By Nathan Jacobs
Since the magic of Klopp’s Dortmund in 2012, no team has threatened Bayern’s dominance of the Bundesliga. Can the 16/17 season produce anything different?
Pep Guardiola has departed the Bavarian club and his replacement, Carlo Ancelotti, is preparing for his first season managing in Germany. He takes over a club filled with perennial winners, not that he is unaccustomed to such surroundings. He has managed Ac Milan, Chelsea, Real Madrid, PSG and has won titles wherever he has been.
However, there is no guarantee of success, not even with Bayern’s squad of players. Ancelotti is not resting on his laurels though and has completed two marquee signings in preparation for the upcoming season. They’ve acquired Mats Hummels from rivals Borussia Dortmund as the centre back rejoins the team he started his career at. Additionally, Bayern completed the signing of Portuguese wonderkid Renato Sanches for an initial fee of £27.5m. The fee could rise to £68m though, making him the most expensive teenager in football history.
There’s zero doubting Bayern’s credentials but with a new manager and new ideas, it may take time for the Bayern boys to adapt, opening a small gap for the chasing pack.
‘Der BVB’ are the only team to have won the Bundesliga in the past seven seasons other than Bayern Munich and have finished runners up in three of the last four seasons. Therefore, one might expect them to be Bayern’s closest rivals again.
However, some key stars have departed the Westfalenstadion this summer including captain Matt Hummels, and midfielders Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Ilkay Gundogan.
Despite the departures, Dortmund have strengthened astutely with wingers Andre Schurrle and Ousmane Dembele joining. Former Dortmund player Mario Gotze has also rejoined his boyhood club along with Sebastien Rode, both signing from Bayern Munich. Completing their transfer activity, centre back Marc Bartra signed for a very respectable £6.8m from Barcelona. Invigorated by these signings, it appears that highly valued striker Pierre Emerick Aubameyang will stay at Dortmund for this season at least. He was the second top scorer in the Bundesliga last season. With an attacking quartet of Reus, Gotze, Schurrle and Aubameyang, Dortmund are not to be scoffed at.
All of this considered, whether or not the Black and Yellows win the title, they should be making a fist of it this time around.
Bayer were magnificent in the Bundesliga last season, eventually finishing third. However impressive, that still saw them finish 28 points behind Bayern.
They recouped £12.75m for defensive midfielder Christoph Kramer, replacing him with the Austrian international Julian Baumgartlinger. Apart from that, it has been a quiet summer at the BayArena although they did sign Kevin Volland from Hoffenheim for £17m. It is expected that he and Stefan Kiessling will battle it out to support the goalscoring machine that is former Manchester United man Javier Hernandez. The Mexican international scored 17 goals in 28 games in his first season in Germany.
If he can replicate that form, and they get the best out of their current crop of players, third place should be achievable again. Expecting better than that is unlikely.
Despite finishing 8th last season, I’d tip Wolfsburg to improve significantly this campaign. They have no European distractions and under the 2015 German Football Manager of the Year Dieter Hecking, they should be expecting to do better this time around.
Despite selling Andre Schurrle and Max Kruse, they appear to be keeping German international Julian Draxler who has been linked heavily with Real Madrid and Arsenal. They have also signed Jeffrey Bruma, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Joshua Guilavogui. ‘Die Wölfe’ are also rumoured to be spending £25m on Juventus forward Zaza to further strengthening.
The won’t be threatening Bayern’s title bid, but they should be hoping for a top four finish.