The Six Tiers of German Soccer’s Top Flight Explained by Parks and Rec Gifs
The Bundesliga kicks off today so here is a quick preview with Parks and Rec gifs both so you stay around and get a better idea of who these teams are, or the situations they are in.
These teams will fall to the worst fate in the Bundesliga, relegation. It is basically the equivalent of getting “Jammed.”
The Bundesliga 2 winners have done no real strengthening in this summer transfer window and I think that will come back to bite them. Last year newly promoted sides did well to fight the drop, I don’t think Freiburg will have quite that luck.
Frankfurt had a late surge last season to avoid the drop and much like Freiburg, just didn’t add enough around that group to convince me this year will be any different. If Alexander Meier hits his highs again, they could stay up but if he struggles, they are locks for relegation. And when your team floats or sinks with one player, your luck can only run so far. This is the end of the line for Eintracht.
Darmstadt were the darlings of the Bundesliga last year. They played a very defensive style and managed to way out perform expectations or advanced analytics. That combination usually doesn’t happen twice. And after losing Luca Caldirola and Sandro (wait, he scored again?!) Wagner their squad is missing some of its key components. Sorry Darmstadt.
Jerry, Larry, Gary?
Here is that next group of the teams who will successfully fight off relegation but do nothing especially convincing. We will let you stay Jerry, but just know that nobody likes you and it is only a matter of time before you are out. Don't celebrate too much.
I actually love what HSV did in the summer, bringing in Filip Kostic, Alen Halilovic, and Bobby Wood while moving on from attacking players who didn’t perform should give their attack new life. Which is good because their attack was near non-existent these past few years. Hamburg have been constant relegation favorites and have won the playoff multiple times, so having them here is a bit of an upgrade.
If Koln had the same squad as last year I would probably have them progressing up the table, but after losing Gerhardt and Vogt in the summer they are now missing their entire midfield core. I don’t see any way in which Koln can keep up the impressive improvement that they had been sustaining without those two young midfielders fueling them.
Bremen did bring in some talent this summer but losing Vestergaard and not being able to keep Djilobodji makes their defense very weak. And it isn’t like they have the attack to sustain that. Werder should (maybe?) be safe from relegation but don’t expect them to surprise anyone.
This is a special class of team, each of these clubs is relatively new to the German football scene and is bankrolled in a big way. For this reason, relegation is probably not a possibility but outside of Hoffenheim so is the top half. Much like Jean Ralphio they will be better in small doses, and while watchers from afar may love them, if you had to be there (in Germany or in the room) you would probably hate them.
Leipzig is basically a super big gamble by the Red Bull sports enterprise (also of New York and Salzburg) to bring the Bundesliga to East Germany. Though their huge cash influx has caused a stir in die-hard German fans their transfer policy of loading up on young talent has made them a favorite for international fans. This year their additions were Timo Werner, an athletically gifted striker with Bundesliga experience at 20 and Naby Keïta an industrious Guinean midfielder who had been rumored to a number of big Premier League clubs at 21. It will be interesting to see where RBL end up.
Backed by a software mogul this team quickly rose from the fifth tier of German football to the Bundesliga. Now with internet-darling-coach Julian Nagelsmann at the helm, they are losing some of that bad press. Along with that loss comes the loss of star man Kevin Volland. Nagelsmann will have his work cut out for him but if his tactical genius is real, they could even push for a European spot.
The club didn’t even exist until 2004, they get large amounts of funding from local car company Audi. Isn’t it nice when you have a worldwide brand in your backyard? Ingolstadt haven’t been quite as aggressive as these other two in the transfer market and after losing Danny Da Costa to an unfortunate buy back clause could see their performance slip a little. If any of these teams were to get relegated, my money would be on Ingolstadt.
These guys have finished in the top half despite not having the best pedigree or expectations. They are constantly producing talent and winning with tactics. Leslie Knope would be proud of their tenacity to never give up. And their superb organization that allows them to overachieve.
Hertha had the best defense in the Bundesliga last year. And have made minimal changes to the squad. While for many of the teams on this list that would have been a negative, for Hertha it could be a huge advantage. They should be tactically sound and ready from the get go. But be wary, if they struggle early they could lose that mojo that propelled them so far last year.
Mainz is constantly bringing through new talent at both the coaching and the player level. It has been this tactical innovation that has kept them afloat and now excelling for so long. This year they will have to figure out how to replace star goalkeeper Loris Karius and midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger. Tasked with the now vacant midfield role will be new youngsters Jean-Philippe Gbamin and Levin Oztunali. If Mainz can keep innovating and developing youngsters they should have no problem.
They lost their club captain to Liverpool and now have to build a new defense on the fly. The big add is Takashi Usami, a creative midfielder who could give them a great outlet to build a successful attack. When you are trying to move from overachiever to regular success, differentiation can be a big step. Usami adds another dimension and Augsburg needs to make sure they can shore up their defense and there will be no issues.
Here is the group that is so close but not quite at the top. Good job trying guys but just like Tom Haverford you never quite succeed.
Leverkusen was possibly the hottest team at the end of last season. And after adding Kevin Volland, Julian Baumgartlinger and Aleksandar Dragovic I was tempted to pick them as part of a three-headed trio at the top of the table. Then Chicharito got hurt. Bayer has gotten deeper but until I see them perform consistently I don’t think they have reached the top tier yet. Also, their huge reliance on Chicharito at times last year is a little worrying as the “Little Pea” may not always perform.
Wolfsburg was a joke last year, but that may help them this year. They have no European competitions, they brought in more experienced players (Mario Gomez and Kuba), and just generally can’t get much worse. I am excited to see how Wolfsburg perform this year and hope the best for them and that Julian Draxler gets his big money move at the end of the year.
Who? As a Dortmund fan, I won’t spend too much time on this. But they cleaned up their act, got a new sporting director, Christian Heidel, cut a lot of the dead wood at the club and managed to bring in young talent and some good veterans. Good job Schalke now prepared to get killed when you come to the Westfalenstadion!
Gladbach lost the engine to their team this summer to Arsenal and it seems they are trying to replace him with World-Cup-winner Christoph Kramer (who hasn’t been good since he left them). They play a different style than most Bundesliga teams and will continue to try to perfect that and hope that it can continue to sneak up on the rest of the league. I don’t favor Gladbach to get back into the Champions League this year.
This is the title race if there even is one. Both of these teams are sitting pretty, with world class players, international brands, and almost guaranteed Champions League Knockout round games (aka straight cash).
FC Bayern München
Bayern was always going to be the favorites and their summer trading players with Dortmund seems to show that they are not too worried about their closest rivals. Bayern boasts Germany’s World Cup Winning center back and goalkeeper pairing, flanked by world class full backs Phillip Lahm and David Alaba. They have a mid-field as deep as teenage girls think Taylor Swift lyrics are and winger depth that makes their midfield depth look as deep as Taylor Swift lyrics actually are. All of this behind possibly the best natural goal scorer in the world Robert Lewandowski and a goal hunter who is equally adept Thomas Muller who is normally playing out of position but never seems to suffer. Bayern Munich is simply not fair.
BVB lost key players all over the pitch, the aforementioned Mats Hummels, midfield engine Ilkay Gundogan and possibly the offensive player of the year last year Henrikh Mkhitaryan. And to replace those players they brought in a younger crop of talents and then topped it off with Andre Schurrle. The Schurrle signing is a weird one, but he broke through under Tuchel at Mainz and I wonder if he could even be a striker option. Last year Dortmund was much too reliant on Aubamayang’s finishing and having others share that responsibility could take them from a really good team to a great team. Tuchel will need to manage a masterpiece of a season to upend Bayern, but it has been done before.
So who do you think will win the Bundesliga? What was the signing you wish I’d talked about? Who is the team you’re most excited to watch?
Let me know in the comments and hit the ❤ if you loved it.