The Changing Scope of German Football

The second half of this decade has not been kind to German football, as the national team has been repeatedly embarrassed since winning the 2014 World Cup, and no German club has reached the Champions League final since the Bayern and Dortmund showdown in 2013. In response, Die Mannschaft’s coach Joachim Löw has kicked older players such as Boateng, Hummels, and Müller out of the squad, highlighting his commitment to transitioning the team into a newer, younger phase. This news came out in March 2019. Surely this was a sign of positive things to come, given that Löw found his side being unable to compete for the last two major tournaments, while watching France’s and Holland’s young talents flourish. 

All of this being said, this year’s Bundesliga has given Löw more to think about due to the competitive nature of the competition. The 2019/20 season has been stagnant elsewhere, as the Premier League is a one-team affair, and La Liga hasn’t lived up to its usual standard of play. The Bundesliga has proven to be not only the most interesting to follow, but the most exciting to watch. On multiple occasions now, I have woken up on a Sunday morning in my underwear and flipped on FoxSports, just in time to tune in to the 60th minute of an enthralling 4-3 scoreline between two German clubs (most recently, Leverkusen 4-3 Dortmund on Feb. 8). This is the kind of entertainment German soccer provides viewers with: hungry and pragmatic clubs gunning to take down Bayern. Moreover, I have no doubt that both Bayern and Leipzig are big contenders for the Champions League, especially now that Liverpool are out. 

Looking closely at the Bundesliga table, Bayern have a 4-point cushion, but that doesn’t mean much given all these teams have to play each other once more. The gap between Bayern and 5th-place Leverkusen is only 8 points. To give you an idea of how close this race is, the gaps between 1st and 5th in the other top leagues are: 37 points (ENG), 18 points (ITA), and 12 points (ESP). The level of competition in the Bundesliga has become remarkable. If Bayern stutter for a game or two, Dortmund, Leipzig, Mönchengladbach, and Leverkusen will be all over them. 

This season has clearly brought more attention to the German league, as we’ve seen trends unparalleled in other leagues. While the Premier League is viewed as the top dog when it comes to money and sponsorship, the Bundesliga lags behind by quite a bit. Only Bayern, and maybe Dortmund, have been able to truly compete with their English, Spanish, Italian, and French competitors, as reflected in the Champions League knockout stages. Where the Bundesliga thrives is in two areas: tactics and pragmatism, along with ultras and fan support. The former is what we’re focused on, as teams have morphed young and old talent (Bayern’s pairing of Gnabry and Müller comes to mind immediately) to create dynamic sides. Many of these teams play a 3-back on the weekend but a 4-back during the week, demonstrating the tactical know-how and bravery of German teams.

Now, as the DFB aims to fight against cries of corruption from ultras and fans, they must realize what the metamorphosis that has occurred for German football has given them. An invigoration of youth paired with pragmatic managers have armed German clubs with more artillery for years to come. There is no doubt that Germany will pose a big threat to France and Holland at the Euro 2020. As a French fan, Germany worries me the most. It feels as if a fiery beast has been angered, and I don’t know what to expect. However, only time will tell. I’m inclined to say… Germany is back (Or they will be in the next few years, at least).

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