There’s one thing my coach never tired of saying to me: “Hau den Ball ins Tor hinein!” – best translated with: “Just slam it into the back of the net!” What did yours used to say to you? What about this one: “So, let’s sit down and take stock.” If it was the last day of play, he might well have.
And with the 34th Bundesliga match-day now history, it’s time for all the trainers and all the teams to sit down and look back at the season. In the changing rooms after the matches, some teams were celebrating their successes, others mourning over their failures: often in the same stadium. In Berlin’s Olympiastadion, for example, the capital’s team – already unable to escape relegation – played against the champions Bayern München. Bayern went ahead and won 3:1, receiving the cup after the final whistle; Berlin could only look on.
With the championship now decided, it was time to deal out entry into the international leagues. Meanwhile, at the bottom end of the table, there was another relegation to be handed out – and it went to Bochum after a loss to Hannover 96 on home ground. Hannover were relatively impolite guests inasmuch as they took any remaining excitement out of the game by scoring all three of their three winning goals in the first half. The 3:0 score sheet then remained the same through to full time.
So, now to take stock of the results:
These guys deserved to be champions. Back in November, the coach Louis van Gaal was facing the door, but then the team started to do what he was asking and things changed – they had a strong second half of the season, the cup final, and that sensational Champions’ League performance. Not only that, they had the seasons best player Arjen Robben. Along with teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger (pictured here in the parade), he was cheered as he presented the trophy to Munich last night.
Felix Magath as coach got a lot more out of his team than anyone thought possible; in fact, they could have gone for the title, but they messed up the decisive game against champions Bayern.
If they’d played better in the first half of the season, the Werder lads might well have been able to take the title; nevertheless, they saved face by getting into the Champions league – and could still do well in the cup.
After ruling the roost last autumn, Leverkusen came crashing down: their record-breaking run of 24 games unbeaten gave them a huge lead that then melted away into nothing.
The Dortmunders played well this season. At the beginning, they wouldn’t necessarily have been top-six candidates and yet finished comfortably within the top-bracket. Nevertheless, they’re not the highest-placed team in the Ruhr area, and that will be sure to annoy them.
6. VfB Stuttgart
It was the change of trainers to Christian Gross that did it, with the Stuttgart boys suddenly coming into form after being candidates for relegation towards the end of the first half of the season. Now they’re in the European leagues and played best in the second half of the season. If they’d got the first half right, who knows where they might be now?
An expensive team does not always guarantee victory, especially if the coach isn’t right for the job. After Labbadia’s exit, HSV will once again have to start from zero. It’s a familiar story for the Hamburg lads and leaves a lot of questions open about next season.
The Wolves had the same team as last year, but a different coach – and slipped from first to eighth place. Dzeko, Grafite, Misimovic and the guys may well have made coach Felix Magath a champion, but now he’s gone and the Armin Veh/Lorzenz-Günther Köstner duo could not take Wolfsburg to the top. Now the league’s best striker, Edin Dzeko, is leaving.
A lot of people expected Mainz’ first year in the Bundesliga to also be their last, but they and their newbie trainer Thomas Tuchel surprised everyone.
The last two games of the season were where Frankfurt wasted their chances of finishing better. The coach Michael Skibbe has got as much as he can out of his distinctly average team.
These provincials may have had a big-money patron behind them, but even that is no guarantee of success. Anyone down their dreaming of Champions League glory will have to learn to live with less. They’re in a bad mood – as is the manager, who is leaving.
Although the new coach Frontzeck left Bielefeld with a bad reputation for seeing his team relegated, he did good work in Mönchengladbach, helping them navigate a safe passage through the league – and hold off their arch rivals in Cologne!
13-1. FC Köln
Cologne managed to banish any rumours of relegation relatively quickly, and that was the main thing. Lukas Podolski, who was supposed to guarantee a good season, was nevertheless a disappointment; but perhaps the pressure got to him and he’ll do better next season.
That Freiburg didn’t go down a league is one of the biggest surprises this year. With the smallest budget and the biggest problems with winning on home turf, it didn’t look good for the guys in the far South. But they pulled it off – just in time!
The Robert-Enke suicide-drama cast a long shadow on this team, but in the end coach Mirko Slomka managed to find a way of communicating with his players and saved the team from relegation. The goalie Fromlowitz said it all after their win at Bochum: “I never want to go through anything like it ever again.”
16-1. FC Nürnberg
This weekend, the relegation decider between the third-last in the Bundesliga and the third-best in the second league will be played – for the second time after its introduction in 2009. And for the second time, Nuremberg will be playing in it. Last season, Nuremberg were newly promoted to the Bundesliga and held their ground against Cottbus. But this time? And against their bitter Bavarian rivals FC Augsburg?
17. VfL Bochum
Heiko Herrlich took over in October and, at first, things went well. Bochum were planning for their next Bundesliga season, but suddenly things went wrong – quite inexplicably. Panicking and getting rid of Herrlich before the last two games of the season didn’t help either and now Bochum are being relegated for the sixth time in their history as a team.
18. Hertha BSC Berlin
The worst team in home games, the worst team in the first half of the season; the wrong way to build a team, a manager with little-to-no experience, a pointless change of coach. All of that and more is why Berlin are going down, why the German capital is no longer represented in the Bundesliga and why Hertha BSC are now in the same category as Tasmania Berlin. Shameful.
Bochum and Berlin, by the way, are being replaced next season by 1. FC Kaiserslautern and by FC St. Pauli in Hamburg. This will lead to some exiting derbies, with Pauli against Hamburg rivals HSV and Kaiserslautern playing Mainz, the other big city in Rhineland-Palatinate. I just can’t wait for the first match day on 20th August…
(Stefan Reichart/Brian Melican)
Results Matchday 34:
Hertha BSC Berlin – Bayern München 1:3
1899 Hoffenheim – VfB Stuttgart 1:1
Werder Bremen – Hamburger SV 1:1
SC Freiburg – Borussia Dortmund 3:1
1. FSV Mainz 05 – FC Schalke 04 0:0
Borussia Mönchengladbach – Bayer Leverkusen 1:1
VfL Bochum – Hannover 96 0:3
1. FC Nürnberg – 1. FC Köln 1:0
VfL Wolfsburg – Eintracht Frankfurt 3:1