The wait is seemingly over, with the opening round of games on the 21st August, the 2014/2015 Bundesliga campaign is only weeks away. A few managerial changes (Bayer Leverkusen, Mainz, Hannover, Frankfurt and Stuttgart) a couple of big transfers (Lewandowski, Immobile, Sam, Calhanoglu, Hunt, and Hasebe) and a newbie (SC Paderborn 07) take the limelight. In this article, Ben Taylor provides a team by team guide, analysing what this season holds for each club, determine who will be at the heart of the teams campaign, and a prediction to where they will end up.
FC BAYERN MÜNCHEN
Pep Guardiola’s first season in charge of Bayern resulted in broken records and another title to add to the collection. Nineteen points clear from rivals Borussia Dortmund was a welcome sight, a 5-0 aggregate loss to Pep’s former rivals Real Madrid was not. However silverware was won on two occasions for Bayern and Pep passed the test. Ribery, Alaba, Robben, Lahm and Kroos all excelled under the new reign of the Spaniard. The team averaged an impressive 61% possession last season. A figure no German team can match.
Bayern fans will expect to win the league again. In Europe, fans will be hungry for vengeance after that 5-0 defeat to the hands of the eventual champions Real Madrid. Consistency was vital last season and Pep will need to emulate such quality in order to reach new heights. With a squad deep in quality and youth Bayern will look to adapt without Kroos and Mandzukic to a more comfortable system including Lewandowski. A slow build up and carelessness brought criticism last season. So in pre season Pep has experimented a 3-5-2, but it’s doubtful this formation will be used all the time. It’s more plausible a varied line up with the occasional youngster will be presented to accompany the new formation. Despite the tactical shuffle Bayern will play with the same beating heart. With Scweinstieger, Neuer, Lahm, Ribery, Robben and now Lewandowski to choose from, it’s hard to look elsewhere for a team that’s more capable of winning the Bundesliga.
Key Player: Phillip Lahm
Stepping up to master a midfield role, Lahm has established himself as a key cog in Guardiola’s team. With 2,231 passes and 91% pass accuracy he was incredible 2013/2014. With Kroos gone, Lahm will need to continue to orchestrate the midfield efficiently if Bayern are to be well oiled this time out.
Prediction: 1st (of course)
An injury plagued squad, a tough European draw and disallowed goal in the cup final. It didn’t really Dortmund’s way last season. The squad was spread thin as injuries were all too common for Klopp. Ultimately last season’s 2nd place was a disappointment; a cup win would have made it a resounding success given the circumstances. Despite the events off the field, on the field Dortmund were as tactically adaptable as ever. Marco Reus’ 16 goals and 14 assists were what kept Dortmund going in a frustrating season of Bundesliga football.
With months off, Dortmund can almost claim a clean bill of health. The summer has allowed players to return and more to arrive. They will miss Lewandowski yes but Jurgen Klopp always has a plan and the BVB squad will only get better. Klopp has brought in Ramos, Immobile, Ji, Ginter and Sahin. All welcome sights as Dortmund regroup to mount siege on FC Hollywood. They will all no doubt be well drilled with the high energy approach that Dortmund so well model. With a rejuvenated team, expect Dortmund to start with a bang and push Bayern to the wire.
Key Player: Marco Reus
With Lewandowski gone players and fans alike will look to Dortmund born Marco Reus to spearhead attacks this coming season. He has undoubtedly improved the BVB side since his arrival in 2012 but he is arguably the only out and out world class attacking player left at the club and must lead by example. With his release clause activated at the end of the season, this is most probably the twenty five year olds last year at Borussia Dortmund. The success of Dortmund’s season depends more on Marco Reus than some may realise.
FC SCHALKE 04
With only one point from the opening three games, a poor start damaged a strong season for Schalke. After the winter break they embarked on a run of good form to finally finish 3rd, qualifying for the Champions League and three points clear of Bayer Leverkusen. The arrival of Boateng and the 11 clean sheets of Ralf Fährmann boosted the team’s performances. On the whole Jens Keller’s young team was solid but inconsistent.
The young squad at Keller’s disposal will only improve with time; Schalke have retained the likes of Draxler and still have Kolašinac, Meyer, Goretzka, Clemens, Ayhan and Matip waiting in the wings. Schalke will aim for a top four finish once again. But with such young budding talent they will challenge to best Dortmund and increase the gap between themselves and Leverkusen. Choupo Moting, Sam and Giefer have all arrived to help Schalke achieve such prospects. Despite being a strong young unit, Schalke’s squad could be made to look thinner than it is with injuries. Take out Huntelaar and Farfán and Schalke could struggle to find momentum in the attacking third. Jens Keller who was formerly in charge of the Schalke u17’s will be able to progress and mellow the young team, but he doesn’t have the experience to thrive in Europe. Schalke will look to Draxler and co to storm the Bundesliga, but if that doesn’t go to plan Keller will have to re-adjust to please the fans.
Key Player: Joel Matip
The twenty two year old may not have had the best world cup but last season he was brilliantly consistent and will need to replicate such form this season. With a youthful team consistency is bound to be an issue at Schalke, but with Matip at the back the team should discern a sense of security. With 120/177 headed duels won the defender was dominant in the air. The Cameroonian made 1,348 passes, second only to Neustädter at the club. Not only this but he had 81% pass accuracy. If Joel Matip is to be as reliable in the coming season, then he will be indispensable.
BAYER 04 LEVERKUSEN
Sami Hyypiä’s first official season in charge of Bayer Leverkusen was also his last. 37 points from the first fifteen games saw the Werkself only four points behind Bayern. But seven defeats in the following ten games and they were in trouble of not qualifying for Europe. Lewandowski, who took over from Hyypiä managed to squeeze into 4th. In Europe they progressed out of the group only to be destroyed by PSG. Leverkusen weren’t awful last season but they lacked a certain will to achieve.
There is pressure on Roger Schmidt going into the new season. He only lost six times in fifty seven games in charge of Red Bulls Salzburg and Leverkusen fans will at least expect an improvement on last season’s performance. Schmidt will undoubtedly expect the same; a top four finish and a good run in Europe. Despite the arrival of Josip Drmic (17 goals) the club has lost Sidney Sam and Emre Can who contributed 11 goals and 10 assists between them. This may not seem like much but that’s just fewer than 20% of Leverkusen’s clinical nature last season gone for only €12.5 million. Instead the scoring will be left to Kiessling, Son, Drmic, Calhanoglu and Yurchenko. However despite looking powerful on paper these players will need time to blend. Schmidt, a newbie himself will have to rally together the team and whip up some good form out of his new players. The stage is set for Leverkusen. They could be potentially brilliant, but potentially a flop.
Key Player: Hakan Calhanoglu
A constant in the Hamburg side last season and rightly so. In retrospective Calhonoglu was a diamond among the dust. He had a good season but was made to look even better in awful team performances at Hamburg. He created 70 chances, the most at the club and scored 11, 7 of those goals being outside the box. Regardless of any of the stats he is a bright player. At Leverkusen he will be given the attention he needs to flourish. But he will also have to flourish if Leverkusen are to reach a new level. With Can gone Hakan Calhonoglu will be the main attacking midfielder, delving into that final third and if he steps up then it could just be the whole team follows suit.
The fact Wolfsburg finished with 60 points, a total not reached since they won the Bundesliga in 2009 meant they had once again reached their potential. Dieter Hecking found a successful blend of the old and young, and the team went out all guns blazing. The team’s success revolved around a potent attacking force consisting of Diego (until January), Perisic, De Bruyne (from January), Arnold and Olic. Defenders Ricardo Rodriguez and Naldo were also efficacious. Together the team was emphatic but the defence feeble at times, only gaining 5 clean sheets.
Wolfsburg will participate in the Europa League meaning a big squad is helpful to rotate and keep players fit. Aaron Hunt, Wolfsburg’s new number ten is the team’s biggest signing and will help to propel the team forward. Sebastian Jung is the other summer signing who will be more than adequate cover for the injured Christian Träsch. Despite if anything strengthening an already quality squad Hecking will struggle to equal the achievements of last season. Playing in Europe involves mid week games on a regular basis meaning the team will tire and sweat under the pressure. SC Freiburg and Frankfurt were both in the same boat last season and they were left squirming together at the foot of the table. Wolfsburg are a bigger club than Frankfurt and Freiburg but they may be surprised to find themselves fighting against the current in the coming season.
Key Player: Ivica Olic
Ricardo Rodriguez may have cruised up and down the left flank for ninety minutes every game of the season but Ivica Olic deserves just as much attention. Last season the thirty four year old scored 14 goals in the Bundesliga. With Wolfsburg now seemingly reaching their potential Olic will need to somehow conjure up more fight and goals if his team are to find more success. With Bas Dost and Kevin Scheidhauer the only other clear cut strikers a lot of pressure will be placed upon the veteran.
Despite not reaching the top four as hoped the Foals claimed a European spot. A shaky first five games was followed by eight wins in ten games. Lucien Favre’s side became almost invincible at home but less so away from Borussia Park. Kruse, Raffael, Herrmann, Arango and defensive stalwart Stranzl all had prosperous seasons.
Mönchengladbach will expect a top half finish at least, aiming for the Champions League spots if they can. With last season a season of two halves Lucien Favre will have to make sure his team can keep going, because with the Europa League ahead it’s going to be a long season. Under Favre young players such as Inler, Džemaili and Reus all developed into great players and he now has Andre Hahn and Thorgan Hazard (yes Eden’s brother) to add to the young talent of Jantschke, Korb, Herrmann, Kramer, Younes, Xhaka, Hrgota and Kruse. These players are already progressing at either Mönchengladbach or at International level. Borussia Mönchengladbach can and will frustrate opponents next season in a well organized attacking minded based side that can quickly change tempo to their advantage. Juan Arango, ‘the special one’ has now left and his magical left foot will be missed but on the contrary the void he leaves behind can now be taken up with fresh legs. In hind sight Borussia Mönchengladbach are an attractive side, capable of a top four finish they so sorely want. But with the Europa League curse looming they will likely miss out on it again.
Key Player: Max Kruse
The striker has become a key attacking figure under Favre. He scored 12 goals in 11 games and the Foals took the points in every game he scored in. The twenty six year old forward played all thirty four games in his final season at Freiburg and played the same amount at Borussia. The striker is improving but people have always expected more goals. Twelve goals in a debut season is impressive but he will look to improve the tally this year out. With a European spot awaiting Max Kruse could be what Borussia need to retain such territory.
1. FSV MAINZ O5
A fruitful season was dampened by the departure of manager Thomas Tuchel. The young tactician finely tuned Mainz into a pressing adept 4-2-3-1 side. The form of Mainz never went smoothly, the opening three victories were followed promptly by three defeats. Mainz, not a dominant side only had 48% average possession, the worst out of the top ten teams. But they were efficient. Meaning they were a challenge for the better teams at the top and a powerful force to the others. It was because of Tuchel that they did so well and achieved the last spot for European competition.
A new season and a new manager at the helm for Mainz, Kasper Hjulmand successful former FC Nordsjælland manager has got a lot to live up to. Despite being a small club Mainz enjoyed a strong campaign and will eagerly thirst for more with the arrival of a manager with European experience. There is unlikely a prominent expectation but instead a ‘let’s try our best’ notion to strive and reach the top half of the table and then have a stab at the Europa League. The club will miss ‘super sub’ Choupo Moting, Nicolai Müller and veteran Popsech but will look to the latest players for additional vigour. World cup stars Gonzalo Jara, Stefanos Kapino and Benfica man Filip Djuricic all join the German outfit. They will bolster the club but with the team they’ve got Mainz will struggle to gain momentum as they did last season, especially if they qualify for the Europa League.
Key Player: Johannes Geis
To say twenty year old Johannes Geis pulled the strings last season would be a very accurate statement. Deployed in the centre of midfield the German featured in the team 33 times. His passing ability, long or short was rarely amiss. 73% of his balls were forward, subsequently creating 70 chances. With Geis only at twenty he will only become a bigger cog in the Mainz machine.
Augsburg’s third season in the top tier was a special one; through a spectacular team effort Markus Weinzierl guided them to 8th place. The Bavarian club were only one point shy from obtaining the last European place, but were eight points clear of Hoffenheim below them. The team benefitted from a well organised 4-1-4-1 formation whereby Tobias Werner, Andre Hahn, Halil Altintop were all consistent performers. Add thirty year old Daniel Baier, who was arguably the best defensive midfielder last season and Augsburg were strong enough to beat anyone, even a certain Bayern Munich.
With the objective of Bundesliga survival this time last year and then finishing only eight points off the top four Augsburg would be rash to assume they can top that, but also modest to merely aim for survival again. Regardless manager Markus Weinzierl has reiterated his intentions to save Augsburg from relegation. He realises the club were punching above their weight the season before and therefore need time to find their feet before getting ahead of themselves. Fans will miss Andre Hahn’s fearlessness to rupture defences with pure pace and power, but they will look to the tactical know how of the young Wienzierl to make the most of Augsburg this time out. Statistically Augsburg struggled to score last season. They made the most of the chances but Raul Bobadilla was the top scoring forward with only 3 goals. So with the absence of Andre Hahn to put the ball in the net, Augsburg have brought several new players in. The likes of Cauiby and Parker will hopefully provide a much welcomed infusion of attacking options at the SGL Arena. Don’t expect wonders, but a steady uprising of an unfamiliar red, green and white in Bavaria.
Key Player: Daniel Baier
It’s not that Daniel Baier is an amazing player or a flair filled show boater. But he does the job no one else wants to do and does it so well. Controlling the defensive midfield in a 4-1-4-1 formation, he was the master of Augsburg, a true unsung hero. He played every game, created 51 chances, had more touches than any non Bayern player in the league and also conducted an average of 5 defensive actions per game. These stats don’t do the man justice. For a small club who were milling around at the top with the big boys, Baier completed Augsburg. If the club are to grow and become a regular Bundesliga name, then Daniel Baier will be at the heart of it.
TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM
A peculiar season saw 1899 finish mid table. They had a brilliant nous for scoring goals, 72 to be exact. On the down side Hoffenheim conceded a few as well. Only Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich scored more but only struggling Hamburg conceded more than Hoffenheim. Markus Gisdol may have been ‘sick to the back teeth of it’ but if it wasn’t for all the goals at Hoffenheim, the club could’ve found themselves in a real relegation scrap. Roberto Firmino was the star, but teammates Volland and Modeste deserve a mention for their attacking prowess.
This time round Hoffenheim will need to tighten their seemingly nonexistent defence. To concede an average of 2.05 goals per game is detrimental to the clubs chances of success unless you can score at free will at the other end. Which fortunately they seemed to be able to do, taking points from every team last season on at least one occasion. This included a thrilling 3-3 draw at the Allianz arena. It seems that Hoffenheim don’t have a problem of scoring against any team, but instead have the issue of caving in against everyone. In thirty four games they only landed just 3 clean sheets. Over the summer the transfers suggest a wave of stability has been introduced. Markus Gisdol welcomes Adam Szalai to his attacking options but also obtained the young Ermin Bikacic and the younger Jin-Su Kim to Hoffenheim. Despite losing defender Fabian Johnson the club will expect for this stability to be recognised and implemented into their results. They will push for the European spots but if they cannot defend they will have to score a whole lot more to reach them.
Key Player: Roberto Firmino
With a potential leaky defence and the main threat coming in the final third, the pressure will fall to Roberto Firmino. The young Brazilian acquired 16 goals and 11 assists in the season just gone, more than any other Hoffenheim player in both tallies. With the clubs 70 goals you wouldn’t have expected all the creativity to derive from an individual. However with his key passing and nose for goals Roberto Firmino is the centre piece in the Bundesliga’s most exciting attacking unit. Despite a new three year contract, with his exploding form it’s likely he will only be playing at the Rhein-Neckar Arena for so much longer.
For Hannover the season of 2013/2014 was despondent. At times they seemed dispirited and hopeless. On the road they averaged 0.76 points per game while at home they weren’t convincing. Mirko Slomka’s poor run of form lost him his job. On match day twenty eight Hannover were plummeting to the depths of relegation with being only three points off it. But an impromptu string of good results (four wins in five games) all against teams below Hannover launched them to 10th place.
Now Hannover have lost some integral players. Hustzi (10 goals), Diouf (8 goals) Rudnevs (4 goals) and Ya Konan (3 goals) have all left for greener grass. This could be overlooked as just the comings and goings in a football club, but these players were each influential in Hannover’s recent history. Tayfun Korkut promised a new approach when he signed on as a new manager and now he will be forced to implement such a change. In the coming season the transition is sceptically expected however the club have enough quality and creativity to continue to mill around in the middle of the league and spring a surprise or two. What is known is that Hiroshi Kiyotake will proffer creativity going into the final third while the likes of Leon Andreason and Andre Hoffmann will sit behind.
Key Player: Ron-Robert Zieler
Twenty five year old Zieler goes into the new season with a world cup medal hanging from his neck. The goalkeeper may not have played for Germany over the summer but he played all thirty four games prior to that for Hannover. With players lost and a lack of clear direction it’s the goalkeeper who will be influential on and off the field. He only had 6 clean sheets to his name last season but nevertheless Ron-Robert Zieler will very much be an important character for Hannover 96.
A yo-yo club ironically suffered a yo-yo season. Hertha Berlin were clinical before the winter break and were neatly positioned at 6th. But with only one victory in their last ten games, Berlin peaked too soon and consequently trickled into the mid table. Adrian Ramos’ goals caught the eye but the likes of Ronny, Allagui and Hosogai were all commendable.
Manager Jos Luhukay deemed last season’s second half flop as a result of a lack of depth. He has claimed an improvement in defence, midfield and attack will give them more depth and durability if they are to challenge the big boys. It seems that improving the squad is exactly what’s been done. Accepting the departure of Ramos and Lasogga is part of the improvement process for Hertha. Granting this Schieber arrives from Dortmund with a point to prove after his lack of football. Valentin Stocker and John Hetinga also join the capital club. The healthy transfer dealings will strengthen the 4-2-3-1 formation that will most likely be used. Hertha aim for a consolidation year, to prevent recent history of going down, and then returning the following year, however with the squad they’ve got and a dismissal of last season’s poor second half performance and they could just surprise themselves.
Key Player: Genki Haraguchi
Not an obvious choice for Hertha Berlin’s key player this coming season, but with the absence of Ramos the club need to score goals. The Colombian striker was astonishingly involved (scored or assisted) in 60% of Berlin’s goals last season. There are several other attacking players that are capable of scoring but Japanese striker Haraguchi won the J-league with Urawa Reds and has scored 33 goals with his time there. But it’s not just the goals he needs to transfer to Germany. His knack for creativity in the final third will hopefully immediately impact his new club. They need goals and the relative anonymity of this deal could help Haraguchi find his feet (preferably his right) in the Bundesliga. If so, his form could be a bright light for the club in steadying their status as a top flight team.
SV WERDER BREMEN
The 2013/2014 season was a disappointment by Werder Bremen standards. They were pretty unspectacular throughout. Robin Dutt never really caught any momentum as they moped around the bottom half from the offset really. Most the clubs points were gathered against weaker opposition as you would expect for a mid table team. But a team of Werder Bremen’s presence should’ve been pushing for European spots.
The fact Bremen had the joint lowest average possession in the division of 46% last season and scored a mediocre 40 goals could suggest the team are yet to find a comfortable style of play. The club knew the transition from legend Thomas Schaaf to Robin Dutt would be difficult but Bremen must be smoother this time round if they are to avoid another relegation scare. The smart imports of Izet Hajrovic from Galatasaray, who is set to fill Aaron Hunt’s boots following his departure to Wolfsburg and a permanent stay for Santiago Garcia should aid Bremen and allow them to manoeuvre themselves into a more comfortable and respectable position this season.
Key Player: Sebastian Prödl
One of the many Austrians in the league the Werder Bremen captain shall be an important figure on and off the field. As Robin Dutt shapes and moulds the squad with a more efficient and detectable style of play, the captain will need to set an example for his team to follow. Only Bundesliga veterans Noveski and Stranzl made more defensive actions than Sebastian Prödl (349) last season. It was his impressive shifts in defence that hauled Bremen up to 10 clean sheets, the fourth most in the league. If the defender can be as powerful this campaign then Werder Bremen might just enjoy a smoother ride.
Frankfurt’s commendable campaign two years previously meant they suffered the Europa League syndrome last year. Losing to Porto on away goals in the round of thirty two was gutting after the valiant effort. In the Bundesliga their European quest for glory hindered Frankfurt’s form. Only having back to back wins once shows how dampened Frankfurt had become under the pressure of competing in both the top flight division and in Europe. However not all can be blamed on European ventures. Not once did the Eagles make it into the top half off the table and therefore were a real contender for getting sucked into the chasm of relegation only points below. It’s hard to judge whether Armin Veh left at the time where his magic was dwindling or at a stage where the club needed him most. By all accounts Frankfurt’s season was poor, the flicker of excitement in Europe may have lit a few sparks but the light had all but gone out for the Eagles.
When Armin Veh announced in March he would stand down Thomas Schaaf was the favourite to take over, the one club man was worshipped for his devotion to his club Werder Bremen. But now he has been given the chance to build a strong foundation at the Commerzbank Arena. Strength is certainly what the Eagle’s need. Narrowly avoiding relegation the only profound message was a lack of character in the way they played. Over the summer many have left but many have arrived. Anchor men Sebastian Rode and Pirmin Schwegler have both turned their backs on the club. While Sebastian Jung and highly rated U19 Euro’s winner Marc-Oliver Kempf have also split with the club. These players will definitely be missed; their absence on the pitch, especially of Sebastian Rode will be notable. However for Thomas Schaaf to turn this club into a more attractive attacking team changes were always going to be made. The fact some key figures have left leaves room for expansion of both quality players and style of play to evolve around the new core squad. World cup players Makoto Hasebe, Haris Seferovic and Timothy Chandler eagerly join the club. In addition Lucas Piazon and Nelson Valdez are among the signatures captured by Frankfurt. The dealings made have certainly freshened a squad that relied slightly too much on the robust Alexander Meier for inspiration. In the coming season Thomas Schaaf will have prepared his team to go out and attack from the offset. They will aim for the top half but the determination shown could suggest they subtly fancy themselves for a return to Europe.
Key Player: Makoto Hasebe
With the other main middle men gone, Hasebe will have to forget an awful World Cup and try stay fit for Frankfurt. Although injured for Nürnberg for large stages of the season Hasebe appeared 12 times, not once being subbed off. His defensive capabilities and eye for a pass make him a useful pinion among the Frankfurt team. Conjointly to his skills, if Makoto Hasebe is a flop then the whole of Schaaf’s dealings and management could come under scrutiny. In an odd way Thomas Schaaf’s success gauge could rise or fall depending on the Japanese midfielder’s performances.
Freiburg are one of the Bundesliga teams that just keep over achieving. The sluggish performance from the season prior, showed signs of a Freiburg side starting to crack. The slow start on top of the stress of Europe meant that the young Freiburg were sent into season long disarray. But luckily at the adjournment Freiburg were not sent down below. The supposed replacements of the players lost didn’t really step up, leaving the scoring to a vibrant talented Admir Mehmedi.
A top half finish isn’t as far as some may seem. With a club like SC Freiburg it’s hard to pinpoint what will happen. Christian Streich will continue to exploit the talents of young players by seemingly throwing them into the deep end to intensify their development. But with keeper Baumann and sensation Ginter gone, the ‘nurseryman’ is running short on students to both work on and to aid him in securing safety in the Bundesliga. The sad departure of Matthias Ginter to Borussia Dortmund is heart breaking for Freiburg. Even at the fledging age of twenty he epitomised Christian Streich’s work at the club. It is now when he leaves that the manager must kick start the season with some new quality and a master plan. The manager recently declared “We’re working hard and keeping ourselves to ourselves. We want to stay in the Bundesliga, but we don’t want to be fighting right up until the final day.” But sadly for this small club, that is much easier said than done.
Key Player: Admir Mehmedi
Knowing they have signed Mehmedi is a big boost for the entire club. His goals last season were the difference between relegation and the 14th place finish. With him now playing at the Mage-Solar Stadion on a permanent deal the club can loosen up. His influence will not just be seen in the final third, but throughout the team. With a debut season to build on the ebbing confidence of Mehmedi will be exactly what Freiburg and Streich will thrive on.
It took three managers, but by the end of a bitter season, Stuttgart were safe. The nine losses in ten games was probably the start of the nightmare. Stuttgart were fortunate that Huub Stevens the saviour took the job, without him one of Germany’s biggest clubs could’ve been playing trade in the division below. Scoring goals wasn’t the biggest problem, it was just the team’s uncanny ability to lose leads and give up on games.
Now once again, like in 2006 Stuttgart possess Armin Veh. Last time he was at the south western club he won over half of his games during his stint as boss. If he was to match that statistic, Armin Veh would find his club happily clutching a top half position, or even a European spot, which is what a club of Stuttgart’s level should and will expect of themselves. With no other major changes at the club, they are in a healthy position to turn their back on relegation woes and strive for the realms above. Ibrahima Traore has gone but with the talent the club occupy there should be no position too challenging to fill. All the pending success almost leans on the new manager. Veh can compose a sure, temperate team but the question is how quickly can this be formed? The preseason has been confidence building but with the absence of any real test it’s hard to tell if Stuttgart mean business once again.
Key Player: Alexandru Maxim
A risky choice but it seems Maxim is now maturing. His quick feet and movement on the pitch earned him 7 goals and 9 assists. If Stuttgart can improve on the insufficient season before then it’s likely it will benefit Maxim and then benefit the team in return. It’s doubtful the midfielder will carry the team but his flair could well end being the cutting edge Armin Veh’s side need in fighting for results.
Oh dear, Hamburg may never have been relegated from the Bundesliga but if you saw them last season you would be demanding why not. The league’s dinosaur were haemorrhaged time and time again in a season where only 4 clean sheets were acquired and back to back wins were only mythical during shambolic Hamburg performances. Arguably the arrival of new manager Mirko Slomka in February was boost, as the team won eight points from their next five games, which is good for a team whose good form had apparently perished before the season even began. Sensation Hakan Calhanoglu was about the only thing that could carve a smile into Hamburg as his form was spirited enough to earn him a transfer.
Mirko Slomka has used pre season to familiarise himself with the team and experiment. Travelling to the same pre season camp as Slomka did with Hannover meant the manager knew what to expect. However for the Hamburg dinosaur to rise from the ashes the clubs performances on the field need to display a sense of confidence. In order to foresee such a movement players such as Mancienne, Lam, Rincon and Tesche among the decampments. Note the majority of the exoduses are defenders as the club desperately erase an average of 2.21 goals conceded per game. The incoming players include highly acclaimed Valon Behrami from Napoli, goal scorer Pierre-Michel Lasogga on a permanent deal and two zippy wingers; Zoltan Stieber and Nicolai Müller. The fresh arrivals to a squad should be welcome but not leaned on at the Imtech Arena. If the club are to succeed then it must come from the heart of the squad, not just a band of exciting new signings.
Key Player: Rafael van der Vaart
The data doesn’t exist to justify he was good last season and rightly so. The Dutchman capped off his uninspiring performances with 27 appearances. But his form isn’t really important now. The fact that he has the capacity to step up and lead his team will help to overturn their former selves and reach consummation. So if Hamburg are to recapture fortunes then the hub of the team and the in turn van der Vaart will be a focal point.
1. FC KÖLN
Winning the division with the second youngest team in the division shows tremendous team spirit. Köln’s return to top flight football after a two year absence was a great sight with the fans hailing Peter Stöger’s enthusiasm. Patrick Helmes and Daniel Halfar were essential to winning the league with games spare.
With a young team and a vibrant coach it’s hard to identify exactly what will happen to Köln. It’s easy to claim defending won’t be enough and the team will give it all they’ve got but it’s much more demanding to do. Consistency needs to be incorporated if the team are to consolidate their status in the Bundesliga. Hertha prepared by collecting some unused players from bigger teams or effective players from the relegated teams. It paid off, the coups of Hososgai, Skjelbred, Cigerci and Van den Bergh all lifted the club and they finished neatly at 11th. However if Köln are to follow in those footsteps then the attacking options will need to step up to the mark, Ramos certainly did for Hertha Berlin. Eight signings including Yuya Osaka and Tomas Kalas are bound to improve the squad neatly and provide a depth for the club to spring a surprise or two.
Key Player: Yannick Gerhardt
With the impeding injury to Helmes the midfield will need to penetrate the final third to pick out Ujah, Osaka or Cueto. It’s a young player like Gerhardt who can exploit a tiring defence and make the pass to pick out one of the many attacking options Peter Stöger has at his disposal. It was seen at Fürth when Edgar Prib developed over the course of the season to become a key player in the middle of the park.
SC PADERBORN 07
Paderborn earning promotion without backing from a large company or a wealthy acquaintance was a sensation. The small team with a stadium of only 15,000, finished second place with André Breitenreiter pulling this off in his debut season. The goals and assists from Mahir Sağlik and Mario Vrančić the city of Paderborn now find themselves in the Bundesliga.
Manager André Breitenreiter has had little experience of the Bundesliga, in fact like most his squad he has none. Nevertheless Paderborn are here, and subsequently aim for survival. Survival is the easiest target to choose from yet seemingly the hardest to attain. The objective to stay afloat will be enough to keep Paderborn puffing. Attacking football with two strikers is the favourable system for Paderborn. If André Breitenreiter opts to duplicate these tactics the underdogs could become the league’s easy picking, easier than they already are seen as. Instead a balance is needed to exploit the attacking outlets and still stay tight at the back.
Key Player: Alban Meha
Stylishly converting 6 set plays last season, Meha’s reputation as a set play specialist will not be underestimated. In a season of struggles the occasional set piece triumph could be the upper hand Paderborn need to pick up points in unknown territory.
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