August 20, 2017

Will We Ever See a Genuine Bundesliga Title Race Again?

Of course, the answer is simply yes.

But I have no answer to the question of when?

Bayern have won the league for the 5th consecutive time last month and the annual criticism of the Bundesliga as “Bayernliga,” or a “one team league” has resurfaced. Perhaps, but look around Europe’s other top leagues. Juventus have won the Serie A in 6 consecutive years. Before Monaco eclipsed them for this season’s glory, PSG had won the Ligue 1 title in 4 of the previous years. Barcelona have won 6 La Liga titles in 8 years. And once upon a time in the English Premier League, before the fancy TV deals and the emergence of the “Top 6,” the title was practically owned by Man United, who won 13 league titles in 20 years under Sir Alex Ferguson and 3 in a row between 2007-2009 — something unmatched during the Premier League era.

Considering these aforementioned facts, you might wondering if it’s really so surprising that a single side has dominated the Bundesliga, since this phenomenon seems to happen at some point in every league. Of course, the key difference setting the Bundesliga apart from these examples is the fact that the Bavarians have hardly been challenged during these last 5 title-winning years. Barcelona had Real Madrid breathing down their necks, even in the glory days of the Pep Guardiola era; Sir Alex had to battle Wenger’s Arsenal, Mourinho’s Chelsea, and Mancini’s Man City at different times; Juventus were pushed to the very end by Roma this season. However, Bayern doesn’t seem to have any natural predators in Germany right now.

This fact is somewhat frustrating as Bundesliga fans have seen all the amazing and exciting qualities of their league being overshadowed by a team who is heads and shoulders above the rest (unless you’re a Bayern fan who is enjoying one of the best teams in the club’s history). I know a football league is far more than just the title race, but we as fans try to explain how volatile the rest of the table standings are, how nail baiting the relegation battle is, how the atmospheres in the stadiums are unmatched anywhere in Europe and perhaps the world, the bottom line is the Bundesliga needs a title race.

This point raises the key question: where will the eventual title challenge come from?

Borussia Dortmund has been Bayern’s close rivals in recent years. Of course, the Black and Yellows won the league title in 2011 and 2012, but after that the closest they came to the trophy was when they finished 10 points behind the Champions in 2016. The fact that Wolfsburg finished runners up two years ago seems almost unbelievable now. The Wolves have fallen so low that they required a relegation play off to maintain their status as a Bundesliga club. This season’s surprise package RB Leipzig gave a glimmering hope of a title race when they topped the league standings back in November, but their title aspirations where brought to an abrupt end after a 3-0 drubbing at the Allianz Arena by mighty Bayern immediately before die Winterpause. A string of inconsistent performances in the second half of the season saw the Bundesliga newbies fall 15 points adrift of first place by season’s end.

Bayer Leverkusen, Borussia Mönchengladbach and Schalke, the traditionally big clubs in the league, were disappointing this season. Die Werkself didn’t even manage to secure European football, which was a shock after their summer investments had everyone thinking they could be the real deal in 2016-17. Schalke’s season was basically doomed when they lost 5 of their first 5 games at the start of the season.

So who can possibly dethrone Bayern?

Dortmund seems to suffer a setback every summer with the club unable to keep hold of star players. It always seems like a never ending rebuilding process at the Signal Iduna Park. Since 2011, BVB have lost at least one key player in the summer the exception being 2015, when they said goodbye to another important figure in Jürgen Klopp. New manager Peter Bosz, although an ideal successor to Thomas Tuchel, will find it hard to mount an immediate title challenge in his debut season. Even though Leipzig have been impressive in their first season the lack of experience and the burden of European football may be too much on them come next season. You ask, what about more magic from Julian Naglesmann? That’s wishful thinking to be honest. The 29 year old have been incredibly impressive since taking over at Hoffenheim, leading them to 4th place in his first full season. But predicting his team will be title challengers soon is wayward. Niklas Süle’s and Sebastian Rudy’s departure to Munich in the summer doesn’t help either. Finally, Leverkusen are, at best, a few seasons away from being real challenger with its new coaching hire in Heiko Herrlich from Regensberg. It’s rebuild time in Pill City. The same can be said for Schalke, who let go of coach Markus Weinzierl after a single season, and replaced him with Erzebirge Aue’s Dominic Tedsesco. Reboot mode time in Gelsenkirchen.

I think we are out of title challengers!

It is unlikely that Bayern’s supremacy will be challenged anytime soon. But that is not to say they are unbeatable. The retirements of Philip Lahm and Xabi Alonso will take its toll on the club and with Carlo Ancelotti’s side looking unconvincing in most of their games throughout the season the Bavarians are there for the taking. Question which club will step up? The Bundesliga needs something like a dollop of the 2010-11 Jürgen Klopp magic soon. In the meantime, we will keep enjoying the other aspects we love about Germany’s top flight, just not the title race.

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Brook Genene lives in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where he remains very passionate about German football and a Borussia Dortmund supporter. He loves to write and talk about football, with particular interest in discussing emerging young talents. "Lukasz Piszczek and Ricardo Rodriguez are my type of players." Follow @brookge

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