By Olakunle Ajao.
The fat lady has sung. The last rites have been read. The book has been closed. Whatever cliché feels suitable to use, go ahead, as another Bundesliga campaign has been completely done and dusted. The league itself reached its conclusion a few weeks ago, but there was still the small matter of a relegation play-off to take care of.
And with that also reaching its finish, the 18 teams for the 2018/19 Bundesliga campaign is now known and, with the distraction of a World Cup, preparations for the new season have already begun. And why wouldn’t they? While some sides has a 2017/18 to remember, some had one they wish they could forget.
So which of the teams in the just-concluded season had causes to celebrate, and who didn’t, and if they were being given ratings, how would they fare?
Bayern Munich (Position: 1st)
Another season, another league title for Bayern Munich, as they steamrollered their way to a sixth successive league triumph, by a lead of 21 points. It’s hard to argue against that looking straightforward, but the season certainly didn’t start that way; squad unrest and uninspiring displays saw Carlo Ancelotti get the sack in September. In came treble-winning gaffer Jupp Heynckes, and the outlook changed. Bayern were winning games both home and abroad. The league title was all they could celebrate this year, though, as a semi-final exit from the Champions League was followed by a loss in the German Cup final. Heynckes has eased back into retirement, and will be replaced by Niko Kovac, who joins from Die Roten’s DFB Pokal conquerors Frankfurt.
Schalke (Position: 2nd)
It’s hard for Schalke fans to complain about how their season went, as Domenico Tedesco succeeded where Andre Breitenreiter, Roberto Di Matteo and Markus Weinzerl failed, by delivering Champions League football, their first in four years. Best in the league bar Bayern, they also had joy over Borussia Dortmund to boot.
Hoffenheim (Position: 3rd)
2016/17’s fourth place was supposed to be one-off for Hoffenheim, but they didn’t read the script, as Die Kraichgauer recovered from a slow start to even go one better and finish third. The likes of Mark Uth and Andrej Kramaric hit top form as Hoffenheim ended the season as the league’s second-highest scoring team. Manager Julian Nagelsmann is still very much, although him leaving this summer looks unlikely.
Borussia Dortmund (Position: 4th)
It started with such a blast, yet petered out in the most dour fashion. ‘Petered’ out, you say; Dortmund begin the season under Peter Bosz in barnstorming fashion, top in September, all league games won. Then things started to take a downturn; 12 winless games in a row saw them drop out of the top four, and also hampered them in Europe, and by December Bosz was gone. In came Peter Stoger, who steadied the ship, yet fans were far from happy, especially over the football. Quarter-final exit in the Europa League didn’t appease supporters, and even Champions League football was achieved by the skin of their teeth. Stoger has gone, and Lucien Favre has arrived ahead of the new season.
Bayer Leverkusen (Position: 5th)
It’s hard to not be positive for Leverkusen, but there’s the nagging that there could- and probably should- have been much more. Having occupied a top four place for most of the season, Heiko Herrlich’s side slipped in the final weeks, and ended up in fifth place. There’s still more than enough positives to take, after a season that began with the loss of key players, the likes of Leon Bailey, Kevin Volland and Julian Brandt did their growing reputations no harm. At least they’re back in Europe.
RB Leipzig: (Position: 6th)
Another season whose season could be categorised as a success, yet will wonder how much better it could have been. Their collapse in the last of the Europa League at Marseille was nothing short of heartbreaking, which affected their end-of-season form and means they have to settle for second tier European football next term. Ralph Hassentuttl’s departure means Die Roten Bullen are in the market for a new manager.
Stuttgart (Position: 7th)
If you had told any Stuttgart fan their side would end the campaign in seventh at the turn of the year, they would have looked at you with disdain. Back then survival was the end game, and manager Hannes Wolf wasn’t quite doing a good job on that part, so he was binned. The appointment of Tayfun Korkut came to the chagrin of fans, but the Turk more than steadied the ship. The rise from bottom half to seventh place was nothing sort of sensational, even if the goals department weren’t so lavished- only three sides scored less- and Stuttgart have European plans for next season.
Frankfurt (Position: 8th)
Frankfurt were in second spot in December, fourth in Mid-March, but their ultimate drop to eighth place is by no means a disappointment. Expectations have already been surpassed by a side that seemed more likely to trouble the bottom part of the table than the top, and their season was topped by that German Cup final success over Bayern Munich. Highly-rated manager Niko Kovac has left to join the champions, and has been replaced by Adi Hutter.
Borussia Monchengladbach (Position: 8th)
An utter disappointment by their standards. In season where second to seventh spots were filled with uncertainty, finishing ninth wasn’t in the manual for Monchengladbach. A season which they were expected to challenge at the top amounted to nothing, in both league and cup, despite such a quality-laden team. Manager Dieter Hecking is going to be under a fair bit of pressure from the start of next season.
Hertha Berlin (Position: 10th)
Mid-table obscurity was the norm for Pal Dardai’s team, and it was duly achieved. A lack of bite in the Europa League would have been disappointing, however, for a side that has plans of getting their own ground in the nearest future.
Werder Bremen (Position: 11th)
After the impression in 2016/17, things were expected of Werder Bremen under Alexander Nouri. Things happened, but they were barely good, and by October Nouri was dismissed. Replacement Florian Kohfeldt had a slow start, but the season ended in decent fashion, especially with their home form. But for the umpteenth season, an optimistic Bremen campaign plays out with disappointment and the sense of what might have been.
Augsburg (Position: 12th)
Another side whose position is of little surprise, as lower-table from Augsburg dropped no jaws. They did end up with the second best attack in the bottom half, which shows potential but also that their deficiencies lie at the other end.
Hannover (Position: 13th)
Their first season back in the first division was a qualified success, with 13th place and a six-point gap from relegation. Andre Breitenreiter’s team had the best attack of the bottom half teams, with 44 goals, and will be aiming for consolidation next term.
Mainz (Position: 14th)
Relegation was everyone’s verdict over Mainz this season. But Sandro Schwarz and his team didn’t read the script, as, though they did battle to survival, safety was achieved with room to spare. They produced one of the results of the season by beating Dortmund, and had one of the stories of the campaign in youngster Riddle Baku.
Freiburg (Position: 15th)
Perhaps the most unglamorous side in the league, survival was the aim and was achieved, with very little potential for more. Nils Petersen was a headline grabber for Christian Streich and his team, earning himself a place in Germany’s preliminary World Cup squad, but you fear for Freiburg if he’s snapped up at the end of the season.
Wolfsburg (Position: 16th)
Two seasons earlier, Wolfsburg were within a goal of the UEFA Champions League semis. Now they’ve survived a second consecutive relegation play-off. They tore through managers this term, Andries Jonker and Martin Schmidt both getting the boot, before finishing the season with Bruno Labbadia. As ever, the squad drips with the capacity to finish much higher, but there are little signs of progress, and it’s inconceivable that Labbadia also gets sacked next season, alongside the possibility of relegation.
Hamburg (Position: 17th)
After quite a few seasons of battling the drop, Hamburg finally gave in, suffering their first relegation in their history. Markus Gisdol lasted till January, his replacement Bernd Hollerbach just two months, before Christian Titz looked like pulling off another great escape. Unfortunately, as the giant clock ticked, Die Rothosen’s time was up.
Koln (Position: 18th)
The season started terribly and there hardly looked to be a way back, Peter Stoger left in December after zero wins, and Stefan Ruthenback came in and garnered five before the season ended. There were inklings of an escape at the turn of the year, but it was always a long shot. Ruthenback has already stepped down as manager.