Looking Ahead – Bundesliga Season Preview 2014-15
In the last few years, the German Bundesliga has developed into one of the most competitive leagues in the world; the brand of football played in the league is exciting and technical in equal measures. Following the lackluster display of football by the German National team in the 1990s, the DFB, in order to safeguard the country’s football future, took some drastic measures to revamp the top tier of German league, steps which involved more accountability from the clubs to DFB. World class players and managers and stadiums have improved the ‘Brand Bundesliga’ immensely and with Germany as the reigning World Champions, interest in the Bundesliga will be an all time high. German Bundesliga boasts the highest average attendance of any football league in the world and that speaks volumes about the quality of Germany’s top flight.
Germany is a model for all other European super powers. After Spain, they are now dominating World football both at club and country level. Sayan Chakraborty looks at the clubs which churn out footballers like anything. Bundesliga preview, part 1 with Goalden Times.
With the new season (52nd overall), beginning on 22nd August, we preview six teams for the forthcoming 2014/15 season in this first installment.
Weinzierl led Augsburg to an unprecedented 8th place finish, narrowly missing out on continental qualification – their highest finish in the club’s 107 year old history. Augsburg was one of the biggest overachievers in Bundesliga last season and the 39 year old is keen to build on their last season’s success. A flurry of new signings was made during the summer, with the arrival of the attacking duo of Tim Matavz from PSV and former German U21 international striker Shawn Parker from Mainz the most eye-catching. Although one of the key players from last season, German international Andre Hahn, has left the club this summer, Weinzierl has enough firepower at his disposal to deliver a safe mid-table position this season.
Key Player : Tim Matavž (Slovenia)
Despite having a poor season with PSV, where he struggled with injuries, Slovenian international Matavž is a major coup for Augsburg. . Matavž was a proven match winner in Eredivisie and would hope to replicate that form in Bundesliga for his new employers. A decent finisher with good link-up play, Matavž, given he remains match fit, could easily be one of the signings of the season.
Jos Luhukay, 51, is a Dutch manager who has been coaching in Germany for over a decade and is familiar with all the nitty gritties of German football. A no-nonsense coach, Luhukay has done well to bring in Swiss international winger Valentin Stocker and former Dortmund striker Julian Schieber. Dutch defender Johny Heitinga is also a welcome addition on a free transfer from Fulham. Colombian striker Adrian Ramos, whose goals were instrumental for their mid-table finish, has since completed his move to Dortmund. With goals hard to come by, Luhukay’s side might struggle to match their form of last season and could suffer the dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’ and could well finish in the relegation playoff places.
Key Player : Valentin Stocker (Switzerland)
“He can assist and he can score. He’s got a really good nose for goal,” said Switzerland’s legendary German ex-head coach Ottmar Hitzfeld about 25 year old Valentin Stocker, a regular member of the Swiss national team, whose claim is backed up by the winger’s superb record of 50 goals and 62 assists in 175 games for FC Basel. A pacy winger with good technical ability, Stocker has all the qualities to be successful in Bundesliga and could prove to be a shrewd signing by Jos Luhukay.
After a relatively disappointing season under Robin Dutt, the 49 year old coach of Indian origin, Werder Bremen fans would hope for a better 2nd season performance. Despite losing talismanic skipper Aaron Hunt to rivals VFL Wolfsburg, Dutt and Bremen have operated wisely in the transfer market bringing in a host of players, mostly free agents. The signing of exciting Bosnian winger Izet Hajrovic from Galatasaray and Spanish defender Alejandro Gálvez are look particularly good for them, at least on paper. But the Werder Bremen squad lacks the firepower required to challenge for continental qualification and Dutt would do well to achieve another mid-table position.
Key Player : Sebastian Prödl (Austria)
This is the 7th full season in a Bremen shirt for the 27 year old Austrian international. Standing at 6’4”, Prödl, one of the contenders of the club captaincy after Hunt’s move to Wolfsburg, is a commanding presence in the Bremen defence. A solid defender who is also good aerially, Prödl has been one of the very few consistent performers for Bremen over the last few seasons. Along with new signing Alejandro Gálvez, Prödl should make a solid partnership in the defence for Bremen which proved quite leaky in recent past.
Jurgen Klopp needs no introduction. Over the past few years, he has forged a reputation of being among the best coaches of the world, particularly after guiding an un-fancied Dortmund side to the Bundesliga crown in 2011 and 2012 and to the Champions League final in 2013. A passionate man with a philosophy of attacking football and constant pressing with his young squad, Klopp has made Dortmund everybody’s second favorite team. After losing key players Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski to bitter rivals Bayern Munich over the last 2 seasons, Klopp has invested heavily this summer to create a new look attacking lineup for the forthcoming season. Seria A top scorer Ciro Immobile has arrived from Torino along with, Adrian Ramos, last seasons 16 goal man from Hertha Berlin; South Korean striker Ji Dong-Won would provide backup. The 10 Mn € capture of World Cup winning defender Matthias Ginter, a lifelong Dortmund fan, from SC Freiburg is also a good deal for ‘Die Borussen’. Having already been accustomed to the Dortmund style of play, players like Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and İlkay Gündoğanwill be pivotal to Dortmund’s chances this season. But despite all these efforts by Klopp to strengthen his side the gap between BvB and Bayern Munich may be too big to bridge and Dortmund might have to settle for 2nd place, once again.
Key Player : Marco Reus (Germany)
The last surviving member of the attacking trio of Gotze-Reus-Lewandowski, Marco Reus, who has scored 16 goals in 30 Bundesliga appearances for Dortmund last season, is the stalwart of the squad around whom Dortmund’s attacking game revolves. Despite rumors of him not signing a contract extension and linking him with the likes of Bayern, Reus would be determined to do well for Dortmund, especially after the disappointment of missing out on Germany’s World Cup triumph due to an unfortunate injury. One of the top players of the world right now, we can expect fireworks from him as usual when the season commences and he comes back from his rehab.
It is not easy to severe ties with a club with which you are attached for over four decades and won multiple honors both as a club coach and captain including the Bundesliga. Thomas Schaaf, after ending his 41 year old relationship with Werder Bremen this summer, did precisely that by taking over as the Head Coach of Eintracht Frankfurt from Armin Veh, After getting promoted in 2012 under the then coach Armin Veh, Frankfurt had surprised everyone by narrowly missing out on Champions League qualification in 2013. But last season they struggled to match their exploits of the previous season. A memorable ride to the last-32 of the UEFA Europa League took its toll domestically and they finally finished at a lowly 13th place. This season, Schaaf, having a preference for attack minded football, brought in a number of experienced players. And with the exciting youngsters Frankfurt already have in their squad, ‘Die Adler’ fans would hope for a much better showing. Three key players from last season : Sebastian Jung, Pirmin Schwegler and Sebastian Rode have left for newer pastures but Schaaf has brought in players like Japan captain Makoto Hasebe, Swiss international forward Haris Seferović, experienced Paraguayan striker Nelson Valdez, USA fullback Timothy Chandler and Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon to name a few.
Key Player : Alexander Meier (Germany)
One of the key components of Frankfurt’s decent showing in Germany and Europe for the last few seasons, club captain Alex Maier is Frankfurt’s focal point in attack. Using his 6’5” height and good hold up play to brilliant effect, Meier has amassed over 20 goals in the last 2 Bundesliga seasons, that despite operating at a no.10 role. And with the former German U21 international also adept to play as a Target Man, versatility is one of the key features of his game. Having been on the club since 2004, Meier needs to be at his best if Frankfurt desires to finish in the Europa League places again.
A product of German football’s famed grassroot approach, 49 year old Streich had spent 15 successful years as a youth coach for Freiburg before becoming Robin Dutt’s assistant during their promotion to Bundesliga. When Dutt left the Black Forest club in 2011, the Freiburg management appointed him as head coach. Their decision was vindicated when Streich delivered a Top 5 finish in 2013 for the perennial relegation contenders. Last season Freiburg struggled to juggle between European and domestic commitments and with a thin youthful squad they were in a relegation battle before surviving and finally finishing in 14th place. A firm believer of homegrown talent and having an attacking mindset, Streich has done wonders with a club having limited financial resources and with key personnel departing every year, has used the excellent club academy to supreme effect. This year is no different as Matthias Ginter, Oliver Baumann, Gelson Fernandes and Mike Hanke have all left the club and Streich has replaced them with Sebastian Mielitz, Sascha Riether amongst others and also made the loan deal of Swiss international striker Admir Mehmedi permanent. Despite staving off relegation for so long, Streich might find to hard to survive this time with a group of inexperienced youngsters and could find themselves relegated at the end of the season.
Key Player : Admir Mehmedi (Switzerland)
Despite losing a host of key players of their successful 2012-13 campaign, the news of Admir Mehmedi signing on a permanent transfer would be music to the ears of the Freiburg faithful. Mehmedi came last season on loan from Dynamo Kyiv and his 12 goals were absolutely crucial for Freiburg’s survival. A good dribbler and a composed finisher in front of goal, Mehmedi could again turn out to be the catalyst for Freiburg’s revival this season. A part of the Swiss side that gave Argentina a mighty scare in the second round of the World Cup, he would hope to take his impressive form from the World Cup to club football.