier, Nuremberg as well, 1860 Munich are in a weekly crisis once again, Bochum are extremely hard to predict and just lost one of their best strikers in recent decades due to their financial situation. Hamburg have lots of money, but the players don't seem to believe in the project itself, Frankfurt is one of the clubs with least money in Bundesliga and lose players to bigger clubs constantly. Bremen are just chaotic due to incompetence and their mentality. The interesting thing about this bunch of teams is that all of them seem to believe they should be higher up the table due to their traditional values. That is at least the fans' mentality and this is highly toxic. To be traditional for the sake of traditionalism won't take you anywhere. Try to be successful first and then you can claim traditional values. Football and economy is about winning, not about tradition.
Fussball und Fresh off the Gegenpress gegen Gewalt
Now, I can definitely understand the anger and the frightfulness of the traditional fans. But this has already created a grand rift in German football, two poles with different values and views, two different isms throwing rocks at eachother. And when this starts to get violent, it's time to drop the rocks and stop the polarization. Because it seems like, as much as RB Leipzig is a Rorschach-test, this conflict will only start a civil war between these two strong sides.
Commercialism versus traditionalism is almost as big a difference as fascism and communism. They represent very different values and they truly do hate eachother. Een though the commercial fans may not have a big a reason of hatred as the traditionalists, throwing rocks at the former won't calm things down. Not at all. Obviously.
In the end we all have to consider, what is football really about? And ow different is German football from that definition. Perhaps german football and the culture taht comes with it means something else than the definition of football. Football is about winning and having fun, not about commercialism versus traditionalism, not about polarization, not about Red Bull, not about traditional values.
Fussball ist fussball, und es ist für ewig etwas besonderes.
editor and co-founder
Wolfsburg have not been having a good time of it in 2016/17 and with the sacking of Valerien Ismael this week they are moving on to their third coach in a quickly spiralling season.
The arrival of new boss Andries Jonker will see yet another new approach by Wolfsburg after the short lived tenure of Dieter Hecking's replacement Ismael. Hecking, having taken the side from Lower Saxony to second place in the Bundesliga, a Pokal and Supercup win and a Champions League quarter final, was sacked for being unable to halt the slide to mid-table mediocrity. Losing Kevin de Bruyne to Manchester City and Ivan Perisic to Inter Milan meant that Wolfsburg were without their two talismen from their hugely successful trophy winning season and their replacements just weren't of the same calibre. In all honesty, I'm not even sure they bothered trying to replace Perisic, unless Julian Draxler was an attempt at filling both vacancies with one player. Who knows.
Either way, Hecking was arguably a victim of his own success. Despite his side sliding to 8th in the Bundesliga by the end of last season he still managed to mastermind a Champions League run to the quarter final where only a supremely strong (and eventually triumphant) Real Madrid side knocked them out. After a slow start to this season, mostly because Draxler had lost interest and Mario Gomez wasn't scoring, Hecking was released from his job. Despite a very average squad at his disposal and a none-too-shabby job of keeping them in mid-table, the man who had brought Wolfsburg a Pokal crown in the middle of Guardiola's dominance was left without a job (if only until Christmas).
As if to prove it wasn't really his fault, Hecking was picked up very quickly by another side in trouble: Borussia Mönchengladbach. Since he's taken over from Andre Schubert the Fohlenelf have gone from strength to strength and now have a great chance of making the semi-finals of the Pokal and the quarter finals of the Europa League after an incredible comeback against Fiorentina. The wolves, on the other hand, are sliding rapidly down the table.
Hecking clearly wasn't the problem in Wolfsburg; sadly for Ismael, neither was he. The quality of players at the manager's disposal is limited and incoming boss Jonker will have his work cut out to keep them up. With Hamburg and Werder Bremen improving quickly (ignore Hamburg's thrashing at Bayern, they're much stronger at home), and even Ingolstadt and Darmstadt showing signs of life, Wolfsburg are in the middle of a genuine relegation dogfight. This is hardly the place to cut your teeth as a manager for the first time; whilst Jonker has been in charge of the Arsenal academy and has been the assistant at Bayern Munich and Wolfsburg in the past, he has very little experience of managing a first team at this level.
It was unsurprising that Ismael got the sack, especially after a disappointing defeat such as the one suffered at home to fellow strugglers Bremen on Friday night. Ismael was trying new tactics and methods to turn his side's fortunes around but it never really seemed destined to work. Jonker will have to turn a very average squad into a well organised unit if he is going to reverse their terrible form and if they do end up in a relegation play-off they won't have the support of the country: in all likelihood it will be against local rivals Braunschweig or the second team from Berlin, Union. Union in particular will have the support of the neutrals, meaning Wolfsburg could be in for a long and lonely descent to the second division.
The title explains the theme of this piece quite well, I feel. It wasn't without outing a grunt I watched Leverkusen beat my Frankfurt yesterday by 3-0 and this wasn't the first time Leverkusen have looked lively and creative this season. Even though the first half against Frankfurt should have ended 2-1 to SGE, Bernd Leno just had one of those days..., the second half was Leverkusen's and their creativity looked obvious at times.
We all know Leverkusen can score goals, we all know they can play blistering attacking football and we all know Schmidt's pressing often prevails. They have one of the most efficient and experienced, but still young and exciting attacking formations in Europe and should defintiely score more goals and play better football than they have this season. However, their incapability to score has been blamed on the coach Schmidt. Most would say thats not more than fair, the coach has the biggest responsibility, right? But having watched Leverkusen quite a lot this season in a try to understand their problems, I have come to the conclusion that they way they play isn't just down to Schmidt- it's down to the players.
Players having a responsibilty isn't new and pundits often say that the players should be responsible for what the team is doing. But Leverkusen is different. Sometimes it looks amazing and everything clicks, sometimes they are absolutely dreadful. Just when you think they'll go on a streak and win a couple, they lose against Ingolstadt or HSV. This has been Leverkusen this season, no form has been found at any time and this is obviously a big priblem for Werkself, a team in need of Europe.
Leverkusen remind me of my childhood favourites, Arsenal. This season has been an odd one for both. luckily for Arsenal, the rest of Premier League isn't as capable as the rest of Bundesliga and therefore Gunners are still in 4th. Both teams have had the same obvious problem- they can't find stability. Some games they look great as a team and some games the players look great individually. However, these two rarely occur at the same time, causing problems in attack. In England, Wenger has been blamed for this and Schmidt has been blamed for it in Germany, but are they actually responsible.
Having watched Leverkusen quite a lot this season I can safely say that Schmidt has either lost control of his players or they just don't understand his gestures. Sometimes the players just won't obey his commands. Perhaps Schmidt lost the dressing room after the rough start to the season, maybe he is still loved at the club, but his gestures are hard to understand. Something is not right. The players do whatever they like on the pitch. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.
It could of course be Schmidt's fault. Maybe he has given the players too much freedom on the pitch. perhaps he has lost the dressing room, but then it's his job to take it back. He needs to figure it out quickly, because the gap is big as it is and if they are going to make it to Europe, the they need to fix whatever is wrong and step up. And yesterday.
We don't often dip down into the second division, but things are looking very exciting down there. Ali explores the potential comings and goings.
So the top two in the 2. Bundesliga are VfB Stuttgart and Hannover 96, the two sides relegated from the Bundesliga last season. So far nothing very new, I suppose, but considering SC Paderborn dropped straight through with barely a whimper and are now in the third division keeps everyone on their toes. Stuttgart looked well set to win the title and return at the first time of asking before the season started but haven't had things their own way, only returning to the top on their own after a 2-0 win over Fortuna Dusseldorf. Hannover started the campaign in blistering form, unrealistically fast in fact and it almost blew up in their face as they lost their way mid-way through the first half of the season. They have fought their way back and are now sitting pretty, three points behind Stuttgart.
Hannover are tied with Eintracht Braunschweig, one of a number of surprise packages challenging for promotion. A stunning first half of the season sees them level with their bitter local rivals, a struggle which could end very nastily and will certainly leave one side scarred for years if they don't both fail to get promoted come May. That rivalry has been riven with some disgusting acts, including Braunschweig fans taunting Hannover fan to "Follow Their Goalkeeper" onto the train tracks, a reference to the tragic suicide of Robert Enke. Tasteless and disgusting fan actions aside this promotion battle adds another dimension to the already dynamic and intense local rivalry and it will be fascinating to watch it unfold over the second half of the season.
The four chasing sides below Braunschweig were also somewhat surprising. Union Berlin and Dynamo Dresden are offering real alternatives to RB Leipzig in the old East, maybe indicating one of the benefits of the rise of the energy drink giants. If all the old, legendary, traditional clubs of the former GDR can sort themselves out and challenge then Leipzig will struggle to attract fans. Union are three points behind Braunschweig (with Dresden a further point behind) and whilst getting a play-off place might be asking too much for this season, both will be keeping the pressure on and hoping for a choke from one of the top three under the pressure of going after the automatic promotion places. Dresden, having only just come up from the third division last season, are the real success story and have the second highest average attendance across the second divisions of Europe (behind fellow sleeping giants Newcastle United in England). There would be a lot of happy neutrals if they were to make it back to the Bundesliga, although Union would also be well received.
We will certainly be keeping a close eye on the second division as the season concludes and will keep you updated. It looks like being an exciting finish, with two huge clubs getting promoted automatically and another one making the play offs. The Bundesliga will be more than happy to receive any of the current top five, making the run-in all the more exciting for the neutral. Hold on tight!
Rückrunde begins (soon) and I thought we should bring up a few interesting things and themes to look for during the spring. You can use this as a guide. Believe me, we've been correct before. We've also been terribly wrong, but there's no need to discuss that now...
Let us begin.
Yes, die Fohlen have a desperately important spring ahead and a change has been needed since last summer. Right before christmas, they did finally sack the terrible André Schubert and brought in Dieter Hecking who has a history of bringing clbs back to where they perhaps belong. Not too many signings have been made in the January transfer window by hecking, but one defender has been brought in and while his name s even harder n´to pronouncs than Blaszczykowski's, he will most probably bring some stability to the abysmal defence of Elf vom Niederrhein.
Moreover, even though Borussia have spent quite some time in the top tier of Bundesliga and have reached multiple European tournaments, their general result in the 21th century hasn't been potent or enlightening and a drop down to the lower parts of the table might be what the club needs, even though the club itself and its stature obviously belongs in the top tier. Before Marco Reus, they were placed in the bottom and were very close to getting relegated a few years in a row, but Reus' influence changed things and the money received from his transfer made the club from Westphalia even more potent, in the transfer market and on the pitch. We can be sure of one thing this season however, they won't reach Europe, but I would keep an eye out for their form, because it should rise like a a rocket on its way to Mars
The performance of newly acquired Timothee Kolodziejczak and attackers Hazard and Raffael is extremely important for die Fohlen if they are going to avoide a relegation battle. However, Hecking knows how to get the best out of his stars so I do really think Borussia will prevail without a struggle.
Martin Schmidt's task at Mainz is harder than it may look. They could easily get dragged into a relegation battle and with Malli gone, their obvious star man and main attacking threat is no more. Without Malli, Mainz will struggle and I would not be even slightly surprised if Hamburg finish above Mainz this spring. While key players like Danny Latza and Stefan Bell have been injured and underperforming respectively, some others have been playing at the peak of their ability, among these are the defender Alexander Hack and short midfielder Pablo de Blasis. Can Bell and Latza reach the heights of last seasons wonders, then Mainz will orevail without a struggle, I'm sure. However, if they continue to struggle and Hack's form goes down together with De Blasis, mainz won't have much to do than accept a relegation battle, which would be a real surprise too most, considering their manager and their team.
Goalkeeper Jonas Lössl hasn't done too well and there are certainly young keepers below him in the rank who will be given a shot, will he not improve. It is of course hard to replace such a telented keeper like Loris Karius, but Lössl certainly hasn't shown he's capable of doing it. The loss of midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger before the season left Nullfünfer shorthanded in midfield and after bringing in Gbamin from Lens, it looked well again. However, Gbamin hasn't yet reached the heights of Baumgartlinger and hasn't replaced him at all, even though I'm sure he has the potential to do so in the long run. But Mainz haven't got the patience to wait, nor can they afford it. They need stability in midfield and they need another talisman in attack or this spring could easily turn ugly for them.
The autumn looked dire and one can understand why Julian Draxler left and due to Draxler's ego, one can also understand why die Wölfe let him go. But, unlike before-mentioned Mainz, Wolfsburg have replaced their loss very very very well. Of course, Wolfsburg have got the money to do so as well, while Mainz perhaps haven't so its an unfair comparison. Three key players have been brought in by Wolfsburg and the inexperienced and insecure Ismael have got his hands on a few top talents.
Riechedly Bazoer has done wonders at Ajax as a 18-year old and the central midfielder, who can play both as a box-to-box creative midfielder and as a defensively minded playmaker. has the potential to become a real key player for Wolfsburg and will be pivotal for them, if not this season then next. Yunus Malli was acquired from Mainz and while I feel bad for Mainz, I can certainly say that this might be the signing of the season by any team in Bundesliga. Malli is a truly underrated playmaker who almost always delivers enchanting plays when you expect him to. Wolfsburg's attack will hopefully flourish with the playmaking Malli instead of the big ego that is Draxler. Add former Rennes-winger Paul-Georges Ntep to the mix and you've got yourself an attack good enough for Europe. Will they reach Europe? No, probably not, but rest assured that Wolfsburg will enjoy a better Rückrunde than Borussia Mönchengladbach.
Surprises are overrated. As a Frankfurt-fan, I have to include Eintracht, mostly due to their amazing season and the prospect of SGEuropa. Eintracht's season has been better than amazing, it's been worthy of a movie. Kovac has transformed my dear Hesse-darling into a pressing monster, prepared to do anything to win. This exact mentality and the usage of tiny funds to buy unknown and promising players might just be what will bring European class back to Waldstadion in the heart of Europe.
Having signed two players in Max Besuschkow and Andersson Ordóñez, they look even syronger than before and while Stendera and Russ are out due to different reasons, their return in February-March will be a fantastic boost to the club. How far can Frankfurt go? No one knows, but our dear editor Ali seems to think that they will finish third and reach Champion's League. I, on the other hand, believe and crave Europa League. Europa Leeague is realistic and possible, and it would be a very welcome sight and a sign of improvement and hope in Hessen.
Erbarmen - zu spät
die Hesse komme!
HSV have had a dreadful season, but somehow its doesn't look all bad for them. Due to Darmstadt's terrible season and squad and Gisdol's ways, they've climbed up the table and now find themself sitting above relegation, which is a fantastic achievement if you take a lok at their start to the Hinrunde, which was the worst since more or less forever in Bundesliga. Even the absolutely horrible Tasmania Berlin has a better result after ten games than HSV had this season. However, their form is positive and having sacked the sporting director and havibg signed two defenders, things are really looking quite decent for them. Mergim Mavraj and Kyriakos Papadopolous seem like two sensible and clever signings, made by Heribert Bruchhagen, the former sporting director of Eintracht Frankfurt. Their defence needed desperate strengthening and that's exactly what they've done.
Hamburg need to imporve their home results. Their amazing home crowd can be truly destructive in times of agony, but if the team improves even more, then the fans at Volksparkstadion can carry them to safety. They just need to keep on fighting and the fans need to keep believing. Things are looking up and they could survive and will probably survive as well. The clock in the Kurve keeps ticking, when will it stop, if ever?
editor and teutophiliac.
2016 was no successful year for the Foals, with them finishing the Hinrunde in the bottom half of the table. Apart from having sacked Andre Schubert and replaced him with Dieter Hecking, their year was truly remarkably bad and it looks like it might just continue. It all depends on how well Gladbach do defensively and how well and swift Hecking can repair the damage Schubert, Strobl and Vestergaard caused. But WHAT is needed?
The Foals truly need to find their way back. How should and how can Hecking improve his squad in January? Well, not losing Dahoud would be an intelligent move. Even though Dahoud is a very over-hyped player, he still is their best central midfielder and is a real top talent in German football. They need him to find his best form again if they are to reach Europe. Other than that, the defence needs desperate improvement. Strobl and Vestergaard shouldn't be anywhere near the starting eleven and they might need to bring in one or two players to stabilize things. Rüdiger from Roma would be a good fit. The defender has improved massively since his days at Stuttgart and is now one of the better defenders in Serie A. Timo Baumgartl would also be a perfect fit and why not loan or even spend some money on Kurt Zouma, a player who seems desperate for a chance. Then it's down to Hecking and his ideas. How much can he improve Gladbach? No idea, but improvement is due.
Dahoud is no real defensive midfielder and neither Strobl or Kramer have played well at defensive midfield. Both have limited Borussia's play mor than they have helped. With a back-line of three you need a regista-type player, a player who can take the ball and fins the best pass possible to start a move. An all-out defensive midfielder a'la Kramer does not work when you've got three at the back. Who would be available for Gladbach? wo players come to mind. First of all, Union Berlin's brilliant Croatian midfielder Damir Kreilach would be a great signing. Experienced, strong and calm, a great passer of the ball, he would be a sem-version of Granit Xhaka. The other one is Wylan Cyprien from Nice. He wouldn't be cheap, but would be the perfect fit for Gladbach. The Frenchman has the same attributes as Kreilach, but is better and proven at that level. If Gladbach fix a defender and a regista-type player in midfield, they could climb the table rather quick. But if they continue to play with Strobl and Vestergaard, things could easily go the other way around and soon you would expect fans to turn on the players.
Two very important months coming up for Borussia. How will they cope? Where will they finish? Let me know what you think. I expect them to finish 9th after a late push for Europe in April.
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