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2019/20 Bundesliga Review – Part Two

Following on from part one of Get German Football News’ 2019/20 Bundesliga season review, here is part two featuring the remaining nine clubs in Germany’s top division.

Hoffenheim – 6th: W15, D7, L12, F53, A53, Pts52.

After the disappointment of missing out last campaign, Hoffenheim managed to qualify for the Europa League this time around with an excellent 6th position. They achieved it courtesy of outstanding away form, which made up for some below-par performances at the PreZero Arena. Hoffenheim only suffered three defeats on the road and their eight away victories included wins in Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Most impressive was the club managing to swiftly adapt following the departure of Julian Nagelsmann. He was replaced as head coach by Alfred Schreuder, with the Dutchman appearing to be doing an impressive job as he had them on track for European qualification.

However, Schreuder was sacked with only four matches remaining in the season. The club cited disagreements in future approach between them and Schreuder. A team of coaches stepped up to replace him for the rest of the season. So, while there is optimism in the air due to their high league finish, it is coupled with uncertainty as they must again look for a new head coach.

Season highlight – Bayern Munich 1-2 Hoffenheim

Star man – Austrian Florian Grillitsch continued his consistent performances from the first half of the season into the rest of the campaign. His compatriot Christoph Baumgartner was also a top contributor with seven goals and five assists.

Rating – 8/10

Köln – 14th: W10, D6, L18, F51, A69, Pts36.

14th place for a newly-promoted team is usually heralded as a success and perhaps for this year it is for 1. FC Köln. For large stretches of this season, though, the side looked out of their depth in this league. It was the remarkable mid-season run of eight wins from ten matches under Markus Gisdol that averted the club from a more serious relegation battle. The timing of the forced Covid-19 break was unfortunate as it came shortly after this run of matches which included a 3-0 rout of Schalke.

Once the Bundesliga restarted in May, Köln looked to have regressed again, the team replicating the sort of performances seen under Achim Beierlorzer early in the season. No wins and five defeats came from this nine match period, which gives some concern for next season as the initial honeymoon period under new coach Gisdol has faded.

Season highlight – Köln 3-0 Schalke

Star man – Belgian Sebastiaan Bornauw looked by far the most assured of Köln’s central defenders this season, even with his comparative youth and inexperience. He was also a source of goals, with six across the campaign.

Rating – 5/10

RB Leipzig – 3rd: W18, D12, L4, F81, A37, Pts66.

RB Leipzig looked every inch the serious title candidate who could snatch the championship from Bayern Munich for the majority of the season. Top of the league at the halfway-mark, they boasted a wealth of attacking talent and genuine depth in the squad which allowed them to keep up a title charge while also going far into the UEFA Champions League.

A tendency to draw winnable matches at home was ultimately their downfall and the reason they not only failed to win the title but also fell short of 2nd. Serious title challengers should comfortably defeat sides such as Freiburg, Paderborn and Fortuna Düsseldorf at home, yet Leipzig failed to do so all in the same period after the coronavirus break.

Julian Nagelsmann may grudgingly accept 3rd place and subsequent Champions League qualification in his maiden campaign at the helm, but it remains to be seen how Leipzig will react to the loss of star striker Timo Werner. They may look back on this year as a missed opportunity while they had Werner at their disposal. Having said this, RB Leipzig were anything but a one-man team and talents such as Christopher Nkunku will only improve in 2020/21.

Season highlight – Schalke 0-5 RB Leipzig

Star man – The aforementioned Timo Werner’s 28 goal tally in 2019/20 was the greatest haul yet of his career. Only Bayern’s Robert Lewandowski scored more this season and Werner was a similarly talismanic figure for Leipzig.

Rating – 7/10

Mainz – 13th: W11, D4, L19, F44, A65, Pts37.

Mainz suffered more defeats this season than relegated Fortuna Düsseldorf, but as with previous years, they had a knack of securing unexpected victories. Appearing to be sleepwalking towards relegation with a home defeat to Augsburg, die Nullfünfer pulled it out of the bag with a 2-0 win over Borussia Dortmund at the Westfalenstadion.

A further win over Werder Bremen helped Mainz finish in 13th, but were perhaps less comfortable than the table suggested. For the vast majority of the season, the side were in some sort of relegation danger but were aided by the even worse quality of their rivals around the drop-zone.

This was a familiar story for the club who have long been punching above their weight in the top-flight. More often than not Mainz spend their time in the lower reaches of the Bundesliga but are eventually aided by their experience in these survival situations and fight their way to safety.

Season highlight – Borussia Dortmund 0-2 Mainz

Star man – Jean-Paul Boëtius had another stellar season in the Mainz midfield, while Robin Quaison was the main threat in attack with 13 goals.

Rating – 5/10

Paderborn – 18th: W4, D8, L22, F37, A74, Pts20.

SC Paderborn 07’s quick ascent from 3. Liga to Bundesliga has been well-documented, so their bottom-placed finish was of no surprise. Coach Steffen Baumgart would have been more hopeful that his side could have been more competitive this season, though. They finished 16 points from safety and at no point posed any serious threat to their relegation rivals.

The year did have its highlights – victories over Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt included – but most of these moments came during the Hinrunde. The side appeared to run out of steam during the second half of the campaign, with the only victory recorded in January. No wins came after this.

With a lower budget in 2019/20 than some 2. Bundesliga clubs, Paderborn should not be judged too harshly in retrospect. Baumgart has been afforded patience as he will remain at the helm next season and his achievement in getting the club to this point in the first place should still be lauded.

Season highlight – Paderborn 2-1 Eintracht Frankfurt

Star man – Paderborn conceded the most goals in the league with 74, but this record would have been worse without the 101 shots saved by goalkeeper Leopold Zingerle.

Rating – 4/10

Schalke – 12th: W9, D12, L13, F38, A58, Pts39.

Die Königsblauen’s form nosedived in the Rückrunde, falling from 5th place to 12th. Schalke’s form in the second half of the season was relegation-worthy, and it was only their stellar Hinrunde which saved them from the survival battle. 30 points were collected prior to Christmas. Only nine points and one victory followed as the squad seemed desperately short of confidence and quality. The club have nevertheless decided to stick by David Wagner for now.

If 2018/19 was a disaster for Schalke, then 2019/20 was not much better as they were only two places better off from that season. The European qualification that seemed possible during the Hinrunde now seems like a pipe dream. With the looming financial issues for the club, the hierarchy have ruled out qualification for European competition as a realistic target, and have vowed to cut back on spending.

So, whilst this season seemed like a failure, a position in the lower reaches of the table may be something that supporters will have to get used to as the norm.  

Season highlight – RB Leipzig 1-3 Schalke

Star man – Suat Serdar was Schalke’s most impressive performer in the side, but only featured in 20 matches due to injury. In those that he missed his absence was telling, but Weston McKennie stepped up to be the most impressive midfield performer.

Rating – 4/10

Union Berlin – 11th: W12, D5, L17, F41, A58, Pts41.

Survival alone would have been a great achievement for 1. FC Union Berlin in their maiden Bundesliga season but to finish in the relative comfort of 11th exceeded expectations.

An eight-match winless run after the coronavirus break appeared to put the club back into the mix for relegation, but Union finished the season strongly with three wins from the last four. Aside from this scare, the Köpenick club never seemed in serious threat of going back down to the second division. This was in stark contrast to bottom placed Paderborn, who it should not be forgotten actually finished above Union in 2018/19.

Unlike Paderborn, who played with reckless abandon, die Eisernen knew how to win ugly. They made the most of set-piece opportunities and managed to keep eight clean sheets. Urs Fischer deserves immense credit for this, but to maintain these performances in a second Bundesliga season will be an even greater challenge.

Season highlight – Union Berlin 3-1 Borussia Dortmund

Star man – Rafal Gikiewicz was in goal for all of Union’s eight clean sheets, and contributed 115 saves, the second-highest total in the league. The Polish keeper will be a great miss for the club as he leaves for Augsburg this summer.

Rating – 9/10

Werder Bremen – 16th: W8, D7, L19, F42, A69, Pts31.

Werder Bremen can count themselves very lucky to still be a top-flight side. Finishing in 16th place, they needed the benefit of the away goals rule in the relegation playoff to overcome 1. FC Heidenheim.

For a time, it looked like Werder would not have the opportunity to save themselves by these means. Were it not for the incompetence of Fortuna Düsseldorf, they would have gone down automatically and experienced their first relegation since 1980. Considering the hope that they would challenge for Europe this year, the season was a failure by every definition of the word.

The club perhaps underestimated the value of previous talisman Max Kruse, whose departure left a gaping hole in Werder’s offensive line. Signings across the season either failed to deliver, such as Davie Selke, or were patchy at best, like Leonardo Bittencourt.

It is true that coach Florian Kohfeldt had to deal with an extensive injury list. For example, Niclas Füllkrug was bought to be the main source of goals for the side but was out for the majority of the season. Perhaps partly for this reason, along with his previous success, the club gave Kohfeldt the benefit of the doubt and were eventually rewarded for their patience. A repeat of Werder Bremen’s disastrous form next year will not be tolerated, however.

Season highlight – Werder Bremen 6-1 Köln

Star man – Milot Rashica was excellent in the Hinrunde for Werder but his form faded as the season progressed. Davy Klaassen was a key man in the final stages of the season and helped the side avoid automatic relegation.  

Rating – 2/10

Wolfsburg – W13, D10, L11, F48, A46, Pts49.

Another very solid season for VfL Wolfsburg resulted in a 7th placed-finish. Due to the finalists of the DFB Pokal already qualifying for Europe courtesy of their league positions, this is enough for a spot in the Europa League despite being lower than last year’s 6th.

Oliver Glasner continued the good work of Bruno Labbadia before him to get the best out of a solid but unspectacular squad. Glasner deserves further credit for the side’s consistency in the league whilst also fighting on a European front. Die Wölfe remain in the Europa League and success in this competition would turn a decent season into an extremely memorable one.

The aim going forward will be for Wolfsburg under Glasner to maintain these high league positions and if possible in the long term, break into the top four and qualify for the Champions League once again.

Season highlight – Bayer Leverkusen 1-4 Wolfsburg

Star man – Wout Weghorst is an old-fashioned type target man of the kind rarely seen in modern football in recent years. Besides being tall and powerful, though, the Dutchman has substantial quality and scored 16 goals in 32 matches.

Rating – 7/10

By Colin Moore.

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