The Big Bundesliga Preview For 2016-17
Welcome back to Bundesliga lovers new and old. Welcome back to those apostates who give the league lip service as "Most Exciting League In the World" but aren't willing to put in the hard yards watching Köln to really earn your cred. Welcome to those wary English fans who deep down remain suspicious of the league and finally welcome to those with no knowledge of the league at all. There should be something here for any of you, from the true blue Augsburg fan to the general soccer fan with a passing interest. How this works is this is the main page with a quick overview article and then links to all the individual pieces. Also at the bottom here is a data dump with lots of stuff about each team that you can refer back to when reading about each team. I don't expect all of you to have a clear picture of how Schalke did last season, so there's numbers for context.
This season is the most exciting and probably most momentous season for the Bundesliga in a while. Pep leaving is clearly the biggest story this season. Carlo Ancelotti is a fantastic coach but regression is almost certain. He's already indicated with how they played the Super Cup that the team won't play as possession-heavy of an approach as previous years, adding in a bit of variance for the rest of the league to play with. How big a step back Bayern takes will be one determining factor in the look of the league going forward. The second determining factor will be Dortmund in Year 2 of the Tuchel Era. He's been deemed a genius and his work last season was exceptional but he's got a challenge this season. He's lost arguably his 3 most important players. If he can weather that and have Dortmund put up a similar season as last year he will get his Certified Genius Card and set up years of titanic clashes in a sort of La Liga type environment.
Leverkusen should be looking at the two teams ahead of them and expecting both to take a step back. The potential is there for a special season, the ingredients of coach, talent, and system are all there to legitimately be one of the top 10 teams in Europe.
After that we have 3 big teams with multiple paths open to them. Gladbach are undergoing a style change and trying to establish themselves as a Champions League team over Wolfsburg, still persisting with Dieter Hecking, and a Schalke team with lots of young talent. One of these teams could challenge Leverkusen and one could finish 9th, it's hard to tell which one goes where right now.
RB Leipzig bring a lot of friction to the league (see here and here for how their East German rivals treated them in a fantastic Cup match) but also bring last years Coach of the Year, a fantastic front office, Naby Keita and a bright future. Challenging Bayern within 5 years isn't unrealistic to some backers, this year is step one.
After Leipzig and maybe Mainz, it's total chaos. Almost any team from 8th-17th could finish anywhere in there and I wouldn't be surprised. We have a recharged Hamburg, a Werder Bremen team coming off a bizarre statistical season, a high-powered Freiburg, the Precocious-Genius-in-Waiting coaching Hoffenheim, Ingolstadt minus Ralph and plenty more good stories who could threaten Europa League or be relegated. Also Frankfurt, forgettable Frankfurt.
It should be a fantastic season starting this Friday and we've got all kinds of content to get you ready. Don't worry if it takes you all week to get through the previews or you skip out on the Hoffenheim one (there will be a public shaming for all who do not join the Cult of Nagelsmann), but hopefully you will leave these pages more informed and excited for the Bundesliga. Any questions, comments, or predictions you want to share let me know in the comments or @SaturdayOnCouch on twitter.
The Favorites: Bayern Munich
A Player-by-Player Dortmund Breakdown
Leverkusen's Big Chance
Gladbach: Leaving Protectionism Behind
Can Schalke Take Another Step Forward?
Way Out Wide With Wolfsburg
Tortoise and the Hare: Hertha Berlin and Werder Bremen
The Bundesliga's Mobile Middle Class: Mainz, Hamburg, and Hoffenheim
Risers and Fallers? Augsburg, Köln, Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, and Freiburg
Darmstadt and Ingolstadt Vol. 2: Großer Than Before
Predicted Table And Assorted Lists
Tip for readers: keep these charts at hand for reference when you move from team to team in case you want to just see pure data. I might repeat some of these numbers in each article but you can learn a lot more and it could provide some context about a team simply looking at these numbers.
Offensive Raw Numbers
Offensive Stylistic Numbers
Defensive Raw Numbers
Defensive Stylistic Numbers
As always thanks to OPTA for the data.