The 2021/22 1.Bundesliga reached its conclusion earlier this month and we take a glimpse at the immediate aftermath and what could be expected in the near future by gleaning at the stats and facts from the season gone by.
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How the 2021/22 Bundesliga Season Ended
FC Bayern München, the biggest powerhouse in German football and a European giant of considerable merit, romped home to its 31st league-title and the 10th in a row to complete a decade of utter dominance.
BVB 09 Borussia Dortmund offered a decent challenge in the early months but faded away towards the end. Bayer 04 Leverkusen ended an impressive campaign in 3rd position with RB Leipzig securing 4th spot and the final berth for the coveted UEFA Champions League.
1.FC Union Berlin continued its steady progress to take 5th place and a spot in the UEFA Europa League along with SC Freiburg despite finishing in 6th spot. Eintracht Frankfurt became the new champions of this competition and has therefore earned a spot in the Champions League for next season.
This allows 7th placed 1.FC Köln to take a spot in the UEFA Europa Conference League which makes a total of 8 teams that are set to feature in European football for the upcoming campaign.
SpVgg Greuther Fürth lay at the bottom of the standings in 18th spot collecting only 18 points all season, 4 fewer than its only previous appearance at the top-tier in 2012/13. DSC Arminia Bielefeld gathered 10 more points yet ended 5 points behind safety in 17th spot after making a return to the 1.Bundesliga in the previous campaign.
Hertha BSC had finished on 16th in the table but it managed to overcome Hamburger SV in promotion-relegation playoff and preserve its status in top-division.
What to Expect in the 2022/23 Bundesliga Season
The Title Contenders
While the 1.Bundesliga has garnered negative remarks for being predictable due to the complete dominance of one team over the past 10 years, the upcoming season could potentially see a 3-horse race for the championship.
While the bookmakers have already placed Bayern München as the overwhelming favourite once again, it might not be quite all that straightforward as has been the case in recent years. Continuing 10 years of supremacy is extremely difficult; probably it gets harder every passing year, while it is also the end of at least two cycles of a team’s shelf-life before it needs another rebuild.
That is precisely why manager Julian Nagelsmann was brought into the club at the end of the previous season, even though retaining the league-title was imperative. Bayern has an ageing squad, the 5th oldest in terms of average-age, despite letting a couple of their experienced players leave last summer. While there is already some of the finest exciting young talent in the squad, the wily old veterans like skipper Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Robert Lewandowski remain the fulcrum of the team.
While they possess top-quality internationals who are currently reaching the peak of their careers such as Joshua Kimmich, Leon Goretzka and Benjamin Pavard, there are also other players of a similar age like Kingsley Coman, Corentin Tolisso and Serge Gnabry that could be leaving the club in the summer. Lewandowski could also depart the club with only one more year left in his contract therefore the major signings for Bayern during this transfer-window will be crucial to say the least.
Meanwhile, it has been 10 years since Borussia Dortmund last lifted the 1.Bundesliga title having finished as runners-up on 6 occasions during this interlude. The 2021/22 season promised much but ultimately delivered very little considering Dortmund could not put sustained pressure on the champions in the 2nd half of the campaign while it was also knocked out of all the cup-competitions at an early-stage.
Nevertheless there are renewed expectations for the upcoming season especially with the club having already made some moves off the pitch. Erling Haaland brought his two and a half year stay at Westphalia to end after completing a 75 million Euro transfer to English champions Manchester City. The Norwegian striker delivered another prolific but injury-marred campaign and his exit may well prove to be a blessing in disguise.
The club has invested in youth yet again by signing 20 year old Germany international Karim Adeyemi from FC Salzburg as the replacement. Dortmund has also brought in Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck to shore up the defence which did look short on quality as well as quantity. Ansgar Knauff should also become a part of the squad after a breakthrough season on-loan at Eintracht Frankfurt.
Some of the pieces are already in place for the future as Dortmund had the 3rd youngest squad in the 1.Bundesliga and its young stars like Jude Bellingham, Giovanni Reyna and Donyell Malen have already gained plenty of experience at the highest level. But most of its players are in their prime while veterans like Mats Hummels, Axel Witsel and skipper Marco Reus can play a key role in improving the mentality of the team.
Therefore, with the reigning champions presently being in a period of transition, this perhaps might be the best opportunity to win the 1.Bundesliga that Borussia Dortmund has had at least in the last half-decade. The club’s hierarchy has retained its trust in head-coach Marco Rose but the expectations will certainly be higher and so he will have to make his team a much more consistent outfit in the next season.
RB Leipzig will also be in the conversation as the outside contenders for the league title. Having finished as runners-up during the 2020/21 campaign, Leipzig went through a turbulent season after losing some of their prized assets, including the manager, last summer. But with the arrival of Domenico Tedesco, the club regained its form to salvage a 4th place finish before lifting its first major trophy in the form of DFB-Pokal.
Leipzig forward Christopher Nkunku was voted the 1.Bundesliga Player of the Season after finishing the season in the top-5 for both goals and assists. The Frenchman is now among the hottest-properties in Europe and keeping him at the club will be a major hurdle. Nevertheless, there is more than enough quality elsewhere within the squad to at least make a decent bid for the league-title.
The Race for Europe
While challenging for the top-honours might be a step too far, Bayer Leverkusen will be among the top-contenders in the race for the lucrative top-4 spots. Leverkusen ended the season in 3rd place courtesy of 22 goals from striker Patrik Schick, who finished 2nd in the goal-scoring charts.
Moussa Diaby also netted 13 times and provided another 12 assists while teenage wonder-kid Florian Wirtz had 17 goal-contributions before an ACL injury cut short his season. All three of them will be highly sought-after this summer but Leverkusen still has enough quality and experience in the squad to finish in 4th position.
Union Berlin and Freiburg are the other two clubs that finished inside the top-6 and it will be quite a challenge for both clubs to improve this performance next season. Union Berlin is a perfect example for a team which has relatively limited means yet is able to outdo some of the more affluent competitors.
However, it has managed to improve with each passing season in the top-tier, so one can only write them off at their own peril. For Freiburg, who has already lost its best player from last season in Nico Schlotterbeck, it might be a little more complicated and might have to slide down to the mid-table.
Moreover, there is likely to be stiff competition from the likes of Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Köln in the battle for a top-6 finish. Hoffenheim was challenging for a top-4 spot before a drastic dip form towards the end left the club hanging on to a place inside top-half.
Wolfsburg and M’gladbach have quite capable squads and both clubs will be keen to make a strong impression after underachieving last season. In contrast, Köln will be buoyed by its 7th place finish in the hope of breaking into the top-6 next season.
The Battle for Survival
With the defeat of Hamburg in the promotion-relegation playoff, only two teams will come up to the top-division for the next campaign. Following their relegation from the 1.Bundesliga during the 2020/21 season, Schalke 04 and Werder Bremen both managed to secure an immediate direct promotion back to the top-tier.
However, both squads are unknown quantities at this level and therefore, at this stage, will be among the teams scrapping for survival in the minds of people.
Hertha Berlin finished 3rd from bottom with Stuttgart just above it on goal-difference thanks to a last-minute winner on the final day of the season and both clubs are likely to be hovering around the drop-zone next season as well.
Bochum managed to preserve its 1.Bundesliga status but ranks among the bookies’ favourites to get the chop next season. Augsburg is the other favourite but its knowhow of dodging relegation for 11 straight seasons will be vital having never been pushed down from the top-tier since arriving in the 2011/12 campaign.
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