PSG’s thrashing exposes Bayern Munich’s problems

The reigning Bundesliga champions were utterly thrashed by the big-spending PSG at the Parc des Princes. Bayern failed to cope with the Parisians’ pace on the break and paid for it dearly as Dani Alves, Cavani and Neymar all got on the scoresheet to demolish the Bavarians 3-0.

It was a fairly surprising – given Bayern has a number of talented players in their ranks – and telling result.

The game sent a message of intent from PSG and their quest to conquer Europe- even if it costed them almost €500 million. But the game also exposed Bayern’s flaws and Ancelotti’s, sometimes, questionable personnel selection.

Bayern showed that without Neuer in goal their defensive mistakes must be kept to a minimum because their second string goalkeeper, Ulreich is nowhere near the class of his countryman, which he has displayed on numerous occasions. At the weekend he cost his team two points with a huge blunder against Wolfsburg and against PSG he wasn’t much more convincing. He probably could have and should have done better on the first two PSG goals, although his defence did little to help him on the first.

Ulreich isn’t alone to blame though. The men tasked with protecting him failed to do their jobs against the Parisians and were often run ragged. They were sluggish and frankly unsure how to deal with the pace of PSG’s front three. The full backs had especially a torrid time trying to contain Neymar, Mbappé and the overlapping defenders, Alves and Kurzawa.

Alaba was especially made to look incredibly foolish by Mbappé, who easily dribbled past the Austrian and from a tight angle took a shot on goal, which Ulreich managed to save but Martínez wasn’t quick enough to get the ball away and Neymar was perfectly positioned to poke the ball home for the Parisians’ third of the night.

While the score was a tad bit surprising, the most shocking thing on the night was Ancelotti’s decision not to start the trio Hummels, Robben and Ribéry but rather opted to pair up the very slow Martínez with the young and inexperienced Süle, while choosing to start James- who had a very quiet game- alongside Lewandowksi and Müller.

Hummels is Bayern’s and Germany’s best defender and he has experience at this level. He would have been a better partner for Martínez in front of Ulreich. On the other hand, Robben and Ribéry are great and experienced players, though ageing. However, they would have been a better selection than James and Tolisso to start in Paris. Not to take anything away from both players but James struggled to get into Real Madrid’s starting 11, which is why he ended up on loan at Bayern and while Tolisso is talented this is new for him- his move to Bayern is a massive jump in quality and expectations from that of Lyon.

Ancelotti’s decision to substitute both James and Tolisso at the start of the second half was a good idea, as both players were quiet in the first half but his choice to send in Rudy and Coman, while his team was chasing the game, was equally as risky as his decision to start with James and Tolisso instead of Ribéry and Robben.

Ancelotti isn’t all to blame though, because he has limited options in his squad and the club’s back office did little to reinforce the squad to be more competitive for this season. The team has started to age and they have lost quality players like Lahm and Xabi Alonso to retirement and didn’t replace both adequately. They’ve also sent the brilliant Douglas Costa on loan to Juventus and new signing Gnabry on loan to Hoffenheim; both players are thriving in their new environment.

Lewandowksi himself has seen the problem with the club’s transfer policy and has publicly lambasted them for it; quite understandable from an ambitious player. Club officials (Rummenigge and Hoeneß) have since rebuked Lewa’s complaints and continue to say they will not participate in paying the current market’s egregious prices and as such are only seeking to pay what they believe is a fair price; but they should ask Arsène Wenger how that is working out for him and Arsenal.

By rejecting the current market’s inflated prices, the club is then left with the option of continually plundering and weakening their Bundesliga opponents, which has in part contributed to their dominance in the league- they’re now gunning for their sixth straight league title- and it isn’t at all surprising that they’ve been unable to compete on the continental stage since Jupp Heynckes’ treble winning season.

The market is absolute garbage and we can all agree on that but that’s where we are right now and in order to be competitive they have to consider spending more. No one is suggesting the pay €200 million for a player but surely €41.5 million- the club’s record transfer fee paid- can’t be their absolute ceiling. Even Wenger is starting to recognise that there is no way around the market and rumour has it he is considering a €98 million bid for Monaco’s Lemar in the next window.

Bayern is certainly struggling and has failed to achieve any semblance of consistency under Ancelotti this season but he isn’t solely to blame and players and club officials alike should equally shoulder the criticism.

Rumour has it Hoffenheim’s Nagelsmann will be the club’s next coach but the question is, will Ancelotti finish out the season at Bayern?

 

In defence of Dembélé

dembeleAs we’ve known for the past few weeks, Ousmane Demebélé has been AWOL since he’s gotten word that Barcelona desperately wants him. He’s refused to show up for training and has since been fined and suspended by Dortmund for his lack of professionalism. According to German newspaper Bild, he’s last been sighted in Monaco.

It’s never easy for players to resist the allure of playing for a top club, especially when that club is two-time treble winners Barcelona, which also has one of the world’s best players of all-time on their team.

It’s also difficult to resist the enticement of playing in the best league— based on UEFA’s ranking. And while both Dortmund and the Bundesliga, in their own right, are right up there with the best teams and leagues respectively, Barça and La Liga are far more attractive options.

So who could really forgo all that allure? Established players, the likes of Suarez, Rakitic, Modric, Ronaldo and Bale were all unable to fight the temptation to join their current clubs and immediately made the move when the opportunity presented itself. If those players couldn’t resist the urge, how could a 20-year-old rising star possibly do so?

Another perspective

There’s this theory from psychologist Frederick Herzberg, called the Two-Factor Theory. This premise basically suggests there are factors in the workplace, which affect job satisfaction and those which affect job dissatisfaction. The theory makes a distinction between two groups: Motivators and Hygiene factors.

Motivators are described as intrinsic factors arising from work conditions and affect job satisfaction. Some examples of them are: self-actualisation, recognition, opportunity to do something meaningful and a sense of importance.

Hygiene factors, on the other hand, are extrinsic to the work and affect job dissatisfaction. Examples of these factors are: salary/wages, benefits, status, work conditions and good pay.

According to Herzberg, hygiene factors don’t lead to higher motivation or job satisfaction but a lack of these factors can lead to job dissatisfaction. Motivators, conversely, lead to job satisfaction and increased motivation but don’t necessarily eliminate job dissatisfaction.

It’s worth noting here that Herzberg didn’t see job satisfaction and job dissatisfaction as opposites. He saw it the following way:

  • the opposite of job satisfaction as no job satisfaction and,
  • the opposite of job dissatisfaction as no job dissatisfaction.

Considering the information available to us, Dembélé already earns above average wages, works under fairly good conditions and seems to get along with the majority of his peers, which means the likelihood dissatisfaction exists is pretty low— conclusion: no dissatisfaction. He, however, feels that he’s done enough at Dortmund and achieved all he could, which means he sees no job satisfaction and the only way to achieve this is to seek a new challenge, currently offered by Barça. What normal, ambitious person doesn’t have a desire to accomplish more and even more so when the opportunity to do so is banging at the door?

So, while most of us may think Dembélé only wants this move because of the increased pay which comes with it, it is worth considering that it’s equally likely and possibly more logical that he’s pushing for a transfer to Barça because he:

  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like win the Champions League— an unlikely feat for Dortmund this season, with or without him.
  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like win the league and though plausible at Dortmund will prove difficult to do, considering Bayern is so dominant.
  • has the opportunity to “do something meaningful” like take on a new challenge in a new and better league
  • can feel a “sense of importance” by being able to compete and win every possible trophy.
  • can feel a “sense of importance” by becoming a regular at a top club and playing with one of the world’s all-time greats.
  • can feel a “sense of responsibility” by becoming the player who satisfactorily fills the colossal aperture left behind by Neymar.

So before we condemn and bemoan him and deem him a money grubber, it’s worth considering the need to fulfil his potential, something Dortmund can no longer offer him.

Dortmund have also resigned themselves to a sale, as was revealed earlier today by the club’s sporting director Michael Zorc before the team’s Bundesliga kick-off, and we should too.

 

Bayern Munich off to a flyer

As is tradition in the Bundesliga, the reigning champions Bayern Munich opened the season at home to a fairly new look Bayer Leverkusen.

The champions— who had a surprisingly underwhelming pre-season and really won the German Super Cup as a result of terrible finishing and defending from Dortmund— looked dominant and could’ve [and probably should’ve] run rampant over Leverkusen, coming away with only a 3-1 win. An incredible display considering the Bavarians had three new signings in their team, lost two amazing players in Xabi Alonso and Philipp Lahm to retirement, and were also missing other valuable starters through injury—  Neuer, Boateng and Thiago. Also missing from the team through injury was superstar James, who is on loan from Real Madrid.

Leverkusen’s new coach chose a fairly offensive line-up, which didn’t pay off as expected and the Bavarians were dominant in midfield having been allowed far too much space to run amok.

New signings, Corentin Tolisso, Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy, were in the starting line-up for Bayern and both Tolisso and Süle were able to notch a debut goal, while Rudy bagged an assist— Süle scored in the 9th minute, getting on the end of a Rudy free-kick and Tolisso finished off a corner in the 18th minute after a poor clearance from the goalkeeper sent the ball into the path of Vidal, who then found Tolisso with a neat chip to the back post.

Süle partnered Hummels in the centre of defence in wake of Boateng’s absence and looked impregnable alongside his countryman, while Rudy, Tolisso and Vidal made up the three-man midfield. Tolisso was lively throughout the game and linked up well with his new team-mates, managing to create a number of chances including one moments after scoring, which hit the inside of the post.

Sven Bender made his debut for Leverkusen alongside Jonathan Tah in defense but was utterly out-played by Bayern, and his new team was unable to get anything going in the first half, with the exception of a couple of chances from Mehmedi and Volland. After finally making it to the starting 11, Leon Bailey was a ghost for die Werkself and was swiftly substituted at the start of the second half for Julian Brandt, who brought some life to their attack. Leverkusen’s livelier second half efforts were rewarded in the 65th minute through Mehmedi’s belter after a lay off in the box from Brandt.

Also making it’s debut in the Bundesliga was the video assistant referee (VAR), which was called upon by the referee Tobias Stieler in the 51st minute to identify a foul on Lewandowski by Aránguiz in the penalty box.

Bayern looked thrilling and played scintillating football, all without key players. They look set to once again dominate the Bundesliga and make it six titles in a row. Their squad also has depth, which will come in handy in the Champions League.

Dortmund off to a great start, while Gladbach stutters

image_1Two games into the new Bundesliga season and things seem to be going good for some teams; for others, as expected and for another group it has been nothing short of disastrous and although it’s still early days there has to be some worry for certain teams, while others can be rightly overjoyed that they have hit the ground running.

Dortmund, in the first leg of their UEFA Europa league group stage qualifiers had a slight scare against ODD Bk. However, with the quintessence of champions they battled back from three [early] goals down to defeat the Norwegians 4-3 in Norway. Today, in the return leg against the same opponents, Dortmund overturned an early one-goal lead to trounce ODD 7-2. Not only have they been extremely convincing in their four continental games, they’ve also won every other official league and domestic cup game comfortably and utterly convincing.

Tuchel has managed to so far help Dortmund reignite the radiant style of football started by Jürgen Klopp with silky passing and cogent team defending. They’ve conceded a mere five goals from seven games and scored a whopping 27(!).

Initially, I was apprehensive that they would be a genuine threat to Bayern this season but based on their recent performances and Bayern’s semi-poor display at Hoffenheim at the weekend, there is some renewed hope that the Schwarzgelben can really put some pressure on the record league winners and based on their schedule they have a chance to really set the pace before they meet Bayern. The Bavarians have two challenging games ahead of them before they meet Dortmund on match day eight, including this weekend’s match up against Bayer Leverkusen, a team that appears to be hitting a new high after reversing a one-goal deficit against Lazio in the return leg of the Champions League play-off round. Munich is also expected to be without key defensive players for that game- Boateng was sent off last weekend and Benatia exited the pitch injured. The other potential danger game for the Munich team is against Wolfsburg on match day six. Dortmund’s schedule has them at home against Berlin this weekend, away to Hannover, at home to Leverkusen, away to Hoffenheim and then home to newly promoted Darmstadt before travelling to Munich. Based on their current form and their league timetable for the next five games before meeting the defending champs, Bayer Leverkusen is the only team that poses them any real threat.

borussia-dortmundWhile der BVB has been frighteningly wonderful, Borussia Mönchengladbach has been shockingly appalling. They were trounced 4-0 by Dortmund in the season opener and despite being an all around great performance for The Black and Yellows, die Fohlen were dreadful in defence and lacking creativity at the other end. At the weekend, against Mainz, they displayed the same apathy in defence and deficiency going forward. They’ve been sadly disappointing, losing their opening league games conceding six goals and scoring one. They need to turn things around soon and their schedule allows for just that. Their next five games are against: Bremen (A), Hamburg (H), Köln (A), Augsburg (H) and Stuttgart (A). Apart from Köln and Augsburg, the other teams all struggled last season and haven’t really started this season well.

Gladbach was today drawn alongside Juventus (last season’s finalist), Manchester City and Sevilla (last season’s Europa Cup winners) in group D of the Champions League. However, if this slump in form continues, I have qualms about them posing any danger to the other teams and it is already a tough group even for the form they displayed last season, which won them a third place finish in the league.

578341_heroaGladbach’s problem lies with them being a feeder club for other teams, both in the Bundesliga and around the continent. Added to that, they tend to build their core team around “borrowed” players. Kramer, for example, was key to their shape in midfield. He was the player that cut out opponents’ attacks, sprung counters and helped to control the game’s tempo. However, he returned to Leverkusen. Max Kruse, a crucial part of their attack, was sold to title challengers, Wolfsburg. His case represents an instance of a player who gets sold after a few impressive seasons. Such occurrences make it hard for die Fohlen to return to their former glory years of the 70’s and it will certainly take a toll on them in European competition.

Both Dortmund and Gladbach are for the moment at two different sides of the continuum- one sitting atop the table, while the other is rooted to the bottom. One team has to focus on keeping their form with the other having to focus on improving. It is, of course, very early in the season and BVB is capable of going all the way just as Favre is competent to lead his Gladbach team out of this slump.

Bundesliga 2015/2016: Opening Day

FCB_HSV_03_GET_140815.variant846x476It is tradition in the Bundesliga for the champions to kick-start the new campaign and on Friday, defending champs FC Bayern Munich kicked off the new season with aplomb, trouncing Hamburg SV 5-0. It was an impressive showing from the Münchner and yet another dismal performance for Hamburg following their DFB Pokal loss to 4th league team FC Carl Zeiss Jena. Bayern and fans alike should be extremely pleased about the team’s business so far this transfer window and the performances of their new and returning players, particularly that of Douglas Costa. His presence in the team has been refreshing and means that Ribery’s prolonged injury problems and Robben’s propensity to pick up knocks means the Bavarians have a more than capable winger to cover any such absences. If his form continues, one can even assume the Brazilian will in fact nab the starting role from either man. He was very lively in his first Bundesliga outing, scoring the final goal in his team’s rout, providing the assist on one of Müller’s goals and had a hand in the many chances Bayern created.

On Saturday, we got to see the two newcomers, FC Ingolstadt 04 and SV Darmstadt 98. Both teams played impressively well, holding their own against Bundesliga veterans FSV Mainz 05 and Hannover 96. Ingolstadt came away with the biggest upset on the day defeating the Mainzer 1-0 with Hinterseer scoring the club’s historic first Bundesliga goal in the 66th minute, a beautifully curved shot into the right corner of the goal from just inside the box. Darmstadt, providing the most exciting game on the day, had the pacey winger/striker Heller to thank for their point in the season opener, after he ran the length of the field on a counter, turning a defender out and then curling one into the top corner to give his team the lead. However, Hannover equalised in the second half through Benschop but that lead wouldn’t last long as Heller sneaked in to steal the ball from Albornoz just outside the box, rounded the keeper and slotted the ball home to hand his side a temporary lead, which was cancelled out minutes later by a Sulu own goal. The game ended in a 2-2 draw. A good start for the newly promoted team from Darmstadt and surely Marco Sailer’s beard has continued to bring The Lilies luck.

FC Schalke 04, previously on a winless streak in their last five season openers, managed to put a hurting on SV Werder Bremen in the Weserstadion. The most beautiful goal (and the opener) came from Gabriel Selassie, albeit an own goal. Choupo-Moting and Huntelaar scored the other goals. Many doubted the competence of the new coach, André Breitenreiter, who coached the relegated SC Paderborn 07 last season. It’s still early days but he has, however, proved that he just might know what he is doing as the Königsblauen have now scored eight goals in their first two official games. The setup of Geis, Draxler, Goretzka and Choupo-Moting is proving to be a dazzling and strong midfield for The Royal Blues and an astute decision from Breitenreiter as it provides the team from Gelsenkirchen with a wonderful balance in midfield when going forward and defending. Goretzka playing as a box-to-box midfielder, whose fantastic eye for goal, finishing and passing capabilities provides them with plenty in offence, while in defence, he can pull out a tackle that can stop the opposition in their tracks. Meanwhile, his partner Geis brings a powerful long-range strike, free-kick proficiency and defensive class. The pairing has so far been lucrative, as Schalke has yet to concede a goal in competitive play and has exploded offensively.

Bayer 04 Leverkusen, another team with talented young players, got their season off to a winning start by defeating a new-look, Firmino-less TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, 2-1. Newcomer and former Hamburg wunderkind Jonathan Tah got his first start for Bayer 04 alongside former Schalke man Papadopoulos in the middle of defence; both playing very well. Hoffenheim managed to open the scoring in the fifth minute of play through the Swiss, Zuber; Wendel played him onside after a clever pass through the middle from Polanski. However, Kießling would equalise for the home side tucking away the rebound after a save from Baumann on Wendel’s shot from outside the box. It was a save that Baumann should have done better with but instead palmed the ball straight down the middle into the feet of Kießling; an elementary goalkeeping error. Up and coming star Julian Brandt scored the all-important winning goal in the 71st minute. The team from Leverkusen played well and had some great chances throughout the game; and while Hoffenheim didn’t play too badly, they did enough that if the game had ended in a draw, they would’ve still deserved the point.

In the other early game on Saturday, Hertha Berlin SC scraped a 1-0 win over Augsburg thanks to Kalou’s effort from the spot after being clumsily tackled by Klavan. It was a game in which a player from either side was sent off: Augsburg’s Bobadilla on the stroke of half-time, picking up a silly second yellow for recklessly diving into a challenge and Berlin’s Roy Beerens picking up his second yellow in the 66th minute for a silly foul on Feulner.

In Saturday’s final game and the top-game of the week, BVB Dortmund obliterated Borussia Mönchengladbach, scoring three goals in the first 32 minutes: Kagawa’s pass found Reus in the box and after a little trickery to beat his marker he fired a shot beating the goalkeeper at his near post. Seven minutes later, Aubamenyang would head in Schmelzer’s accurate cross and ten minutes after, Kagawa sprang a counter attack threading the ball through for Aubamenyang, whose fine pace beat the defender before he unselfishly squared the ball past the onrushing keeper for Mkhitaryan, who blasted the ball into an empty net. Dortmund started the second half the same way they did the first scoring their fourth in the 51st minute again on the counter; Kagawa laying the ball off for Reus, who speeds down the right flank before cutting the ball back to Mkhitaryan, who once more hit the ball into an empty net. The movement of the attacking players caused Gladbach all sorts of trouble and the likes of Reus, Mkyhitaryan, Aubameyang and Kagawa were incredibly difficult to contain. Apart from the aforementioned players, another standout for the Schwarzengelb was youngster and new signing Julian Weigl. The 19-year-old had an outstanding game in midfield, helping to control the game alongside Gündogan and stifling any attack Gladbach threw at his team. Coming from playing in the second league with 1860 Munich, he handled himself with the equanimity of a seasoned Bundesliga player and the Dortmund fans should be justly excited about him and his future in their team. Additionally, Bürki looks like a good replacement for Weidenfeller despite an early hesitation that could have led to a goal for Gladbach in the opening minutes of the game. For a team playing in the Champions League next season, it was a very disappointing start to the season for Gladbach; they looked lackadaisical in defence and clueless going forward and if they intend to play like this in Europe, the fans should be worried. As for Dortmund? They seemed to have found their footing again under Tuchel and though it’s early days, they look an exciting team once more.

There are two more games left to play in match day one and will take place on Sunday. VFL Wolfsburg will take on Eintracht Frankfurt at home and 1. FC Köln travels to VFB Stuttgart.

Will Bayern storm to yet another Bundesliga title?

Bayern-Munich-Bundesliga-ChampionsBayern has dominated the Bundesliga for the past few seasons winning three consecutive league titles. They are the team to have won the league the most being crowned champions 25 times, while 1. FC Nürnberg comes in a distant second with almost three times as less titles- nine. In the last 15 seasons (2001 – 2015), Bayern were crowned champions nine times, Dortmund on three occasions and Bremen, Stuttgart and Wolfsburg with one title each. The last time Bayern really had to “fight” for the league title was in the 2009-2010 season when they finished with only a five-point lead above Schalke. Since then, they’ve won it with a 25-, 19- and 10-point lead respectively. Is there a team that can legitimately challenge Bayern this season?

Dortmund is the team that has constantly challenged Bayern’s hegemony in the past several seasons. However, following last season’s poor run of form, which led to the eventual dissolution of a seven-year partnership between Klopp and the Schwarz-Gelb, the club is in a rebuilding phase; they have a new coach and new players in addition to a new playing style and different tactics. They will need time to adjust and certainly won’t be as big of a threat as they’ve been in the past.

Schalke, another traditional German club, has won eight titles in their Bundesliga history- their last coming over 50 years ago in 1958. Considering the state of affairs at the club and having a less than competent general manager in Horst Heldt, Schalke has been unable to seriously challenge for the title in the past ten years; they finished second twice, two points behind Stuttgart in 2006-07 and as mentioned above, five points behind München in 2009-10. Apart from those two second-place finishes, Schalke has finished a distant third in 2007-08, 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Both Stuttgart and Bremen, teams that have won the league in the last 15 seasons, have been in the past five years either drawn into a battle against relegation or hovered just above the drop zone. Based on their current squads and lack of serious recruitment so far, both teams are very unlikely to even bother Bayern.

Wolfsburg, last season’s runners-up, won their first and only Bundesliga championship in the 2008-2009 season beating the Bavarians by two points. The season thereafter, they took part in their first Champions League competition and playing in two elite competitions they ended up failing to make it out of the group stage, made it only to the quarter-finals of the newly named UEFA Europa League and finished the Bundesliga season in eighth- 20 points behind the team they beat to the title the previous year. If history is anything to go by, then Wolfsburg could in end effect again fail to genuinely contest Bayern for the title. Although, if there is one team that has the potential to do so it’s them as they do have a nicely balanced team but the pressure of playing in the Champions League, competing in the DFB Pokal and the league could be too high for them and their squad may be stretched thinly as a result.

No team has ever been able to win four consecutive Bundesliga titles. The first team that was on the cusp of doing so was Borussia Mönchengladbach in the 1977-1978 season. Going into the final match day, both Köln and Gladbach were tied on points with Köln holding a ten-goal advantage. Die Fohlen, as Gladbach is often called, defeated Dortmund 12-0 which would’ve been enough had Köln merely won by two goals. Gladbach, however, missed out on the title by three goals because Köln won 5-0 against St. Pauli.

Bayern, in the 1987-1988 season then had the chance to become the first team to ever win four titles in a row but faltered in the end as Bremen dominated the league that year. The Bavarian giant had yet another chance in the 2001-2002 season but lost out to Dortmund by two points and finished third behind Bayer Leverkusen.

Bayern is the first German team to win a treble- collecting the Bundesliga, the German Cup and the Champions League in the 2012-2013 season. This coming season they’ll most likely create history again by becoming the first team to win four successive Bundesliga trophies, as there really isn’t any team that I believe could truly contest them.

Shall we now congratulate the Bavarian giants on their league win?

Top young players in the Bundesliga

draxler-meyer-goretzkaGermany, like so many South American nations, has a tendency to produce some extremely talented players. Clubs like FC Schalke 04, BVB Dortmund, 1. FC Köln, VFB Stuttgart, SC Freiburg, etc don’t usually have to look far for players and are usually hunting grounds for top clubs around the world.

The Bundesliga is also a great league for attracting young, talented players. The likes of Lewandowski, Firmino, Luiz Gustavo, Demba Ba, De Bruyne, Shaqiri etc. all went to Germany young and blossomed into very capable players, who’ve attracted attention from big clubs world wide.

Here are some of the top young players; under 23 currently playing in the league both locally grown and imported.

1. Kevin Volland

Kevin’s a 22-year-old attacking midfielder who plays for 1899 Hoffenheim. He can play anywhere in the attack including as a forward. He is quick, his vision brilliant, and his dribbling great, which allows him to draw plenty fouls from opponents- he collected on average 2.3 fouls per game and largely completed 2.1 dribbles last season in the Bundesliga. He likes cutting in from the right, which seems to be his best position. Last season he totalled ten goals and six assists for Hoffenheim in his 36 appearances- six of those ten goals and four of his assists came from playing in that right attacking position. His average pass success rate for the season sits at 66%.  He has all the tools to become an outstanding player in the future but he needs to work on his passing and his ability to hold on to the ball better.

2. Hakan Calhanoglu

I don’t need to say much about this player. He is without doubt one of the most electrifying players in Germany. He had an outstanding season for Bayer Leverkusen. He is 21 years of age and is a product of Karlsruher SC’s youth system. Hakan is already a dead ball specialist. He can play as an attacking midfielder or on the left. He spent most of this season playing in the middle as creator for Leverkusen. Calhanoglu finished the season with 12 goals and eight assists. Of his 12 goals, six were from free-kicks including his 37-yard humdinger against Hoffenheim. He is not only good from dead ball plays but he’s also got a knack for testing goalkeepers from long-range. His passing, crossing, and tackling are also strong attributes of his game. This season he averaged 3.3 shots and 2.3 key passes per game. He also helped out on the defensive side averaging 1.7 tackles per game. Arsenal missed out on a great signing last summer with a rather lackadaisical attempt at luring him away from Hamburg. The better he gets the more we’ll see other clubs swooping in to sign him from Leverkusen.

3. Johannes Geis

Groomed at Greuther Fürth, the new Schalke man is only 21 years old but already a very mature player. He is a strong defensive midfielder who is very good at taking set pieces and direct free-kicks. He also likes taking shots from distance and is very strong at holding on to the ball. He finished the season with five goals and three assists. Defensively he completed the season with an average of 2.1 tackles, 2.3 interceptions, and 2.1 clearances per game. On the attack he made 2.2 key passes and 2.3 shots per game on average. His overall passing game could be improved but Geis could become one of the best players in his position and a regular starting role at Schalke as well as the opportunity to gain experience in European club competitions could help him on his way.

4. Julian Draxler

Draxler is a home-grown, Schalke player, who’s only 21 years of age but seems to have been around for ages. He is probably the most popular on this list and has been in recent years linked with numerous top clubs around the world. He spent a large part of last season out injured but his ability cannot be denied. Draxler has nimble feet, possesses great passing skill, is a massive threat on the counter, and doesn’t mind getting the opposing goalkeeper’s fingers warm with the occasional shot from distance. He is also strong in air. With the bags of talent he has, he will become one of Germany’s undisputed top midfielders and if he can stay fit this coming season he’ll have a huge impact for Schalke.

5. Maximilian Meyer

Another product of Schalke’s system; Max made his debut at 16 years old. Now 19, he has great technique and is known for his dribbling abilities and speed. He is also a good passer- averaging an 84% successful pass rate. He didn’t have much of an impact this season but not many Schalke players did because of the chaos at the club. He completed the season with five goals in 28 games- 22 starts and six as a substitute.

6. Leon Goretzka

At 20 years of age Goretzka currently plays for Schalke but was moulded by the Bochum’s youth set-up. He was touted by his former coach at Bochum as the “talent of the century”. A tall player, standing at 6 feet 2 inches; he is strong in air, good at holding on to the ball, and likes hitting powerful shots from outside the area, the likes of which has drawn him comparisons to that of Paul Scholes. Goretzka is a good dribbler and doesn’t mind diving into a tackle. He is versatile and can play pretty much anywhere in midfield- defensive midfielder, playmaker (deep or advanced), left or right winger. Last season he was severely hampered by injuries and only played in 11 games of which he started only three. He is another player, who when fit could be a real force for Schalke and Germany in the future.

7. Timo Horn

Germany is a country known for producing top goalkeepers and Timo Horn could be one of them in a few short years. Timo, like one of Germany’s greats- Bodo Ilgner, was schooled in Köln’s wonderful youth team. At 22, he is already being sought after by clubs outside the Bundesliga and for good reason. He’s been a mainstay in the Köln team since 2012 and has made waves with his performances. He possesses excellent reflexes and is capable of dealing with close range shots. However, like most young goalkeepers he still has problems dealing with crosses and his distribution does need some work. Last season he was an integral player for Köln coming up with big, important saves against the likes of Dortmund, Wolfsburg, Gladbach, Leverkusen and Schalke- all teams Köln managed to earn points against. Horn’s heroics helped his team finish twelfth to spend another season in the Bundesliga.

8. Ricardo Rodríguez

A perfect example of young, talented players who migrate to Germany; Rodríguez at the age of 22 is one of the best right backs in the Bundesliga. The Swiss is one of very few full-backs that is equally adept at defending as he is going forward for his team- granted he sometimes neglects his defensive duties as he is every now and then preoccupied with his participation in attack. He has incredible endurance and normally covers a lot of ground- he can often be seen deep in games still bombing forward, trying to help his team in attack. However, like most right backs who like taking part in the attack, he sometimes leaves room behind for opponents to exploit on the counter-attack. In his arsenal he possesses good dribbling skills, is an ace from set-piece plays, his crossing is usually pinpoint accurate, strong in possession and is a menace when it comes to direct free-kicks. He is also very strong in aerial duels. He needs to work on his concentration and his decision-making, as he sometimes tends to cross the ball a bit much.

9. Antonio Rüdiger

A product of both Dortmund and Stuttgart’s youth teams, Antonio has had some solid performances for Stuttgart. At 22, the young German is a mature defender, who plays with intelligence. He is sometimes too over-enthusiastic when it comes to a tackle and thus tends to give away unnecessary fouls but he maintains a high level of concentration throughout a game. Rüdiger averaged 5.3 clearances per game last season but gave away 1.3 fouls on average. Despite being six feet three inches Rüdiger lacks prowess in the air. Should he improve his tackling in the coming season as well as become more forceful in aerial duels, he could become a top defender for Stuttgart and Germany.

10. Jonathan Tah

Developed by Hamburg, this 19-year-old defender was thrown into Hamburg’s first team at the age of 17 and had everyone in awe with his maturity. He is a big (6 ft. 3), powerful player, who has exhibited dexterity in tackling, aerial duels, clearances, reading of the game and composure- all qualities one expects in a competent defender. In the few games (16) he got to play for Hamburg before the chaos of switching coaches twice in the only season he played with the first team, Tah had a staggering average of 3.9 aerial duels won per game, while his mean tackles won per game were 1.4. Additionally, his average interception sits at 1.6 per game and his foul per game average is 0.4. He also managed 7.6 clearances on average for Hamburg. He is definitely one of the most exciting defenders coming up in Germany.

11. Bernd Leno

Leno is another Stuttgart graduate. He recently turned 23 but has already made over 160 appearances for Leverkusen. He has been in recent weeks linked to Real Madrid and if he does make the move instead of De Gea, Real Madrid would be gaining one of the most exceptional young goalkeepers in Germany. He is the man whose performance in essence ended Rene Adler’s career at Bayer Leverkusen and in some way his Germany career. So outstanding he was that Adler- who was the best goalkeeper in Germany at the time- after coming back from injury was unable to get back his starting position. Leno is blessed with superb reflexes, excellency in saving close range shots and has been known to stop a few penalties here and there. He does, however, need to work on his long-range distribution.

12. Julian Brandt

Brandt is 19 and is a product of Wolfsburg’s youth set-up. He is currently plying his trade with Bayer Leverkusen and can play as a left or central attacking midfielder. Some of his qualities include good dribbling, a threat on indirect free-kicks and pace. As an attacking midfielder his passing is good but it could be better. He’s also sometimes weak in possession, failing to hold on to the ball. However, his vision is great and his ability to put his teammates through on goal is also very good. To become one of the best he needs to improve his passing, his overall work rate- especially defensively and holding on to possession better.

13. Mitchell Weiser

Another Köln graduate on this list, Weiser made the trek in 2012 from Köln to Munich after some impressive performances for Köln in the second division but didn’t really get a good go in Bayern until towards the end of last season under Guardiola. Although he was deployed mainly as a wing back for Bayern he is essentially a right-sided midfielder. He has speed, excellent dribbling skills and his work rate and stamina are impressive. He likes to dribble past opponents and it usually wins him fouls in abundance. Weiser will be playing in Berlin this season after moving on a free as he was unable to come to terms with Bayern on a new contract. The move will probably help the 21-year-old winger better blossom after a few up and down seasons at Bayern and various loan spells elsewhere.

14. Pierre-Emile Højbjerg

A Bayer Munich youth product, this 19-year-old player is a huge talent. He made his senior debut for Bayern at 17 and is the youngest player to have ever played for the Bavarians. Pierre-Emile is a talented, versatile central midfield player who can play as a deep-lying playmaker, a defensive midfielder, as well as an attacking midfielder. His armoury of weapons includes good finishing, great dribbling and superb passing. Additionally, he has excellent work ethic, he contributes defensively and at six feet one inch he is strong in the air. He spent the latter part of last season on loan at Augsburg and provided the assist for the lone goal of the game against his parent club. He could be the heir to Schweinsteiger’s throne.

15. Matthias Ginter

As a result of some wonderful performances for Freiburg in the 2013/14 season, Ginter was named as the youngest player in the German squad that won the 2014 World Cup and was also contracted by Dortmund that same summer. He is a mature player, who is a good tackler and has a strong aerial presence. Despite, having a torrid time getting into the first team during his first full season at Dortmund he’s still a very talented player. In the 19 games he played last season he managed an average of two tackles per game, two interceptions on average and won an average of 3.5 aerial duels per game. He’s also a good passer and prefers shorter passes.

There are two additional players worth mentioning and if given the opportunity to play regularly in the coming season they could be the next break-out talents in Germany:

1. Leroy Sané, 19- He is the son of former Senegalese international Souleyman Sané. He had a good run toward the end of the season with Schalke especially against Real Madrid in the return leg of the round of 16 clash- a 4:3 thriller in which his Schalke team were probably unfortunate to go out after their performance. In that game, he managed to get on the score sheet and tested Iker a few times including his clanger off the crossbar that had Casillas beaten all day.

2. Levin Öztunali, 19- He is the grandson of one of Germany’s greatest players, Uwe Seeler. He is a central midfielder that has some promise. He spent the latter part of last season on loan at Werder Bremen, where he showed flashes of brilliance. In the 16 games he played (he made eight as a substitute), he scored one goal and provided three assists.