When it comes to the Bundesliga, for many years there’s been one team that has dominated the rest. Last season, Bayern Munich made it a historic 10th successive Bundesliga Meisterschaft in a row. On the outside, many would be thinking that they’re surely going to make it 11. A boring farmer’s league they call it. However, this season already looks to be different. Each summer, teams attempt to bridge the gap, which looks like a chasm at this stage. But I’m here to tell you that this year it’s going to change.
The outright winner for the 2022/23 Bundesliga season will be Borussia Dortmund, and here’s why. Head coach Edin Terzić and his staff have made a plethora of high-profile signings and appear to have reconstructed the spine of the team that contains both youth and experience. What’s more, Dortmund got to work early. Many of their new signings have already had enough to time settle and gel with their new surroundings and colleagues. Some of the key signings include their new number nine, Sébastien Haller (Ajax), Salih Özcan (FC Köln), Niklas Süle (Bayern Munich), Nico Schlotterbeck (SC Freiburg), and Karim Adeyemi (RB Salzburg).
Haller is a powerful centre-forward who knows where the goal is. Many Premier League fans will remember him for a rather unforgettable time at West Ham United a few years ago. However, since joining Ajax in January 2021 for €21.5m, Haller became the leading scorer in the 2021/22 Eredivisie season with 21 league goals. The 28-year-old also scored 11 in eight games during last season’s Champions League. The signing of Haller also sees a change in BVB’s rigid transfer policy. For so long, Dortmund has opted to spend little on upcoming prospects before turning them around for a huge profit. Take Erling Haaland and Jadon Sancho as just two examples. However, this time they are already getting the finished article in Haller.
Two of the already mentioned who will certainly help Dortmund’s title push this season is Niklas Süle and Nico Schlotterbeck. Süle already knows what it takes to win the Bundesliga and has been a part of a solid Bayern backline for a good few seasons. Likewise, Schlotterbeck was one of the key cogs in a Freiburg side that achieved European football last season and their first ever DFB Cup final. At just 22, Schlotterbeck is already showing his class both domestically and for the German national team.
With the transfer window still open, Dortmund could strengthen their team even further with the potential signing of Hoffenheim fullback David Raum. With one of the highest cross rates in Europe last season, Raum would be the perfect architect for Haller. It’s certainly worth backing Dortmund at 9/1 to break the Bayern curse this season.
FC Augsburg finished in 14th place last season and just five points outside the relegation places. One of the biggest reasons they didn’t face the drop was their top goalscorer Michael Gregoritsch with nine goals. Seven of the nine goals came in the second half of the season which just about kept the team out of danger. However, Augsburg let Gregoritsch go this summer in a straight swap for SC Freiburg striker Ermedin Demirović.
Demirović was nothing more than a supplementary player for Freiburg last season. Having played 31 games in the Bundesliga in 2021/22 (mostly off the bench) Demirović scored just two goals and provided three assists. It’s clear that the 24-year- old Bosnian will have big boots to fill at Augsburg. It’s unsure how Demirović will perform when given a regular chance. Augsburg’s sporting director Stefan Reuter is confident in their singing. “We’re delighted that Ermedin Demirović has chosen to join FCA because he believes this is the best place for a young player to develop,” said the
director. However, developing and delivering are two completely different things.
It’s a massive gamble for a club that struggled for goals last term and finished on -17 goal difference. For me, it’s possibly too much of a gamble and could result in relegation.
VfL Bochum overachieved last season in their return to the Bundesliga finishing 13th place. Thomas Reis’ team certainly gave their fans something to shout about in 2021/22 with wins over both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. However, I just feel that Bochum could succumb to the dreaded second-season syndrome.
Two high-profile players also left the club this summer. Firstly, centre-back Areml Bella-Kotchap swapped Bochum for Southampton in a deal that cost the Saints just €11m. The 20-year-old played 22 games last season for Bochum and has rightfully been noted as a young talent to watch. Before signing for Southampton, Bella-Kotchap was being monitored by Manchester United. Not having this type of player in the squad could prove disastrous especially if Bochum suffer injuries. The second departure was veteran striker Sebastian Polter. The 31-year-old forward has signed a three-year contract at Schalke 04 for just €1.5m. Polter was Bochum’s top goal scorer in 2021/22 with ten goals. This was double than the second highest scorer, Gerrit Holtmann, who found the net just five times. When the signing was announced, Schalke knew exactly what they had just obtained in Polter. Head coach Frank Kramer said “Sebastian showed last season how valuable he can be for a Bundesliga team. He works extremely hard for the team up front and his power will improve our attacking play.” Having sold their top scorer to a newly-promoted team might just be the catalyst to a poor season.
This was a tough one to call. The previous two clubs I’ve tipped for relegation I’m fairly certain about. However, when it comes to Stuttgart I think they’ll be hovering around the relegation play-off spot along with Werder Bremen. But I can just see Bremen having enough drive in their first season back to push Stuttgart into 16th. Last season, Stuttgart scored a late winner against Köln to secure safety on the final day.
The key to Stuttgart’s success or downfall lies with striker Saša Kalajdžić. The 25- year-old Austrian international scored six and created two in just 15 Bundesliga games last season with one of those coming against Köln on the last day. If he were to get a full season under his belt his goals could provide the difference in Stuttgart’s season. However, he may not be there all season. The Austrian has attracted a lot of interest from several Premier League clubs including Manchester United, West Ham United, Brighton, and Southampton. The 6ft5” forward certainly has the physical abilities and natural eye for goal to do a job in the Premier League. More often than not, when a Premier League club comes knocking it’s hard for both player and club to resist. I do believe that Kalajdžić will leave Stuttgart and that could prove costly in the hopes of steering clear of the relegation play-off.
For overachiever in the 2022/23 Bundesliga, you have to look at newly-promoted Schalke 04. In terms of fanbase, global presence, and overall stature, Schalke should never have been relegated in the first place. However, football isn’t played on paper and they’ve had to grind in the second league before making their way back into the top flight. Now that they’re back, I can see them setting their sights for a mid-table finish.
By mid-July, Schalke had already brought in 11 players. On one hand, this could cause problems if players don’t blend in time but I just can’t see that happening in Schalke’s case. In front of 62,000 fans in the Veltins Arena, they’ll be tough to beat at home. Looking at the signings that S04 have made I think they mean business. Frank Kramer and his team have brought on board a range of experienced pros as well as young talents. Some of these players include Alexander Schwolow (Hertha Berlin), Maya Yoshida (Sampdoria), Sebastian Polter (Bochum), Alex Král (Spartak Moscow), and Cédric Brunner (Arminia Bielefeld).
Just with the players mentioned above, you have a solid core of a team. At 30 years old, Alexander Schwolow is a very experienced goalkeeper who has played in the Bundesliga for many seasons. He is exactly the type of person you want to command your backline, especially against tough opposition. Likewise, Maya Yoshida has been around the block as a solid central defender. The Japanese international made over 154 appearances for Southampton and was an asset to the Saints when they were pushing for European football. Having just come from the Italian top flight, Yoshida’s experience and leadership will prove vital in Schalke’s season.
Clinical forward, Sebastian Polter, mentioned earlier in this article, will be teaming up with the 2. Bundesliga’s all-time top goalscorer, Simon Terodde. Together, this pair will score goals if given the opportunity. This is something that should be especially looked out for in the coming season. Alex Král will be another key assist. The 24-year-old central midfielder has international pedigree with the Czech Republic and played in the Premier League last season with West Ham United. Though he didn’t feature much for David Moyes’ men, Král played well when called upon and featured in last season’s Europa League. S04 sports director Rouven Schröde knows exactly what his club is getting when it comes to the Czech midfielder.
With Alex, the overall package fits perfectly with a view to his position. Despite his height of 1.87 meters, he is very agile, has a lot of running and a good maximum speed. He acts cleverly and skilfully against the ball, closing spaces and anticipating the opponent’s actions very well.Schalke 04 Sporting Director; Rouven Schröde
It’s also worth noting that was heavily linked with a move to Hertha Berlin as well as Leipzig but ultimately chose Schalke.
FSV Mainz 05
Last season Mainz finished in an impressive 8th place and six points outside the European places. This season, however, I just can’t see Mainz surpassing or even surpassing 8th position. Looking at their recent departures, particularly when it comes to their defence, I think they could finish in the bottom half of the table and underachieve this season.
Last season, Mainz had a solid central defence thanks to Moussa Niakhaté and Jeremiah St. Juste. In total, Mainz only leaked 45 goals last season which was considerably less than the teams around them. However, this summer both Niakhaté and St. Juste have left the club. Niakhaté has made the switch to the Premier League with Nottingham Forest whereas St. Juste has swapped Mainz for Lisbon joining Sporting CP. It’s no question, this is a massive blow for Mainz who will find it incredibly hard to find another solid two central defenders. In attempt to fill ther gap, Mainz signed Bochum’s Maxim Leitsch for a reported €3m. The 24-year-old does have Bundelsiga experience and represents Germany at youth level. However, I just don’t see Leitsch being the same quality as either Niakhaté or St. Juste just yet.
The signing of Leitsch signifies Mainz’s belief in young talent. The defender joins fellow youth internationals Jonathan Burkardt, Finn Dahmen and Anton Stach. These players certainly have the ability to become high-quality Bundesliga players. However, I don’t think they’ll reach their potential for another season or so. This campaign looks like it’s going to be one of growth for Mainz which could see them slip down the table a few places.
For Mainz fans, it must be frustrating to watch these transfers unfold. Mainz had a good platform to kick on and try to bridge the gap between 8th and the European places. Instead, they’ve cashed in on two of their key assets and used some of the money to invest in youth and most likely settle for a mid-table finish.
One positive for Mainz will be forward Jonathan Burkhart who is showing great potential. He’ll be one of the young players to watch in the Bundesliga next season for sure. However, it’s one thing to score goals and another to not concede them. I can’t look beyond the departures of their two main defenders. If one leaves you could get away with it. But when a solid partnership goes in the summer and you haven’t reinvested with equally good players, you’re always going to struggle. For me, Mainz will underachieve this season.
Top Goal Scorer
With both Robert Lewandowski and Erling Haaland now gone, this category has burst wide open. When excluding both Lewandowski and Haaland from the equation, the top three scorers from last season were Patrik Schick (Bayer Leverkusen), Anthony Modeste (FC Köln), and Christopher Nkunku (RB Leipzig). It’s in this top three that I think we’ll find this season’s top goalscorer. I have to go with Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku.
The French international was on fire last campaign, particularly in the later stages. In total, Nkunku contributed 34 goals in all competitions for RB Leipzig last season including 21 goals and 13 assists. The forward’s impressive contribution helped his side win the DFB Pokal last season, the club’s first major trophy.
The Frenchman was heavily linked with a move away from Leipzig this summer with Bayern Munich and several Premier League teams including Manchester United interested. However, Nkunku recently signed a contract extension until 2026. At 24 years old, don’t be surprised to see Nkunku kick on and surpass last season’s tally of 20 Bundesliga goals.
What could also help Nkunku is the service that Xaver Schlager and Konrad Laimer will supply. Schlager joined this summer from Wolfsburg for €12m and is an energetic box-to-box midfielder that creates plenty of chances for forwards. With Nkunku using his pace to get on the end of Schlager’s passes, it’s a perfect recipe. Laimer could still depart Leipzig this year with Bayern Munich making the Ausrtrian one of their top priorities. If they can keep Laimer, Leipzig with a plethora of creative midfielders who could assist Nkunku and make the team a real force in the league.
Having already earned Bundesliga Player of the Year and achieved his best season to date, Nkunku is in a great position to become of the league’s most formidable strikers. The Frenchman understands the importance that his team plays to his success. “I would like to thank the team. I couldn’t have played so well without my team. The guys helped me a lot. I’m happy to have won this title, but I share it with my teammates.” A clear team player, Nkunku’s level-headedness and a keen eye for goal make him a prime candidate for Bundesliga’s top scorer this season.
Player to Watch
One of the great things about the Bundesliga is the array of young talent that is able to develop in the league. Players such as Jude Bellingham (Borussia Dortmund), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), and Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen) are just three teenagers that are already making a massive name for themselves in Germany’s top flight.
However, it’s a newcomer to the league that I’m tipping as a player to watch this season. 19-year-old striker Adam Hložek joined Bayer Leverkusen from Sparta Prague this summer for €13m plus bonuses. The Czech international became Sparta Prague’s youngest ever player at 16 years three months and 16 days. During the 2020/21 season, Hložek scored 15 goals and produced six assists from just 19 games. Four of those goals came on the final day of the season against Zbrojovka Brno during a 6:1 hammering. Hložek scored all four goals in the space of 23-minutes, a Czech top-flight record that may never be beaten. In the following campaign, Hložek topped the ranks for the most assists in the Czech First League with 13.
With 40 goals and 36 assists in 132 senior appearances for Sparta Prague, the forward was always going to attract Europe’s biggest clubs. For some time, Hložek was tipped to be Erling Haaland’s replacement at Dortmund while others such as Bayern Munich and Bayer Leverkusen were interested in the youngster. Having signed a deal with Bayer until 2027, many fans were surprised at his choice considering the other two clubs in question.
However, Hložek will most likely feature more in Bayer colours and will join his fellow countryman and Czech strike partner, Patrik Schick, who himself was one of the league’s top goalscorers last season. Schick himself scored four in one game last campaign when Bayer beat Greuther Fürth 7:1. His four goals came close to Hložek’s 23-minute onslaught at 29 minutes. Just imagine the damage that Hložek and Schick can do together.
This is one of the key reasons why I’ve chosen Hložek as my player to watch. He’s clearly a player that can make the step up. I believe Bayer Leverkusen and the Bundesliga is the best place for the 6ft2” forward to do just that. B04’s sporting director Simon Rolfes knows exactly what he is going to get with Hložek.
“Adam Hložek is a player who can develop a great goal threat from a central position and also from the wing. His versatility, power and above all, his ability to finish will give our offensive game even more variation.”Bayer Leverkusen Sporting Director; Simon Rolfes