What the Premier League Should Learn from the Rise of German Football

Bayern MunichGermany really made their mark on Europe last season, and some football fans have stood up and took notice that the German Bundesliga seems to do things the right way. Germany dominated in the UEFA Champions League last season with their top two clubs gaining access to the final at Wembley at the end of May. Borussia Dortmund are now known for their fast fluid game but a nut that can be cracked, whereas Bayern Munich crippled teams including the mighty FC Barcelona in their UEFA Champions League run.

It appears that the dominance of German football is on its way back into Europe, with German sides having struggled in the past; the last German winners of the Champions League were Bayern Munich, who beat Valencia of Spain on penalties back in 2001. Recently however, Germany has been the main subject of conversation in a number of discussions, and the ultimate conclusion is that they come top in every category.

There has been call for change to the English Premier League for their extravagance and granting players high wages. There has also been discussion of ticket prices, with Arsenal charging their own supporters £94 in a Champions League match against Bayern Munich last season. Football attendances in the Premier League cannot be compared to those of Germany, and above all, Deutschland creates a unique atmosphere that cannot be matched. This account it going to explore those areas in which supporters think are the main ingredients to make their game special, and what changes could be made to improve certain leagues around Europe.

Let’s begin with ticket prices - as this has been a conversation that has never been concluded - which somewhat upset supporters of clubs in the United Kingdom because it appears that the famous English game has lost its identity. A season ticket standing on the famous ‘Yellow Wall’ of Borussia Dortmund costs a supporter around £154 for seventeen league games with an extra £33 on top for three Champions League group games. This is alien to many supporters around Europe, especially in the English Premier League, as the cheapest seat at Old Trafford for one Champions League game costs an adult £40.

When focusing on the league games, it costs an average Mainz 05 supporter €13 to stand to watch their team each game, and this seems relatively cheap. To add insult to injury, when a supporter pays for a ticket for Bundesliga game, they are entitled to free public transport to the stadium within a certain distance, something again that wouldn’t happen in other countries. It will cost a Chelsea supporter £59 for a Premier League game, and this is just simply entry to Stamford Bridge. This is one area that the German Bundesliga cannot be beaten on; they look after their supporters because their supporters are the club.

Borussia DortmundThis flows nicely onto attendances at matches, and the Bundesliga has the highest average attendance, which was just over 45,000 last season, making it the best-attended league in world football. Let alone Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park holding 80,000 supporters and Bayern Munich along with FC Schalke 04 holding 60,000. In the Premier League, the average attendance was just over 34,000 last season, which is quite low when you hear many English football supporters claiming that it is the greatest league in the world. However, it appears that this has become a bit of a myth due to poor home and away attendances by English supporters in many Premier League grounds.

It has often been noticed on many occasions that there seems to be more empty seats than actual away supporters. Borussia Mönchengladbach reportedly took 10,000 supporters to their away leg in Lazio last season, which is astonishing seeing at this was a midweek game. Borussia Dortmund are well known as well for transporting many supporters when they play away, and it again was reported that they brought double their allocation to Madrid for their UEFA Champions League second leg last season. Some German support cannot be rivaled around the world as the noise and positive atmosphere they accumulate is dumbfounding.

As attendances at matches have been discussed, it now only feels right to move onto the stadiums in Germany. Many stadiums in Germany are very impressive, with sites such as the Veltins Arena, Allianz Arena, Signal Iduna Park, and the Commerzbank Arena among those that are worthy of mention. Germany has seen ten new stadiums built since the millennium, all with safe standing areas that mainly create the unique atmosphere many football fans witness. However, it could be argued that this is only because Germany hosted the World Cup in 2006, and the majority of supporters would probably be correct. But many stadiums in Germany have also seen renovations, and most famously, SC Freiburg’s ground becoming completely solar-powered.

Many English clubs have been knocked back when trying to get stadium approval or not able to get the appropriate funding to support them. Everton have been knocked back twice when trying to build a new stadium, once for their design at the site at Kings Dock and also their attempts in Kirkby. Liverpool have also not succeeded when trying to get a new stadium, and it seem that they have accepted defeat, claiming they will try and renovate Anfield. Chelsea is another club that is struggling to get land to build their new stadium, as they were recently rejected for site in London.

Bayern MunichWhen looking to finances, many clubs around the world such as those in the English Premier League have gone into administration due to the overspending on certain players and their wages. Portsmouth is the club that is always on the end of fans lips when overspending is mentioned, and there have been very few success stories when a ‘consortium’ has taken over a football club.

Blackburn Rovers, who were relegated from the Premier League two seasons ago, have now nearly been relegated again from the Championship, with poor organisation and spending extravagantly costing them dearly. Liverpool is a famous club worldwide but nearly fell into the black hole of administration a few years ago due to their attraction of trying to get to the next level and compete with the likes of Manchester United and Manchester City. QPR could be the next club that could turn out like Portsmouth, with the majority of their average players being on high wages.

When moving the attention slightly and focusing on Germany, there are certain rules and regulations that football clubs in the Bundesliga need to follow. In Germany, the ’50+1′ rule means that its members must own a minimum of fifty-one per cent of a German football club, meaning their own supporters own the club. This means that followers associations have a straight say in the organisation of their club, while private business are still able to invest.

When the German Bundesliga became a league in 1963, they put in place a ‘licensing system’ that was intended to remain clubs financially solvent. The German Football League look at every Bundesliga club’s finances before each league season, and failure to ‘stay fit’ could result in the club not having their license renewed and potential relegation. A recent Bundesliga report released earlier this year demonstrated that fourteen out of the eighteen Bundesliga teams reported profits. The league reported a turnover of €26 billion for the first time in its fifty-year history. Factors such as these that make the Bundesliga thrive leave the Premier League something to learn from German football.

Written by James Williams

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Bayer Leverkusen Forward André Schürrle Signs for Chelsea in £18m Deal

André SchürrleEarly last month, Chelsea completed the signing of German international André Schürrle on a five-year deal. A deal for the 22-year-old forward had been agreed between former club Bayer Leverkusen and the London club a few days earlier, with the move expected to occur by many since the summer window opened.

Schürrle began his career as a youngster at Ludwigshafener SC before joining FSV Mainz Under-17 in 2009. He went on to play for the Under-19 team 2 years later, and was then promoted to the first team in 2009. His first season as a first team player didn’t particularly stand out as FSV Mainz finished 9th in the German Bundesliga, but his second season with the club was definitely one to remember for him and the club as a whole. Although it had been announced that he would be leaving the club for Leverkusen, the then 20-year-old scored a record 15 goals in 34 games and managed 5 assists, leading FSV Mainz to a 5th-place finish and securing them a Europa League spot.

In July 2011, Schürrle joined Bayer Leverkusen from FSV Mainz on a five-year deal and scored 7 league goals in his first full season. He scored a total of 9 goals and assisted 6 in his first 40 games for the club. The secondary striker, who also doubles up as a left winger, was however more successful in his second season at the club, where he played most of his Bundesliga games as a secondary striker. He scored 14 goals and assisted 10 in 43 games for his club in the 2012/13 season.

The 22-year-old, who previously played on both the Under-19 and Under-21 levels, made his debut for the German first team along with Mario Götze in a friendly match against Sweden in 2010. Both young talents were subbed in on the 79th minute, becoming the first two international players to be born in reunified Germany. Since then, Schürrle has made 24 appearances for Germany, scoring a total of 7 goals.

Schürrle joins Chelsea at a time when the club has a few problems in attack. Thanks to his versatility, Schürrle has the potential to help solve his new club’s problems as the English Premier League continues to become tighter and more intense. With Chelsea still looking to add one more striker to the team, it is likely that Schürrle will play most of his games on the left wing rather than as a striker if Jose Mourinho is to continue with the 4-2-3-1 formation he and the club are used to.

André SchürrleThe return of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne to the London club also means the new man will have to seriously challenge for a regular spot in the first team. Schürrle’s arrival will potentially change Chelsea’s midfield from a traditional Mata-Hazard-Oscar combination.

Having closely followed the Premier League from Germany, Schürrle is aware of how big the challenge will be, and is eager to start playing English football under new manager Jose Mourinho, hoping to give all he can for the club. Proving vital to Leverkusen’s 3rd place finish in the Bundesliga last season, playing football in England will present a new challenge and will hopefully improve the striker’s skills. Schürrle expressed his excitement and shared a bit on what he intends to give for his new team on the club’s official website:

“I am so happy now I have signed and it is an honor for me to play for this club, with this team and for these great fans. I am really looking forward to it.”

“I’m familiar with English football and the Premier League as I watched it every weekend in Germany. Of course, I don’t know every player, but I know all of the teams and the ways in which they play, so I’m looking forward to testing myself against them.”

“I saw lots of Chelsea last season, I wanted to come here so I think I watched every single Chelsea game. They finished the season very strongly; finishing third was very important for the club, qualifying for the Champions League without having to go through the qualifiers, so the last month in particular was very good.”

“For this club, winning titles is always the main objective. We have a great young team with so much quality. We are capable of doing well in the Premier League, Champions League and the cup competitions as well, and I hope to play a big part.”

André Schürrle arrived at Chelsea from Bayer Leverkusen for a fee believed to be around £18m. He will wear the No. 14 shirt for Chelsea and will officially begin his season against Hull City on August 18th. A great addition to the squad, Schürrle could be an important factor in Chelsea’s race to win the Premier League as well as add some healthy competition between the players.

Written by Ange Marline

Pep Guardiola Believes Abundance of Bayern Munich Midfielders Will be Key to Success

Thiago AlcântaraBayern Munich officially confirmed the signing of Thiago Alcântara from Barcelona for an initial fee thought to be around €22 million. Earlier this month, Thiago was all set to join Manchester united until out of the blue Pep Guardiola boldly stated, “I want Thiago. I have asked Rummenigge and Matthias Summer to get him. It’ll be him or no one. We have many players but we need the special quality that Thiago Alcantara brings.” Is this a statement that sums up Guardiola’s innocent intentions? Or is Thiago’s arrival a subliminal warning signal to other midfielders at the club?

The Bavarian club are coming off the back of a historic treble, and key to this achievement was a midfield that was second to none, not only in Germany but in the entire European continent. So wouldn’t altering an already majestic midfield be an act of foolishness? Enis Koylu, a sports journalist, claims that Thiago’s arrival would upset the balance of his new club and serve as a snub for Mario Gotze, another new signing at Bayern Munich. But again no one, not even Guardiola himself, said that Thiago was bought to take the place of any of the club’s established internationals. “Gotze is a superb player, but I need Thiago” were Pep’s exact words, a clear indication of his acknowledgment of Gotze’s qualities. Then where is the logic in purchasing Thiago?

What is certain about Bayern’s upcoming season is that they will play more than 50 games. German Super Cup, European Super Cup, Bundesliga, DFB Pokal, Champions League, and Club World Cup are the competitions that Bayern will try harder than usual to either retain or reclaim. In order to challenge for all titles and have a fit squad at decisive moments of the next campaign, the German Champions will need a team made up of in-shape winners and fighters, whether a starter or a substitute, and Thiago’s signature serves this purpose. His qualities would surely come in handy.

Arrigo Sacchi, mastermind of the Milan side that dominated the late 1980s, once said that the next tactical revolution in the game would be the conversion of the whole pitch into a midfield area, in addition to the elimination of specialists. What does this imply? This means that teams would have the luxury of having defensive midfielders playing as defenders and attacking midfielders playing as strikers. They would also still function as midfielders, passing the ball around quickly, closing down space, and playing a high tempo game.

Bayern MunichBack to our day, Guardiola has certainly upheld Sacchi’s saying and put his words into practice by converting defense and attack into a midfield. Guardiola’s football simply relies on midfielders. At Barcelona, he had Fabregas, Xavi, Iniesta, Thiago, Busquets, Dos Santos, and Mascherano, and no one complained of not playing as some are implying will happen at Bayern. With proper rotation and balanced motivation, all players can get a chance to prove their worth. The Catalan manager played Mascherano as a defender, Iniesta as a winger and Fabregas as a striker, just as Sacchi expected. He turned his squad into midfielders capable of playing anywhere and doing anything - pass, press, attack, and defend - unlike specialized players.

In the majority of his pre-season games, Guardiola played a 4-1-4-1 system. If he ends up relying on this system next season, that would mean he will be depending on one defensive midfielder, two central midfielders, and maybe a false 9. That is four midfielders on the pitch at the same time doing different tasks but still acting as midfielders. Bayern now have Kroos, Martinez, Schweinsteiger, Gotze, Gustavo, Thiago, Emre Can, and Hojbjerg, which means 8 players should fill 3-4 positions (depending on whether he plays with a midfielder as a false 9, or with a striker) in over 50 games. Is that midfield still overcrowded? Isn’t such competition healthy for a team playing for major trophies?

In football, some players seek money, others more playing time, while a big portion of players hunt for glory, whether it is single such as the Ballon D’or or collective such as a major tournament. When a player reaches a place in his career where nothing matters more than holding a Champions League title, achieving a historic treble or even a double, they would most definitely, and willingly, sacrifice certain things such as more minutes on the field. In small teams, it’s more important to sustain a certain balance in the squad, between achieving mediocre targets and having a satisfied team. Meanwhile, in bigger teams, the most important thing is the collective achievements, realized through having a sufficient number of world-class players capable of fairly competing to win a starting place.

Guardiola doesn’t rely on one system only, he always experiments. “Javier Martinez can play at center-back, he played very well there with Athletic,” stated a confident Guardiola. Such an alteration would definitely free up a spot in midfield. Robben, Ribery, Muller, Shaqiri, and maybe even Gotze will challenge for a spot on the two wings. What is certain is that Guardiola is unpredictable when it comes to squad selection, and what is even more certain is that a manager of Pep’s caliber will relish seeing his outstanding players battle it out for a starting spot.

After all, in four years with Barcelona, he has never played the same team twice in a row. That is because he makes sure to make the most out of every talent in his squad, be it through player rotation, positional interchange or tactical shifts. Options are what Guardiola seeks, and Thiago’s arrival gives him exactly that. In any given team, under any given manager’s guidance, abundance in players at a certain position might cause problems such as dissatisfaction and disillusionment. But in a team such as Bayern Munich and under Pep’s guidance, the wealth in talents is going to be more than welcome.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Bayern Munich Striker Mario Gomez Completes €20m Move to Fiorentina

Mario GomezOn 15 July, Mario Gomez was unveiled as a Fiorentina player to over 20,000 fans. The Florence-based club spent €20 million on the big center-forward. The move to Fiorentina followed a four-year spell at Bayern Munich, which was preceded by six years in the senior team of Stuttgart.

Gomez likely completed the move with the next World Cup in mind, as he’s never started a game at a World Cup. He came off the bench four times at the 2010 World Cup but failed to score on each occasion, and this will be his last chance to play for Germany at the biggest competition in world football. To get a place in the team he had to leave Bayern, where he played second fiddle to Mario Mandžukić last season. At Fiorentina, a first-team spot is almost certainly assured for the German striker.

Gomez should fit into Fiorentina’s side well. Last season, they deployed a 3-5-2 formation, with Pasqual and Cuadrado as wing-backs and Ljajic and Jovetic as the two strikers, or alternatively, one as an attacking midfielder and one as a striker; this brought the Serie A side large success. They finished fourth, only losing out on the Champions League by two points, their highest finish since the 2008/09 season when they also ended the season in fourth place. Gomez will probably play as the main striker with Ljajic just behind, and this could work to disastrous effect. Pasqual and Cuadrado are both good crossers of the ball, and with the right delivery, Gomez will get goals.

Gomez and Jovetic are similar in some respects; neither have a weaker foot, both are just over six feet tall, and both are predators inside the box. But there are more differences than similarities in the way they play. Jovetic is fast and quick-footed, and dribbling is an integral part of his game. He scores many of his goals from the edge of the box and he creates a lot of his goals for himself as well as others (he created 55 in 31 Serie A games last season).

Mario GomezMeanwhile a lack of pace and dribbling ability is Gomez’s main weakness, and all of his goals last season were inside the box. He relies on his team-mates to create chances for him and he doesn’t create many for others (6 in 21 league games). The differences aren’t only in the way they play, but also where they play. Jovetic played as the main striker, as the second striker, and on the right wing last season, while Gomez is usually limited to playing only as the main striker.

Mario Gomez is much more comparable with Luca Toni, who recently moved to Verona. The 36 year-old has been on rapid decline in recent years and Gomez is perfect to come in as Toni departs, not as a replacement but as an upgrade. Gomez has everything Toni has - aerial ability, strength, and a natural poaching ability - but the German has one key attribute that Toni doesn’t: passing. It’s not a big part of Gomez’s game by any means, but he has it in his locker, completing an impressive 79% of his passes last season, 13% more than the Italian.

He may have only scored 11 goals last season, but he averaged a goal every 79.7 minutes, an astonishing record and a good way better than anyone else in the Bundesliga. This is even more impressive considering Bayern weren’t playing the type of football most suited to his game. He did have some of the best wide players in the world to cross him the ball, but he was asked to chase the ball down and play a style more suited to players such as Mario Mandžukić. Gomez had a respectable 50% shot accuracy last season and scored a goal with every 27.1 touches, another astonishing feat matched by few others in the Bundesliga. Those two stats show how rarely he runs with the ball and how few touches he uses to get a shot on target, and the goals-per-minute stat shows just how clinical the big striker is.

If Pasqual and Cuadrado carry on the form they showed last season, then Gomez could set the Serie A alight, and €20 million could prove to be a steal. If Viola bring in a top-class forward to replace Jovetic, or Guiseppe Rossi can step up to the plate, the rest of the Serie A have good reason to be very worried.

Written by Sean Currie

Is a Spell of Bayern Munich Dominance on the Way?

Bayern MunichThe 2012/13 season saw Jupp Heynckes’ Bayern Munich side win a historic treble, kicking off much speculation that we were about to see a Bayern side returning to the glory days of many years gone by.

Alongside a domestic double of the Bundesliga title and the DFB-Pokal, they also won the UEFA Champions League against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley, avenging the defeat in the final a year before against Chelsea on Bayern’s own ground, the Allianz Arena. With Heynckes having already announced his retirement earlier in the season, he couldn’t have asked for a better send-off than the one he received from his side in the end.

Winning a league title in any big league is a huge achievement, and Bayern deserve credit for securing the 23rd title in their history. However, they deserve special credit for the way in which they won it. After all 34 games had been played, Bayern finished on 91 points, 25 clear of nearest challengers Borussia Dortmund, in a remarkable season. FC Hollywood also scored 98 goals and conceded just 18 on their way to the title, a feat matched by few teams over the years.

There was also a number of emphatic results throughout the campaign, such as the 9-2 rout of Hamburg and 6-1 wins over Werder Bremen and Stuttgart. Now, these teams are understandably much weaker than Bayern, but not to the level shown by the scoreline, which just shows how good Bayern were domestically last season. These weren’t just one-offs either; Die Bayern scored 5 or more in league matches on six occasions throughout the campaign, and I think you’d have to go a fair way to find a better record in the same standard of league.

The highest point of Bayern’s season had to be their 7-0 drubbing of Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final over the two legs. When these two giants of world football, I expected Barcelona to emerge on top as the victors, as you do whenever Barcelona are playing, even against sides this good. I knew we’d be in for a great couple of games too, although I certainly wasn’t expecting this to happen.

A Thomas Muller double, alongside goals from Mario Gomez and Arjen Robben, gave Bayern a 4-0 lead after the first leg in Germany. The entire football world were in shock; since when do Barcelona crumble? However much criticism the Spaniards received in that game, you can’t take away from the Germans’ performance, as they played magnificently, deservedly romping to victory.

There was then much talk as to whether Barcelona would be able to pull off one of football’s greatest ever comebacks in the second leg at the Camp Nou, however the odds on that were huge. I did, however, expect Barca to put up a fight, and at least win this leg. What happened? Goals from Robben and Muller sandwiched a Pique own goal, sending the football world into bedlam again.

Bayern MunichIn a way, this was even more of a shock than the first leg. Barcelona, supposedly the greatest side to have ever lived, had been systematically dismantled home and away by Bayern Munich in a 7-0 triumph. People were in disbelief as to how it could happen, me included. However, I now believe it was just a sign that Bayern Munich are returning to the glory days of players such as Franz Beckenbauer.

With Heynckes set to retire, Bayern had to go about looking for his successor, and to my surprise, appointed one before their current one had even head out of the door. What was this new man’s name? Josep Guardiola of Spain, better known as Pep to his friends. The former Barcelona man, who was supposedly taking a year’s sabbatical from the game after resigning from Barcelona at the end of the 2011-12 season, had been appointed as the new man to take Bayern forward in a signing that shocked many.

The very fact that Guardiola has chosen to make the move to Germany shows the progress that Bayern are making as a club to return to those old heights. The 42-year-old is a manager of unimaginable pedigree, having won almost everything in offer in his stint at Barcelona, and it was a shock to many when he decided to resign from his club last year. However, with great ability comes huge expectations. The Bayern fans will be expecting a huge amount of success from their new coach, and I am predicting him to bring it with his traditional possession style of play that was so successful at the Camp Nou, tearing teams apart on many occasions.

As in any successful squad, there is always a core of players that are vital to the team, and are vital to any success that the team may have. I believe that there are five of these players at Bayern, running right through the spine of the team. Starting off with Manuel Neuer; the goalkeeper signed from Schalke in 2011 and has been an integral part of Bayern’s side since then, keeping 21 clean sheets in the league last season and showcasing why he is one of the top keepers in world football.

Next, we have Philipp Lahm, who has been ever-present in the Bayern side since starting with them in 2003. He has now made nearly 300 league appearances for the side, and is the captain and a popular figure among both players and fans. Bastain Schweinsteiger is another player who has spent the entirety of his senior career with Die Bayern, making 299 appearances in the league since 2002. He is now a key, creative part of a Bayern side full to the brim with world-class quality.

Frank Ribery is a player who is starting to reach his prime now, having been with the club since 2007 and making over 150 league appearances. He was crucial in Bayern’s treble win last year, and still has a couple of good seasons in him before he steps aside for a younger player to come through. Finally, we come to Thomas Muller, Bayern’s top scorer in all competitions last season, with 23 goals. Despite being just 23, he is an essential part of both Bayern’s side and the German national team’s, and will remain so for years to come, maybe even becoming one of the world’s best players.

ThiagoSummer is always an exciting time, as the comings and goings can decide who comes out on top after a long and arduous league campaign. We saw it in the Premier League last year, with the signing of Robin Van Persie being the reason Manchester United won their 20th league title. Bayern have taken very little time in going about their business, signing two of Europe’s best young midfielders and becoming the front-runners for one of German football’s leading strikers to sign next summer.

Bayern Munich’s latest signing is Thiago Alcantara from Barcelona, Guardiola’s former club. He was confirmed to be joining after the new manager expressed a big interest in the youngster that Manchester United had been rumored to be chasing for some time. However, Guardiola persuaded the midfielder he had previously managed at the Camp Nou to move to the Allianz Arena instead of Old Trafford, once they paid his release clause. It is without a doubt a fantastic signing for Bayern and will allow Thiago to develop properly. Given that Guardiola came out to the press and stated his interest in the 22-year-old assures me that he will be given the chances in the Bayern team to prove his worth alongside the banks of quality Bayern also possess.

However, that isn’t the biggest signing that Bayern have made this summer. This other signing is none other then Mario Gotze (from Borussia Dortmund), who joined after Bayern paid his release clause a few weeks ago. He is one of Germany’s rising stars, and has been a key figure in the Dortmund side over the last couple of years. Dortmund are very disappointed to have lost one of their star players to a rival, and I think it signifies how far they have to go as a club to reach the size of their Bavarian rivals. For me, the allure of turning out in that red shirt is bigger than turning out in the yellow one of Dortmund.

Bayern also look set to sign another Dortmund player next summer, Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, who was a revelation last season for his club and has attracted the attentions of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, such as Manchester United and City as well as Chelsea. However, the 24-year-old favors a move to Bavaria, and looks set to sign on a free transfer when his current contract expires next summer. Dortmund boss Jurgen Klopp has even gone as far in recent times as to say he expects his star man upfront to sign with the treble winners next year. This will be a further blow to the club, but serves as a reinforcement that Dortmund are much smaller than Bayern, and it’ll take a long time to change that.

Bayern MunichPre-season matches are always focused upon in preparation for the new season and can provide a good view of things to come at times. However, they can often be unreliable, with results not reflecting competitive games, usually down to a lack of fitness. I am taking a good look at Bayern’s friendlies this year in order to ascertain what kind of tactics Guardiola will be employing with his new club. So far, he has faced six teams and scored a huge 50 goals throughout these six encounters. In fairness, they were all against much weaker sides, but it is still a good way to look at how Guardiola will have his charges playing, and it seems he wants them in a similar fashion as he did his players at Barcelona: playing possession football. We saw how well it worked in La Liga; now it’s time to see the effect it has in the Bundesliga.

If a side wants to dominate year after year, it has to have young talent in the ranks ready to come in and make an impact. Many of the top teams such as Manchester United and Barcelona possess this, and Bayern Munich are no exception. Players such as David Alaba are already big parts of the side, often starting ahead of older players in the same position. There are also players like the Swiss Xherdan Shaqiri and Emre Can, who are on the fringes of the first-team and are ready to take their rightful place in the side over the next couple of seasons. They are in the meantime benefiting from knowledge passed on to them from their more experienced teammates.

Most likely, both Thiago and Mario Gotze will come into the Bayern squad and play a big part in the first-team next season. Gotze seems set to lead the line up front, biding time until the arrival of Lewandowski next summer, and Thiago will fit into the central midfield role, playing an attacking game. This young talent collectively has a phenomenal level of potential, and will help Bayern stay on top for a long time to come.

Despite the strength in the Bayern ranks, I still believe there are a couple of areas that could be improved on. For example, I might look for possible successors to Philpp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger. As brilliant as these players are, they aren’t getting any younger, with both being in their late twenties now. This means they’ll only have a couple more years at the top of their game, before they have to hand the baton on to someone else.

In Schweinsteiger’s case, this won’t be that difficult, as Bayern possess a wealth of talent already in that area of the pitch; I think that Thiago, their newest signing, could be the one in line to be his replacement, although I feel he would want to start off as a first-choice player much sooner than that. For Lahm, it is a bit more difficult; there are very few good, young right-backs in the game at the moment, and even less who would be able to live up to the standards of Lahm in their careers. You cannot underestimate Lahm’s influence on that team, and it will take a very special player to take his place.

Bayern MunichIt’s not just the Barcelona results that caught my eye for Bayern Munich in the Champions League over the last couple of years. In this year’s competition alone, they beat Italian champions Juvetus and Arsenal alongside Barcelona on their way to winning the crown. In the 2011-12 edition, in which they also reached the final, they beat Manchester City and Real Madrid on the road to the final on their own turf.

No team can cause that many upsets and get into two consecutive Champions League finals without having some serious degree of quality about them, both as a team and as individual players. Thankfully, Bayern Munich haven’t fallen into the trap of selling off their best players, then not replacing them with players of the same quality. In fact, they have pretty much kept the same side, which is important, as stability provides a good platform to work from in order to achieve success over a long period of time.

So, are we now headed for a period of time when Bayern will dominate European and world football? I think so, yes. Not only do they possess one of the strongest sides in the world right now, but they are constantly attracting new, young talent such as Thiago and Gotze that will allow the good times to keep rolling long after the current generation have hung up their boots.

They may have a new man at the helm, but apart from that, they won’t change too much, and the signs so far have shown that Guardiola is the right man for the job. Over the last couple of years with Heynckes, they’ve shown they can easily beat the best sides both domestically and at the international level, which is what will decide the success Bayern has in the future.

The club also has some great fans in tow (attracted to the criminally low ticket prices, with the cheapest season ticket being less than £70 for all Bundesliga matches), that haven’t always had the best of times in the last three or four years. They came second to Borussia Dortmund in two of the last three league campaigns and lost two out of their last three Champions League finals (in 2010 and 2012). But now, Bayern Munich look to be entering a long period of continued success under one of the world’s best coaches of modern day football.

Written by Ben Warner

Barcelona Must Focus on the Future as Bayern Munich Sign Thiago Alcântara

Thiago AlcântaraFor the first time since 2008 things are not looking positive. A feeling of uncertainty has crept to the hearts and minds of many cules. The much-needed stability is fading away bit by bit. Tactical matters aside, Rosell and co. are unintentionally dragging the club into controversy, which will eventually affect the team’s performance on the pitch. Running a club of Barcelona’s stature is never easy, and gaining everybody’s contentment is almost impossible, but when voices of concern reach unprecedented heights then surely something wrong is happening.

Tito Vilanova is once again expected to be absent from our first four league games, while Thiago’s mishandling led to his departure to Bayern Munich. Meanwhile, Rosell is tinkering in the statutes to change the number of needed votes it would take to have him removed from office, while Lionel Messi faces tax problems.

The failure to capture a reliable defender is yet another problem facing Barcelona, and Abidal’s mistreatment led to release and a move to Ligue 1 side AS Monaco. Looking into the future, Eusebio’s Barca B are facing problems and a decline their performance, while star striker Gerard Deulofeu will surely be mishandled by the club in the future.

The list of problems facing Barcelona, both in the present and in the future, goes on and on. Things are definitely not looking as rosy as they were couple of years ago, and the dominance of the La Liga Champions may be slowly fading away.

Thiago Alcantara is a La Masia graduate. The son of Mazinho awed all cules as he made his way to the first team. La Masia graduatess importance to Barcelona’s way of playing is something indubitable, due to the fact that they start grasping this philosophy from day one.

When Pere Guardiola sat with Rosell, Zubizaretta, Mazinho, and Thiago to discuss the latter’s contract last year, Pep’s clever brother insisted on including a section in the contract that clearly states that Thiago’s release clause would decrease from 90 million to just 18 million Euros if he was not played in a minimum of 30 minutes in at least 60% of Barcelona’s games. When asked about this issue, Jordi Roura said:

“It is not the coaching staff’s job to know about such clauses in player’s contracts, we only decide who plays based on sporting reasons.”

If that is the case, then whose job is it to be aware of such clauses? Zubizaretta’s? If he knew but did not inform the coaching staff then it is a disaster, and if he informed the coaching staff but they did not act accordingly to solve this problem, then it’s a bigger disaster.

Thiago AlcântaraEither way, the club put itself in a critical situation. One might argue that Thiago was not played frequently because Xavi’s presence is more influential in big games such as Milan, PSG, and Bayern’s matches. But didn’t Barcelona have a 15 point advantage in La Liga since December 2012? Thiago surely deserved to play on merit of his qualities, let alone to rotate the squad and avoid fatigue.

Whatever the reasons, and whatever the outcome, this clearly is a massive administrative and technical blunder that could have been avoided. A manager should possess good management skills in addition to being a good tactician, and Thiago’s case shows that Tito is severely lacking in the management department. Either someone is insincere, or there is an apparent lack of communication between the board, its staff members, and the players regarding contract extensions.

Zubizaretta should have been informed that Alberto Aquilani was not played in the last several games of the 2011-12 season with AC Milan in order not to activate the clause that obliges the Serie A side to buy him. This is how such clauses are handled.

Although this whole situation is the club’s responsibility, Thiago should have been more attached to the crest and colors of the club. He is only 22; Xavi and Iniesta were patient before becoming first choice Barca players. What differentiates this Barcelona generation of players from other players is that they are attached to the club; they are not mercenaries following financial gain or a personal glory.

They eat, drink, live, and breathe Barcelona. What makes Thiago think he is better than this? It’s only fair to assume that Thiago is seeking a move abroad in order to gain more minutes on the pitches before Del Bosque makes his mind about who he will be taking to Brazil next summer. But is that really the case?

It’s official now, Bayern and Barcelona agreed on a 25 million deal that sees Thiago ply his trade at the Allianz Arena. Earlier this month Cruyff clearly said:

“Thiago should be careful in making his choice. If Barcelona can guarantee him more playing time then he should stay, if not then he should leave. It is as simple as that.”

So was Thiago really considering staying? Was the allure of playing under Guardiola’s management more appealing than anything Barca can guarantee? Was Thiago more of a mercenary than a Blaugrana faithful? Before Thiago’s imminent transfer, Gerard Piqué also had an opinion concerning this matter:

“There is a possibility that he could leave but we have to convince him that the best place for him is Barcelona. Players in his position, like Xavi, were patient and they ended up defining an era.”

Thiago AlcântaraIt should be noted that Xavi had nobody in his way, except incompetent managers, while Thiago at 22 could’ve realistically only truly become a Barca fixture after at least two more season. But is the alternative much better?

Bayern Munich are coming out of the most successful season in the club’s history. Having won an unprecedented treble, with a midfield which was second to none, not only in Germany, but in the entire European continent. So altering an already majestic midfield would be an act of foolishness, and Thiago’s World Cup aspirations surely are not one of Pep’s concerns in the upcoming campaign. So If Thiago doesn’t adapt instantly to the German style of play there is a big chance he won’t be a regular starter. Thus being in a situation close to the one he was in at Barcelona.

In addition to that, Bayern already have an abundance of talent when it comes to the middle of the field. Martinez, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Gustavo, Gotze, and Emre Can all can play in Thiago’s position. Even with a proper rotation he would not end up playing a sufficient number of minutes to enable him to surpass Xavi, Iniesta, Busquets, Cesc, and Alonso in the national team.

So unlike what many think, staying at Barcelona might have boosted his national team chances more than moving abroad. By looking at Vicente Del Bosque’s squads ever since he took over the national team, it is quite obvious that the vast majority of his selections are players from Barcelona and Real Madrid.

At Barcelona, Thiago’s quality was known, he show cased his skills since day one, and every single one in Barcelona was convinced that he was going to reach great heights in the near future, that’s why he would have been able to build a connection with Spanish players at Barcelona, which will positively affect the national team and support his cause of representing La Roja.

Currently, Thiago is a Bayern Munich player, but he would have been smart to carefully assess things and avoid making a hasty decision. An excellent player would have always shined no matter which colors he is wearing, and how many minutes he is getting.

Although he is concerned with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, his move to Bayern doesn’t guarantee regular starts and successive success. As for Barcelona, it’s a case of you don’t know what you got until it’s gone, and now, it is officially gone.

Written by Hassan Chakroun

Borussia Dortmund Superstar Mario Götze Signs for Bayern Munich in €37m Deal

Mario Gotze“Everyone knows how comfortable I feel in Dortmund. The club is far from finished with their recent resurgence. And I want to be part of this development.” -Mario Götze | 27 March, 2012

This quote was said by Mario Götze himself, answering questions in an interview after signing his contract extension with Borussia Dortmund that would keep him at the club until 2016. However, there was always one area of his contract that stood out that kept major clubs around Europe and Germany keeping a close eye on this talented players progress.

This was, of course, his buy out clause, which was €37 million, and on the 23 April 2013, Bayern Munich paid the fee for his services, making him the most expensive German player ever. It has been reported that Mario Götze will officially move to Bayern Munich at the end of this German Bundesliga season that would end an emotional spell at Dortmund, which started when he was just eight years of age.

This account is going to focus on what Mario Götze has done in his short career so far, and whether this will be the right move for him in terms of progressing his career and molding him into the perfect player. This article will also concentrate on how Borussia Dortmund will recover from this loss and whether BVB can still challenge Bayern Munich at the top to continue the rivalry football fans love to observe.

There is no doubt about it, Mario Götze is a credit to Borussia Dortmund’s youth academy, as he is a distinctive player coming through the ranks with a crop of talented football players. The current Dortmund number 10 made his first appearance in the Bundesliga in November 2009 against Mainz 05, after being put on in place of Jakub Błaszczykowski.

Mario GotzeJürgen Klopp was aware of Götze’s talent and upgraded him to the Borussia Dortmund first team, which has proved to be a wise decision. That year, Dortmund won the German Bundesliga, and Mario Götze played his part in making this happen.

There was a slight delay on Mario Götze’s progression however, due to him having problems with his hip; he was out of action for a while before returning to action against Borussia Mönchengladbach in April 2012. The return was perfect timing for Borussia Dortmund and Mario Götze, as there were huge games coming up.

That season Götze was part of a Borussia Dortmund team that broke the German Bundesliga record for acquiring the highest points tally in one season. To further this great season for Borussia Dortmund, they went on to beat Bayern Munich in the final of the DFB Pokal with the score of 5-2, however Mario Götze only made the substitutes.

This season has proved to Mario Götze’s most influential, however as he has played a huge part in Borussia Dortmund’s season, even though they have not been able to keep up with the force that is Bayern Munich. Götze has played 2028 minutes in the Bundesliga this season, scoring 10 goals in the league and gaining 8 assists. He has also created 138 chances for his Dortmund teammates and had 56 attempts on goal.

Götze has appeared in 28 games this Bundesliga campaign with 23 being in the starting line up. It just shows how influential Mario Götze is, with him touching the ball 1487 times and him being fouled 63 is miraculous. His pass succession rate is also 85.8%, which proves his style of play of being a short sharp passer of the ball.

Mario Gotze‘Götzinho’ has not only made a huge impact domestically, but also on the European stage too. Borussia Dortmund have advanced into the UEFA Champions League semi-final and will play Real Madrid for a trip to Wembley in May. He has been influential in wins against Shakhtar Donetsk, Real Madrid, and Malaga in this Champions League campaign. He has scored 2 goals in the UEFA Champions League this season and gained 4 assists, proving Dortmund’s dominance in Europe.

With Mario Götze moving to Bayern Munich however, you have to focus the attention on Borussia Dortmund and how they will recover from this huge loss. Jürgen Klopp has been seen taking the Götze loss in good vein with his recent press conference (see video below), but did mention he was annoyed at the timing of the transfer as he feels it may disrupt the team’s preparation against Real Madrid:

“It could have been worse; it could have happened a couple of hours before the game. But on a scale of one to 10, this is a nine. We all know why it has come out now. We don’t know why the people who have leaked this have done so at such a delicate time. We can only speculate but we are all making the same suppositions.”

He also made it aware that the BVB fans should not single out Mario Götze and that the atmosphere at the ‘Signal Iduna Park’ should be special as always. ‘Kloppo’ also stated that he could not stand in Mario Götze’s way, because he described Pep Guardiola as being a ‘special coach’ and that Götze was the main player he wanted at Bayern Munich.

But assessing whether Borussia Dortmund can recover from this is crazy due to their talent at the club. Marco Reus is another player of fantastic ability, and one you could argue that he has had an even better season than Mario Götze. Rumors have also been flying around that Robert Lewandowski is leaving, but he may stay to see his contract out as he only has one year left on his current deal.

Mario GotzeBut you have to gaze at what these players Jürgen Klopp has brought to the club and what they are worth now compared to when they entered the club. ‘Kloppo’ has brought the likes of Lewandowski for €4.5 million, Hummels and Gündogan both for €4 million, Blaszczykowski for €3 million, Piszczek for free, and other players coming through the clubs fantastic youth system. It needs to be remembered that the club nearly went into bankruptcy in 2005, and that times are far better than what they were.

Jürgen Klopp can again achieve this and he probably has a few irons in the fire on who to bring in next season as he has the task of replacing Mario Götze. Super Mario will still give his all for the rest of his Dortmund career and will always have them in a special place in his heart.

Written by James Williams

Borussia Mönchengladbach: Glad to be Back Near the Top

Borussia MöchengladbachBorussia Möchengladbach was formed in 1900 and is a club situated in Germany’s North-Rhine Westphalia. They are a very well supported club that has many times been compared to Liverpool for their unique way of supporting a football team.

Borussia Mönchengladbach plays at Borussia-Park and has done so since 2004 after moving from their famous Bökelbergstadion. Their stadium holds just over 54,000 supporters and is famous for it’s ‘Nordkurve’ (North Stand) due to its similarities with Liverpool’s ‘Kop.’ The club has just over 38,000 members making them one of the largest clubs in Germany.

Die Fohlen (The Foals) won their first ever trophy in 1960 when they won the DFB Pokal after beating rivals 1. FC Köln with the score of 2-1. Mönchengladbach did not win anything else for another ten years when they reached their ‘Golden Generation’ between 1970 and 1980.

This Mönchengladbach era saw players such as Berti Vogts, Günter Netzer, Herbert Wimmer, and Jupp Heynckes play for them. This period in time built a huge rivalry with Bayern Munich, and going head to head with players like Beckenbauer, Schwarzenbeck, Müller, and Maier was a huge task.

They acquired their first ever Bundesliga trophy in 1970 and went on to successfully defend their trophy a year later, making them the first team to do so in the short Bundesliga history. Bayern Munich stated their dominance however, winning it three years in a row that only allowed Borussia Mönchengladbach to gain their second DFB Pokal in 1973. In that same year, Mönchengladbach reached the UEFA Cup Final, only losing out 3-2 over two legs to Liverpool.

Borussia MöchengladbachHowever, when they reached 1975, this is where Die Fohlen proved their dominance with players like Jupp Heynckes demonstrating his predator instincts, scoring 29 goals that year. They won the Bundesliga and managed to mirror Bayern Munich’s record, winning it three years on the trot.

They reached the UEFA Cup Final, beating Dutch side FC Twente 5-1 over two legs with Jupp Heynckes scoring a hat trick in the away tie. In 1977, Mönchengladbach reached the European Cup Final at the Stadio Olympico in Rome, but went onto lose yet again to Liverpool 3-1 in a major European final.

Mönchengladbach reached the promise land yet again in 1979, beating Red Star Belgrade 2-1 over two legs in the UEFA Cup Final, with the only Danish player in the team, Allen Simonsen, scoring the winner. It seemed that Borussia Mönchengladbach were back again, reaching the UEFA Cup Final another time for an all-German affair.

They lost the match on away goals that seemed to really hurt the Borussia Mönchengladbach fans and players. Since this final, Mönchengladbach has only managed to add the DFB Pokal in 1995 and have struggled to maintain a consistency in the Bundesliga, yo-yoing between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga.

Borussia Mönchengladbach have had major players wear their famous shirt over recent years, but this has all ended in them selling these players to clubs with a much higher status, most notably Marco Reus to Borussia Dortmund and Dante to Bayern Munich.

Since their ‘Golden Generation,’ Mönchengladbach has majorly stepped back, whereas Bayern Munich kicked on, getting stronger and stronger as an empire. Questions have been asked why this was the case, but nobody could really put together an explanation for them not getting stronger like Bayern.

Borussia MöchengladbachRecently though, Mönchengladbach have managed to get some type of consistency after near missing relegation in 2011 after a post-season playoff. After that season, they have been a very strong side in the German Bundesliga when finishing fourth last season, gaining entry into the UEFA Champions League; they were beaten over two legs by Dynamo Kiev in the qualifying round. They were then entered into the UEFA Europa League but were beaten in the knock out stages by Lazio.

Mönchengladbach currently sits in seventh place on with 41 points and hold a strong position to gain another European spot. UEFA Champions League may be a big ask, but it is still a possibility if Schalke 04 slip up. Mönchengladbach still have to play Schalke 04, so the European race still could be turned on its head. Their supporters will certainly expect them to gain some type of European football, with manager Lucien Favre wanting the same.

But with striker De Jong arguably being out of form, as he has only scored six goals in the league all season, it may be a hard target and a big mountain to climb. However, with Mönchengladbach not being in any more cups, they can fully focus on the league for the final push into one of the European spots.

Borussia MöchengladbachAs mentioned earlier, the Borussia Mönchengladbach supporters have been compared to the Liverpool fans of England for their unique style of supporting the team. Since the 1970s, Mönchengladbach has built a strong relationship with Liverpool as they had a strong rivalry throughout their prestigious years. This relationship has developed every single year as many Liverpool and Mönchengladbach supporters travel between the two cities to see each other play.

After the Hillsborough disaster, Borussia Mönchengladbach donated a large amount of money into the Hillsborough fund. They were also the opposition for Emlyn Hughes’ testimonial game, and to this day, many Mönchengladbach fans wear Liverpool shirts on their famous ‘Nordkurve.’

This is a club that has much tradition that arguably should be at the top challenging Bayern Munich, as they did throughout the 1970s. But it can be said that Mönchengladbach has turned into a selling club, and they will not progress if they continually sell their top players. They have a great chance to enter the UEFA Champions League again this season, but they will have to impose some strong performances if that is to happen.

Written by James Williams

TSV 1860 Munich: Bayern’s Noisy Neighbors Continue Their Fight for Promotion

TSV 1860 MunichDid you know that Munich has two main football teams? Did you know that the other club that you cannot think of was formed before the other club that you are thinking of now?

That is correct; Munich has a second major football club, and not everybody in this towering city support the team that play in red. TSV 1860 Munich is the second illustrious club that play football in this fantastic town, and are one that don’t seem to get much advertisement.

They share ground with their hated rivals Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena and have forever been in their shadow for many years. This account is going to explore the season TSV 1860 Munich have had so far and whether they can push 1. FC Kaiserslautern to the very end for a season play-off finale to gain a place in the Bundesliga.

1860 München is a club with a strong history and a football team that is well supported around the city. The club has just over 20,000 members, and their average attendance in 2006 was just over 41,000, however this has seemingly dropped since then, with their average attendance last season being nearly half that figure.

Die Löwen (The Lions) have won the DFB Pokal on two occasions and won the German Bundesliga once in 1966, making them the third team in Germany to be crowned champions.

They also made an appearance in the 1965 Cup Winners’ Cup Final against West Ham United, but were beaten 2-0. This great club has also made an attendance in the UEFA Champions League in 2000, but didn’t advance far, as they were defeated by Leeds United and then were knocked out by AC Parma in the UEFA Cup the same season.

This club has also inherited some great players such as Rüdi Voller, Martin Max, Jens Jeremies, and Sven Bender. Since 2012, 1860 Munich have had Alexander Schmidt in charge, who was appointed after Reiner Maurer was sacked in November 2012. Schmidt is a man that knows the club well, as he managed 1860 München II for a year before being appointed.

This season, however, has been a frustrating one for the fans of 1860 Munich. They have a squad that has huge potential to challenge teams like Hertha BSC, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and Eintracht Braunchweig at the top, but their inconsistent form has cost them.

TSV 1860 MunichThe Lions currently sit in sixth place with 42 points from the games they have played this campaign, and they are seven points off the end of season play-off place. So is the play-off place a realistic target for 1860 Munich?

There were many signs that Die Löwen would kick on from their years of disappointment at being in 2. Bundesliga for so long. They started the season very well, as they were unbeaten in their first eight games, scoring thirteen and only conceding three. They presented impressive performances against SV Sandhausen 1916, MSV Duisburg, 1. FC Kaiserslautern, and VfL Bochum 1848.

It only took a terrible performance away to Hertha BSC to knock their confidence, and this is when the inconsistent form began. They struggled to get a hold of their performances, only winning two more games until the winter break. The games leading up to the break saw them draw five games and lose three.

Since the winter break, the form of 1860 Munich has been a lot better, with huge potential to kick on. Since Christmas, they have won four, lost three, and drew three. They have put up some impressive wins against Eintracht Braunchweig, MSV Duisburg, and FC Erzgebirge Ave.

At this moment in time, 1860 Munich have 42 points, scoring 31 goals and conceding only 26, resulting in a goal difference of +5. The obstacle that has been stopping them, however, has been the amount of games they have drew, which is twelve all season, and transforming some of these games into wins could have made their season read differently.

The poor form of their strikers has not helped 1860 Munich, with only one player hitting some type of good form. Benjamin Lauth has played 2211 minutes in the league this season, scoring nine goals, making him 1860 Munich’s highest goal scorer.

Their midfield maestro Moritz Stoppelkamp has played 2410 minutes in the league this year, scoring five goals and gaining five assists. Another influential is Daniel Halfar, who has played 1689 minutes in the league, scoring two goals but gaining five assists, making him a valuable player to 1860 Munich.

TSV 1860 MunichSo do 1860 Munich have the nerve to kick on and challenge until the final minute of the season for the play-off place? You’d like to think so as the statistics show they have the potential to do just that with their settled defense and their promising manager, Alexander Schmidt.

But it seems to be scoring goals that is their problem, and they cannot keep relying on Benjamin Lauth to carry the responsibility of doing it all himself. They lost in their last game to St. Pauli 3-1, which was a huge stumbling block in their season target.

With a huge game at home to FSV Frankfurt next, they cannot afford to dwell in their last defeat. Their next game seems like it may decide the season for 1860 Munich, as there are only five games left.

So can 1860 Munich be back in the big time? Who knows?! This is why we love the beautiful game!

Written by James Williams

Schalke 04: The Rise of the Royal Blues of Germany

Schalke 04It cannot be argued that Schalke 04 is not a major club, as this famous squad stands by its values of displaying a hard work ethic week in week out. Schalke is the second largest sports club in Germany with 100,000 members that attracts just fewer than 79,000 supporters to their famous Veltins Arena.

Schalke 04 always comes in the top 20 of the ‘Deloitte Football Money League’ in terms of annual revenue, generating a whopping €174.5 million in 2012. Some football fans must wonder how Die Königsblauen has not won the German Bundesliga, however the club itself has won a few major honors.

This account is going to explore some of Schalke’s most highlighted events over their illustrious history and examine their season so far, which may have a major impact on their next Bundesliga season.

In 1934, Schalke’s first German title arrived after beating favorites Nuremberg with the score of 2-1. This was the kick-start Schalke 04 needed as the following year they successfully defended their title against VfB Stuttgart in an entertaining 6-4 win.

Die Knappen showed their dominance in this era by acquiring this trophy again in 1937, 1939, 1940, and 1942. Three of the national finals that Schalke 04 were involved in were unbelievably against Austrian teams: Admira Vienna, Rapid Vienna, and First Vienna, which played in Germany’s Gauliga Ostmark after Austria’s incorporation into the Reich through the 1938 Anschluss.

Between the years of 1933 and 1945, Schalke won 162 out of 189 in their Gauliga Ostmark matches, losing only 6 and drawing 21 times. In this period, Schalke showed their scoring governance as they accumulated 924 goals and conceded only 145.

In the years of 1935 to 1939, Schalke did not lose a single league match to any opponent they faced. These achievements caught the eye of many, and this led them to be held up for propaganda reasons by the Nazi regime, as an example of ‘Neue Deutschland’ (New Germany). This was surprising due to many Schalke players descending from Polish immigrants, including their most influential players, Fritz Szepan and Ernst Kuzorra.

Schalke 04When Schalke entered the German Bundesliga in 1963, they have somewhat been inconsistent with their finishes in the league. During the first few years of the German Bundesliga, Schalke found it very hard to adjust to the new league.

For example, in 1965, they just missed out on relegation, only through the league increasing to eighteen teams. A number of finishes at the lower end of the league table followed after, before development started in 1972 as they acquired a second place finish to Bayern München. In the same season, Schalke won the German Cup for the second time in its history.

When looking at Schalke more recently however, they have managed to finally get some consistency in regards to winning trophies and staying towards to upper ends of the league. In 1997, they won their most coveted trophy, the UEFA Cup, beating Inter Milan on penalties.

Since this trophy, Schalke 04 has won the DFB Pokal three times, the Premiere League Cup in 2005, and the German Super Cup in 2011. However, they still have not managed to win the German Bundesliga.

When assessing Schalke’s season so far, they have had a somewhat rocky campaign as they decided to relieve Huub Stevens of his duties and appoint Jens Keller as their new head coach. Schalke has given their fans something to brag about in the Ruhr though, as they managed to gain the double over their great rivals Borussia Dortmund, beating them 2-1 on both games.

Also defeating Arsenal 2-0 away in the UEFA Champions League, that could be argued to be Schalke’s best performance of the season, as they simply played ‘The Gunners’ off the park. There have been some signs of Schalke’s potential to kick on this season, but beating Galatasaray SK was a step too far as their squad was looking bare.

Bayern Munich 4-0 Schalke 04They have also struggled with injuries this year, and this has been evident in some of their performances, most notably away at Bayern München when they were defeated 4-0. Since that defeat however, they have managed to gain some form and rise up the league by beating Fortuna Düsseldorf, VfL Wolfsburg, Borussia Dortmund, 1899 Hoffenheim, and most recently SV Werder Bremen.

This form has led them to overlap Eintracht Frankfurt in fourth place for that UEFA Champions League spot. They sit nicely with 45 points and are now looking to be favorites to claim this spot. They could even overhaul Bayer Leverkusen, as they are only four points behind, but this will be tough due to Bayer Leverkusen’s plus fifteen goal difference.

The run in for Schalke is hard, and they invite Bayer Leverkusen to the Veltins Arena next and this is simply a must win game for ‘The Royal Blues.’ Then it’s off to the founding father’s Eintracht Frankfurt, who will be looking to get back into the chase for that fourth spot, so Schalke need to be focused for the next two games as their UEFA Champions League spot could slip out of their hands.

But with five games left, they have a great opportunity to confirm UEFA Champions League football next season, and if they gain this, it may get Jens Keller a contract to take over permanently.

But this is Schalke, and anything can happen. Will Schalke 04 ever go back to playing their famous ‘Schalker Kriesel’ way of the 1920s? Who knows?! What will be, will be.

Written by James Williams