6 June ~ The Bundesliga season 2010-11 will of course be remembered mostly for the unexpected title win by a young and exciting Borussia Dortmund team. However, this richly-deserved success for the popular Jürgen Klopp, emphasised by the promotion of several of his squad to the German national team, and the intrigues at Bayern Munich should not overshadow fine achievements by other unfancied teams. Bayer Leverkusen continued to make steady progress, although Michael Ballack once again spent more time on the treatment table than on the pitch.

However, they have yet to shake off the stigma of repeated second-place finishes and new coach Robin Dutt may find that avoiding relegation with Freiburg was a simpler task than winning a title with "Neverkusen". After sweeping all before them domestically the previous season, Bayern Munich once again allowed off-field matters to drastically affect the performances on it. A lack of consistency and defeats in key games, combined with Louis van Gaal's public disagreements with players and board members heralded his departure and a return to a more attacking style of play. But despite Mario Gómez's 28 goals, Bayern were unable to catch Leverkusen and must now return early from their summer break to contest a two-legged qualifying match for the Champions League.

It's fair to say that not many people predicted that Dortmund would be champions, but even fewer people had picked Hannover 96 as likely candidates for European qualification. Mirko Slomka's team stuck to a tactical masterplan that played to the strengths of an average squad, but without major investment, it is unlikely that they will be able to recreate this season's success. Mainz 05 were the early pacesetters, winning their first seven games before a home defeat against underachieving Hamburg and a subsequent run of poor results threatened to derail their season. However, Thomas Tuchel's team were able to secure a Europa League place for the first time in the club's history, an achievement that the club hopes will be the perfect way to celebrate the move away from their much-loved Bruchweg stadium to a new arena on the edge of town.

At the other end of the table, Cologne and Wolfsburg just about steered clear of the trapdoor and Schalke were unable to reproduce their European form on the domestic stage. Borussia Mönchengladbach had seemed destined for relegation in March but found form just in time, crawling out of the bottom two on the final day of the season to secure a play-off against Bochum (which they subsequently won) and condemn Eintracht Frankfurt to relegation.

Frankfurt's season had collapsed dramatically after the winter break, going 792 minutes without a goal and dropping rapidly down the table. This prompted the appointment of Christoph Daum with seven games to go, but his often unintelligible psychological pronouncements served only to confuse the players. Frankfurt secured one point from a possible 21 and only finished ahead of St. Pauli. The self-styled alternative club were unable to capitalise on the unique atmosphere of their Millerntor stadium, confirming their departure from the top division with a crushing 8-1 home defeat against Bayern Munich, the very embodiment of the commercialisation of football in Germany. John van Laer

Comments (2)
Comment by jameswba 2011-06-06 12:17:20

Good article. I would also put in a word for Nuremberg who went from relegation play-offs the year before to 6th place this time, largely thanks to a spring run of 6 wins from 7 games. Saw Nuremberg v Mainz over Easter in what was effectively a Europa League shoot-out and Mainz were brilliantly set-up tactically and had a couple of players who'll be well worth looking out for in future. It was also good to see Hannover do well - pity they couldn't hold off Bayern for 3rd place, though.

Comment by Liffrok 2011-06-07 22:54:40

I love German football. It deserves a much higher profile in the UK.

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