Every Bundesliga Team's Biggest Flaw
Every team has its weakness and the Bundesliga is no exception. No matter how great a club's record is, no matter how brilliantly they perform and how regularly they can reach their best form, there will always be an Achilles' heel. Some, of course, are more easily exposed than others.
Click "Begin Slideshow" for a rundown of each Bundesliga club's greatest weakness.
Augsburg: No Playmakers
Now in their third season in the German top flight, Augsburg are off to their best-ever start to a Bundesliga campaign. The Bavarians, who have twice narrowly avoided relegation, are 13th, with 13 points from 11 games. But they still have some familiar squad weaknesses, most notably in attacking midfield.
Although Augsburg aren't exactly the worst team in terms of scoring, their strikers have had little support. Their leading assist-givers are Tobias Werner, a midfielder, and Matthias Ostrzolek, a full-back—both have given two assists and neither is a reputable playmaker. Although FCA have managed to score rather regularly, they cannot expect their form to continue given their notable lack of class in attacking midfield.
Bayer Leverkusen: No Striker Depth
Leverkusen have long relied on Stefan Kiessling as their source of goals, and the 29-year-old has consistently delivered. The Werkself signed Junior Fernandes in the summer of 2012 to provide depth, but the Chilean was a flop and was sent to Dinamo Zagreb on loan this season. In January, Leverkusen signed 18-year-old starlet Arkadiusz Milik from Gornik Zabrze, but the youngster was unable to make a positive impression and was loaned to Augsburg for the current season.
With two backup strikers gone for the season, Leverkusen needed a new backup and in June signed Eren Derdiyok. The Switzerland international, who played for Leverkusen from 2009-2012, was once a reliable backup and even competition for Kiessling in the starting lineup. But he stagnated toward the end of his first spell at B04 and last season scored just one goal in a failed spell at Hoffenheim. Right now, it's uncertain exactly how ready Derdiyok is to serve as backup.
Bayern Munich: Too Many Stars
It's hard to find a flaw in a Bayern Munich side that won the treble last season and still looks to be the best team in Europe. But if there is one weakness the Bavarians have, it's themselves. Once known as "FC Hollywood" for the drama that existed due to the club's many strong personalities, Bayern always toe the line between harmony and discontent.
The current Bayern team contains so many stars that no matter who Pep Guardiola selects for his first XI, several internationals and even some world-class players will have to start from the bench. This is the gamble that players make when they commit to such a large club. Guardiola, whose weakness at Barcelona was managing his players' egos (his relationship with Zlatan Ibrahimovic being a prime example) has a constant struggle to keep his players happy.
Borussia Dortmund: Inefficiency
Dortmund produce a lot of chances. In fact, they take the most shots on goal and have the most on target per game among all of Europe's top leagues. The problem for BVB is, for all their efficiency in using limited possession to create attempts on goal, they aren't particularly efficient in scoring.
Consider, for example, BVB's shock 2-0 defeat to Gladbach in October. BVB failed to score with any of their 27 shots. The hosts had just six attempts and but three on target, but scored twice. That match was no anomaly: Although BVB managed to earn three points in an August match with Bremen, they took 32 shots to score just once. Although Juergen Klopp's men are playing very well this season, inefficiency could be their downfall in big matches in which chances will be more limited.
Borussia Moenchengladbach: No Reliable Natural Strikers
Given that Gladbach have scored 25 goals in their 11 games and stand only behind Dortmund and Hoffenheim in that category, it's hard to find fault in their attack. Lucien Favre's men are playing brilliant football at the moment and are on course for a top-four finish in the Bundesliga.
Much of Gladbach's great play can be attributed to the brilliance of attackers Raffael and Max Kruse, neither of whom is a classic striker. The two have scored a combined 12 goals and given nine assists between them, so prolificacy is not a problem—at least not for now. But if there is any concern about this Gladbach team, it's that they lack a reliable, classic striker as a "Plan B" in case opponents figure out how to stop their unconventional attack. In his 16 months at Gladbach, striker Luuk de Jong has inspired little confidence.
Eintracht Braunschweig: No Attack
With the season approximately one-third finished, Eintracht Braunschweig look set to return to the 2. Bundesliga after just a year in the top flight. The promoted side stand last in the league table with only seven points from their first 11 games.
A look at Braunschweig's record of goals scored leaves no mystery as to why they are in trouble. Torsten Lieberknecht's side have found the net just eight times, three less than the second-lowest tally. Their top scorers, Dominick Kumbela and Karim Bellarabi, have each been on target just twice this season. And neither has a record of being a prolific goal-getter. This spells trouble for an inexperienced side that are desperate for a match-winner.
Eintracht Frankfurt: Too Many Games
Frankfurt defied the odds last season as they earned a surprising sixth-placed finish in the Bundesliga. But despite retaining many key players, the Adler are in dire form this season: 11 matches into the campaign, they stand 15th with just 10 points.
Frankfurt have saved their best performances for the Europa League, wherein they've earned a perfect nine points from their three matches. A congested schedule, which is new to the club, has seen them suffer on the domestic stage. Their Bundesliga target will now not be to finish in a Europa League position once more, but to avoid relegation.
Freiburg: Too Many New Players
Last season, Freiburg achieved a phenomenal final result in the Bundesliga, finishing fifth despite having little established quality in their team. Coach Christian Streich was revered as a genius for leading a team that not long ago had been relegation candidates to an improbable Europa League spot.
A small club with little revenue to offer the heroes of last season, Freiburg were gutted over the summer, as 12 players were sold or left on free transfers. Streich welcomed 13 newcomers to his squad in the summer and, player-for-player, arguably has as strong a team as he did in 2012-13, but the players have yet to adapt to Streich's system and to playing with one another. As a result, Freiburg are once again languishing in the relegation zone, their eight points thus far leaving them 16th in the league table.
Hamburg: A Losing Mentality
Hamburg are a proud club with a rich history: They are one of three Bundesliga teams to win the Champions League and were among Europe's best teams in the 1980s. But over the last few years, everything has gone wrong for HSV, who have failed to finish in the top five ever since 2008-09 and narrowly avoided relegation in the spring of 2012.
Although Hamburg have Rafael van der Vaart in their ranks, they have developed a reputation for being a "stepping stone" club, as the likes of Vincent Kompany and Nigel de Jong were sold in recent years and moved on to bigger and better things. HSV have had a carousel of managers in the last few years, as coach after coach has failed to get the best out of a squad that has consistently contained talent worthy of at least a Europa League spot. Bert van Marwijk has had a positive effect since taking the helm in mid-September, but whether he will be able to turn things around for HSV remains in question. Their biggest enemy remains themselves.
Hannover are the dirtiest team among Europe's top four leagues, according to WhoScored.com. The Roten have averaged 19.5 fouls per game, 1.8 more than the second-highest record of 17.7. Hannover have accordingly been disciplined heavily, with Salif Sane having already accumulated five yellow cards and both Szabolcs Huszti and Marcelo receiving three cautions plus a red. Mame Biram Diouf has also been sent off, and Leonardo Bittencourt is just two more bookings away from being suspended.
The problem with fouling so often is that Hannover risk suspensions to key players. Mirko Slomka does not have very much depth in his team and cannot afford to be without players like Diouf and Huszti.
Hertha BSC: Away Form
Hertha BSC blew away the competition in the 2. Bundesliga last season, but since achieving promotion have struggled away from home. They have the German top flight's second-worst record away from home, having failed to win in all five of their road matches.
Hertha have earned three draws on the road but have scored just six times away from home, a very underwhelming tally. Given their outstanding form at the Olympiastadion, the capital club could be in contention for a Champions League spot if they were any better on the road. But because of their dismal form away from home, they currently stand seventh.
Hoffenheim: No Defense
Having scored 26 goals this season, Hoffenheim's attack has been in outstanding form. The likes of Kevin Volland and Roberto Firmino have been absolutely devastating to opposing defenses. But for all the class Hoffe have shown going forward, they have been utterly shambolic at the back.
Hoffenheim's defense is the worst in the Bundesliga, having conceded 25 goals this season. Although they "only" conceded twice against Bayern, relatively modest teams like Stuttgart and Hannover tore them apart, each with an average of five goals. If they sort out their defense, Hoffe could qualify for the Europa League for the first time in their history. But at this rate, they look set for a mid-table finish.
Mainz: Overreliance on Nicolai Mueller
Mainz have a rather modest squad but have earned a respectable 13 points from their first 11 matches thanks primarily to the quality of trainer Thomas Tuchel and the brilliant form of Nicolai Mueller. And although Tuchel is a constant anchor for the team, it is a problem that the "oh-fives" are so reliant on one player.
Mueller has scored six goals this season, twice as many as any of his teammates. And although there are some quality attackers in their squad, there's no doubt that Mainz would be in trouble if Mueller were to be injured for any extended duration of time.
Nurnberg: No Match-Winner
Every team in the Premier League, La Liga and Serie A has recorded at least one victory this season. The Bundesliga is exceptional due to Nurnberg, who are winless through 11 games. To their credit, 1.FCN have earned seven points through draws, but it's a serious concern that they have been unable to take three points from any of their fixtures.
Nurnberg's problem is a complete lack of match-winners; there is no player in their squad who has had a great day and blown away the competition with a hat-trick. Instead, they get occasional goals from various squad players, with Josip Drmic leading the way with four to his name. But Nurnberg will need a hero to step forward if they are to avoid relegation.
Schalke: An Inexperienced Coach
Schalke are a real Jekyll-and-Hyde team. The Gelsenkirchen-based club are an institution in Germany and have long been one of the Bundesliga's biggest clubs. They have one of the best attendances in Europe and revenue that consistently ranks among the top 10 clubs on the continent. Yet Schalke are incredibly inconsistent: Their recent humiliations by Chelsea and Dortmund, which both came at home, are perfect examples that no matter how brilliant S04 look at times, they still remain capable of complete capitulation.
With a brilliant and very deep squad available, Schalke's inconsistency can be only be attributed to the inexperience of coach Jens Keller. The 42-year-old has done well from time to time, but with his only prior coaching experience coming at youth level, he should never have been trusted to take the helm for more than an interim period.
Stuttgart: Home Form
Any club with ambition must be able to make good use of home-field advantage in half of their matches. Stuttgart, despite having had a great deal of success in the summer transfer window, have failed to live up to their potential due to poor form at home.
Although the Swabians have earned seven points away from home, they have won just one of their five matches at the Mercedes-Benz Arena. Accordingly, instead of standing near the top of the Bundesliga table, they are 10th. If they are to challenge for a Europa League spot, they will have to do much better at home.
Werder Bremen: Reliable, Fit Strikers
Thanks to their academy and good scouting, Werder Bremen have had an abundance of young strikers in their ranks in recent years. And yet the northern German side are rather thin in the forward position right now.
Lennart Thy recently left Werder on a free transfer and Niclas Fuellkrug was loaned to Greuther Fuerth. Bremen also have Davie Selke, Melvyn Lorenzen (both 18) and Martin Koblanski (19), none of whom has much experience.
Their primary strikers are Franco di Santo and Nils Petersen. The former has scored just 14 league goals in his career, and although the latter had a great 2012-13 season, should he be injured, there is little in reserve. Petersen has been out of action due to a ligament injury since October and won't be back until December. Last week, trainer Robin Dutt was forced to field midfielders Zlatko Junuzovic and Eljero Elia in attack not because he intended to have a tactical revolution, but because he had no other viable choice.
Wolfsburg are the only team in the Bundesliga that are yet to draw, and as their record might suggest, they are very volatile. Dieter Hecking's side have looked great in their six wins but dreadful in their five losses, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why they perform at their best or worst.
The Lower Saxony side looked brilliant when they hammered a strong Schalke side 4-0 and trounced lowly Bremen by a 3-0 score. But as great as they were in those fixtures and more, they were comfortably beaten by entirely beatable sides Mainz and Hannover—both matches ended in 2-0 defeats. At their best, Wolfsburg can prove tricky competition even for Bayern. But at their worst, they look relegation candidates.
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