Bundesliga 2023: A Celebration of Highs (and a Few Lows)

As the dust settles on 2023, it’s clear that the Bundesliga is experiencing one of its most exciting seasons ever. From jaw-dropping performances to unexpected heroes, there’s been plenty to celebrate. But before we dive into the highs, let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Borussia Dortmund’s disappointing campaign.

Best Team: Bayer Leverkusen – The Factory XI Rolls On

There’s no denying it: Bayer Leverkusen have been on fire this season. Led by the tactical genius of Xabi Alonso and the shrewd recruitment of sporting director Simon Rolfes, “Die Werkself” have turned into a well-oiled machine, boasting Europe’s best form. Their impressive unbeaten run across all competitions speaks for itself. No other team in a top European league can claim such consistency. With no glaring weaknesses, Leverkusen are a force to be reckoned with.

Best Player: Leroy Sané – A Match Made in Heaven with Harry Kane

Choosing the league’s best player is always a subjective affair, but for me, it was a close call between Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sané, Harry Kane, and Leverkusen’s Florian Wirtz. Ultimately, Sané gets the nod for his incredible partnership with Kane. The “Sané-Kane” duo has been the driving force behind Bayern’s attacking dominance. Their Zusammenspiel (combination play) has brought out the best in both players, with Sané becoming more consistent and Kane enjoying a prolific goalscoring run. It’s a football marriage made in heaven.

Best Game: Bayern 2-2 Leverkusen – A Night of Revelation

A Friday night Spitzenspiel in September that had everyone glued to their seats. This was the night Leverkusen truly announced themselves as contenders. They went toe-to-toe with Bayern at the Allianz Arena, even threatening to snatch the victory. It was also the night Alejandro Grimaldo, with his stunning shot and all-around brilliance, introduced himself to the wider German audience. Special mentions in this category go to Stuttgart’s thrilling 1-1 draw against Leverkusen and the opening day cracker between Leverkusen and Leipzig (3-2).

Best Team Performance: Bayern’s 4-0 Dismantling of Dortmund – A Masterclass in Domination

We should have expected this. A wounded Bayern, fresh off a Pokal upset by 3. Liga side Saarbrücken, is always a dangerous beast. But the manner of their victory over Dortmund was truly staggering. Leading 2-0 early on, they never looked back. Harry Kane completed his first Bundesliga hat-trick, and the final score didn’t flatter Bayern one bit. It was a masterclass in dominance.

Best Individual Performance: Florian Wirtz vs. Freiburg – A Moment of Genius

This award goes to the young maestro Florian Wirtz for his magical performance against Freiburg. If you love football, you couldn’t help but be captivated by this. A young talent returning from a serious injury, dancing past defenders with grace, and finishing with pure joy. Wirtz and Leverkusen are a perfect match, and it’s encouraging to see his father, Hans-Joachim, understand the importance of this ideal environment for his son’s development.

Unsung Hero Award: Waldemar Anton – The Rock of Stuttgart’s Defense

While many have started singing Anton’s praises lately, this Stuttgart captain wasn’t on anyone’s radar before this season. He’s embraced the leadership role and delivered his best-ever performances, becoming the rock of VfB’s defense. A Germany call-up wouldn’t be a surprise at this point.

Best Match Atmosphere: Bochum’s 3-1 Win over Wolfsburg – Currywurst and Chaos

This award goes to the passionate fans of Bochum for their electric atmosphere during their 3-1 win over Wolfsburg. It was their first home win of the season, making them the last Bundesliga team to register a victory in front of their own supporters. Anyone interested in German football culture should experience the magic of the Ruhrstadion on the Anne Castroper Straße. And let’s not forget the legendary Bochum currywurst – the best in the league!

Biggest Disappointment: Dortmund – A Tale of Ups and Downs

Dortmund’s 2023 season has been a rollercoaster of high expectations and bitter disappointments. While they deserve credit for some achievements, the overall feeling is one of frustration and unfulfilled potential. Here’s a breakdown of their highs and lows:

Highs:

  • Champions’ League Group Winners: Dortmund navigated a tough Champions League group with impressive victories, showcasing their ability to compete at the highest level.
  • Glimpses of Brilliance: The team has had moments of dazzling attacking play, particularly when individual talents like Jude Bellingham and Marco Reus shine.
  • Resilience: They’ve shown fighting spirit, coming back from defeats and displaying glimpses of the attacking prowess that made them title contenders last season.

Lows:

  • Inconsistency: Dortmund’s performances have been inconsistent, lacking sustained form and often dropping points against seemingly weaker teams.
  • Tactical Confusion: The team’s tactics have appeared muddled at times, with unclear roles and formations leading to defensive vulnerabilities and an inability to control games.
  • Missed Opportunities: Dortmund have squandered crucial points in winnable games, particularly in the league, leaving them trailing Bayern by a significant margin.
  • Lack of Progress: After narrowly missing the title last season, the expectation was for Dortmund to challenge Bayern again this year. However, they seem further away than ever.

Overall, Dortmund’s season has been a frustrating tale of unfulfilled potential. While they’ve shown flashes of brilliance and achieved some success in Europe, their domestic inconsistency and tactical shortcomings have led to major disappointment.

Here are some additional points to consider:

  • The pressure of playing for a club with a history of success and passionate fans may have contributed to the team’s inconsistency.
  • Injuries to key players, particularly Erling Haaland’s departure, have undoubtedly impacted their attacking output and overall stability.
  • Manager Edin Terzic has come under scrutiny for his tactics and team selection, and questions have been raised about the club’s transfer strategy.

Hopefully, Dortmund can learn from their mistakes and use this season as a springboard for future success. They have a talented squad with immense potential, but they need to find greater consistency and clarity in their approach to challenge Bayern at the top of the Bundesliga.

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