The Bundesliga’s 50th season was a memorable one, as Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund met in the final of the Champions League, underlining the growing status and power of the German league. Out of all of Europe’s major leagues (and most of the minor ones too) Germany is the one fiscally sane competition.
The positives aside, there are two big questions on most people’s lips going into this season. One is how can anyone possibly get anywhere near Bayern Munich after their record breaking season last time around? And the clue to the answer to that question lies in the next big query. How can Pep Guardiola and Mario Gotze improve Bayern Munich?
Borussia Dortmund, after losing Gotze, have refused to allow Robert Lewandowski to join Bayern Munich this season, instead preferring to keep him for another year and risk losing him on a free transfer next summer. They have strengthened by signing Saint-Etienne’s Pierre Emerick Aubameyang and Shakhtar Donetsk’s Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who should prove to be excellent additions to the squad.
Germany’s third best team from last season have been suitably undermined – Bayer Leverkusen lost Andre Schurrle to Chelsea and Daniel Carvajal to Real Madrid. But Sami Hyypia’s side have strengthened wisely and should be able to hold onto a top four spot. Indeed it is hard to see anyone breaking into last year’s top four. Schalke will be stronger after making some smart captures, particularly Felipe Santana.
Borussia Monchengladbach will hope to qualify for Europe after missing out last time, whilst Hamburg will aim to build on a campaign where they almost finished in the top six. Eintracht Frankfurt will do well to match last season’s heights after qualifying for Europe.
Hannover, Freiburg, Mainz and Nurnberg have been solid Bundesliga teams in recent years and should remain clear of the scrap against relegation, although it is hard to see any being able to finish in the top six. And then there are a clutch of fallen giants looking to return themselves to former heights. Foremost among them are Stuttgart, who have invested heavily this summer, and Wolfsburg, looking for stability after turmoil since their last title win in 2009. Werder Bremen are without long serving coach Thomas Schaaf.
Hertha Berlin will look to avoid a third relegation from the Bundesliga in five years on their return, whilst Braunschweig are back after almost three decades away. Hoffenheim came dangerously close the drop last time and the young side may flirt with relegation again, whilst Augsburg will hope for a repeat of the miracle that saw them survive last season.
Augsburg, having managed to avoid relegation after promotion two years ago, pulled off a miraculous escape last year. With just nine points after 17 games, they went on a superb run to pick up another 24 in their final 17 to even avoid the relegation playoff.
The aim once again will be survival, and the loss of South Koreans Dong-Won Ji and Ja-Cheol Koo will hit them hard. A youthful team has been complemented by the arrival of the experienced Halil Altintop. He will add much needed quality to a team which desperately need a goalscorer. A friendly win over big spending Monaco will give the club confidence, but another long season lies in store.
Key arrivals: Halil Altintop (Trabzonspor), Marwin Hitz (Wolfsburg), Mathias Fetsch (Kickers Offenbach), Panagiotis Vlachodimos (Olympiacos, loan), Raphael Holzhauser (Stuttgart, loan)
Key departures: Torsten Oehrl (Braunschweig), Sebastian Langkamp (Hertha Berlin), Milan Petrzela (Viktoria Plzen), Dong-Won Ji (Sunderland, loan return), Ja-Cheol Koo (Wolfsburg, loan return)
It has not been the easiest summer for Bayer Leverkusen, losing Andre Schurrle and Daniel Carvajal, and they have been busy trying to recruit ahead of a Champions League campaign next year. Sami Hyypia takes sole charge of the club after Sascha Lewandowski stepped down to work with the youth team.
For their losses, Leverkusen have recruited intelligently. Son Heung-Min could prove a useful replacement for Schurrle, with his finishing skill, whilst Emir Spahic should add quality to the defence. Giulio Donati is an inspired piece of business, the talented young Italian joining from Inter Milan. With signings like these Leverksen can build, but they have already taken two steps backwards with their losses in the transfer market.
Key arrivals: Emir Spahic (Sevilla), Giulio Donati (Inter Milan), Robbie Kruse (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Andres Palop (Sevilla), Son Heung-Min (Hamburg), Roberto Hilbert (Besiktas), Emre Can (Bayern Munich)
Key departures: Andre Schurrle (Chelsea), Daniel Carvajal (Real Madrid), Michael Rensing (Fortuna Dusseldorf)
How do you improve on perfection? If anyone has the answer, Pep Guardiola does. After replacing Jupp Heynckes at the end of last season, Bayern Munich have brought in Mario Gotze and Thiago Alcantara to an already star studded squad, although they missed out on forward Robert Lewandowski and have sold Mario Gomez. Guardiola may look to use Gotze as an alternative to first choice forward Mario Mandzukic as he attempts to build on the strongest team in European football.
The German Supercup saw Guardiola’s side beaten by Borussia Dortmund, a sign that they may not have things all their own way this season. But it is still hard to see beyond a team who were almost unbeatable last time around.
Key arrivals: Mario Gotze (Borussia Dortmund), Thiago Alcantara (Barcelona)
Key departures: Nils Petersen (Werder Bremen), Mario Gomez (Fiorentina), Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Zenit St Petersburg), Emre Can (Bayer Leverkusen)
This summer was looking like it could turn sour for last year’s Champions League final runners-up. However, in their stance on Robert Lewandowski, electing to limit big name losses to one a year, it remains to be seen whether that decision will be an brave one or foolish. Either way, Henrikh Mkhitaryan is a superb replacement for Mario Gotze, whilst Aubameyang offers another option in any of the front three positions.
Winning back the title is the priority for Dortmund, who look well placed to continue the fine work of recent seasons. On their day they can be as good as Bayern Munich, with their spirit and rapid movement and interchanges, but they must cut out lapses against teams lower down in the league which cost them last season.
Key arrivals: Henrikh Mkhitaryan (Shakhtar Donetsk), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Saint-Etienne), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Werder Bremen)
Key departures: Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Felipe Santana (Schalke), Leonardo Bittencourt (Hannover)
Last season’s big name signings failed to pay off for Monchengladbach, who have reverted to a conservative transfer policy this summer. Raffael is a gamble, but Max Kruse is a good signing from Freiburg who should strengthen Lucien Favre’s side. The lack of a consistent goalscorer is an issue for Favre, but Juan Arango is one of the best playmakers in the league with a blistering free-kick.
At least there aren’t the damaging losses of last year, when Dante and Marco Reus departed. If Luuk de Jong and Granit Xhaka can develop and show their true potential, the club can make progress this season, although Favre thinks that a third top half finish in a row would be a good achievement, given the club’s lack of success over the last 20 years. That should be the least this squad are capable of.
Key arrivals: Raffael (Dynamo Kyiv), Max Kruse (Freiburg)
Key departures: Mike Hanke (Freiburg), Igor de Camargo (Hoffenheim)
Back in the Bundesliga for the first time in 28 years, Braunschweig will do well to stay there this season. Torsten Oehrl and Marco Caligiuri have been brought in to add some much needed experience to the squad ahead of the new campaign. Those two aside, Braunschweig’s squad have a total of 63 appearances in the Bundesliga previously.
Torsten Lieberknecht is a wily tactician who will cause some Bundesliga teams problems this season with his team’s adaptability and variety. Domi Kumbela, who netted 19 times last season, is recovering from injury, and the sooner they get him back the better. Once he is back, it is just possible that Braunschweig could surprise their illustrious opposition this season.
Key arrivals: Torsten Oehrl (Augsburg), Simeon Jackson (Norwich City), Marco Caligiuri (Mainz)
Key departures: None
Were it not for the record breakers at Bayern Munich, Armin Veh would have had a good claim to be manager of the year in the Bundesliga last season, guiding his newly promoted side into Europe as they eventually finished sixth. Indeed for a while it looked like they could even achieve a top four finish and Champions League football.
Joselu adds some class going forward, but Frankfurt need a consistent goalscorer to push on further. They will have to guard against second season syndrome as well as the demands of Europe; and a daunting start to the season, which sees them play four of their first six games away from home. The two home games sandwiched in between shouldn’t be too much to worry about though – they are only up against Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.
Key arrivals: Stephan Schrock (Hoffenheim), Marco Russ (Wolfsburg), Joselu (Hoffenheim loan), Johannes Flum (Freiburg), Jan Rosenthal (Freiburg)
Key departures: Olivier Occean (Kaiserslautern loan)
Freiburg overachieved in 2012/13, finishing a hugely impressive fifth, but as is usually the case when a plucky team punches well above their weight, their best players have left. Max Kruse has gone to Borussia Monchengladbach, Johannes Flum has fled to Eintracht Frankfurt and Daniel Caligiuri has left for Wolfsburg. Ezequiel Calvente has returned to Real Betis on loan and Christian Streich has a huge task on his hands to repeat last season’s heroics.
Some good signings have been brought in though, with Vaclav Pilar set to add skill out wide, whilst Gelson Fernandes and Francis Coquelin will bring solidity and composure in central midfield.
Key arrivals: Gelson Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon), Francis Coquelin (Arsenal, loan), Christopher Jullien (Auxerre), Vaclav Pilar (Wolfsburg), Mike Hanke (Borussia Monchengladbach), Felix Klaus (Greuther Furth)
Key departures: Beg Ferati (Sion), Cedrick Makiadi (Werder Bremen), Max Kruse (Borussia Monchengladbach), Daniel Caligiuri (Wolfsburg), Ezequiel Calvente (Real Betis, loan return), Johannes Flum (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Thorsten Fink inspired Hamburg to seventh place last year, just missing out on Europe, which was a good achievement after the poor performances of previous seasons. Rafael van der Vaart’s return helped, and this year Hamburg will hope to take a step further forward. The loss of Son Heung-Min will be felt, but Johan Djourou can form a reliable defensive partnership with Heiko Westermann.
Hamburg will be looking to break into Europe again after four years out this season, but it will be a tough task without any headline signings to speak of. Inconsistency is an issue but they should at least match last season’s efforts.
Key arrivals: Johan Djourou (Arsenal, loan), Jacques Zoua (Basel)
Key departures: Son Heung-Min (Bayer Leverkusen), Marcus Berg (Panathinaikos)
Hannover failed to qualify for Europe for the first time in three seasons last time out and the pressure will be on Mirko Slomka to return them to continental competition. Their campaign was marred by injuries to key players, in particular the playmaker Szabolcs Huszti, and it is a boost that they have kept the Hungarian international.
The aim is to finish in the top six this season, but the losses of Mohammed Abdellaoue and Sergio da Silva have given Slomka some holes to fill before the season starts. Leonardo Bittencourt is an intelligent signing and another top ten finish beckons.
Key arrivals: Leonardo Bittencourt (Borussia Dortmund), Edgar Prib (Greuther Furth), Salif Sane (Nancy)
Key departures: Sergio da Silva (Levante), Mohammed Abdellaoue (Stuttgart), Konstantin Rausch (Stuttgart)
Hertha Berlin’s goal this season is simple – end their yo-yoing between the top two divisions and remain in the Bundesliga. Their summer signings have been made to add much needed Bundesliga experience to give them the best possible chance of achieving that aim.
A game against Eintracht Frankfurt on the opening day will give Hertha a close up look at a team they would quite like to emulate this season. Top half heroics are unlikely though, but survival should be a realistic target. Just two defeats in the second tier shows that this is a side who will not be a pushover on their return once again to the Bundesliga.
Key arrivals: Alexander Baumjohann (Kaiserslautern), Johannes van den Bergh (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Hajime Hosogai (Bayer Leverkusen), Sebastian Langkamp (Augsburg)
Key departures: None
A heavy recruitment drive failed to have the desired effect for Hoffenheim, who survived last year only through the relegation playoff, when they beat Kaiserslautern. That was an achievement given their position four points adrift with seven games remaining, and a settled team under Markus Gisdol is required after the managerial upheaval of 2012/13, when they went through four coaches.
Anthony Modeste is a wise capture from Bordeaux, and is likely to add goals, while Gisdol is looking to draw on the club’s young players. In particular Kevin Volland, a 21-year-old forward who has starred for Germany’s youth teams. Koen Casteels has already established himself in goal at the age of 21, whilst 17-year-old defender Niklas Sule will be called upon more regularly this term. Will inexperience cost them though?
Key arrivals: Anthony Modeste (Bordeaux), Tarik Elyounoussi (Rosenborg), Marvin Schwabe (Eintracht Frankfurt)
Key departures: Stephan Schrock (Eintracht Frankfurt), Daniel Williams (Reading), Takashi Usami (Gamba Osaki, loan return), Heurelho Gomes (Tottenham Hotspur, loan return)
Mainz will look to recover from the blow of losing top scorer Adam Szalai and keep themselves clear of the scrap against relegation. That will be a tough task though, even for a coach of Thomas Tuchel’s quality. Shinji Okazaki can add goals but he is not in the class of Szalai, whilst Christoph Moritz will shore up the defence.
Nicolai Muller will be asked to step up, having netted eight last year, whilst Dani Schahin and Sebastian Polter will be expected to excel after being rescued from the benches of rival clubs. It is a strategy based on quantity in attack to try and move past Szalai, and it should be enough to secure Bundesliga football for another year.
Key arrivals: Dani Schahin (Fortuna Dusseldorf), Shinji Okazaki (Stuttgart), Julian Koch (Borussia Dortmund), Sebastian Polter (Wolfsburg), Christoph Moritz (Schalke)
Key departures: Zoltan Stieber (Greuther Furth), Mohammed Zidan (Baniyas), Adam Szalai (Schalke)
Nurnberg were hit in the middle of last year by the loss of Dieter Hecking, who passed up the chance to become the club’s longest serving coach to join Wolfsburg. Nonetheless it was a solid campaign for Nurnberg, who finished 10th and will be looking to match that again. The loss of Timm Klose to that team, Wolfsburg, is a major blow to their defence, particularly given the lack of goals in the side.
That said, Nurnberg do boast one of the most unheralded stars in the league in the shape of Japanese international Hiroshi Kiyotake, who can make the difference with his eye for a pass. Indeed, he was the top assist provider not to play for Bayern Munich last time around.
Key arrivals: Emanuel Pogatetz (Wolfsburg), Daniel Ginczek (Borussia Dortmund)
Key departures: Timm Klose (Wolfsburg), Timmy Simons (Club Brugge)
The 2013/14 season was a mixed one for Schalke. Losing manager Huub Stevens midway through the season followed a promising start where the club won their Champions League group and were challenging Dortmund for second spot.
However, a poor run under Jens Keller threatened to see them miss out on the top four altogether. Having consolidated and secured Champions League qualification, Schalke will hope the signing of Felipe Santana can add solidity to what was a leaky defence last year. Adam Szalai and Christian Clemens are clever attacking signings. With Klaas-Jan Huntelaar leading the line and the ever improving Julian Draxler behind him, there is plenty of potential in this talented squad.
Key arrivals: Felipe Santana (Borussia Dortmund), Adam Szalai (Mainz)
Key departures: Christoph Metzelder (retired)
Stuttgart have opened their chequebook with a raft of signings this summer as they look to re-establish themselves among the Bundesliga’s elite. The 2007 champions were distinctly unimpressive last season, finishing 12th, and even their appearance in the final of the German Cup appeared more a fortunate accident than by design.
Bruno Labbadia really has to earn his money this year and if his team do not live up to expectations the axe could fall. Vedad Ibisevic is the key man for Labbadia, and the prolific forward will at least have more help this campaign in the shape of Mohammed Abdellaoue and Cacau, returning from injury. Youngster Moritz Leitner comes in on loan from Borussia Dortmund and will add some subtlety and creativity to midfield.
Key arrivals: Mohammed Abdellaoue (Hannover), Sercan Sararer (Greuther Furth), Marco Rojas (Melbourne Victory), Konstantin Rausch (Hannover), Daniel Schwaab (Bayer Leverkusen), Thorsten Kirschbaum (Cottbus), Moritz Leitner (Borussia Dortmund, loan)
Key departures: Shinji Okazaki (Mainz)
Another disappointing campaign, culminating in a 14th place finish, led to wholesale change at a club associated with behind-the-scenes consistency. Thomas Schaaf ended a 14-year stint as coach and a four decade association with the club, whilst the hugely impressive general manager Klaus Allofs went to Wolfsburg.
Werder have still managed to make some impressive signings. Like Leverkusen, they have raided Inter Milan for a huge Italian talent in the shape of Luca Caldirola. Cedrick Makiadi arrives from Freiburg and Nils Petersen will add some quality up front. Caldirola has his young hands full to fill to void left by Sokratis Papastathopoulos in defence. Kevin De Bruyne’s return to Chelsea hardly helps either. On their day Werder can hurt their opponents, particularly with the talents of Marko Arnautovic, and Robin Dutt is a talented coach who should prove a useful replacement for Schaaf.
Key arrivals: Luca Caldirola (Inter Milan), Cedrick Makiadi (Freiburg), Nils Petersen (Bayern Munich)
Key departures: Sokratis Papastathopoulos (Borussia Dortmund), Kevin de Bruyne (Chelsea, loan return)
Another of the Bundesliga’s underachieving giants, Wolfsburg’s 11th place finish last year was not good enough, and they were another side affected by the constant changing of manager. Under Hecking they will hope for some consistency and gradual improvement, in spite of the perpetually lofty ambitions of the club.
Timm Klose is a very good signing from Nurnberg, and Daniel Caligiuri likewise from Freiburg, as Wolfsburg invest in proven talent from overachieving rivals. Summer friendlies have not been particularly convincing however, and Hecking has a lot of work to do to return Wolfsburg to their former glories. Simply finishing in the top half would be an achievement.
Key arrivals: Timm Klose (Nurnberg), Daniel Caligiuri (Freiburg)
Key departures: Simon Kjaer (Lille), Emanuel Pogatetz (Nuremberg), Marco Russ (Eintracht Frankfurt), Vaclav Pilar (Freiburg)