Monday, August 19, 2013

German Bundesliga

I will add a few posts about football/soccer in Germany, each weekend. Currently, I plan provide the following:

  • Matchday Round-up on Sundays
  • Two Game Reports (One Saturday and one either Friday or Sunday)
  • One in depth report about a team each month.
  • A short look at the changes compared to last season and where I expect the teams this season
 First up Bayern and Dortmund:

FC Bayern München

Bayern dominated the league in 2012/13. In fact they only lost to Bayer 04 Leverkusen. 29 victories four draws and the single rather unlucky loss against the "Werkself" speak a very clear language. They broke almost every record there is.

  • Most points (91)
  • Earliest winner (matchday 28)
  • Least goals conceded (18)
  • Best goal difference
  • ... and a lot more
Manager Jupp Heynkes had his treble winning side play a 4-2-3-1, in which Schweinsteiger and Martinez controlled the midfield. On the offense Bayern Ribery on left side played a crucial role, his ability to dribble in tight spaces made it possible to play a left side heavy game, forcing the opponent to close him down with at least two players, and link up play with Alaba and Kroos ensured that attacks on that side remained dangerous while giving Müller on the right wing (later Robben since Kroos missed the last quarter of the season due to injury) the space he needed to play his "Raumdeuter" role. Also, since the space on the wing was tight, Bayern was able to perform an excellent counter-pressing game. If they lost the ball, they immediately marked the surround players man-to-man; and put pressure on the man with the ball. Mandzukic excelled in the role as "first defender". This took a lot of pressure off the defense, in fact, Bayern did not concede in 21 out of 34 games.

This season the new manager Pep Guardiola has changed the playing style quite a bit. Bayern's lineup is now a 4-1-4-1, with Schweinsteiger (the new player Thiago filled the role while Schweinsteiger was injured pre season) typically playing in the defensive midfielder position. Kroos, Müller, Thiago, Shaqiri, and even wing back Lahm have played in the two central midfield spots. Up front Mandzukic played both league games, but Müller and Robben have also been tested there. It remains to be seen if the now returning Götze, will play as a so called false-nine. On the wings we find the usual suspects: Ribery, Müller, Robben, Shaqiri. Bayern has two world class wing backs in Lahm and Alaba. A change that can be currently observed is that both not only give width but now also move into the middle.

The first two games have shown that Bayern have not yet fully adapted to the new style. Especially the counter-pressing game at which Bayern excelled last season does not seem to function as well. The opponent therefore is able to generate more chances, especially if they play a fast counter attacking game like Gladbach.

Bayern made excellent additions to their team this summer. Thiago, who is probably one of the biggest central midfield talents, switched to Bayern from Barcelona for a rather low 25 million euro. Götze's release clause of €37 million was triggered, which since he played his whole youth at Bayern's biggest rival for the league title Dortmund, caused some fuss in Germany. The defensive midfielder/centre back Jan Kirchhoff joined Bayern on a free transfer. Two noteworthy players, Gustavo and Gomez, left Bayern this transfer window, since they both don't fit into the new style (only one DM would mean that Gustavo is third or fourth choice for that spot). Bayern also tried to get Robert Lewandowky, but Dortmund have made it clear that he cannot leave this window so he will probably join Bayern in 2014. Bayern have made it clear that there will be no more transfers neither in nor out. In fact, the only player that also had trouble getting game time last season was Robben (and Contento) until Kroos got injured. Bayern's only weakness is currently up front. A spot that Lewandowsky will likely fill in 2014. The only other forward who would fit is Rooney, and Matthias Sammer has made it clear that Bayern is not interested. Also, Manchester Utd. said that he is not for sale and his salary is too damn high. So, it is very likely that Bayern will not buy any other players this year.
  • Thiago Alcantara
  • Mario Götze
  • Jan Kirchhoff

  • Luiz Gustavo
  • Emre Can
  • Mario Gomez
  • Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
  • (Nils Petersen, Maximilian Riedmüller)
Bayern is of course the favorite to win the title. They have the best squad, or better they could form two teams that would each compete for a champions League spot. I expect that Dormund will be a much fiercer competitor this year, since they were unlucky last season in some games; and even though one of their best players left they were able to increase the squad depth. Additionally, it will take time until Bayern have adapted to Guardiola's style completely. They struggled in both their games in the new season, and could have easily lost a point against Frankfurt.

Borussia Dortmund

Dortmund, the winners of the 2010/2011 and 2011/2012 (also won the cup that season), finished second - 25 points behind Bayern last season. As mentioned they had some bad luck last season; and lacked some squad depth. Their excellent Champions League run, which was only stopped by Bayern in the final, took its toll in the league, and the team seemed tired in what is in Germany called "Englische Wochen" - weeks with midweek game. They also lost their central attacking midfielder in two consecutive years, first Kagawa to Manchester Utd. and now Götze to Bayern.

Last year they played a very fast style, and their amazing counter-pressing style which inspired Bayern did not suffer even though Kagawa played a central role in that system. The lineup was a 4-2-3-1, in which either center back Hummels or the more offensive player Gündogan and sometimes Sahin of the two defensive midfielders opened play, often with a high ball to the only striker Lewandowsky, who is world class with his back to the goal. The pressing style is more position based than Bayern's; and suffered until Marco Reus, who came from Mönchengladbach, and walked into Dortmund's starting eleven on the left wing, had adapted to the style. Götze had to fill the central attacking midfielder role, so in the league they needed some time to get to their full potential. On the right wing the two Poles Jakub "Kuba" Blaszczykowski (attacking midfield right) and Lukasz Piszczek (wing back) linked up. Kuba seems to be underrated, his dribbling skills and his crosses are very good, and he is much better defensively than Marko Reus.

Manager Jürgen Klopp is probably, now that Jupp Heynckes has for the time being ended his career, the best German manager. His successful tactical style influenced the whole league; and he was able to twice in a row win the league; the first time with a extremely young team. Hans-Joachim Watzke, who played a key role in reviving the club after it almost went bankrupt ten years ago, managed to bring him to Borussia Dortmund. Together they have managed to not only put the club back on a stable economic track, but also bring the club within viewing distance of Europe's football elite. Klopp's team play a very similar style to last year, but they seem to focus even more on a very fast offensive.

After losing Götze there was a real danger, that the team might fall apart during the Summer transfer window. Watzke chose to force Lewandowsky to remain at the team, which together with three excellent new additions to the team mitigated that risk, and it seems unlikely that another key player will leave. Dortmund bought the offensive players Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (together around €40 million) for just a little more than they got for Götze (€37 million). Defensively they also seem improved, since Sokratis, who joined for around € 10 million, was easily the best Werder Bremen player in the defense. Dortmund did not lose any other key player than Götze; and the young prospects Leitner (loan) and Bittencourt (buy back clause) can be brought back in the future if their development is promising. Two promising youngsters, Hofmann and Sarr, moved up from the Dortmund youth teams and especially the former looks very promising on the wing. Dortmund is lacking a decent backup for Lewandowsky, which could become a problem should the Pole either be out of form or injured. Also, Dormund is lacking wing back alternatives; and plays Großkreutz in that role at the moment.

  •  Henrikh Mkhitaryan
  •  Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang
  •  Sokratis
  •  Mario Götze
  • Moritz  Leitner (loan)
  • Leonardo Bittencourt
  • Felipe Santana
  • Julian Koch
Dortmund will be a contender for the title. Dortmund have an excellent squad, more depth than last season, and their playing style remains the same. Since, Bayern might struggle in 2013, Dortmund's chances for the title are decent. There is some danger that Dortmund might struggle against weaker sides. Götze was the key player in games where the opponent parked the bus. It remains to be seen if Mkhitaryan will be able to provide the creativity needed. He wasn't able to on Sunday's game against Braunschweig, who played second division last season, but he has just returned from an injury in pre season, and Gündogan, who is a very creative central midfielder was also sorely missed.

No comments:

Post a Comment