After a long winter break, the Frauen-Bundesliga is finally back this week.
The 2022/23 season is already a memorable one, with record crowds and interest like never before. After just ten match days, the attendance record has already been broken.
On average, 3,028 fans came to see Lina Magull, Alex Popp and the other Bundesliga stars play. But what happened on the pitch was equally exciting. From courageous underdogs to relegation-threatened Bundesliga giants, here are the talking points for the second half of the season.
Will Bayern break Wolfsburg’s dominance?
Wolfsburg sit comfortably on top of the Frauen-Bundesliga table after a stellar first half of the season. Tommy Stroot’s team has won every single game, displaying superb one-touch combinations and squad depth.
Stroot can choose between the likes of Sveindis Jonsdottir, Jill Roord or Jule Brand — all of them highly-rated internationals who bring something different to the team.
The fact that Tabea Waßmuth, who tore up the Champions League last season with 10 goals, has mainly been a super-sub so far, shows the quality of this Wolfsburg side.
Incredible squad depth is key to Wolfsburg’s success in Frauen-BundesligaEmbed from Getty Images
“When you look at who is sitting on the bench at Wolfsburg, or who is not even in the squad… I would take them all with the greatest pleasure,” Potsdam coach Sofian Chahed said, and most of his colleagues probably feel the same way.
Stroot has the luxury to even leave Popp or Ewa Pajor on the bench, and subbing in either of them against a tired opponent is just a cheat code.
Pajor is arguably Europe’s best striker at the moment, and she hasn’t just scored eight times, but also creates chances for her teammates. So, who can stop this Wolfsburg side?
If anyone can do it, it’s Alexander Straus. The Norwegian coach arrived in Munich this summer and quickly made a name for himself. Straus innovated Bayern’s way of playing and made his team more unpredictable.Embed from Getty Images
Wolfsburg’s winning streak may dominate the headlines, but Bayern are playing a very good season as well, placed five points behind the champions. Besides the defeat against archrivals Wolfsburg, Munich slipped just once, but tying with third-placed Frankfurt isn’t something to be ashamed of, either.
Wolfsburg were close to dropping points against Hoffenheim as well. With the additional charge of Champions League games, they might not play a flawless season. But the same goes for Bayern, and Wolfsburg’s superior squad depth might just give them the edge.
Freiburg: Can the Frauen-Bundesliga’s surprise team qualify for UWCL?
Freiburg are the dark horses of this Frauen-Bundesliga season. Over the last years, the team has been one to watch because of their talents.
The likes of Melanie Leupolz, Giulia Gwinn, Lina Magull or Merle Frohms have all played in Germany’s sunniest city. But when they left after a breakout season, Freiburg had to rebuild their squad and start again.Embed from Getty Images
Despite displaying individual brilliance, they couldn’t really challenge the league’s top teams. This year, things look slightly different as Freiburg are just four points behind third-placed Frankfurt.
New coach Theresa Merk has turned a talented team into one of the Bundesliga’s most exciting sides to watch. Freiburg are a high-pressing side, and very well organized in doing so. Merk’s team has caused some goal spectacles, with Janina Minge being the target player in most attacks.
Janina Minge: Frauen-Bundesliga’s top goalscorer out of nowhere
The 23-year-old midfielder is the surprise of this season, topping the goalscorer charts with eight goals, along with Pajor. This is even more remarkable as Minge had scored only ten goals in her six previous Bundesliga seasons. Now, she might pulverise that figure in just one season.
Her Frauen-Bundesliga performances earned her a first senior call-up for the national team. She extended her contract this winter, which shows that Freiburg have grown out of their role as a “talent fabric” and can keep players like her now.Embed from Getty Images
Minge is in incredible form and every shot seems to be going in. Her xG is just 8, so she’s incredibly efficient right now, but luck has also played a role for some of her shots.
Defensively, things look a bit more complicated, as Freiburg’s high pressing also means their back four can be exposed at times. They’ve conceded 17 goals already, four of them against UWCL rival Frankfurt. Qualifying for the Champions League is probably unlikely for Freiburg given their defensive worries, but a top five finish would be a very good result as well.
Hoffenheim: Between genius and madness
In 2021, Hoffenheim narrowly missed out on qualifying for the UWCL quarter-finals, having just beaten Arsenal 4-1. They failed to reach the Frauen-Bundesliga’s third spot again, but made some quality additions the following summer.
Talents like Melissa Kössler, who had 18 goal involvements the season before, and Austrian winger Julia Hickelsberger-Füller joined the club. However, after ten match days, Hoffenheim are six points behind Frankfurt. To everyone’s surprise, the club sacked coach Gabor Gallai in December, because they didn’t feel the team was on track for UWCL qualification.
In fact, valid concerns could be raised about the team’s performances. Hoffenheim’s defence has shown about as many holes as an Emmental cheese, and only three teams have conceded more goals. Gallai had experimented a lot, even putting wingers as centre-backs, but to no avail.Embed from Getty Images
Yet, it’s questionable if all of this is Gallai’s fault, since the coach has to replace his best players every year. Maxi Rall, Jule Brand and Tabea Waßmuth have all joined Bayern or Wolfsburg over the last years. The team’s best goalscorer, dynamic left-back Katharina Naschenweng, has already packed her suitcases for Munich too, leaving this summer.
But not all hope is lost, as Hoffenheim still have some outstanding individual quality on the pitch. The team showed glimpses of what they’re capable of, but lack consistency. Hoffenheim appointed former Wolfsburg coach Stephan Lerch as Gallai’s successor, and he has to turn around things fast now.
Köln: Too high expectations or too weak performances?Embed from Getty Images
Köln were on many expert’s lists as the Frauen-Bundesliga surprise of this season, but haven’t lived up to the expectations yet. The team underwent a radical change this summer, with many young talents arriving, but also experience. Sarah Puntigam came to the Rhine from Montpellier to strengthen the defense, for example.
After a solid first year in the Bundesliga, the “Geißböcke” seemed ready for a bigger leap in the table. Even if third place still seemed a long way off, the Effzeh seemed to have what it takes to upset the big teams.
Now, they sit in eighth and are eager to climb the table in the second half of the season. With only ten goals scored, the team did not exactly set off offensive fireworks until now. But Selina Cerci, one of Germany’s most exciting young strikers, might make her comeback soon and fans can’t wait for her to score some rockets.
Köln’s coach Sascha Glass also needs to fix some defensive issues, though, as his back four struggle to defend crosses and set pieces. But with twelve new players joining this summer, expectations were probably too high anyway. The situation is similar to Everton’s in the Women’s Super League last season, as the Toffees also made fantastic signings but struggled on the pitch.
Turbine Potsdam: A Frauen-Bundesliga giant risks falling
Just 12 years ago, Turbine Potsdam won the Champions League and dominated the league, along with FFC Frankfurt. Both were prestigious women-only clubs with a long tradition, and they made the Frauen-Bundesliga unique. Now, it looks like an era will definitely end.
FFC Frankfurt have already joined the men’s club Eintracht two years ago due to financial problems. Turbine are going another way, and probably a more painful one for the fans.
Potsdam are last in the Bundesliga table, and few have hope that this will change. The team isn’t able to compete technically or athletically, the defense is disjointed and the attack harmless.Embed from Getty Images
On paper, it looks like Turbine’s downfall only began this season. In 2022, they still finished fourth, almost getting to Champions League. But behind the scenes, some things had been going wrong for a long time, Tabea Kemme, who ran for president in 2021, has said.
Ultimately, Potsdam’s downfall is due to their inability to adapt to the new challenges.
The Frauen-Bundesliga isn’t like it was in 2005, and the club failed to change, too. Their training conditions aren’t good enough and the club should have invested into better infrastructure anymore. But that’s easier said than done, and truth is that, for a women-only team, it just isn’t possible to compete at the highest level anymore. Barring a miracle, Potsdam will probably go down, and with them, a piece of Frauen-Bundesliga heritage.