Since the turn of the millennium, Bayern Munich have monopolized and dominated German football: winning twelve of the last eighteen Bundesliga titles and financially bullying the rest of the division.
After lifting all five Bundesliga trophies since 2013, you might think their position at the top is stronger than ever, however following rapid rise of Red Bull backed RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund’s newfound investment in youth there is serious competition for the league title. It is expected that the three aforementioned clubs will sit at the top of the table, but who will come out on top?
Carlo Ancelotti has already solidified his status as an elite manager: winning a record three Champions Leagues. He may not have a revolutionary ideology or style, however it is his man management and ability to get countless star players performing in the same team that makes him one of the most coveted managers in Europe.
Bayern have once again blown everyone away with their ability to recruit exceptional talent for extremely reasonable prices. Before the transfer window opened, the Bavarians had agreed to sign two of the Bundesliga’s breakout players last season in Hoffenheim’s Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy. The former is an exciting young centre-back who is both physically imposing and adept with the ball at his feet, the latter is a functional and selfless central midfielder who may become crucial in the latter stages of the season.
Ancelotti’s side also signed two of the most sought after players in world football: James Rodriguez from Real Madrid and Corentin Tolisso from Lyon, both of whom will play crucial roles for the Reds this season. As well as dynamic young winger Serge Gnabry, who will be loaned out to Julian Nagelsmann’s Hoffenheim for the upcoming season.
Squad + Style:
Bayern Munich will likely continue with the 4231 they used last campaign, with the wide players in Arjen Robben on the right and Frank Ribery/James Rodriguez on the left once again playing crucial roles. Last season Thiago Alcantara emerged as one of the best number 10’s in Europe and I expect he will continue his brilliant form next season with two of: Vidal, Tolisso, Rudy and Joshua Kimmich providing defensive stability and box-to-box dynamism behind the Spaniard.
The bedrock of Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng and Hummels will continue to dominate attackers and start attacks from defence, while at the other end of the pitch Robert Lewandowski will keep up his prolific form and likely better his incredible Bundesliga goal tally last season (30).
It won’t be as easy as it has been in recent years, not only because of Leipzig and Dortmund’s fierce competition but also because a good Champions League run has hindered the league form of the teams Ancelotti has managed in the past, however I think the Bavarians will once again lift the Bundesliga title come May.
After two successful years in charge of Die Schwarzgelben, Thomas Tuchel left the club in May following a falling out with the owners. The man brought in to replace Tuchel was Peter Bosz, who had led Ajax to their first European final in more than 20 years playing a possession-based, attacking system similar to the philosophy of the man he’s replaced.
It is clear that since a couple of years ago, Dortmund have implemented a system that promotes youth and builds for the future. This has been shown in their transfer activity over the past couple of seasons as they have recruited some of Europe’s most promising young talents such as Ousmane Dembele, Raphael Guerrero and Julian Weigl.
This transfer window has been no different, as BVB have brought in highly rated young midfielder Mahmoud Dahoud from Borussia Mönchengladbach as well as Freiburg forward Maximilian Philip, who scored 9 league goals last campaign. Bosz’s side also acquired 27-year-old Turkish defender Ömar Toprak, whose experience and leadership will look to fill the void left by Mats Hummels last summer.
Squad + Style:
Bosz will likely implement his 433 system at Dortmund, who played a similar possession-oriented style last season but favoured a 343 formation. Julian Weigl will be vital as anchor infront of the back four: circulating the ball and using his defensive intelligence and positioning to give the likes of Mario Götze, Dahoud and Gonzalo Castro freedom to venture forward.
Since scoring a hat trick on his debut, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has been the star man at Die Schwarzgelben, developing into one of the best poachers in world football and scoring an exceptional 31 Bundesliga goals last season. However at Ajax Bosz favoured a striker, in Kasper Dolberg, who played more of a false nine role and dropped deep to link the play with his teammates, a position Aubameyang struggles with.
The new boss will likely have to adapt his style to facilitate the world class forward. Finally, Dortmund have a plethora of dangerous wide players in Marco Reus, Dembele, Christian Pulisic and Andre Schürrle, all of whom have been world class in the past on have the potential to be in the future, especially Dembele, who scored 6 goals and picked up 12 assists in the league last season, at just 20 years old.
Dortmund had a disappointing league campaign last season and never looked like challenging Leipzig and Bayern to the top 2 spots. Yet, after holding on to all of their prized assets, I think Dortmund will perform a lot better this time around and will challenge Bayern right until the end, but will ultimately finish runners up.
Red Bull Leipzig:
When Leipzig were promoted from the second division the season before last, their commercial backing and influx of money meant they were expected to perform well and keep their status as a Bundesliga club. However it was the appointment of Ralph Hasenhüttl and the implementation of his high pressing style that took them to the next level and to a second place finish in the Bundesliga. In his second season in charge at the East German City he will try to resume their unprecedented rise and make their mark in Europe.
This transfer window, Leipzig have continued to implement their policy of signing young players and building for the future, with none of their 6 acquisitions above 23 years of age. Speedy winger Bruma was brought in from Galatasaray for around £11m after the best season of his career, where he scored 11 goals and picked up 6 assists in the league.
PSG centre-forward Jean-Kévin Augustin was signed for a similar price, the Frenchman is a direct striker, who creates chances for his teammates as well as netting himself. From sister club Red Bull Salzburg, Hasenhüttl’s side brought highly rated young central midfielder Konrad Laimer. Leipzig also brought in Goalkeepers Yvon Mvogo and Philipp Köhn and centre-back Ibrahima Konate.
Squad + Style:
Red Bull Leipzig play a high-pressing and exciting style of football and set up in a 4222 formation. In the centre of the pitch, the duo of Diego Demme and Naby Kieta form a perfect partnership. With Demme’s positioning and overall defensive contribution complimenting Keita’s constant energy and creativity in the final third.
On the left flank, Emil Forsberg will likely continue to wreak havoc cutting in and finding his teammates in dangerous positions. The Sweedish international racked up an incredible 19 assists in the Bundesliga last season. Upfront Timo Werner is exceptional in and around the penalty area, especially with his head, as well as providing a threat in behind the opposition defence. Whether he’s partnered with defensive workhorse Yousef Poulsen or new signing Augustin, the attack will terrorise opposition defences at home and in Europe.
Their defence is undoubtedly the weakest part of their side, although their starting back four is good, led by Willi Orban, the depth could definitely prove to be a problem while competing in the Champions League.
Red Bull keeping hold of their key players and investing intelligently means they will keep challenging at the top of the table, however I think their squad will be stretched in Europe and they will end up being beaten to second place by Dortmund.