The whole point of writing lengthy preseason previews and predictions is to look back at them later and laugh at how stupid you were when you initially made them. It’s always been a fraught exercise, but it generates delusions of grandeur that you could be right.
Taking a look at my preview from back in August, there were some clubs I got spot on. There were others I was dead wrong about. Let’s go ahead and see where I thought they would end up, where they actually ended up, and what I thought their season was going to look like. We’ll go in order of how the teams actually finished in the table.
18th: SpVgg Greuther Fürth (18pts)
Where I thought they’d finish: 18th
The Kleeblätter have only managed one season in the Bundesliga before and it ended in disaster. While I don’t believe they will be as bad as the team that finished dead bottom with 21 points, they won’t be much better.
Well I was right and I was wrong. I was right because they finished exactly where I thought they’d finish. I was wrong because they were, in fact, worse than the team that played in the 2012/13 season. The team only managed one point between matchdays 1-14, finally getting their first win in the second week of December.
Some of these score lines are just sad too:
- MD1: VfB 5-1 FUR
- MD13: FUR 3-6 TSG
- MD14: B04 7-1 FUR
- MD26: FUR 1-6 RBL
All in all, the team was outclassed at every turn and probably won’t be near the top flight for a while.
17th: DSC Arminia Bielefeld (28 pts)
Where I thought they’d finish: 16th
I don’t know what to make of their panic buying when it comes to attackers. They seem to value youth and energy, but I feel like proven scoring is what they need. One thing is for sure: I don’t expect the team to score that much more than they did last year and that will haunt them as they lose the relegation playoff and spend next year in the 2. Bundesliga. I hope I’m wrong.
My worries about scoring were correct. Bielefeld finished this season with the lowest goals scored, managing only 27 through the campaign. Club captain and main striker Fabian Klos only put three past the keeper. In speaking of keepers, Stefan Ortega was the team’s most valuable player again this season and should be great wherever he goes in the Bundesliga next year.
16th: Hertha Berlin (33 pts)
Where I thought they’d finish: 10th
Call me crazy, but I feel that Die Alte Dame will be much better off this season than the misfortune that plagued them last time. After all, it would be the most Hertha thing to go from almost being relegated to smack mid-table. The pieces are all there; whether or not they’ll execute is a different issue.
So you could call me crazy, but I feel like some clarification is needed. When I wrote this article, it was on August 13th. Before the summer ended, a number of players I highlighted — including Matheus Cunha (sold) and Dodi Lukebakio (loaned) — had all departed the club. The winter saw Jordan Torunarigha and Krzysztof Piatek leave on loan as well. While some Hertha fans argued that losing those players made the locker room better and filled with people who all wanted to play for the club, that amount of volatility just before the summer window shuts is never helpful. The team went through three managers before prying Felix Magath out of retirement. His hand guided the team to a 3-1-4 record, which was just enough to get them to the relegation playoffs. There, Magath dispatched his former team Hamburg SV to stay up in the league.
15th: VfB Stuttgart (33 pts)
Where I thought they’d finish: 7th
Pellegrino Matarazzo has a good head on his shoulders and a squad buying what he’s selling. I expect a marginal improvement on their previous campaign, but wouldn’t be surprised if they ended up lower or higher than 7th.
This was the biggest offender from my preview. The team finished eight spots lower than I thought, but injuries played a big role in all of that. Stuttgart went into the season already knowing they’d have to start without reigning Rookie of the Year Silas Katompa Mvumpa. His injuries were expected to leave him out until October, but he didn’t take the field again until late November. Then, he suffered a shoulder injury in February that took him out for the rest of the season again. An injury early in the season for their other star forward Sasa Kalajdzic left him out from August to December. The team barely managed 22 goals in the Hinrunde with no real strike threat up top, and started off the second half of the season taking only two points from January and February. But after that, they managed a miraculous comeback — only losing twice from March to May and stringing together a 3-5-2 record to stay safe in the Bundesliga.
14. FC Augsburg
Where I thought they’d finish: 12th
I feel like the club from the Fuggerstädt will just be living in a state of existence. They won’t do great, they won’t do awful they’ll just...exist. They’ll continue their run in the league and they might pull out some fun results, but don’t expect a lot from this team.
They truly did just exist this season. They pulled out some fun results (2-0 over Bayern), but the team was never higher than 11th in the table throughout the year. I don’t see this improving much for the Fuggerstädter in the coming season.
13. VfL Bochum
Where I thought they’d finish: 17th
The strong suit of Die Unabsteigbaren last season was their defense which conceded the league’s second least amount of goals. But they will probably find a difficult time staying up if they don’t manage to score.
Bochum deserve so much credit for what they’ve accomplished. Scoring goals remains an issue, as they finished with the 4th lowest goals for total in the league. They were never consistently good or bad with short winning streaks (2 in a row) and losing streaks (3 in a row). They did provide some upsets too — beating Bayern 4-2 on matchday 22 and Dortmund 4-3 on matchday 32. It’s a great season to boost the squad’s confidence and with improvement, they could fight for a top 10 spot.
12. VfL Wolfsburg
Where I thought they’d finish: 5th
With this defense and a competent attack, Wolfsburg should challenge for a top four spot. But unless the midfield either takes a massive step forward or picks up great reinforcements, Die Wölfe will likely fall short.
A 4-1-4 record was the entirety of Mark van Bommel’s Wolfsburg managerial career. It even went in that exact order too: four straight wins to start the season, a draw, then four straight losses. His replacement, former Werder Bremen manager Florian Kohfeldt, won two of his first three games in charge. But immediately suffered six straight losses. They went into the winter pause sitting in 13th and never were able to climb higher than 12th. It’s unclear if this is going to be the new norm for this team or if it’s just a small setback. We should know next season.
11. Eintracht Frankfurt
Where I thought they’d finish: 9th
Losing Andre Silva without failing to properly replace him will hurt Die Adler. It’s as simple as that. You don’t lose a player who scored you 28 goals and was 2nd in the league scoring table and still challenge for a top 4 spot.
The team only managed 45 goals this season and had an overall goal difference of -4. Of all the teams above them, only Borussia Mönchengladbach had a worse goal difference. Going from Silva who bagged 28 in the league last year to having Rafael Santos Borre’s eight goals leading the team is a hard change to swallow. Hopefully, the money they’ll get from qualifying for the Champions League by winning the Europa League will be a boost to their coiffers and could bring in a good striker.
10. Borussia Mönchengladbach
Where I thought they’d finish: 4th
I know expecting the team to jump from 8th to 4th is a bit out there - especially with no major additions. But I truly believe Die Fohlen were a better team last year than their position in the table tells. With a stable manager, the team may finally be able to reach their potential.
I think stable manager is the key phrase from those pre-season thoughts. Throughout the whole season Adi Hütter never truly seemed like *the* guy to lead this squad. Their end to the Hinrunde which saw them take one point from five games was a low point from which they could never recover. The loss of Denis Zakaria in the winter and Matthias Ginter this summer will hurt the club, making this a truly pivotal summer for the club’s immediate future.
9. TSG Hoffenheim
Where I thought they’d finish: 13th
I feel like their season will be decided in the first half of the calendar. If they can keep it together, they can likely survive another year in the Bundesliga. If not, Sebastian Hoeness will be looking for a new job.
Hey look at that, I called it. Hoffenheim’s record in the Hinrunde was an impressive 9-4-5. They went into the winter pause sitting 5th in the table, climbing as high as 3rd at one point. But the team collapsed in the final three months of the season, compiling a 1-3-6 record and falling from 4th to 9th. It’s not a good sign of things to come and the brains over in Sinsheim need to figure out what happened.
8. 1. FSV Mainz 05
Where I thought they’d finish: 14th
I’m never sure what to make of Die Nullfünfer. This season hasn’t done much to reduce the fog.
I still don’t know what to think of Mainz after this season. No one could have projected the magical start the club had, which saw them as high as 4th and saw them in a European spot for six weeks out of the year. Their last week in European contention was week 16. Following that week, they dropped down to 9th, where the rest of their season would reside. The team continued fluctuating between 8th and 10th, finishing in the better of those three spots thanks to earning seven points in their final three games.
7. 1. FC Köln
Where I thought they’d finish: 15th
Losing Bornauw is really going to damage the backline, which continues to age. Hopefully they can continue to stay alive and avoid another relegation battle this season.
The team did struggle with letting goals in this season, which is what I was afraid of. They allowed the second most goals of teams in the top 8 with only Borussia Dortmund faring worse. I expected that would be their undoing, but I don’t think any of us could have predicted the amazing resurgence Anthony Modeste had. His 20 goals saved the team’s season and helped them live to fight in Europe once again as part of the conference league.
6. SC Freiburg
Where I thought they’d finish: 11th
I don’t expect much from Freiburg this season, but keep an eye on the team in the next summer to see if anyone moves to a new club.
At the time I wrote this Max Eggestein hadn’t joined yet and Baptiste Santamaria hadn’t left. I was pretty confident in thinking there would be little to no changes in expectations. However, this was the opposite of that as Freiburg had one of their best seasons in recent memory. A move to a new stadium coincided with a Europa League spot and a place in the DFB-Pokal finals. Their top scorer didn’t change (Vincenzo Grifo got 9G/10a in the last two seasons), the defense let in only six less goals than last year, but the team stayed in a European spot the whole season. The addition of Matthias Ginter should keep them there next year.
5. 1. FC Union Berlin
Where I thought they’d finish: 8th
A slight regression from the previous year due to the massive turnover in transfers wouldn’t be that unexpected. Consistency up front - or the lack thereof- will make or break this team no matter what lineup Urs Fischer runs with.
A reminder about the massive turnover mentioned: 29 transfers had took place at Union this summer. Five more took place over the winter. Those who left were not all minor contributors. Among the losses were Robert Andrich, Marius Bülter, Markus Ingvartsen, Sebastien Griesbeck, Florian Hübner, and Christopher Lenz. Marvin Friedrich and Max Kruse followed in the winter. Despite all of that, there may have been no bigger transfer than making the loan of Taiwo Awoniyi permanent. The 23 year old Nigerian led the team with 15 goals this season and should be a major player in the team’s Europa League challenge next year.
4. RB Leipzig
Where I thought they’d finish: 3rd
Jesse Marsch has a tough task ahead of him after the departure of many of his top players (and another one possibly on the cards). But his mindset is in line with what Red Bull want for this club and he won’t let them down in that regard. The team got better in a lot of areas, but with so much change happening at once, it’s unclear whether the Red Bulls will be emboldened and win the title or stumble and take a small step back.
I had high hopes for Jesse Marsch. Maybe my passport dictated that I wanted success for him, but I didn’t want to see him fail at Leipzig. They did indeed stumble to a 5-3-6 record under his leadership and they promptly parted ways. Domenico Tedesco was the perfect manager for them to pick their pieces back together, only accumulating four losses for the rest of the season. They were back fighting for European spots in January and were in the top five from matchday 22 until the end of the season. Andre Silva took a step back from last year, but Christopher Nkunku was a delight. Whether he will stay for another year is for the major European clubs to decide, as clubs in England and Spain have been circling him like vultures. Even the defense, who suffered huge losses with Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano leaving, stayed strong — conceding the joint least amount of goals of any team this year.
3. Bayer 04 Leverkusen
Where I thought they’d finish: 6th
Look for Leverkusen to begin their transition this year. With enough young players in this team to provide a jolt to their reserves, I expect a lot of energy to come from this team.
By “transition”, I meant their transition from being a good team to a title challenger. This season completely proved that. Patrik Schick kept his Euro 2020(ne) form intact and turned in the best club campaign he’s ever had — finishing 2nd in the league in goals. His contract extension should keep the Werkself faithful satisfied this summer. The departure of Leon Bailey was not a concern, especially after a fantastic season from Moussa Diaby. The defense conceded the sixth least amount of goals this season, with youngsters Odilon Kossounou and Piero Hincapié getting the most playing time of the team’s center backs. If Dortmund can’t find a striker by the end of the summer, I can see Leverkusen usurping them as the second best team in the league.
2. Borussia Dortmund
Where I thought they’d finish: 2nd
This season will probably come down to the final day. In the end, I’m not sure if Dortmund will be able to improve their mentality from the previous season’s roller coaster ride in the managerial seat, but they’ll keep things close.
Well, it didn’t come down to the final day, but it did come down to a game between Bayern and Dortmund. Marco Rose seemed out of his element a number of times and the team made the best decision possible in returning Edin Terzić to the manager role. Goalscoring was not this team’s issue, having managed the second most goals of any team this season. Their issue instead was allowing goals. The center back pairing of Mats Hummels and Manuel Akanji doesn’t seem to be working, so the team swung for the fences on reinforcements. Nico Schlotterbeck and Niklas Süle will be welcome additions to the squad and will give them some breathing room considering Dan-Axel Zagadou’s perpetual lack of fitness. The competition for starting spots on defense will be fierce next year. Now, their big issue is going to be in goalscoring with Erling Haaland heading to his father’s former club. Considering rumors of turbulence at the club above them in the same position, Dortmund need to push to get a better striker than Bayern to put pressure on the Bavarians. If they do that, we could see our first big title race in a long time.
1. FC Bayern Munich
Where I thought they’d finish: 1st
Bayern Munich did not have a net improvement in the transfer window this season. Fortunately for them, neither did any of their opponents. With a backline in flux and a new manager, it will not be easy sailing for Die Rekordmeister. With that said, I expect them to find a way to figure it out and carry home the title once more.
This was by no means an easy stroll of a season for this team. Bayern fully resurrected their FC Hollywood moniker with drama in the squad and in the coaching room. It’s safe to assume that the situation looked more akin to a high school locker room than a professional sports team. Just consider all the team went through: the sputtering start, the competition in the midfield, the inconsistency on the wings, the Kimmich COVID situation, the mocking and eventual departure of Süle, the reported infighting between Brazzo and half the squad, the reported infighting between Naglesmann and half the squad, the list goes on. The cherry on top of this sundae was Robert Lewandowski demanding a move away from the Allianz Arena. Bayern Munich will not be the same next season, that’s for sure — even if Lewandowski stays. The only question will be if it’s such a massive change that the team drops from the title race altogether.
Here’s a visual representation of how things turned out for me: