The Bundesliga: The Neutral’s Choice

By, Jake Bayliss @jakeybaylisss

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The 2013 Champions League final between Bayern and Dortmund was a watershed moment; it signalled the revival of the Bundesliga as a major European force. Following Germany’s World Cup win, football entered yet another phase, putting an end to the game’s obsession with tiki-taka.

Guardiola’s move to Bayern and Dortmund’s continued improvement, first under Jürgen Klopp and now Thomas Tuchel, has meant the powers that be have decided “gegenpressing” is now football’s latest trend.

The most entertaining sides in England last season had already adopted several of these ‘German’ principles.

Jürgen Klopp, following on from his excellent work with Dortmund, has developed Liverpool into a relentless machine; their key objective being to score as many goals as possible, with little thought for the defensive side of the game

Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino’s Spurs exhibit the same work-rate, whilst operating from a more solid base. Their use of the high-press not only ran Leicester close for the title, but also enabled Pochettino to get the very best out of his young squad.

Both these teams have given Premier League pundits a refreshing, new approach to lament over, but it has also made the Bundesliga a more attractive proposition for the neutral.

Bayern Munich's German defender Philipp Lahm lifts the trophy after the UEFA Champions League final football match between Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich at Wembley Stadium in London on May 25, 2013, Bayern Munich won the game 2-1 AFP PHOTO / CHRISTOF STACHE (Photo credit should read CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

 For me, the most entertaining sides in Germany this season have been Dortmund, Leipzig, and Schalke — all for different reasons.

Thomas Tuchel’s Dortmund have, at times, appeared unstoppable in attack; their squad ever-increasing in depth. However, it is not only the standard of their offensive play that has me in awe, but also their readiness to rely on youth.

Between being mesmerised during their 6-0 defeat of Darmstadt and stunned when, with Dortmund chasing the game, 17 year-old Christian Pulisic and 19 year-old Emre Mor were called upon against Real Madrid, Dortmund may have gained yet another English fan.

Then there is the curious case of RB Leipzig. Despised in Germany due to their Red Bull affiliations; Leipzig have more than held their own following their promotion. Under the guidance of Ralf Rangnick, and an insistence on signing young players, they have become genuine contenders for a European spot.

With a variety of attacking options — Burke, Werner, Poulsen, Forsberg, and Selke — all vying for a starting place, they mirror the Liverpool way of simply trying to outscore their opposition. Regardless of ownership, the club’s youth policy has certainly been successful. Both Germany and Bayern are certainly benefitting from the fruit of Leipzig’s labours through the stellar performances of Joshua Kimmich this season.

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Schalke, on the other hand, have not enjoyed a happy start to their campaign. In the pre-season build-up they were touted as being one of several teams who would be competing for the 3rd Champions League spot. Their squad reflected this, with a wealth of talented young players: Embolo, Meyer, Geis, and Goretzka amongst others, alongside the more experienced Howedes, Naldo, and Huntelaar. But it has not gone to plan thus far.

Instead, Schalke endured their worst ever start to a season with 5 consecutive defeats in the Bundesliga. However, a new coach in Marcus Weinzierl, a convincing win over Gladbach on Matchday 6, and positive results in the Europa League suggest that Schalke are still capable of turning their season around.

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It is this unpredictability that makes the Bundesliga such an intriguing league to watch; best captured through the form of Anthony Modeste. The one-time struggling Blackburn striker is currently ahead of both Lewandowski and Aubameyang on 7 goals. His goal-a-game ratio has seen Köln catapulted to 2nd, two points behind Bayern, with the rest of the top four comprised of Leipzig and Hertha.

The Premier League may have the most money and dub itself the “best league in the world”, but the style of football that all neutrals love to watch can be seen across the Bundesliga.

There is no shortage of narrative in the league either — an aspect of football that the Premier League are masters at marketing — with a close title-race, fights for European places, big teams dropping points, established clubs in turmoil, and entertaining football every week.

As pressing becomes increasingly important within the Premier League, perhaps more British fans should try switching La Liga for the Bundesliga as their European league of choice. They would not be disappointed if they did.

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Jake Bayliss.