Football as it’s meant to be, as the German league boasts in its slogan; the 2019/20 Bundesliga was a season that did not disappoint. At a point, it looked as if the perennial winners Bayern Munich might not be able to retain the title; but a change of fortunes in the second half of the season saw them win their eighth title in a row.
The opening weekend was highlighted by Borussia Dortmund, who swatted aside Augsburg in a comprehensive 5-1 victory. Other big winners included RB Leipzig, who gave newly-promoted Union Berlin a taste of life in the top flight with a 4-0 victory away from home. The Bavarian giants, Bayern, however, were held to a frustrating 2-2 draw at home by Hertha Berlin. In the following weeks, Leipzig continued their form from the Matchday One to cement their position at the top as Bayern struggled to find top gear. Julian Nagelsmann’s side were also aided by Borussia Dortmund’s shock 1-3 defeat at the hands of Union Berlin with a brace from winger Marius Bülter being the highlight.
It was on Matchday 6 that Leipzig finally lost, quite surprisingly to Schalke at home, enabling Bayern to replace them at the top of the table. On the other hand, Dortmund continued to drop points but the fight at the top was tight, with one point separating six teams. A surprise presence among those was the one of SC Freiburg, led by Christian Streich, their manager for almost the entirety of the last decade. The following week, there was another shift at the top of the table. Borussia Mönchengladbach, under new manager Marco Rose won their fourth game in a row, a 5-1 mauling of FC Augsburg to displace the Bavarian giants from the top of the table as Bayern lost for the first time, and quite shockingly at home to TSG Hoffenheim. Dortmund continued to be held to draws, as they could not capitalize on the scrap at the top of the table. At the lower end of the table, it was SC Paderborn who were struggling, with just a single point from their opening seven fixtures.
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By Matchday 10, The Foals had managed to separate themselves at the top of the table with a three-point buffer as Bayern, Dortmund and Leipzig fought for second place. The highlight of that week was, however, the contest between Eintracht Frankfurt and Bayern Munich. Frankfurt showed no respect for the defending champions as they humiliated them 5-1. No one saw that coming and the result caused Bayern to fire manager Niko Kovač, naming his assistant Hans-Dieter Flick as interim boss. The following week, Dortmund were at the wrong end of the scoreline as a rejuvenated Bayern won 4-0, with a brace from Robert Lewandowski. However, the defending champions still had work to do, losing at home again next week, to Bayer Leverkusen. At the top, Mönchengladbach hadn’t been displaced since Matchday 6. That changed on Matchday 15 as the league’s top scorers Leipzig, who had been building a hot run of form, took advantage of The Foals’ loss at Wolfsburg. In the relegation battle, FC Köln finally lost patience with Achim Beierlorzer, sacking him and replacing him with Markus Gisdol.
Heading into the mid-season break at the end of Matchday 17, Leipzig were at the top of the table, with a two-point lead over Gladbach. Dortmund and a red-hot Bayern completed the Champions League places. At the other end of the table, it was SC Paderborn, Fortuna Düsseldorf and Werder Bremen who were at the risk of being the losers in a tight relegation battle also involving Mainz and Hertha Berlin.
Bayern picked up right where they’d left off before the break, with a 4-0 win away at Hertha. Schalke shocked the title hopefuls Mönchengladbach as they surrendered second place to the Bavarian giants. As bizarre as it sounds, this would be Schalke’s last win of the season. The speculation surrounding Red Bull Salzburg’s breakout star Erling Haaland dominated the winter transfer window headlines, and he did not disappoint, netting a hattrick on debut for Dortmund as they came back from 1-3 down to win a 5-3 thriller away at Augsburg.
By Matchday 20, normal service resumed in the Bundesliga with Bayern back at the top of the table following Leipzig’s disappointing collapse in a 0-2 loss to Eintracht Frankfurt. At the other end of the table, however, the relegation picture began to take shape with five points separating fourteenth and fifteenth. It was Mainz, Bremen, Düsseldorf and Paderborn who were left to fight it out to stay in the German top-flight. Düsseldorf sacked Friedhelm Funkel as they slipped to the bottom of the table, replacing him with Uwe Rösler in an attempt to stay in the German top-flight.
By the following week, Bayer Leverkusen had entered the race for the Top 4. They defeated Dortmund in one of the most exciting games of the season, taking the initial lead, then coming back first from 2-1 and then from 3-2 down to clinch the game 4-3 with braces from Kevin Volland and Leon Bailey. Leipzig and Mönchengladbach continued to keep the pressure on Bayern at the top, with only one point separating the three teams, though the Bavarians were playing like a team possessed, racking up win after win. By the end of February, the challengers couldn’t keep up anymore as Bayern established a three-point buffer at the top.
However, a new situation was developing. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Germany, the Federal Minister of Health, Jens Spahn recommended cancelling events with more than 1,000 people in an effort to contain the highly contagious virus on March 8. The following day, the DFB suspended the Bundesliga season until it was safe to resume. This had disastrous effects on the finances of the clubs. On 3 April 2020, the DFL reported that the financial situation of most teams was more serious than thought. Of the 36 professional football clubs in the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga, 13 would have to declare bankruptcy by May or June unless operations resumed by then, including four teams from the Bundesliga.
Due to the virus being well-contained in Germany as compared to the rest of Europe, Bundesliga was the first league to resume operations among Europe’s top five, returning on May 16 with closed doors and five substitutions allowed. Weaker teams suffered for form, and any home advantage they would have had was negated by the closed doors policy.
Over the course of next weeks, Bayern began to pull away from their contenders as they kept racking up the points and sealed up an eighth consecutive Bundesliga title with two games to spare. It was Borussia Mönchengladbach who were struggling to be consistent and the once title-challengers soon found themselves out of Champions League places. This prompted a response from The Foals and they were able to capitalize on Leverkusen losing 0-2 to Hertha on the penultimate matchday to move back into the top four. They then beat Hertha themselves the following week to confirm it.
The Bavarian giants proved to be too good for the rest of the league yet again as they cantered to their 30th league title. Success has become a habit in Munich.
At the bottom end of the table, it was SC Paderborn and Fortuna Düsseldorf who suffered the drop into 2. Bundesliga, and were replaced by Armina Bielefeld and VFB Stuttgart. Werder Bremen escaped with a playoff win on away goals against FC Heidenheim to stay in the top-flight.
It had been a highly entertaining season, to say the least. A massive 982 goals scored with an average of 3.2 goals per game. With 100 goals scored in 34 matches, Bayern became the second side to reach this milestone in a Bundesliga season, after the record 101 goals the club previously managed to score in 1971–72.
Robert Lewandowski led the goalscoring charts with 34 goals, followed by Timo Werner at 28 including three hat-tricks. Erling Haaland, despite playing for only the second-half of the season, was joint-sixth in the goalscoring charts.
Looking at the creators, Thomas Müller racked up a record-high 21 assists this season as the German became an integral part in Flick’s Bayern. Jadon Sancho was the runner-up here with 16 assists, while also coming third in the goalscoring charts with 17 goals.
Goals were aplenty, so clean sheets were indeed more valuable. Manuel Neuer had the most with 15, followed by Roman Burki with 12.
Robert Lewandowski won the Player of the Season award while his teammate Alfonso Davies won the Rookie of the Season Award.
The Polish international was lethal this season, leading the Bundesliga scoring charts with 34 goals, averaging more than a goal a game. By scoring a brace in the season-opener against Hertha, the striker set a record for scoring in five consecutive season-openers in a row.
Late in September, after scoring his tenth goal of the campaign during a 3–2 win over SC Paderborn 07, he became the first player in Bundesliga history to achieve double figures for goals scored after the first six matches. Lewandowski then became the first player in Bundesliga history to score in each of the opening nine, ten and eleven matches of a season, surpassing the record of eight set by Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
An assassin in front of goal, Lewandowski seems to be aging just like fine wine.
The English winger stock soared further this season, enjoying a very successful season with the North Rhine-Westphalia based club with 17 goals and 16 assists.
He enjoyed a superb run of form towards the end of 2019, scoring in seven consecutive games for Dortmund.
Three goals and three assists in February 2020 resulted in Sancho winning the Player of the Month for the second time in his career. This included a goal against Union Berlin, his 25th for Dortmund; becoming the first teenager to reach that tally in the Bundesliga.
On 31 May 2020, Sancho scored his first career hat-trick in a 6–1 away win over SC Paderborn.
A truly spectacular season statistically and the youngster is now attracting interest from a host of clubs this summer.
The German international has enjoyed a wonderful season at the Allianz Arena, revitalizing his Bayern career under manager Hansi Flick. The Raumdeuter shattered the assists record in the Bundesliga, with 21 assists.
In December, he became the first-ever player to register 11 assists in the first half of a Bundesliga season, achieving the new record in his side’s 2–0 win over Wolfsburg. He was rewarded with a contract extension in April running until 2023. He recorded his 20th assist of the Bundesliga season in an away match against Bayer Leverkusen on matchday 30, breaking the record for most assists in a season, previously held by Kevin De Bruyne and Emil Forsberg.
Thomas Müller isn’t done yet, and he wants everyone to take note of it. It is interesting to see whether he will continue in the same vein next season.
From the playing courts in the suburbs of Evreux to the Bundesliga big time, Dayot Upamecano has climbed to the top in double-quick fashion and with his impressive progress drawing plenty of plaudits from far and wide, the world is growing wise to RB Leipzig’s elegant defender.
At just 21 years of age, the French centre-back is the mainstay of the Leipzig defence. And with a recorded top speed of 34.27 kmph, he can be more than a match against the pace of the quickest of forwards.
Leipzig enjoyed the second-best defence in the Bundesliga, behind only champions Bayern and Upamecano has been key to that. Die Rotten Bullen love to attack but it’s the presence of such a dominant figure at the back which allows them to go all guns blazing forward. Linked to many teams this summer, it remains to be seen if Upamecano takes his talents elsewhere.
It is not often you see a wing-back put up numbers like an attacking midfielder. But with five goals and ten assists this Bundesliga Season, Real Madrid loanee Achraf Hakimi has been more than just a wing-back for Borussia Dortmund.
It has resulted in coach Lucien Favre utilising Hakimi in attacking positions on a number of occasions this season, highlighting another facet that has been added to his game; versatility. Hakimi has been deployed at right-back, left-back and from both attacking flanks under Favre. At only 21 years of age, there is no doubt about his potential.
The Moroccan has recently made the big-money switch to Inter Milan owing to his performances this season as a part of Antonio Conte’s ambitious plan.
Originally signed as a winger, the pacy Canadian has gone a successful transformation from a winger to a full-back this season and has earned plaudits for his performances week-in and week-out.
The Rookie of the Season offered the Bavarians a dynamic option on the left-wing throughout the season, while also using his pace to catch up even the fastest of the opposition forwards, including the lightning-quick Erling Haaland.
Consistent performances throughout the season led to Bayern extending Davies’ contract upto 2025, adding two years to the previous deal.
On June 16, 2020, Davies broke the record for the fastest speed clocked in the Bundesliga, at an eye-watering 36.51 kilometres per hour.
It’s only onwards and upwards for the Canadian from here.
Son of the French legend Lilian Thuram, Marcus Thuram enjoyed a wonderful debut season in the Bundesliga. His impact on The Foals has been huge. Playing either left-wing or centre-forward for Gladbach this season, he bagged ten goals and eight assists this season, helping his side qualify for the Champions League.
Thuram won the competition’s Rookie of the Month and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s Player of the Month three months in a row, from September to November as they enjoyed their run at the top of the Bundesliga. Thuram also finds himself in Bundesliga’s most assists charts this season. Pair that with 78% of his shots this season being on target and Thuram has been a certified clinical finisher who creates chances as well as anyone else in the league.
It’s hard not to be excited about what the French has in store for us next season.
Signed from French giants Paris St-Germain for just €12million after staking a claim for more playing time, Nkunku had a point to prove to the Parisians; and the attacking midfielder did just that.
Nkunku has been one of RB Leipzig’s biggest attacking threats this season. With 13 assists to his name in the Bundesliga, he finished behind only Müller and Sancho as the third-best provider in the German top division. Add to that his tally of 5 goals and you have an extraordinary 18 goal contributions from 19 starts. Nkunku also is the only player in Europe’s top five leagues to provide four assists in a single game.
Apart from that, he is also proficient at moving the ball around and keeping the game flowing, making 2.7 key passes per game on average and completing 5.13 shot-creating actions per 90 minutes and 1.08 goal-creating actions per 90 minutes.
Written by Bhargav Joglekar
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