Bundesliga – 2018/19 Season Preview – Part I

Bundesliga – 2018/19 Season Preview – Part I

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Manuel Veth –

The 2018/19 Bundesliga season kicks off in less than a week. Dominated by Bayern München for the last six years one of the major questions ahead of this season will be whether the Bavarians’ dominance over the league can be broken. We will break down every club in three-part team by team breakdown.

Part I of our preview series will introduce the two newly promoted sides 1.FC Nürnberg, Fortuna Düsseldorf as well as, VfL Wolfsburg, SC Freiburg, 1.FSV Mainz and Hannover 96.

Bundesliga – Team by team breakdown – Part I

1.FC Nürnberg

Last Season

After four years in the second division, Der Glubb (the Club) have returned to the Bundesliga after finishing second in Bundesliga 2 behind Fortuna Düsseldorf. Based in Bavaria’s second largest city, behind Munich, Nürnberg are a sleeping giant that has suffered from years of mismanagement. Last year’s promotion was a major surprise as Nürnberg had one of the youngest sides in the second division. But Nürnberg scored the second most goals in the second division last season and were only dislodged from the top of the table on the final day of the season. A nine-time German champions and four-time DFB Pokal winners (last time in 2007) Nürnberg will now look to stabilise themselves in the top flight before looking to past glory.

Manager

Michael Köllner is very much the reason for Der Glubb‘s return to the Bundesliga. The 48-year-old took over Nürnberg in May 2017 and then led the club to promotion. Playing attractive 4-3-3 football Köllner is a workaholic, whose statements following promotion made some believe that the coach could retire from football after his greatest triumph. In truth, Köllner wanted to reflect on last season and see whether he was given the right tools to build on last year’s success that has been the case and Köllner is now tasked with keeping Nürnberg in the Bundesliga.

Key Players

Kevin Möhrwald is the only first team player that left Nürnberg this summer. Instead, players like top scorer Mikael Ishak, 12 goals and eight assists last season, midfielder Ondrej Petrak, captain Hanno Behrens and Eduard Löwen stayed with the club. Furthermore, Nürnberg were able to add the talented Timothy Tillman from Bayern München II and Japanese striker Yuya Kubo from Gent.

Mikael Ishak was 1.FC Nürnberg's top scorer in Bundesliga 2 last season (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Mikael Ishak was 1.FC Nürnberg’s top scorer in Bundesliga 2 last season (Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Bredlow – Leibold, Mühl, Margreittner, Valentini – Fuchs, Petrak, Behrens – Kubo, Ishak, Löwen

Predictions

Nürnberg have added well to their lineup and with Köllner have a coach, who tactically will get the most out of the squad. Furthermore, the head coach has the 100% backing of the club, which will be fundamental for success this season. Should Köllner be able to stay true to his football and continue to be backed by the board, even through a string of bad results, Nürnberg will stay in the league.

Fortuna Düsseldorf

Last Season

Fortuna Düsseldorf are another sleeping giant in German football. Based at the 54,600 ESPRIT Arena in one of Germany’s wealthiest cities Fortuna, however, have spent just one of the last 20 seasons in the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga 2 champions’ slogan for this season is “we have arrived to stay.” The club finished three points ahead of Nürnberg last season but played did not inspire the same way as their fellow promoted side from Franconia. Instead, Düsseldorf played pragmatic football that was based on results rather than dazzle the fans.

Manager

Friedhelm Funkel is one of the most experienced coaches in German football. Funkel plays a simple physical football that often leads to Bundesliga 2 success but does not always translate well to reality in the top flight. At the same time, Funkel has the experience of running clubs in the Bundesliga relegation dogfight. Expect Düsseldorf to mostly lineup in a pragmatic 4-4-2, sitting deep trying to win the ball to quickly transition forward.

Key Players

Key players like Florian Neuhaus (was on loan from Gladbach), Genki Haraguchi (Hannover 96) have left the club. New signings Kevin Stöger (Bochum) and Marvin Ducksch (Kiel) were excellent in Bundesliga 2 last season but have to show now that they can be competitive in the Bundesliga. The club’s key player, however, will be Japanese international Takashi Usami. Usami already spent last season on loan from Augsburg at the club and after long and drawn out; negotiations saw his loan deal extended.

Fortuna Düsseldorf were able to retain Japanese national team star Takashi Usami (Photo by Masahiro Ura/Getty Images)

Fortuna Düsseldorf were able to retain Japanese national team star Takashi Usami (Photo by Masahiro Ura/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Rensing – Gießelmann, Hoffmann, Ayhan, Zimmermann – Usami, Stöger, Sobottka, Zimmer – Hennings, Ducksch

Predictions

Last season’s success painted over many structural problems at the club. Hence, lack of success could bring about issues that have been sweltering among club officials. Fortuna, however, will need closed ranks in what will be a difficult fight against relegation and finishing 16th for a chance to play in the promotion/relegation playoffs should be considered a success.

VfL Wolfsburg

Last Season

The last two years were lost years for VfL Wolfsburg. A club owned by Volkswagen Wolfsburg’s potential is certainly bigger then the two 16th place finishes in the last two seasons. Wolfsburg were lucky that Hamburg started to kick off their relegation survival mode too late in the season, which meant that Wolfsburg were able to defeat Holstein Kiel in the relegation playoffs. Given that the club has a similar budget to Atlético Madrid, however, finishing in the bottom three of the Bundesliga is a disaster.

Manager

Bruno Labbadia ultimately saved the club from relegation. But with Jörg Schmadtke signed as the new sporting director last spring it was unclear whether Labbadia would be allowed to continue. Ultimately, Schmadtke opted to keep the former German national team player in charge of die Wölfe. Labaddia will now be in the spotlight to return Wolfsburg to the top half of the table. But success will have to be almost instant for Labbadia, who likes to play 4-3-3, to continue his work long-term in the Autostadt.

Key Players

New signing Daniel Ginczek (Stuttgart), Wout Weghorst (AZ Alkmaar) Felix Klaus (Hannover) and Jerome Roussillon (Montpellier) will all have to click right away to make the Labbadia project work. Meanwhile, midfielders Maximilian Arnold and Joshua Guilavogui will be asked to lead the club.

Maximilian Arnold of Wolfsburg looks on during the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and VfL Wolfsburg at Red Bull Arena on May 5, 2018 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Maximilian Arnold of Wolfsburg looks on during the Bundesliga match between RB Leipzig and VfL Wolfsburg at Red Bull Arena on May 5, 2018 in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo by Matthias Kern/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Casteels – Roussillon, Brooks, Knoche, William – Arnold, Guilavogui, Malli – Brekalo, Ginczek, Mehmedi

Predictions

Wolfsburg will stabilise this season and finish in the middle of the pack.

SC Freiburg

Last Season

After finishing sixth in the 2016/17 season, Freiburg struggled all last season. One of the smallest clubs in Germany SC Freiburg do excellent work but every successful season means that the Breisgau Brasilianer lose key players to other clubs. Hence, last season was all about the relegation battle after several key players had left the club. In the end, Freiburg was able to stay in the league without having to play in the relegation playoffs, which can be considered a success.

Manager

Christian Streich is one of the best head coaches in German football. The 53-year-old was voted the Futbolgrad Network head coach of the season one year ago and not only plays attractive football but also often speaks out on social issues. Streich knows that his job is save even if Freiburg are relegated, which means that the head coach can experiment with players and give young players the room to grow.

Key Players

Freiburg did not lose any key players this summer. The likes of Florian Niederlechner and Nils Petersen will once again lead the lineup front. Petersen was within touching distance of making the German national team squad for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and is always good to score between 10 and 15 goals a season. Meanwhile, Freiburg did well to sign Dominique Heintz from relegated Köln. The centre-back had offers from several top clubs but wanted to continue his development before making the next step.

Nils Petersen (c.) was the top scorer for Freiburg last season (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Nils Petersen (c.) was the top scorer for Freiburg last season (Photo by Lars Baron/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Schwolow – Günter, Heintz, Gulde, Stenzel – Höfler, Haberer – Waldschmidt, Frantz – Niederlechner, Petersen

Predictions

No Europa League football interrupted the preseason for Freiburg this season. Furthermore, the club managed some fascinating signings and will likely finish in the middle of the pack.

1.FSV Mainz

Last Season

Last season was a transition year for Mainz under head coach Sandro Schwarz. Mainz always stood for attractive football in Germany but had left the path under former coach Martin Schmidt. The club spent much of last season slowly inching away from Schmidt football but at times were hard to watch.

Manager

As a result, of last season Schwarz was given significant funds to redesign the club. The 39-year-old admits that last season was a learning year but now that he was able to rebuild the team the demands have changed. Schwarz is expected to bring back refreshing Karnevalsverein football that was made famous by former coaches Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

Key Players

Mainz sold Abdou Diallo (Dortmund), Suat Serdar (Schalke) and Yoshinori Muto (Newcastle). In their stead, Mainz bought the talented Jean-Philippe Mateta, Moussa Niakhaté, Pierre Kunde and Aaron Caricol. Those new signings are all expected to make an instant impact at Mainz. On top of that look out for the immensely talented Ridle Baku. The 20-year-old will feature prominently this season for Mainz.

Jean-Philippe Mateta was a property of Olympique Lyon PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

Jean-Philippe Mateta was a property of Olympique Lyon but joined Mainz from Le Havre (PHILIPPE DESMAZES/AFP/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Müller – Caricol, Niakhaté, Bell, Brosinski – Baku, Gbamin, Kunde – Holtmann, Mateta, Quaison

Predictions

Alongside Borussia Dortmund, Mainz are perhaps the most interesting project in the Bundesliga this season. The changes, however, also come with a risk and Mainz will need to find stability quickly to not be sucked into the relegation battle.

Hannover 96

Last Season

The first season in the top flight was a relatively stable affair. Hannover had a brilliant start to the season but then fizzled out towards the end of the season. Furthermore, much of the season was overshadowed about the 50+1 debate and the fight between President Martin Kind, who wants to take over the club, and the fan base of the club, which boycotted home games at times.

Manager

André Breitenreiter is mister popular in his native Hannover. The head coach did a fantastic job last season getting the optimum out of a mediocre team while also having to navigate the conflict between club officials and the ultras.

Key Players

Key players Martin Harnik (Werder Bremen) and Salif Sané (Schalke) have left the club. In their stead, Hannover have signed Kevin Wimmer (Stoke) Walace, Bobby Wood (both Hamburg), Genki Haraguchi (Hertha) and Takuma Asano (on loan from Arsenal). The new signings will all be asked to have an instant impact for Hannover. Meanwhile, striker Niclas Füllkrug, who was the club’s top scorer last season, will be asked to lead the line for the club. Also look out for Ihlas Bebou. The winger has the potential to become one of the most exciting players in the league.

Ihlas Bebou has the potential to be a star in the Bundesliga (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Ihlas Bebou has the potential to be a star in the Bundesliga (Photo by Martin Rose/Bongarts/Getty Images)

Preferred lineup

Esser – Albornoz, Wimmer, Anton, Korb – Schwegler, Walace – Haraguchi, Bebou – Füllkrug, Wood

Predictions

Hannover are ahead of a more difficult season and could even be relegated at the end of the year.

Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada.  Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.

COMMENTS

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    Simon 4 months

    When will Part 2 and 3 be published please?

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