Welcome to the fourth and final part of this little Frauen-Bundesliga preview series. Today, we’ll take a look at Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg, and Bayern.
Hoffenheim have been one of the most impressive Frauen-Bundesliga sides in recent years and last season was no different. Spurred on by the imperious goalscoring form of Austrian sharpshooter Nicole Billa, Gabor Gallai led the Kraichgau outfit into the Champions League in his very first season in charge. The only side to inflict defeat on almost-invincibles Bayern, Hoffenheim were defensively solid, dominant in midfield, and downright deadly going forward.
However, the fact that TSG finished 15 points below Wolfsburg bespeaks that they still aren’t quite on the same level as the league’s two powerhouses; a point only further driven home by the departures of star players Lena Lattwein, Tabea Waßmuth, and Maximiliane Rall, with the first two joining Wolfsburg and the latter going to Bayern. Replacing them was always going to be a tough task, but Hoffenheim have given it their best shot, bringing in Jana Feldkamp from Essen, Bayern youngster Gia Corley, reigning Belgian Player of the Year Tine De Caigny from champions Anderlecht, and MTK Hungária’s Petra Kocsán, who scored 16 goals in 21 games last term.
Besides Feldkamp, the defense has been further supplemented by the return of Sinsheim-born Sarai Linder, who was a mainstay in their team in 19/20 until she announced that she would leave the club to spend some time in the US. All things considered, that’s some really good business. The outgoing players have been adequately replaced and there’s perhaps even an argument to be made that they’ve actually gotten better, although I personally wouldn’t go that far. De Caigny, in particular, is an extremely exciting signing; the 24-year-old brings Champions League and title-winning experience to the table, as well as some 61 caps for Belgium. She’s an absolute force to be reckoned with in the attack and definitely a more clinical option than Waßmuth, but whether she can match the German’s overall contribution to Hoffenheim’s play remains to be seen.
Even with Champions League commitments to worry about, there’s little to suggest that Hoffenheim won’t be the Frauen-Bundesliga’s third-best team yet again this season. Anything less than making it a hattrick of third-placed finishes should be considered a failure.
MVP: Nicole Billa
Golden Boot winner with 23 goals, Kicker’s Player of the Season, you know who it is. We don’t have to dwell on this for too long, Nicole Billa is Hoffenheim’s most important player and she’ll unquestionably be one of the league’s great performers again this term.
Youngster to Watch: Jule Brand
I did consider choosing Gia Corley or reigning 2. Bundesliga Golden Boot winner Vanessa Leimenstoll, but you simply can’t look past Jule Brand. Despite her impressive performances in the second tier, Leimenstoll will have a hard time breaking into a frontline as stacked as Hoffenheim’s, so Brand is more of a safe bet. The 18-year-old was one of the biggest revelations of last season, impressing both at TSG and even with the senior national side. Blessed with an imposing stature, good technique, and decent decision-making and vision, Brand is a superstar in the making.
Predicted League Position: 3rd
Well, well, well. After years of complete dominance, Wolfsburg finally relinquished their vice grip on the Frauen-Bundesliga last season, with a heavy defeat against Bayern and dropping points against Freiburg ultimately proving to be their undoing. But in all fairness, it wasn’t a poor season from She-Wolves by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, they finished as the best runners-up in league history and their 59 points would’ve been enough to win the title in all but five of the last 23 campaigns.
Having only been pipped to the championship by two points, Wolfsburg could easily have stuck with the team and kept changes to a minimum. But following the departure of coach Stefan Lerch and with key players not re-signing, this summer has been one of significant transition. Ingrid Engen and Fridolina Rolfö left for reigning European champions Barcelona, Zsanett Jakabfi, Lena Goeßling, and Lara Dickenmann hung up their boots, while Friederike Abt and talented youngster Lisanne Gräwe joined Leverkusen in search of consistent first-team minutes.
To make up for those losses, Wolfsburg decided to raid the Netherlands, not only securing the services of coach Tommy Stroot and young defender Lynn Wilms from their Dutch affiliate Twente but also signing PSV’s record goalscorer Joëlle Smits and Arsenal’s Jill Roord. And of course, it wouldn’t be a summer transfer window without Wolfsburg snapping up a few German internationals: Sandra Starke joined from Freiburg, Turid Knaak repatriated after a year in Spain, and Lena Lattwein and Tabea Waßmuth made the switch from Hoffenheim.
As a two-time Eredivisie Vrouwen champion, former Meppen manager Stroot certainly has the requisite experience and expertise to guide Wolfsburg back to the summit of the FBL – and they’ll undoubtedly be out to get revenge – but Bayern have not gotten any weaker over the summer; quite to the contrary, the Bavarians look as strong as ever. Taking that and the fact that the She-Wolves will have to bed in several new faces into account, it’s not a stretch to suggest that it will be an uphill battle for them this season. It could take them a while to become a well-oiled machine, but, as we all know, they likely won’t be afforded that kind of time by a side like Bayern. The Bavarians could be out of sight before Wolfsburg even properly get going, so I think another runners-up finish is on the cards for the Wölfinnen.
MVP: Svenja Huth
This one’s tough because there’s really no obvious answer here. It could be absolutely anyone. Alexandra Popp, Lena Oberdorf, Ewa Pajor, new arrivals like Knaak or Smits, they’d all be credible choices. Ultimately, I decided to give the nod to Svenja Huth, simply because she’s the whole package. She can score, she can assist, she is just utterly relentless with and without the ball. With Wolfsburg in a state of transition, it will be up to experienced players like Huth to lead by example and help usher in this new era.
Youngster to Watch: Joëlle Smits
This one is an equally difficult decision but for the opposite reason, there aren’t a lot of players to chose from here. I went with Lena Oberdorf last year, so I can’t pick her again, Sofie Svava has been a ghost so far during her time at Wolfsburg, Lynn Wilms did well under Stroot at Twente but there’s no guarantee that she’ll be able to dislodge Hendrich or any of the other defenders, and Lotta Cordes might not see the field at all. That leaves Smits as the only viable option, but of course, she could conceivably have the same problem as Wilms. Breaking into Wolfsburg’s deadly frontline will be a tall order, but “the next Miedema” (ugh) has all the essential skills to do just that. The Dutch sharpshooter possesses intelligent movement and enough pace to run in behind, but she’s also adept at holding up the ball and linking play. Smits is a multifarious threat and once she locks down a starting spot, she won’t relinquish it anytime soon.
Predicted League Position: 2nd
At last, the bridesmaid has become the bride. After half a decade of watching their northern rivals come out on top over and over again, Bayern finally reclaimed their crown – and they accomplished it in emphatic fashion. The Bavarians were just two tallies short of equalling the all-time Frauen-Bundesliga points record and they looked thoroughly unbeatable for most of the season. I was very impressed with their recruitment last summer, but I did not for one moment believe that they would immediately transform them from perennial runners-up into an irresistible juggernaut. Boy, did they make me look foolish!
There were quite a few departures following the Munich outfit’s remarkable championship, and while most of them were just youngsters looking for game time, Bayern did also have to replace a couple of high-profile players, namely Amanda Ilestedt and Simone Boye Sørensen. Moreover, Simone Laudehr called time on her career after finally getting her hands on that one title that always proved so elusive.
New arrivals Glódís Perla Viggósdóttir and Maximiliane Rall will be tasked with adequately replacing the two outgoing Scandinavian defenders, while Saki Kumagai adds a whole other dimension to this side defensively with her ability to play holding midfield and center-back at a world-class level; she’s a statement signing if ever there was one. And as if Bayern weren’t already extremely stacked in the forwards’ department, they’ve also added Swedish international Sofia Jakobsson to their deadly frontline.
I highly doubt that complacency will be an issue for Jens Scheuer’s side, but there does exist one real hindrance to their prospective title retention: their steadfast desire to add European honors to their trophy cabinet. Coming so agonizingly close to the final last season will have only sharpened their focus on the Champions League and they’ll undoubtedly be gunning for the title this time around. Obviously, they should have more than enough firepower to compete on multiple fronts, but it’s definitely something to think – or perhaps, worry – about.
At the end of the day, though, it’s clearly Bayern’s title to lose. They’re going into the season as firm favorites and I’d be shocked – S.H.O.C.K.E.D – if someone else were to lift the Meisterschale next spring. Let’s just hope that it will be another exciting title race that goes right down to the wire!
MVP: Sydney Lohmann
Sydney Lohmann had herself a year, didn’t she? She was pretty much unplayable, bossing the midfield every time she stepped onto the pitch and popping up with some important goals, too. Considering how accomplished a player she already is, it’s hard to believe that she only recently turned 21. Her skillset perfectly complements Lina Magull and Sarah Zadrazil, which means that Bayern’s midfield is finely balanced and almost impossible to bypass or dominate. While Magull is perhaps the more delicate and technical of the two, Lohmann, who is no slouch with the ball at her feet either, has the ability to just brute force her way through an opponent’s team if that’s what a game calls for. That combination of technical prowess and physical superiority is what ultimately sets her apart in my opinion and that’s why I consider her Bayern’s most important asset.
Youngster to Watch: Klara Bühl
I was tempted to write about Karólína Lea Vilhjálmsdóttir here because everybody already knows that Klara Bühl is quite good at this football lark, but the Iceland international will likely find consistent game time hard to come by, so we’ll just have to go with the blatantly obvious. In her debut season at Bayern, Klara Bühl did exactly what everybody expected Klara Bühl to do: she tore it up. Eight goals and as many assists in 19 games is a great return and the scary thing is, there’s still at least another level – perhaps even two – for her to get to before she can be considered to be at her peak. I expect more of the same from the 20-year-old this season.
Predicted League Position: 1st
Final League Table:
- Bayern München
- VfL Wolfsburg
- 1899 Hoffenheim
- Bayer Leverkusen
- Eintracht Frankfurt
- Turbine Potsdam
- SC Freiburg
- FC Köln
- SGS Essen
- Werder Bremen
- SC Sand
- Carl Zeiss Jena
Hoffenheim host Freiburg on Friday, August 27 to kick off the new season. If you’re based in Germany, you can (finally) watch every game with a Magenta Sport subscription. Unfortunately, international viewers may have a tough time finding broadcasts. ATA Football, who streamed some select games last season, are probably your best bet to legally catch some German football action, but at the time of writing this, the Frauen-Bundesliga section on their website is just a blank page. Oof!
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