Preview of the Frauen Bundesliga season 2021/22

Bundesliga-buzz

In the second episode of the Bundesliga Buzz, we’ll have a look at the different Frauen Bundesliga teams, their signings this summer, key players, and ambitions. 

Bayern Munich

Reigning Frauen Bundesliga champions and UWCL semi-finalists Bayern Munich have completed a successful transfer period. Bayern strengthened their squad on all positions and focused on signing players who offer versatility.

One of these players is Maximiliane Rall. The 27 year-old German international was key for Hoffenheim’s success last season. She can play as a right-back, winger and central midfielder and is often used as an attacking full-back. Bayern also added two world-class experienced players to their young team. 30-year-old defensive midfielder Saki Kumagai from Lyon and 31-year-old forward Sofia Jakobsson from Real Madrid joined the squad. The latter might have a good connection with fellow Swede Hanna Glas, who is known for her precise crosses.

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Aiming for international success

Given they only lost some younger players and Amanda Ilestedt, Bayern are in a strong position to defend their Frauen Bundesliga title. They will strive to continue their progress on an international level, aiming to beat a top team in the UWCL. To prepare for the season, Bayern competed in the Amos Women’s French Cup. The team won 4-2 in the semi-final against Lyon with Lea Schüller and Maximiliane Rall both getting a brace. In the final, they defeated AS Rome 4-0, even though some important players were not present. If they can keep that preseason form, scoring enough goals shouldn’t be a problem.

Wolfsburg  

Bayern’s permanent rivals Wolfsburg are in the middle of a rebuild. They had to replace Ingrid Engen and Fridolina Rolfö, who signed for Barcelona; Lara Dickenmann and Zsanett Jakabfi, who both retired; Anna Blässe; and their coach Stephan Lerch.

To do so, they signed a new coach, Tommy Stroot, four German internationals and three Dutch players. Two of those are 21-year-old striker Joelle Smits, who scored an impressive 30 goals in 24 appearances for PSV Eindhoven, and Twente Enschede’s defender Lynn Wilms. Former Arsenal forward Jill Roord might play a pivotal role in the upcoming season, connecting midfield and attack. Wolfsburg’s other four signings are Lena Lattwein and Tabea Waßmuth (both TSG Hoffenheim), forward Sandra Starke (SC Freiburg), and winger Turid Knaak (Atletico Madrid).

Rebuilding the team

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Their strategy probably focuses on building a young team that will be able to attack internationally in a few years. This season, they will probably give Bayern a hard fight for the title, but some coordination problems are to be expected. It will likely take the team some time to find the playing style and system that suits them best. Wolfsburg played three friendlies so far, winning 2-0 against Rosengard, 2-1 against PSV Eindhoven and 10-3 against Werder Bremen. In these friendlies, their defense remained shaky, which will be the main problem Stroot has to fix.

On top of that, Wolfsburg were unlucky with injuries. Two defenders, Felicitas Rauch and Wilms, will be out for some time. Wilms won’t be able to play for a couple of months.

Hoffenheim

Having just qualified for Champions League for the first time, Hoffenheim must deal with losing three key players (Rall, Lattwein and Waßmuth). They will also have to play three competitions at the same time, which most players are not used to. These are the questions that will define their season: Do they have enough squad depth for heavy rotation? Can the remaining pillars of the team (notably last season’s top goal scorer Nicole Billa and the midfielders Paulina Krumbiegel and Fabienne Dongus) compensate for the loss of these important players? One of these key players, Krumbiegel, already caught an injury during preseason.

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Hoffenheim’s striker Nicole Billa with the “Torjägerkanone”, the Frauen Bundesliga’s trophy for the best goalscorer

The three signings you should look out for this season are attacking talent Gia Corley, who Hoffenheim signed from Bayern Munich. Tine de Caigny, scored 46 goals in 58 games for Anderlecht and won the prize for Belgium’s best female footballer last season. Lastly, Jana Feldkamp, who had previously organized Essen’s midfield for six years. 

Hoffenheim has already played three friendlies, losing 2-3 against Freiburg and winning the other two. They defeated Frauen Bundesliga team Ingolstadt 2-0, and Frankfurt 2-1. They will aim at defending their Champions League spot and possibly surprising Bayern or Wolfsburg next season. 

Potsdam, Leverkusen, and Frankfurt 

Fourth-placed Potsdam and sixth-place Frankfurt, have both only made a few signings so far. Potsdam signed goalkeeper Anna Wellmann from Leverkusen and Teninsoon Sissoko from French Division 1 club FC Fleury 91. 

Frankfurt’s new players are former Essen forward Nicole Anyomi, goalkeeper Hannah Johann and Siri Worm. The Dutch defender and free-kick specialist is no stranger to WSL fans, having played for Tottenham for two seasons.

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Frankfurt is more ambitious than the other two clubs, and they have heavily invested in the last few years, but the team only finished 6th last season. The club surprisingly extended the contract of coach Niko Arnautis. In the 2021/22 Frauen Bundesliga season, the team and Arnautis are under pressure to finally live up to the expectations. 

Will Leverkusen keep surpassing expectations in the Frauen Bundesliga?

Bayer Leverkusen, who surprisingly finished fifth last season, lost three important players, while making six signings. Goalkeeper Friederike Abt (Wolfsburg), Julia Pollak (on loan from Bayern), Dina Blagojevic (Sand), 17-year-old Clara Fröhlich, Irina Pando (Luzern, Switzerland), Swiss winger Amira Arfaoui (SFF Servette Genf), Lisanne Gräfe (Wolfsburg’s second team) and Caroline Siems, who played in the WSL for Aston Villa last year, will join the team.

All three of these teams will try to compete in the fight for the third place. The Champions League spot is extremely attractive from a sporting and financial point of view. Thanks to the new UWCL reform, every team competing will obtain at least 300 000 €, which could give the respective team a decisive edge.

Freiburg, Essen, and Werder Bremen

Freiburg, Essen and Bremen will try to develop their young players and keep a comfortable distance to the relegation places. The three clubs remained true to their principles and signed mainly promising talents.

Freiburg added four players to their squad, all of them being under 22 years old. Two of them are 18-year-olds Riona Xhemaili and Svenja Fölmli, who are considered as Switzerland’s most exciting young players. Xhemaili scored the goal of the season in the Swiss Women’s Super League: 

Freiburg certainly hopes for more of these goals in the Frauen Bundesliga. Their main problem last season was that the team only scored 30 goals in 22 matches. They have played five friendlies so far, winning against Luzern (4-0), Hoffenheim (3-2) Sand (4-1) and Basel (4-1) and losing to Lyon (0-2). 

Young players for Essen, defenders for Bremen

Essen has brought players like Lena Oberdorf and Lea Schüller to the next level. Naturally, it won’t surprise many fans that they focused on signing young players from their Bundesliga competitors again. Their six new players already got three chances to prove themselves in friendlies against second Bundesliga team Borussia Bocholt (7-2), Ajax Amsterdam (3-1) and tier 4 club Billerbeck (19-0). Let’s see if they can keep that goalscoring rate up in the 2021/22 season. 

Bremen’s main worry was their defence last season, conceding the highest number of goals in the Bundesliga. Letting in 67 goals in 22 games is quite alarming and a threat to their ambitions. Their six signings (Rieke Dieckmann, Theresa Panfil, Christin Meyer, Maja Sternad, Emilie Bernhardt, and Michelle Weiß) are supposed to strengthen the shaky defence, if possible, but not at the expense of the offence. Finding this balance will be key for their season. In their four preseason matches, Bremen only scored six goals, despite only facing second or third division teams and Danish side Aarhus. 

Sand, Köln, and Jena 

Sand, who narrowly avoided relegation last season, and the two teams that got promoted from the 2. Bundesliga, Köln and Jena, primarily hope to stay in the Frauen Bundesliga. They probably seek to establish themselves in the Bundesliga by playing a solid season and then gradually improving the squad. 

Sand already seemed all but relegated after matchday 17 last season, when they replaced their coach with Alexander Fischinger. They were two points behind Meppen and had conceded 12 goals in the last three games. However, with a strenuous effort, the team managed to grab eleven points from the last six matches of the season without losing one. Sand had miraculously saved themselves, but Fischinger announced that he would not continue to coach the team. Will they be able to repeat this success with their new coach Matthias Frieböse? Sand seem to be confident that the squad can do so, since they only signed four players, two of them goalkeepers. 

Jena and Köln: Germany’s yoyo clubs between Frauen Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga

Köln became champions of the 2. Frauen Bundesliga North last season – Germany’s second division is currently divided into 2. Bundesliga North and South because of the covid situation. For the last couple of years, Köln has been a classic yoyo club, getting relegated and promoted very often. The team was too good for the second division but not able to compete with the Bundesliga clubs.

This season, they finally want to break this vicious cycle and stay in the Bundesliga. They do have the players to do so, including Mandy Islacker, the Frauen Bundesliga’s top scorer in 2016 and 2017. Their signings also show their ambitions, as they got seven new players for the 2021/22 season.

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Jena are clearly the underdogs this season and avoiding relegation would be a huge success for them. Like Köln, they have completed seven signings but overall, the quality of their squad doesn’t seem high enough for the Bundesliga. Their preseason results so far are not really encouraging either. They defeated Bayern’s second team 3-1 but conceded five goals against Potsdam without scoring one and also lost 1-3 against Frankfurt.

New contract with Magenta Sport

In other news, Magenta Sport will show all Frauen Bundesliga matches for the next two seasons. This is certainly a step forward, as some matches were not streamed or televised at all before. Unfortunately, this does not really change the situation for the international audience, because Magenta Sport doesn’t accept international credit cards or PayPal accounts. When I asked if they planned to change this soon, they said that this was not the case. H Eurosport will continue to broadcast the matches on Friday evenings, but the stream probably won’t work outside Germany. This seems like yet another missed chance to properly promote the Frauen Bundesliga outside of Germany.

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