Bundesliga review 2011-12
A bit late, but here’s my Bundesliga summary and grades…(Using US system, A,B,C,D,F…what ever happened to E?) I don’t think there are too many surprises, although I often rate weaker teams less stringently, since they’re simply not expected to do well. At the same time, if you have some talent on the squad, prepare to get ripped if you under perform.
1 Borussia Dortmund (M) 34 25 6 3 80:25 +55 81
Not much that you can complain about if you’re a Dortmund fan, at least from the standpoint of a Bundesliga campaign. The Neons started out slow, but then went into overdrive and even set a new Bundesliga record for most points in a season. Not only did they do the domestic double, but they man-handled rivals Bayern in all 3 matches (includes the Cup final thrashing). The only real negative was the failure to do anything but suck in Europe, although that doesn’t seem to bother many folks.
Coach Jürgen Klopp could probably not raise his profile any higher – he’s done a brilliant job and is the best coach in Germany. His “team first” philosophy has been embraced by his squad with enthusiasm, and the results clearly show. The defense built around veteran GK Roman Weidenfeller was superb, and Matts Hummels has emerged as Germany’s top central defender. But his colleagues Subotic, Schmelzer and Pisczek have all jumped into their national squads as well. All are under 26, so they should be coming in their prime in a couple of years. The midfield was awesome. Super-talent Mario Götze was brilliant when he played – but missed half the season. Japanese Shinji Kagawa was wildly popular and successful, and his legacy will be an almost 20 million profit from hi sell on to Manchester United. Youngster Ilkay Gündogan showed promise, Sven Bender and “Kuba” were workhorses, and veteran Sebastian Kehl was enjoying a second spring, outstanding all year. Up front, Robert Lewandowski emerged as a top striker, and even departing Lucas Barrios was very effective in his few appearances. With the exception of Kagawa, it looks like Dortmund will hold on to everybody, and of course is adding Marco Reus for next season.
2 Bayern München 34 23 4 7 77:22 +55 73
It is very fashionable to slam Bayern for failing on all fronts, but all things considered, they weren’t terrible. That is if you look at things objectively. They made the final of the Champions League, ousting Real Madrid on the way, and basically just choked allowing Chelski to steal that one. Of course they got their ass-kicked in the DFB-Pokal final by Dortmund, and despite an awesome start, they were quickly reigned in by the Neons and then made to eat crap. On the other hand, they did kick a few asses along the way, and played well enough to sneak another title, if the Neons had faltered. Things started all right, with oldie Jupp Heynckes kicking the prima-donnas in the ass, and Bayern had basically won the league after about 10 games. New signing Manuel Neuer was only decent, as his world class skills were balanced by some wankerish behaviour, usually costing Bayern a goal. The defense was unusually shaky, as only Holger Badstuber established himself as a force. Captain Philipp Lahm was solid, but not up to his usual world class level. Toni Kroos and Bastian Schweinsteiger were outstanding in the middle, and this is where Bayern was largely dominant. Frank Ribery was by far Bayern’s best player, and most of the other midfielders were solid. In attack, Mario Gomez was red-hot, and ended up with 28 goals, but Bayern lacked other options up front. Ivica Olic was crap, and his going away present was to suck in the Champions League final.
3 FC Schalke 04 (P) 34 20 4 10 74:44 +30 64
I partially expected Schalke to suck, and they had some issues until coach Huub Stevens returned and straightened things out. The Blues can’t win the big one, so they never looked like much of a threat to win, but they put things together and held on for a while. Automatic qualification into the Champions League and a good Euro-liga run were nice rewards. The biggest impact was the awesome form of striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who bagged 29 goals to lead the league and Spanish legend Raul, who added 15. Schalke really didn’t have any players that were consistently outstanding, but the overall result was better than the sum of the parts. The defense was shaky at times, and although the midfield had some young talent like Draxler, Matip and Holtby, the best midifieler was probably German-American Jermaine Jones, at least when he wasn’t getting banned for being a thug.
4 Borussia M’gladbach 34 17 9 8 49:24 +25 60
OK, many people picked Gladbach to go straight into the toilet, and with a young squad, that was certainly a likely scenario. Instead coach Lucien Favre motivated his troops and they got off to a great start, and managed to carry that momentum deep into the season. Of course they fell off, since they weren’t really that good, but they deserve top marks. The main issue is what does Favre do for an encore, as several players are getting sold off, as management looks to cash in. The biggest star was of course Marco Reus, who bagged 18 goals and jumped into the national squad. GK Marc-Andre ter Stegen was excellent, and also is getting a look-see from Joggi Löw. Patrick Hermann emerged as a midfield talent, as did Roman Neustädter. Veteran Juan Arango is still the free kick wizard, and oldtimer Mike Hanke seems to have found a home. The defense was nobodies like Dante, Daems, Brouwers and Stranzl, all significantly contributing. Gladbach’s main problem is that lots of their players are now leaving, so it remains to be seen what happens. Still, they’re in the Champions League playoff stages, and are assured of some Euro-football. I don’t think they could ask for much more.
5 Bayer Leverkusen 34 15 9 10 52:44 +8 54
The Aspirins ended up a respectable 5th, so why am I rating them so harsh? Basically they underperformed most of the season and played boring football. This squad has some talent, but they rarely showed it. The highlight of the season was the emergence of GK Bernd Leno, who was outstanding. Midfielder Lars Bender was probably the best field-player, although forward Stefan Kiessling did notch a respectable 16 goals. Look for a busy off season as Bayer jettisons several players. Amongst them will be Germany’s star of the 1990s, Michael Ballack, who is on his last legs. Maybe he can sign on with Wuppertaler SV. (He should take language lessons from Ahh-nold, based on his ESPN commentary role…)
6 VfB Stuttgart 34 15 8 11 63:46 +17 53
Stuttgart is a clear Jeckyl and Hyde, sucking then looking quite good. They came on strong and seemed to sort out their problems. Up front, Austrian Martin Harnik hit for 17 goals, although he wasn’t particularily impressive otherwise. Vedad Ibisevic came over from Hoffenheim midseason, and appears to offering another goal threat. William Kvist and Christian Genter did hard work in midfield. The defense had lots of holes, although Serdar Tasci was pretty solid and a couple of others showed promise, and Sven Ulreich is another excellent young German GK.
7 Hannover 96 34 12 12 10 41:45 -4 48
The 96ers had a decent run in the Euro-liga, and managed to sneak back in for next season. Considering that they’re basically a bunch of nobodies, that’s pretty decent. Of course, they did this last season, so it shouldn’t be too much of a shock. For the most part, the players were inconsistent, playing well one week, and then stinking the next. New GK Ron-Robert Zieler however was excellent throughout, even getting a call-up into the national squad. The defense was full of veterans like Haggui, Pander, Pogatetz and Cherundolo, but was shaky at times. Midfieler Sergio Pinto was probably the best field player. In attack, again inconsistency. Norwegian Mohammed Abdellaoue did manage 11 goals, but often disappeared. Same could be said of cult figure Didier Ya Konan, who actually only managed 6 goals.
8 VfL Wolfsburg 34 13 5 16 47:60 -13 44
Felix Magath might foam at the mouth, but it didn’t have much effect, and indeed, some of his choices made it looked like he was pissing facing the wind. Ironically, it was some of the players that he stuck in the doghouse (like Patrick Helmes) that ended up saving Maggot’s ass. Magath did spend like a drunken sailor, undoubtedly causing VW to try and foist more crappy Jettas on the world. Wolfsburg ended up with a massive squad, many players jettisoned and newbies coming in (43 players went through this season). Nothing really seemed to work very well. Swiss GK Diego Benaglio was pretty good, forward Mario Mandzukic got off to a quick start, and ended up with 12 goals. However his performance got increasingly lame as the season progressed. Luckily for Magath, Patrick Helmes was back in the squad, and in only 16 outings managed 12 goals. That helped fuel a turnaround that probably saved Magath’s ass.
9 Werder Bremen 34 11 9 14 49:58 -9 42
This is a team that needs a kick in the ass. Werder kept pace early, but was clearly not up to the task, since they would get seriously bitch-slapped by every semi-contending club. Perhaps the successful Allofs/Schaaf mafia has run out of juice, so Werder might be headed for a complete rebuild. Injuries certainly weighed more heavily than hoped. Veteran defender Naldo was good when he played, but midifielder Tim Borowski was absent all season. Aaron Hunt was decent, but missed half the matches. Oldtimer Claudio Pizarro kept the attack going, 18 strikes, and was by far the most impressive field player. With the midfield basically flopping, the defense leaking and attack unclear, Werder really was all over the place. On paper, they should have done much better.
10 1. FC Nürnberg 34 12 6 16 38:49 -11 42
Der Club has sucked pretty often, but were tough enough this season, and with some luck, could have done much better. No one really covered themselves with glory, with mostly so-so performances. Young talent Daniel Didavi looked good in midfield, but he was on loan from Stuttgart. It’s not certain whether der Club will excercise the option to buy, since he suffered an injury at season’s end.
11 1899 Hoffenheim 34 10 11 13 41:47 -6 41
Once again the Hoppers were boring, but they proved that they’re strong enough to hold on. They might be struggling against relegation, and clearly their big spending days are over. But they could establish themselves as a small club playing above their head. Even some of the “old” players, such as Marvin Compper and Andreas Beck, who once were on the national team list, have fallen into mediocrity. Their best player was probably Bosnian midfielder Sehad Salihovic, who led the team with 9 goals. Scoring is definitely a problem, when you consider that the midfield outscored the forwards 18-7.
12 SC Freiburg 34 10 10 14 45:61 -16 40
SCF was considered too weak by most, but they hung tough early and grabbed enough points to ensure another season. And they made a nice profit selling on one-man-wrecking crew Papiss Cisse to Newcastle. Nothing spectacular, virtually all nobodies, but they made it work.
13 1. FSV Mainz 05 34 9 12 13 47:51 -4 39
Mainz was all over the place, sometimes playing quite well, and then turning around and sucking. Coach Thomas Tuchel did a good job with what he had, which is little talent, but a lot of desire. So Mainz didn’t really have any standouts, but they generally performed decently. The defense and midifeld all posted middle of the road performance, and at times the attack was acceptable. Mohammad Zidan gave a quick burst with 7 goals after a winter-break loan that helped them get on track, and then fizzled. Veteran midfielder Eltin Soto and defender Nico Bungert were pretty good all season long, and the goal keeping, with vets Christian Wetklo and Heinz Müller were solid.
14 FC Augsburg (N) 34 8 14 12 36:49 -13 38
I debated whether to give the Fuggers a top mark. Everybody – probably even their own fans – expected these Fuggers to claim one of the relegation spots, disappear and never be heard from again for about 30 years. But that will probably be next year. But this season, the Fuggers fought for every square inch of territory, ran after every ball, and kicked anything that moved. Veteran GK Simon Jentzsch did well, as did defender Sebastian Langkamp. The rest of the team, virtually all unknowns, showed that the whole was greater than the sum of the parts. The credit really goes to coach Jos Luhukay, who motivated his troops. But apparently he doesn’t believe in lasting fairy tales, since he resigned at the end of the season…
15 Hamburger SV 34 8 12 14 35:57 -22 36
Boy, what a crap season. You might think “Hey, they didn’t get relegated, so shouldn’t they at least get a D- ?” Au contraire, mes amis. This is HSV’s worst Budesliga season ever. Think about that, 49 straight seasons, more than any other club. They finished 3rd only 5 years ago, considered a possible contender. They’ve had single digit finishes for around the last 10 years. Management has systematically ruined this club to the point that they had to rely on other club’s suckitude to survive.
16 Hertha BSC Berlin (N) 34 7 10 17 38:64 -26 31
Worst managed club in the league. Well actually, they have lots of contenders. Hertha didn’t really exhibit the fight that one might have expected for a club struggling against relegation. GK Thomas Kraft was decent, but the field players were generally crap. Pierre Lasogga scored 8 goals, but otherwise gave weak performances. Luckily they got bounced out in the playoffs, so we won’t have to view these clowns next season. Perhaps if they clean house, they’ll be back soon with a club Berlin can be proud of…
17 1. FC Köln 34 8 6 20 39:75 -36 30
Hometown hero Lukas Podolski played a one-man show for most of the season, and his reward was being on one of the crappiest Köln squads ever. This club is the main contender with Hertha for worst managed club that craps all over their faithful fans. (Actually, Köln fans seem much more loyal than those fair-weather Berliners). Podolski was the only decent player in the field, and his 18 goals kept Köln afloat.The defense was the worst in the league, although GK Michael Rensing actually did quite well. With Prinz Poldi sold off to Arsenal and Rensing apparently let go, Köln might as well jettison the whole team, as they all sucked.
18 1. FC Kaiserslautern 34 4 11 19 24:54 -30 23
Well, I have to give you an “F” because K-town was basically never even in the race, basically sucking all along. Of course, there really isn’t much in terms of Bundesliga talent on the squad, so what do you expect? They generally played hard, but with little effect. But Augsburg clearly had less talent, and not only rang up 15 more points, but scored a ton more goals as well. FCK sucked from top to bottom, but the attack was pretty pathetic, only managing 24 strikes. So was there anyone who *didn’t* suck? Nope. Well, there was a guy that had some good outings and then transferred to 2nd division Ingolstadt.