After the conclusion of Monday evening’s relegation/promotion playoff between Hamburger SV and Hertha Berlin (which secured top-flight survival for the latter, while dooming the former to at least one more year in the second tier), now seems like a good time to review the 2021/22 Bundesliga season!
Bayern Munich Win Bundesliga Title… Again
Bayern Munich once again won the league title. That crown takes them to ten in a row, more than any other team in the top five leagues in Europe ever. (Juve’s run of nine Serie A trophies on the bounce that Inter ended a year ago, was the previous best in that category.)
That remarkable achievement cannot and should not be downplayed. But the Bavarians’ critics are correct to point out that the season was not a full success, due to them falling well short of expectations in the UEFA Champions League and the domestic DFB Cup.
Who will be playing in Europe next season?
Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, RB Leipzig and surprise Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt will all join Bayern in representing the Bundesliga in the Champions League next season.
For the Eagles especially, that will be a learning experience. They will mainly aim for an improvement to their disappointing 11th place finish in the league, while still seeking to be competitive in Europe as well.
Meanwhile, Union Berlin and SC Freiburg will participate in the Europa League, as a result of their amazingly successful Bundesliga seasons. Those two clubs have really created a blueprint for how to consistently over-perform, despite having limited resources.
Pundits such as Lothar Matthäus have pointed out that if Dortmund or Leipzig could overdeliver like Freiburg or Union, they could seriously challenge Bayern for the league title.
Yet, arguably the biggest positive surprise in the German Bundesliga this past season was 1. FC Koln. After barely avoiding the drop a year ago, they did change their coach and their sporting director, but very little in terms of actual players.
Instead, they had Steffen Baumgart instill his offensive-minded tactics along with a large dose of confidence into the team. The end result was an incredible seventh-place finish, (a full nine spots above that of the previous year!)
This gives the Billy Goats a place in the playoff round of qualifying for the Europa Conference League. It is something they will likely welcome in a way that is similar to how Eintracht fans and players alike have welcomed the Europa League in recent seasons.
Three of the biggest disappointments of the season were undoubtedly VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and TSG Hoffenheim. Each of them had expectations of qualifying for European competitions, while barely ending up mid-table or below. They all parted ways with their respective coaches as well.
In Wolfsburg’s case, they had high hopes of Champions League football with Mark van Bommel. Instead, they sacked the Dutchman early on in the campaign. That did not prevent them from finishing last in their UCL group, or from disappointing in the league under Florian Kohfeldt.
But as we argued last month, the most mismanaged club in European topflight football may well be Hertha Berlin. They too had started the season with illusions of continental glory in the years to come, only to avoid relegation in the playoff by the skin of their teeth.
Who Was Relegated?
The two teams that did get relegated to the second tier were Arminia Bielefeld and SpVgg Greuther Fürth. Meanwhile, Schake 04 and Werder Bremen are the two historic giants who will replace them in Bundesliga 1.
One can only wonder what unexpected twists and turns 2022/23 will bring.
Main image credit: Embed from Getty Images