BUNDESLIGA GRADES

OK, it’s a bit belated, but I’ve finally come up with the season grades for the Bundesliga. (At some point I’ll follow up with 2.Liga and 3.Liga as well.) Grading system is American school, “A” tops, “F” flops (and no “E”). Maybe someday I’ll switch to the German 1-6, but I’m lazy.

1 Bayern München Grade: B-

Just kidding. Of course the only grade is “A+”. Bayern won everything, dominated Europe, raped and pillaged etc. Jupp Heynckes final coaching season was a smashing success, as he found the perfect combo to keep Bayern sharp. Frank Ribery was the best player in the league. Newcomer Mario Mandzukic really faded at the end of the year, perhaps the weakest of the strikers. But he was hot early and led the team with 15 goals.

2 Borussia Dortmund (M, P) Grade: A-

The Neons had a fantastic season, it’s just that domestically they stubbed their toes a few times and despite several shots, they were close but no cigar in direct matches with Bayern. Of course getting to the CL-Final automatically means that their season was a success. However, they were never really a factor in the domestic race. Mario Götze was probably the 2nd best player in the league, and Ilkay Gündogan continued his fine play, even relegating a returning Nuri Sahin to the bench. Marco Reus was strong early, and Robert Lewandowski got hot down the stretch, ending with 24 goals. The defense was not as solid as in past years. Roman Weidenfeller continues continues as one of the unsung German GKs.

3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen Grade: A-

The Aspirins were solid for most of the year, and with Stefan Kiessling having a banner season – a league leading 25 goals – they deserve 3rd. Aside from Kiessling, midfielders Rolfes and Bender kept the motor running. Leverkusen could be a force next season, or they could slide back.

4 FC Schalke 04 Grade: B+

Schalke did well in Europe, but when they had a chance for greatness, they f*cked up. Same for for the league really, where it was a struggle when it shouldn’t have been. They really didn’t hve banner seasons from any of the players, and Huntelaar’s injuries meant he was no where near where he needed to be (only 10 goals). Highly touted transfers like Barnetta and Affellay were flops. On the other hand, youngster Julian Draxler has emerged as a red hot talent, so they could do well next season.

5 SC Freiburg Grade: A-

Freiburg was borderline “A”, with an outstanding season with a bunch of nobodies, and playing generally attractive football.
They missed out on the Champions League when it was ripe for the taking. Still, you have to give them top marks. Max Kruse was the best player, the youngster scoring 11 and making the jump to the national team. But he’s leaving. Unknown Frenchie Jonathan Schmid also contributed 11 on a team were no one really stood out, and the whole was greater than the sum of the parts.

6 Eintracht Frankfurt (N) Grade: A

The Hot Dogs were gasping for air down the stretch. But a great start and a solid middle meant a hugely successful return to the Bundesliga. Young Kevin Trapp emerged as a brilliant goalkeeper until he got some silly injury, supposedly filming a commercial, but probably he was wanking off. Eintracht relies to much on the underrated MF Alex Meier, who scored 16 times. Problem is, when he was out a few times, they had zero offense. They really need a striker, since their “attackers” managed only 5 goals.

7 Hamburger SV Grade: C

HSV really stunk most of the time. GK Rene Adler was brilliant and is back in the national squad, probably secure as Neuer’s backup. A great piece of business. But other than that, HSV stunk. They dicked around, blew Europe and generally looked embarassing at times. Son and Rudnevs scored 12 goals apiece but did little else. (Well like most Korean players, Son likes to run around a lot). Everyone sucked big time. Marcus Berg managed 11 matches and did something I think nobody has managed to achieve: a perfect “6″ grade average from Kicker. Sounds impressive unless you’ve been in German school and you realize that it’s the *worst* possible score. They should be a decent team, so I’m tempted to lower their grade, even though 7th is “respectable”. Actually you know what? After their legendary “performance” at Bayern (1-9 or whatever), lets give them a “D”…

8 Borussia M’gladbach Grade: B-

Gladbach had a fine season – last campaign. I think fans expected something similar, but after losing some key players, I think most recognized that they would not repeat. As expected, they were pretty inconsistent. The best player was probably GK ter Stegen, although his defining moment was his howler against the USA. Martin Stranzl was at least solid in defense. Gladbach needs to go back to the drawing board and see what they can come up with, as even though they spent some money off season, they got no value.

9 Hannover 96 Grade: C+

The 96ers surprised me, not because they were good, because they weren’t. They were much better last season. What was surprising is that they scored a lot of goals. Huszti started brilliantly, scoring freely and pushing the club forward, but then he went down injured. They had lots of nobodies scoring, but the nobodies were also forgetting to defend. I think GK Zieler was shell-shocked and dropped from national squad consideration. Overall, respectable, but you get the feeling they could have done better.

10 1. FC Nürnberg Grade: C

Another ho-hum year for der Club, and I guess what you would expect. FCN has been selling off their talent (players like Gündogan and Wollschied come to mind), so they’re obviously going nowhere. Overall a decent season, they got focused when they needed too.

11 VfL Wolfsburg Grade: D+

The VWs were in serious trouble, but started to right the ship when they fired Felix Magath. The miracle work he did a few years ago leading Wolfsburg to an incredible championship was nowhere in sight, and they stunk up the league. However by leaving, Magath seems to have inspired the players, and they were somewhat acceptable down the stretch. Playmaker Diego, perhaps Magath’s worst enemy, actually played pretty well, and aside from being their best player, also ended up with 10 goals.

12 VfB Stuttgart Grade: D

They stunk. If it hadn’t been for the nice Cup run, this was another disaster. You expect more from them, and they kick you in the balls. Ibisevic was decent, 15 goals, but everybody else should be ashamed.

13 1. FSV Mainz 05 Grade: C

Mainz was doing quite well and then the bottom fell out. Europe was in their sights and instead they ended up glancing at relegation. If they don’t improve, they could be on a continual slide.

14 Werder Bremen Grade: D-

Ouch. Werder imploded and longstanding player/coach Thomas Schaaf basically was forced out at the end, as Bremen barely avoided relegation. You feel sad, because Schaaf seems one of the “good guys” in German football and has really given everything for the club. The odd thing is that on paper, they seem decent. Aaron Hunt was pretty good, and Mils Petersen at least ended up with a permanent move by contributing 11 goals. MF Kevin de Bruyne was OK, and highly sought after. I would imagine a major house cleaning is in the works, players like Arnautovic demonstrating he’s a wanker and is better sent packing.

15 FC Augsburg Grade: B-

Augsburg managed to survive again, and they did it with fighting spirit. It didn’t seem possible, but they never gave up, and were rewarded with the collapse of Hoffenheim and Düsseldorf. Midfielder Daniel Baier was probably their best player, a cast full of unknowns and generally 2.Liga quality players. GK Alex Manninger was generally good as well. Scoring goals is a problem, Sascha Mölders led the team with 10.

16 1899 Hoffenheim Grade: C-

The money-bags years of Hoffenheim is over. The few high-priced additions this season, like GK Tim Wiese and F Eren Derdiyok were god-awful. In fact Wiese has now gone from a DFB Euro squad reserve to 6th string. I’m not sure what the hell happened to him. Hoffenheim was headed for an “F” across the board, with relegation assured. Coaches such as Babbel and Kurz were disasters and the team stunk. But then the Hoff-II coach Markus Gisdol was promoted and he rallied the troops, and indicated that in the future Hoff is going with young, unproven players. They fought their way back and then defeated Kaiserslautern in the playoff, so Hoffenheim survives. So it’s hard to give them a failing grade, although perhaps a D+ is fair.

17 Fortuna Düsseldorf (N) Grade: F

OK, pre-season predictions were for Fortuna to struggle against relegation. But they came out fast and played real well early. But I guess it was simply a case of the emperor having no clothes. Once everybody realized that Fortuna was in fact crap, they began to spank them and Düsseldorf sunk like a rock – they only managed 9 points after winterbreak, what a disgrace. None of the squad look Bundesliga quality, with the exception of young GK Fabian Giefer (who really tailed off, but did enough early) and perhaps forward Dani Schahin.

18 SpVgg Greuther Fürth (N) Grade: F

Greuther Fürth pretty much sucked the whole season, becoming the first ever to not win a home game. It shouldn’t come as a shock, as going in they refused to spend any money, basically viewing the Bundesliga as a one season adventure. You can’t really blame the players – they tried hard, they’re just not Bundesliga quality. As result, their bottom grade is more a reflection of management attitude rather than performance.

Money woes

So far this season, the following clubs look to be in administration or financial problems:
Alemmania Aachen, VfB Lübeck, FC Oberneuland, MSV Duisburg, Kickers Offenbach and Wuppertaler SV. WSV has of course asked for official insolvency (it’s not granted automatically, you apply and the court-appointed administrator has to show that it’s a viable option. In WSV’s case, that looks to be the case, so it all points to starting over debt-free in the Oberliga).

Duisburg and Offenbach were denied an operating license for their current division and still could appeal. The last I heard was that Offenbach will apparently accept the verdict and go down. Meanwhile, although Duisburg is going to the standing court, Sandhausen, the team that would thus be saved is said to be “planning for the 2.Liga”.

Every year there are teams on the bubble, such as VfR Aalen in the 2.Liga, but in general they get their act together and receive their operating license. Several Bundesliga clubs are heavily in debt, (my guess the worst is Schalke), but I haven’t seen any reports that any haven’t come up with viable financial plans. Given the increasing clout of the top division, any club surviving there is probably in pretty good shape. It’s the lower divisions that are suffering a lot more, but that’s to be expected. The Bundesliga has become all powerful; the attendance and financial boom is not replicated at the lower levels.

Most of the suggestions (e.g. sharing more TV revenue) are pretty unrealistic. Folks want to watch the Bundesliga, but highlights suffice for the lower divisions. And similar to England, in Germany the DFL (EPL) runs the 1/2 divisions, the DFB (FA) the lower
ranks. There is little incentive for the DFL clubs to give up the cash. Attendance at the lower divisions needs to be boosted, but it’s not clear how to do it. One idea might be to do what is done in American football, e.g. Fridays are essentially High School, Saturdays College and Sundays the NFL. It’s not unusual for someone to go to three matches over the weekend. Not sure how that would work in Germany though…

Still, compared with most other European leagues, the finances of German clubs are much sounder.

WSV blog: up or down?

The Wuppertaler SV general assembly overwhelmingly voted in all the representatives of the “WSV Initiative 2.0″, kicking out the old Runge-mafia that had run the club into the ground. In the next few days the decision on whether to go into administration should be resolved. There is still a chance that it can be avoided. Apparently Runge realized that his Reign of Error had come to an end, and he indicated willingness to negotiate to cancel the debt (from his “loans” to the club) pending some tax implications. Of course, his company has withdrawn sponsorship and it’s not clear that administration can be avoided – which was the WSV 2.0 position anyway.

Administration of course means automatic relegation to the Oberliga. On the field, WSV collapsed to 15th, which puts them on the bubble. Champions SpFr Lotte failed against RB Leipzig, and are back in the Regionalliga West. However from what I’ve been able to piece together, some of the various Oberliga clubs have declined promotion or can’t get (or didn’t apply for) a 4th division license, so WSV could theoretically survive in the Regionalliga. Of course, this will only be possible if the debts are cleared, which is what the membership and new leaders have demanded.

Another positive of administration and the new start is that the hated “Borussia” will be dropped. This was of course a result of the outrageous merger engineered by Runge and the corrupt Borussia bosses a few years ago. All the fans opposed it, but it was rammed through by boards. Borussia was actually a competitive club, albeit with a small fan base. It was a disgrace that they had to disappear because of the greed of the boards, and it ended up with no benefit to WSV.

Deutschland sucks! Gets owned by USA…

Well, perhaps not quite that bad. But once again the DFB squad proved that they have a hard time in hot weather, as they sucked in their friendly against the USA squad, losing 4-3. Of course, unlike previous disgraceful losses, I don’t think that the Germans are too upset, considering this was not anywhere close to a full strength Germany squad. Consider that nobody from Bayern played, which might include the captain Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Neuer, Müller, Gomez, Boateng and the injured Kroos and Badstuber, missing Dortmund players like Hummels, Reus, Gündogan, Götze and perhaps Schmelzer, plus legionaires like Özil and Khedira. So Joggi Löw certainly had a lot of scrubs and nobodies to try out.

For the record, this was Germany's lineup:

ter Stegen - 
L. Bender, Mertesacker, Höwedes, Jansen   - 
S. Bender, Reinartz - 
Schürrle, Draxler, Podolski- 
Klose 

Subs:
46. Wollscheid for Mertesacker
46. Aogo for Jansen
46. Westermann for L. Bender
46. M. Kruse for S. Bender
65. Sam Schürrle
79. N. Müller für Klose

Still, it is somewhat disgraceful that even with a weakened lineup you give up four goals to the US,

GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen managed to complete the most ridiculous own goal in German history as he basically miffed a lame backpass and lost it into the net. That probably means he ain’t going to Brazil as the 3rd string keeper. But there was plenty of blame to go around, as almost all the players managed to stink. Westermann and Draxler were at least decent, and Kruse was actually quite good. But everybody else, Oh wey, Au weh!

3.Liga promotions

RedBull Leipzig (err, “Rasenballsport”) have achioved their goal of moving up, but it was more difficult than anticipated. RB had a 2-0 win in the first leg against West champion Sportfreunde Lotte, but threw it away. Lotte managed to score in th first half and continued to attack the Leipzig net. Miraculously, they were finally rewarded 4 minutes into injury time to spqaure the series. But then they were apparently out of gas, as Leipzig then struck twice in overtime to win the series 4-2.

Leipzig will be joined by Hostein Kiel, who won 2-1 at Hessen Kassel. The north champions had won the first leg at home 2-0, so they coast into the 3.Liga. I suppose a bright spot is that Kassel will have some interesting matches with Darmstadt in next season’s tough Regionalliga SW.

The final promotion spot is still up for grabs. SV Elversberg holds a 3-2 1st leg advantage over 1860 München II, but the rematch could not be played. Heavy rains in München meant that the Allainz Arena field was in poor condition, so the match had to be canceled.

Finally, more 3.Liga news. Kickers Offenbach might be forcibly relegated. Offenbach had already received a 2 point penalty for financial shenanigans, but they seemingly got their act together and did well enough on the field to stay up – and certainly teh excellent Cup run helped with the finances. However in a somewhat of a surprise ruling, the DFB finance board ruled that Kickers have not met the requirements for a 3.Liga license – hence they are forced to drop down. Of course, this is not the final decision, as Offenbach will undoubtedly appeal to the standing sports court, and there’s a good chance it will be overturned. Based on reports, Offenbach was denied more on “technical form” issues rather than lack of funds, whatever that means.

I would think that if Kickers are in fact forcibly relegated, then Darmstadt would be offered the chance to stay up. The Lilies and Kickers are rivals, I’m not sure the fans would want to stay up in this manner – but on the other hand, I don’t think they’d turn it down either.

Bayern takes the Cup too

No real suprise, but despite a strong performance from Stuttgart, Bayern München took the DFB-Pokal final as well, ending up with the Bundesliga, Cup and Champions League. I think they ended up with the worthless Liga-Pokal as well. That pretty much wraps up the most dominant season ever for German club football.

The underdogs started off well, but missed some good scoring opportunities. A somewhat dodgy penalty gave Nayern the lead, and then ex-Stuttgarter Mario Gomez put in a double that seemed to turn things to a rout. However VfB stormed back to make things close, but I don;t think anyone expected Bayern to get into too much trouble.

Bayern München	 -   VfB Stuttgart    3:2 (1:0)   75,420 (Berlin)

                1:0  T. Müller (37., penalty, Lahm)
                2:0  Gomez (48., Lahm)
                3:0  Gomez (61., T. Müller)
                3:1  Harnik (71., G. Sakai)
                3:2  Harnik (80.)