Bundesliga 2011/12: Where Will They Land Come May? A Quick Assessment

Summer is over & so are the friendly testing matches. Serious time has come and the 2011/12 Bundesliga Season starts within a few hours with Champions Dortmund kicking-off Day 1 v Hamburg. Will they defend their title successfully or will we (FC Bayern) be able to snatch it back from them? How will the other clubs fare? We assess each one of them (+ us) based on their current situation before what promises to be an exciting season, ending with joy for some, tears for others, and, as usual, with lots of drama and surprises. Your opinions and comments are surely welcome :)

  • FC Augsburg: Manager Jos Luhukay has kept his squad mostly untouched, prefering to work in continuity. The side should acclimatize to their 1st season in the top flight. Survival will be considered a success
  • Hertha BSC: The club of the capital has bounced back to the B’liga on more solid bases compared to their last spell. Markus Babbel has built a solid foundation with motivated players & 2-3 key additions. With the promotion euphoria of last season, the manager will remind his players not to be carried away. A ranking between 9 and 13th should be expected
  • Werder Bremen: Arguably the most difficult season facing the duo Schaaf/Allofs, esp in their “confrontation” with Lemke and the board over financial resources. No new major signings (except Ekici) & Mertesacker still doubtful to stay. If Bremen can overcome the absence of injured players, a finish in the upper-half of the table is possible. Otherwise – and as displayed in the Pokal match at Heidenheim, it could be the worst season in a long time
  • Borussia Dortmund: Many clubs envy them for their policy & how they astutely developed success based on youth & tight budget. Manager Klopp is the star & is in perfect osmosis with the board. Will Sahin’s departure be compensated by new signings? Dealing simultaneously with long hard European nights and the Bundesliga may show their real worth. Ending with a Champions-League spot, i.e. between 1 and 3
  • SC Freiburg: The club doesn’t consume many managers. Only 2 in 20 years. Sorg now takes over, following on the method of youth & hardwork. The squad is yet small. If Cisse doesn’t score & Baumann doesn’t perform miracles in goal, then the truth will emerge, and survival will be a matter of miracle
  • Hamburger SV: Phase I of the restructuring has taken place. The oldie stars are gone (Rost, ze Roberto, Mathijsen, van Nistelrooy). With director Arnesen & a new board now in place, manager Oenning should have his players work in a more peaceful environment. A midtable spot is likely; a place in Europe a wonder
  • Hannover 96: Manager Slomka and his players are hungry for more success, building on their 4th spot of the last exercise, & relying on their counter-attack system. Breaking into their defence from the wings may be their weakness. Remains to be seen if the relationship between Slomka & director Schmadtke remains solid if results don’t go their way. If not in “hang-over” mood from last season, a finish in the top half of the table is at any case probable
  • TSG Hoffenheim 1899: Big question mark on how manager Stanislawski will cope in a setting different than “his” St.Pauli & in his dealing with president Hoppe (owner of SAP). Will the new signings take the club a step higher? Will strikers convert opportunities? It may be a transition season till Stanislawski imprints the squad with his style. To end above the relegation zone
  • 1.FC Kaiserslautern: Manager Kurz has done a great job over the past 2 seasons: Promotion, then 7th spot! Top scorer Lakic is now gone to Wolfsburg, while Tiffert, best assist-player of last season (17, together with Ribery), may be confined to a more defensive role. The bonus of “newcomer” is now gone & no one will underestimate the Red Devils anymore. If the new offensive sector doesn’t gel quickly, it will be a harder fight v relegation compared to 2011
  • 1.FC Koeln: Will manager Solbakken bring long-term development and strategy at a club which saw 14 managers in 10 years? He may have started off the wrong-foot by stripping Podolski of the captaincy. This could trigger Poldi to get gradually demotivated, with a negative spirit affecting the rest of the squad. With the addition of Riether & Rensing recovering his keeper qualities, the group has potential to finish in mid-table, but it may be a long and very difficult season ahead, ending around a spot for relegation play-off
  • Bayer o4 Leverkusen: New manager Dutt has been the unanimous choice of all decision makers at the club, as he works quietly focusing on hard-work and performance. No boasting. Will the departure of Vidal be compensated by the arrival of Schuerrle & Toprak? The retirement of Hyypiä may leave a bigger hole in defence than expected, while the absence of Adler till October may weigh in with more pressure. If Dutt can maintain the passion, willingness & consistancy within his team throughout the season, even the #1 spot is possible!
  • SVW Mainz 05: Experienced players like Schuerrle, Holtby and Fuchs are gone. Will the arrival young promising talent Choupo-Moting (Hamburg) and another 7 compensate for the enthusiasm & unpredictability of 2010/11? The board has big trust in manager Tuchel. Though an ending between 7 & 12 is still possible, the performances causing their already early exit in the Europa League at the hand of 2nd-class opposition may predict hard times ahead
  • Borussia Mönchengladbach: The takeover by manager Favre late last season has installed a never-say-die attitude combined with confidence among the players. An important mission for him is to have his players stop living in the happy days of last season & focus on a solid early start. Talents like Reus can help him do so. If the first games are successful, then a finish between 10 and 14 is very likely
  • FC Bayern München: After conceding 40 goals last season, the ultimate priority was to re-inforce the defensive sector. Neuer will be the biggest force behind a defence that may take a short time before Boateng & Rafinha find their markings. With Lahm moving left, this means 4 of the 5 defensive positions have to be re-organized, as well as a solid balance between the back and front-lines. This is one of the objectives Heynckes needs to achieve, bringing in his management experience. Again, every opponent will wait for us as playing their “final”, as we are the club to beat. Some may say it’s an “even” year, it’s our turn to win it again. But seriously, the title is our unique and only objective, nothing less. With the best squad on hand, the Bundesligaschale should be ours
  • 1.FC Nürnberg: The “Club” has surprised many with their 6th spot last season. Manager Hecking brought new talents like Wollscheid, Chandler, Eigler, but how will gaps be filled for the out-going Guendogan, Schieber, Wolf & Ekici? Upsetting the big clubs again is still possible, but they better keep an eye “down” & focus on their own output. No problems to maintain 1st division status
  • Schalke o4: The big question on everyone’s lips is how the club will live in the post-Neuer era. The club should expect more peaceful days with the arrival of Rangnick, compared to the turbulent times under Magath. He has already proceeded with a big makeover, transferring out many surplus to requirements & recruiting quality elements like Holtby (was on loan), Fuchs, Moravek & keeper Faehrmann. Having work with sports director Heldt at Stuttgart, Rangnick can plan ahead with more serenity. Ending between 5 and 9
  • VfB Stuttgart: Manager Labbadia is expected to continue on the run with which he ended the last season: On a high. He may have lost Traesch, but the squad remains almost intact & should adapt to his concept. Cacau is back from injury. Consistency, an injury-free run and a completely renovated “like-new” stadium may likely push them into a Europa League spot
  • VfL Wolfsburg: The biggest dilemma of all. With Magath back, there are already 17 movements of players! For the departing Grafite, Riether & Johnson, arrive Traesch, Russ, Lakic, Ochs, Salihamidzic & Scheidhauer.  Though the squad may give a solid outlook, the transfer trail is not over yet, with Diego imminent to leave too. If the team were to start well, the question will be raised as to how long players will continue to “enjoy” training under Magath, until his methods backfire with a negative spirit in the dressing-room. A finish between 7 & 11.

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