Frauen Bundesliga: Halfway report of thrilling 2021/22 season

German flag graphic for "Frauen-Bundesliga Buzz" by Helene Sophie Altgelt

High-scoring games, competitiveness at the top and a few surprises: The Frauen Bundesliga has attracted a lot of attention since the beginning of the season.

The battle for the title is more exciting than ever and three teams are fighting for third place. What were the surprises of the first half of the season and what can we expect from the second half?

Let’s first take a look at the table after the eleventh matchday—all teams have now played each other once.

The most competitive league in Europe right now?

2021–2022 Frauen Bundesliga league table after 11 matches.

It’s very tight at the top and only five points separate the first-placed team, Wolfsburg, and Frankfurt, who are fifth in the table.

The Frauen Bundesliga is thus one of the most exciting and competitive leagues at the moment. By comparison, at the same time last year, there were 16 points separating league leaders Bayern Munich from fifth-placed Bayer Leverkusen.

A look at the other elite European leagues also shows that nowhere else are the top five teams so close.

In the FAWSL, Arsenal are 10 points ahead of Manchester United. In the French Division 1, Lyon have 14 points more than Montpellier. UD Tenerife has 17 points less than FC Barcelona in the Spanish Primera Iberdrola. And, in Serie A, Juventus Turin has 11 points more than AC Milan. This shows that the investments made by Frankfurt and Leverkusen are paying off, and that, at the same time, Bayern and Wolfsburg are no longer as dominant as they used to be. 

Wolfsburg have become “Herbstmeister”, which means they lead the table after half the season. Yet, they have two points less than after eleven matches last season, where they were only in second place at the same time and had five points less than FC Bayern.

The most recent (and wild) matchday, also shows how balanced the league is. None of the top eight teams going into the matchday could secure a win. In fact, all games except two ended in a draw. Three different teams could have become “Herbstmeister” with a win.

So, what’s the reason for this competitiveness? Have the other teams become better or have Bayern and Wolfsburg become worse?

When looking at it more carefully, it’s most likely a mixture of both. 

“Herbstmeister” Wolfsburg with ups and downs

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Wolfsburg have a new coach and had to cope with the departure of top players in the summer. As many expected, Tommy Stroot’s team is therefore still unstable and has shown fluctuating performances.

The injuries of important players like Ewa Pajor, Alexandra Popp and Lynn Wilms did not help. The latter is back now, however, and Popp should also be available again relatively soon, which is a very good sign for the “Wolves”. Some of the team’s pillars, such as Lena Oberdorf (19), who has worn the captain’s armband several times, Lena Lattwein (21), Jill Roord (24) and Tabea Waßmuth (25) are also still young and have not been able to fulfil their potential in all games.

On the one hand, they’ve defeated both Chelsea and Bayern this season. On the other hand, they lost with an unimaginative performance against Juventus and struggled against Leverkusen and Freiburg. Two conceded goals in extra time (one against in their first game against Chelsea and one in their first game against Juventus) cost them four points and possibly the quarter-finals. In both competitions, league and Champions League, it became clear that the team is talented and has loads of potential. However, they struggle to create chances at times and the defence has too many lapses.

The team is starting to show Tommy Stroot’s style, but it needs more goal threat especially on the left side. In addition, the centre-back position next to Dominique Janssen is currently not adequately occupied. Full-back Joelle Wedemeyer has to operate there due to injuries, but she doesn’t look comfortable in that role.

Reigning champions Bayern in the role of the chaser

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The situation is somewhat different at Bayern. After the dominant 2020/21 season, many expected a similar course thanks to the signing of new players. However, the reigning champions do not look much improved compared to last season—they’ve also surprisingly dropped points.

Bayern’s individual quality is arguably the best in the league, but their collective game is often too predictable. Jens Scheuer’s system is very much geared towards playing on the wings, with the full-backs positioned far up the field. However, if the opponent defends well there, they should find more ideas through the middle.

The 1-0 victory over Lyon was Bayern’s highlight of the first half of the season, where they convinced with a composed and fierce performance. In the league, however, there were a few setbacks.

In the defeat against Wolfsburg, bad luck and a strong performance from opposing goalkeeper Almuth Schult certainly played a role. But Bayern’s weaknesses were also exposed when Frankfurt beat them in a highly entertaining match with four goals from the 80th minute onwards, and Potsdam managed to draw against them last weekend.

It is a good sign for the future that five key players have extended their contracts. Among them are captain Lina Magull, as well as Klara Bühl and Giulia Gwinn, who, despite their young age, are already irreplaceable. 

The three teams behind Bayern and Wolfsburg have all surprised with their consistent performances. TSG Hoffenheim, Frankfurt and Potsdam still have all chances for the Champions League and for second place after eleven match days. 

Hoffenheim even better than last season

Hoffenheim coped well with the double burden of Bundesliga and UWCL, defeating Wolfsburg for the first time in their history.

With a win against eleventh-placed Sand last weekend, the team could have even clinched the top spot in the table.

In the Champions League, Gabor Gallai’s team did its best, but ultimately had little chance against Barcelona and Arsenal. Nevertheless, there are positives to take from the group stage. Hoffenheim got two wins against Danish representatives Køge, and the first half in the home match against Barcelona was also a remarkable performance. 

Frankfurt impressive in the top games

Frankfurt have impressed many spectators this season with their combative and efficient style of play. For their 3-2 win against Bayern, for example, they only needed five shots on target. Especially in October and November, Niko Arnautis’ team was in very good form and almost managed to draw against Wolfsburg.

They are perhaps the most entertaining team in the Frauen Bundesliga and their matches promise goals en masse (3-2 against Bayern, 2-3 against Wolfsburg, 3-3 against Turbine Potsdam…). However, they haven’t quite gotten rid of their big weakness of last season, their inconsistency. Last Sunday, they lost a must-win game against Werder Bremen 0-1 and thus failed to overtake Hoffenheim.

Potsdam: The turbine starts rolling

Turbine Potsdam have improved considerably over the season. After a mediocre start with three points from the first three games, the team got better and better. Notably the offense around Melissa Kössler, Sophie Weidauer and Selina Cerci impressed.

Cerci has already racked up 12 goals and three assists after 13 games in the league and DFB Pokal. Together with Lea Schüller, she is arguably the most in-form Bundesliga striker. At 21 years of age, she shows a lot of promise, and is a sure-fire candidate for the German national team.

If Potsdam’s coach Sofian Chahed also manages to stabilise the defence, the Champions League is within reach. 

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Leverkusen with a surprising drop in form

Bayer Leverkusen win the prize for the most inconsistent team in this first half of the season. After six matchdays, they already had amassed 15 points and could keep up with Bayern and Wolfsburg. This was followed by an almost inexplicable crisis.

In the following four games, Leverkusen conceded a whole 19 goals, including seven twice against Hoffenheim and Bayern. This cost the team the connection to the top group, as they are now five points behind Turbine.

By now, the team seems to have stabilised a bit again, and on Saturday they managed a draw against Wolfsburg. Given their disastrous defensive record, it would not be surprising if they were to become active on the transfer market during the winter break. In the offensive, Verena Wieder has been one of the surprises of the season. The winger could have even scored more than one goal against Wolfsburg.

Four middle-ranking teams: Freiburg, Köln, Essen and Bremen

Freiburg, Köln, Essen and Bremen will, in all probability, not be relegated. However, the gap to the top group is large, both in terms of points and playing quality.

Freiburg won the important games against Jena, Bremen, Essen and Sand, even if some of them were close. In their forward play, however, they have not really managed to organise a controlled attacking game and find solutions through passing instead of many crosses.

Freiburg’s defensive stability might suffer in the second part of the season because their most solid centre-back, Rebecca Knaak, has moved to Swedish champions FC Rosengard. 

Köln with lots of experience, unlike Essen

Köln may be a promoted team, but they have an experienced one.

In their draw against Freiburg last Friday, the average age in the starting eleven was 25, well above the Bundesliga average. Köln usually manage to play out counterattacks well, but the team is often shaky at the back. They have already conceded 24 goals, an average of more than two per game. 

Essen are the youngest Frauen Bundesliga team with a lot of talent. Their starting XI had an average age of only 20.5 years this past weekend.

Play-wise, they have performed well in many games, but have also been unlucky or not had enough punch in attack. So far Elisa Senß, Maike Berentzen and Vivien Endemann have been convincing for Essen. The team can be expected to pick up a few more points in the second half of the season. 

Werder Bremen’s goal before the season was to stabilise their defence and avoid relegation. Things are looking good for the latter, as they are nine points clear of eleventh place. The defence is still the second-worst in the league, but showed an outstanding performance in the important 1-0 win against Frankfurt. 

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Sand and Jena need a miracle

For Sand and Jena, things look bad after half of the season. Two teams have to go down to the 2. Bundesliga, and both have only two points so far. Particularly sobering is the number of goals both teams have scored. After 11 match days, only three goals are on the books for each club. They’ll almost need a miracle to stay in the league. Sand are the only team to have changed their coach so far, but can this decision save them?

For Sand, who do not have a financially strong men’s team at their side, relegation could mean major financial worries. The situation is different for Jena, the only team with a female coach. The club is already familiar with relegations (having gone down in 2018 and 2020) and few expected them to stay in the Frauen Bundesliga. 

Thrilling second half can be expected

All is set for an interesting second half of the season with a thrilling finale. Marquee games with Bayern, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim, Frankfurt and Potsdam will likely provide good football and many goals. These matches will now be accessible to more people and hopefully get the audience they deserve, as started streaming two games per match day in the US.

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