Frauen-Bundesliga: Three main takeaways from the 2020/21 season

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Three weeks ago, Bayern Munich lifted the prestigious Meisterschale for the first time since 2016. What are the main takeaways from this Frauen-Bundesliga season in Germany, and which teams have surpassed or not met the expectations? 

Bayern becoming one of the best sides in Europe

An impressive Bundesliga season

At the beginning of the season, it was expected that Bayern Munich would challenge serial winners Wolfsburg in the fight for the title. The signings the club made were promising, as the squad was strengthened with high-profile players in defense (Glas and Hegering), midfield (Zadrazil), and attack (Asseyi, Bühl, and Schüller).

However, few people would have expected the team to win the title in such a dominant manner. Bayern amassed 62 points, the second-highest score in Frauen-Bundesliga history, and scored 82 goals while conceding only nine.

One of the main reasons why Bayern were so dominant is because of the recruitments mentioned above. The newcomers fit the team well, became key players and needed little time to adapt to the playing style. If one player did not perform as well, like Schüller at the beginning of the season, the team was able to compensate collectively.

The entire team was on song thanks to a combination of squad depth, team spirit, mentality, and individual quality. Until April, Bayern only conceded an incredible two goals in their 16 Bundesliga matches. 

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Bitter defeats in April

Bayern’s winning streak was ended rather abruptly after three defeats within only one month in the Frauen-Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and UWCL. In April, the unexperienced side of the team came out for the first time; in the important games against Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Chelsea, the players were not assertive and hard-nosed enough. The nerves of steel that had made up the team in most games suddenly disappeared. 

These are the nuances that separate Bayern from the likes of Lyon or Barcelona. However, the fact that they took Chelsea to the brink of defeat shows that the team is already far more mature than many would have thought. Being nervous in important games is not unusual in the process of building a top team with young players.

Next season, it will be interesting to see if Bayern’s coach Jens Scheuer can take the team to the next level in the Champions League. Ultimately, any development will be shown by whether Bayern can win against the likes of Paris Saint-Germain or Manchester City in the UWCL. 

Wolfsburg facing an upheaval

The end of Wolfsburg’s Bundesliga hegemony?

For years, Wolfsburg have dominated the Frauen-Bundesliga, having won at least one title every season since 2012. Now, they find themselves in an unfamiliar position, as they might not be the number one women’s team in Germany anymore.

Given that Bayern will probably not lose any important players this summer – whereas Rolfö, Engen, and Jakabfi are leaving Wolfsburg – it would be tempting to say that Wolfsburg’s best years are over.

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Two slips were enough to kill Wolfsburg’s title hopes. When Wolfsburg lost 4-1 to Bayern, they were tactically and individually inferior. But their 1-1 draw against Freiburg was extremely unfortunate for Lerch’s team.

They were superior and could have scored more, but instead conceded a goal in the fifth minute of injury time.

However, Wolfsburg’s captain Popp is adamant that it’s too early to speak of a changing of the guard:

“We don’t collapse due to departures – even if it was often said that we have become qualitatively worse. I don’t think that at all. You should never write us off!”

– Alexandra Popp in an interview with the Sportbuzzer (https://www.sportbuzzer.de/artikel/wolfsburg-kapitanin-popp-wachablosung-das-hat-mich-sauer-gemacht/). 

Although overshadowed by Bayern’s success, Wolfsburg’s season was far from a bad one. They had the highest number of points a second-placed team has ever had (59) and won the DFB-Pokal.

This season has also shown there is no need to be overly pessimistic.

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Interesting future prospects

Wolfsburg are the number two for now, but are still very much able to compete with Bayern. They are still one of the best clubs in Europe for talents that want to get regular playing time.

Even without the financial resources that Bayern have, Wolfsburg have managed to attract stars like Jill Roord, seasoned Frauen-Bundesliga players like Tabea Waßmuth and Lena Lattwein from Hoffenheim, and talents like Dutch players Joëlle Smits and Lynn Wilms.

The club follows a different path and is, according to Sporting Director Ralf Kellermann, “not taking part in the international arms race.” Yet, Wolfsburg are always good for a surprise and the Wolves might thrive in their new role as Bayern’s chasers.

Great things take time for Frankfurt

Great expectations

The disappointment of the season is, without a shadow of a doubt, Frankfurt.

The expectations were high when the fusion of the prestigious 1.FFC Frankfurt, four-time Champions League winners, and seven-time German champions, with Eintracht Frankfurt took place.

The team had one of the best goalkeepers in the league, Frohms, a solid midfield with Pawollek, Dunst and Feiersinger, promising talents like Nüsken, Kleinherne and Küver, and a goal-getter, Laura Freigang. What could possibly go wrong? 

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The aim was not necessarily to qualify for the Champions League, but at least to compete with Hoffenheim and Potsdam. At the beginning of the season, Frankfurt’s women’s sport director, Siegfried Dietrich, predicted that the fight for the third place would be “just as exciting as the championship duel between Wolfsburg and Bayern.”

In the end, sixth-placed Frankfurt were never really a threat to Hoffenheim’s Champions League dreams. After 22 matches, 14 points separated the two teams. 

An underwhelming season for Frankfurt

There are different reasons for Frankfurt’s failure. Firstly, the team frequently lost points that were already thought to be safe because of avoidable individual mistakes. Their offensive players created good opportunities to score but were not clinical enough and wasted too many chances. 

Secondly, the team lacked cohesiveness and relied too much on the individual quality of the players. In some games, the players seemed desperate for a sudden flash of inspiration of one creative midfielder or forward. This strategy sometimes worked out, but they struggled to find solutions collectively. 

Thirdly, there were many questionable tactical choices from coach Niko Arnautis. He stuck to the 4-2-3-1 system in almost every game even though the team seemed to lack fluidity and creativity. Arnautis has been Frankfurt’s coach for four years, but still it seems like the team does not follow a clear plan. Frankfurt have never reached the third place in the Frauen-Bundesliga with Arnautis, although their squad was mostly considered better than their opponents’ ones. The question has arisen if Arnautis can really get the best out of this talented team.

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Fourthly, the team was inconsistent and their style of play against lower-ranked teams was often lacklustre. They pulled off good performances against Wolfsburg in the cup final and in the first league game against Bayern. When they lost against Sand and tied with Meppen, though, Frankfurt seemed uninspired and unmotivated, indicating that there might be a mental problem as well. 

Even though Frankfurt were the better team in many games, they could not convert their superiority into goals. Their 0-1 defeat to Freiburg is exemplary for Frankfurt’s season. The team conceded an early goal, then had several major opportunities but failed to get the ball into the net. In the sixth minute of injury time, Frankfurt got a penalty, but Freigang missed the big chance to equalise so bad luck has also played a role this season.

New season, new hope?

Frankfurt managed to get talented players when UWCL qualification was within the realms of possibility. However, a poor performance in the next season of the Frauen-Bundesliga could see some pillars of the team leaving the club. When the next season starts in August, Frankfurt will be under extra pressure as everyone expects them to finally live up to the expectations.

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