Die Bundesliga ist back, back, back baby, with the new league season kicking off on Friday night.
But what are we getting excited about? It’s just going to be another procession for Bayern as they stroll to their eighth straight title, right? WRONG.
On Tuesday’s European edition of the Totally Football Show, Rafa Honigstein explained why there could be genuine competition at the top of the table this season, and it’s mostly because of their messy summer transfer window.
“The team that used to be seen as the benchmark when it came to doing deals early, quietly and efficiently, are really scrambling. And I think it’s encouraged everyone – first and foremost Borussia Dortmund – to feel Bayern are there for the taking. Niko Kovac is a relatively weak manager, the transfer dealings aren’t complete and haven’t solved their problems.
“Yes, they have players at the back in Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard, but these are two players earmarked to play centre-back, but Bayern need a bit of creativity and pace on the wings. Whereas Dortmund really have strengthened.
“They’ve brought in Nico Schulz at left-back, Julian Brandt who was outstanding last season, Thorgan Hazard who was really good, and Mats Hummels, who has gone back from Bayern to Dortmund. And if that works out, that’s just another big negative for Bayern, so they could have effectively strengthened Dortmund to the point where they can win the title.
“Dortmund have all the momentum after beating Bayern in the Super Cup, and it will be really interesting to see how the opening weekend unfolds, because on paper Dortmund have a much easier game – Augsburg at home. Whereas Bayern are at Hertha Berlin, who always make it awkward for you. It’s not pretty, but they’re tough to beat.”
So what of those transfer dealings? Rafa said that the potential deal for Leroy Sane is off for the time being, but they may contemplate resurrecting it once they know the extent of his knee injury.
“This is why they’ve opted to bring in Ivan Perisic on loan,” said Rafa. “Not really a player that screams ‘replacement for Robben and Ribery’, but he’ll do a job and there’s talk of at least two more players being linked. But they’re running out of time.”
They have certainly been linked with some big names, including Gareth Bale and Philippe Coutinho, but both of those deals look like long shots.
“It’s very difficult to fit in Bale because of his wages – everyone knows this, and also I can’t really see him being that effective on the wings anymore. He’s best when he plays as a No.9, or maybe a second No.9 with the freedom to go through the middle.
“Coutinho is an interesting one. Again, he doesn’t really strike you as a solution to Bayern’s problems, but maybe they’re thinking what Barcelona originally thought, that he can play a little bit deeper. I’m not sure he can.”
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Follow Rafa on Twitter @Honigstein.