So there you go: the last match day of the 2010-2011 season has been played, and the 18 Bundesliga teams is divided into two camps – the winners and the losers. Nevertheless, deciding which teams belong to which category is a matter of personal interpretation – and here’s mine.
The 29th match day of this Bundesliga season was a day of big-name duels. There was Frankfurt-Bremen, Stuttgart-Kaiserslautern and Mönchengladbach-Cologne, all of which were fights between relegation candidates – the latter, of course, was also something of a local Rhineland derby.
There was the Bavarian derby duel, too, with Munich up against Nuremberg. Attention was focussed pretty much exclusively on Bayern’s president Uli Hoeneß, though, who had had a real go at the club’s own fans last week after they gave him some flak for wanting to save TSV 1860, the other Munich club.
I like Pierre Littbarski. First he was one of the country’s most elegant dribblers in midfield, contributing decisively to the World Cup success of 1990. Then he was a coach, with a distinct lack of vanity and an ability to stay focussed and unemotional. This weekend, however, I did find myself wondering about our “Litti”, who has taken over from the luckless Steve McClaren as coach at Wolfsburg. I mean, I know the guy is pretty relaxed, and I know he’s spent the last seven years playing and coaching in Japan, known as it is for its attachment to Buddhist Zen philosophy, but calling your new job “a nice little hobby” in front of television cameras is not really on – especially when your entire team has spent much of this season playing as if their Bundesliga exploits were, for them too, little more than a nice way to pass the time of day, not their primary means of putting food on the table. In fact, they’ve played so poorly that only their goal difference is saving them from the relegation spot; nevertheless, they still lost 1:2 to SC Freiburg this weekend.
So the 20th match-day of the Bundesliga is over and we know who lost and who won: but do you know who’s new in your favourite team? Ideas, anyone? After all, the winter transfer rounds in January are wreaking absolute havoc with the line-ups, and so it’s not hard to understand why some people are asking questions about whether this additional round of swaps and sales after the summer signing season is a help or a hindrance. I for one am very much of the opinion that it doesn’t help at all, leading to considerable confusion within the teams – well, in teams like Schalke 04 at least.
There are some games in the Bundesliga that seem to follow all my predictions to the letter. These are the games with nothing unexpected, no surprise goals – and there were enough of them on the 16th match day this season to make me wish I’d gone to the betting shop beforehand!
For a start, the table toppers at Borussia Dortmund won 2:0 against Werder Bremen: no surprises there, then. Then Leverkusen won 4:2 against HSV, a team currently in serious crisis. Meanwhile, last year’s champions Bayern München held the upper hand against St. Pauli, newly promoted up from the second league this year. Oh really? If Germany’s record holders in terms of Bundesliga wins can’t beat newcomers to league, then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Last week must have been difficult for all of you Bundesliga junkies: the season had just got going, and suddenly there was a pause for international games; and they weren’t even high-adrenaline games, either. We were forced into watching teams like Denmark, Belgium and Azerbaijan. That’s all over now, though: play started again on the weekend – and if you’re anything like me, you couldn’t wait!
Come on, quick! Now’s the time to get rid of players you don’t need and then go and get some new ones! Why? Because after the qualifying games for the Champions League and the European Cup, it’s clear that all the German teams involved have made it into the group phase of the continental competitions. There’s new money available, the first games are out of the way and decisions about location have been made: so now it’s a game of musical chairs, with Bremen hoping Silvestre will set down on their seat, Hannover wanting to tempt Hajnal from Dortmund, Wolfsburg grabbing Diego and Demichelis looking to sit down anywhere except at Munich – he doesn’t get along well with the trainer. Really, any team with ambitions to take the Champions’ League should be looking to sign him: after all, ex-Bayern defenders are as close as you can get to guaranteed title success (see Lucio at Inter Milan last season).