German Bundesliga Review
Winner – Bayern Munich
Champions League – Dortmund, Schalke, Bayer Leverkusen
Europa League – Freiburg, Frankfurt, Stuttgart
Relegated – Fortuna Dusseldorf, Gruether Furth
Promoted – Hertha BSC, Eintracht Braunschweig
Along with the end of the Relegation play-off between Hoffenheim and Kaiserslautern, the curtain came down on another terrific Bundesliga season. Although it wasn’t as close as previous seasons, with Bayern winning by 25 points, it was still an enthralling end to what was a close season in a number of vital areas of the league.
With Champions league finalists Bayern and Borrusia Dortmund finishing first and second, the focus was on the battle for the remaining European places. There were several of the usual suspects in contention, the likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke, as well as a few surprises – newly promoted Frankfurt and struggling Freiburg, who had sold Papiss Cisse to avoid losing him for free in fear of relegation the previous season.
Schalke only just saw off Freiburg for the 4th Champions League, beating them 2-1 on the final day of the season. Klass-Jan Huntelaar starred for them, with teen sensation Julian Draxler also impressive. Leverkusen had 3rd sealed long before the season ended, with Stefan Kiessling leading the league’s scoring charts with 25 goals.
There were also battles all through the league, with Hoffenheim needing a win against Dortmund in the final round of games to avoid automatic relegation, which thanks to two late goals, one of which was provided by rising star Kevin Volland, doomed Dusseldorf to just one season back in the top flight. Hamburg and Borrusia Monchengladbach were also vying for Europa League places, but both failed, finishing 7th and 8th respectively
Along with Dusseldorf, Gruether Furth in their debut season struggled from the off, failing to record a win for 17 games. They did not leave the foot of the table since the 15th game, so it was not a huge surprise to see them drop into the 2nd Division.
Rising from Bundesliga II are Hertha BSC, who come back up at the first attempt, and Eintracht Braunschweig, after a 27 year absence. Up until 1985, they had been in the top flight for 22 years, winning the Bundesliga and missing out narrowly on several occasions. It’s good to see them back in the big time! Kaiserslautern finished 3rd and played Hoffenheim, who finished 16th, over two legs in a play-off, however they lost so remain in the 2nd Division.
The battle for mid-table position was as fierce as ever, with 9 points separating 5th from 13th. Monchengladbach, minus the talents of Marco Reus, who joined Dortmund, struggled to rediscover last season’s form which got them 4th place. They dropped the 8th position, despite some brilliant home displays. Werder Bremen, despite the great form of Chelsea loanee Kevin de Bruyne, fell to 14th after 2011/12’s 9th place finish. Hamburg were impressive after a 15th place finish the previous season, Rafael van der Vaart leading by example as a captain should with 9 assists and several key goals, ending in 7th and just falling short of a Europa League position.
Vedad Ibisevic and Martin Harnik impressed for Stuttgart this season, with the former scoring 15 goals, however these efforts were in vain, with Stuttgart ending up 12th, but qualified again for the Europa League through the domestic cup.
Freiburg and Frankfurt were the two surprises this season, both qualifying for the Europa League. Neither had star-studded line-ups, but a mix of good fortune and hard work secured them both top 6 finishes.
Mainz, spearheaded by ex-Real Madrid B striker Adam Szalai with 13 goals, stayed 13th. Augsburg looked doomed very early on with many disappointing performances, but after changing manager a late surge in form saved them from relegation. Hannover had another good season, remaining in the top ten for the 2nd consecutive season. Nuremburg looked good for a European place at the halfway stage, but dreadful away form cost them, dropping to a respectable 10th.
Since Wolfsburg’s title in 2009, they have struggled to get anywhere near that level. With such players as Diego, Patrick Helmes, Ivan Perisic and Bas Dost, you tend to get the feeling they are underachieving. This seasons’ 11th place supports that viewpoint.
Kiessling won the top scorers award, narrowly beating Robert Lewandowski, rumoured to be following Mario Gotze to Bayern Munich, scoring 24. Old boy Alexander Meier of Frankfurt grabbed 3rd, with 16 goals.
Our player of the season is an extremely tough call, with Marco Reus scoring 14, assisting 9 goals. Thomas Muller ended the season with 13 goals and 11 assists. Then you have Robert Lewandowski, with 24 goals and several assists. The same goes for Stefan Kiessling, the league’s top scorer with 25 goals. This year we give it to Kiessling – the others an in teams surrounded by world-class players, and although he has the likes of Andre Schurrle, the team have relied on his goal-scoring prowess to fire them into the Champions League, and at 29, it’s been his best season yet!
Although the title race was over long ago, the overall quality of the league is improving very quickly, with freshly promoted teams challenging for top 6. With Hertha BSC coming up with Braunschweig, we can see those two making an impact. With all sides looking like they are ready to strengthen, next season is guaranteed to be a must watch!