With the 2022/23 Bundesliga 2 season just around the corner, bundesliga.com takes a look at how the teams are shaping up for the new campaign. Next up are Paderborn, Nuremberg, Holstein Kiel, Fortuna Düsseldorf, Hannover and Karlsruhe.
It's fair to say that the 2021/22 was a bit of a mixed bag for Paderborn, whose away form was that of title contenders (nine wins, 32 points and third-best record in the league) but performances on home soil amounted to that of relegation candidates (four wins, 19 points, fifth-worst). They ultimately ended up in seventh place, which was still a good return for the club in their first season without Steffen Baumgart at the helm. Baumgart's replacement, Lukas Kwasniok, will look back on the January departure of Sven Michel to Union Berlin - at the time the division's top scorer - as the moment their promotion hopes ended but he will also take a huge amount of positives into the new campaign.
Watch: How Sven Michel raced into the lead as Bundesliga 2 top scorer
Having conceded just 44 goals across 2021/22, Paderborn boasted the fourth-meanest defence in Bundesliga 2 and the permanent signing of Jasper van der Werff from Red Bull Salzburg ensures continuity, while the arrival of Robin Bormuth from Karlsruhe further strengthens a solid defensive unit. At the other end of the pitch, Felix Platte suffered the most after Michel left for Berlin, with the 26-year-old striker unable to find the back of the net in nine games without his partner. Paderborn will hope that the arrival of Robert Leipertz from Heidenheim will help Platte rediscover his scoring touch.
Head coach Robert Klauß - a former assistant of Julian Nagelsmann at RB Leipzig - summed up last season as "goal achieved" as his young side consistently hovered between fourth and eighth, before eventually settling into the latter. While their league position was consistent, they were held back from a promotion bid by inconsistencies on the pitch. So, while they could take four points off third-place Hamburg, they also failed to score in two meetings with basement club Ingolstadt and were slapped 5-0 at home by the relegated outfit on Matchday 21.
In order to address those issues, and to sustain a promotion bid this time around, Germany's former record champions have been one of the most active clubs in the transfer market this summer. The departure of Kilian Fischer to Wolfsburg was a significant one, with Jan Gyamerah arriving to fill the void from Hamburg. Crucially, Christoph Daferner (Dynamo Dresden), Kwadwo Duah (St. Gallen), Erik Wekesser (Jahn Regensburg) and Manuel Wintzheimer (HSV) have signed on with the aim of bolstering an attack that managed just 49 goals last season. "I'm very happy with the squad," said Klauß. "You can get promoted without having announced it."
Having narrowly missed out on a first promotion to the Bundesliga in 2020/21, Kiel were unable to replicate that bid for the big time last term, and only just snuck into the top half of the table in the final weeks of the campaign. They also had to watch on as Ole Werner - who left the club after seven games of the season - led Werder Bremen into the top flight in style. Werner's replacement, Marcel Rapp, was the steady hand that guided Kiel into ninth place by the end of Matchday 34, and the 43-year-old is clearly optimistic of using last season as a springboard to greater things this time around. "The aim is to be better than last year," he said. "But it doesn't fit Holstein Kiel to say that we want to get promoted."
Phil Neumann is the sole major outgoing in the off-season, while Timo Becker is an exciting replacement with experience at the highest level. The permanent signing of Jann-Fiete Arp from Bayern Munich should serve as further encouragement, while young goalkeeper Tim Schreiber has been snared from RB Leipzig and Marvin Obuz recruited on a loan deal from Cologne.
Düsseldorf were in free fall and heading towards the drop zone when the club decided to part ways with Christian Preußer after a four successive defeat on Matchday 21. At the time, they were wallowing in 16th and had just five wins to their name - only one of which came at home. Enter Daniel Thioune, who immediately oversaw victories against eventual champions Schalke and Erzgebirge Aue, kicking off a 12-game unbeaten run (W6, D6) under the new boss that was only ended by St. Pauli on the final day. That earned them a 10th-place finish that looked highly unlikely just weeks prior and has Fortuna fans dreaming of what might be possible under the 47-year-old in his first full season in charge.
Watch: Khaled Narey and Rouwen Hennings star in 2021/22 win over Schalke
As a result, the Düsseldorfers are among the favourites for promotion, but they have lost Bundesliga 2's leading creator last term, Khaled Narey (14 assists). One key figure who remains at F95, however, is experienced goal-getter Rouwen Hennings. The respective returns to the club of Nana Ampomah and Dawid Kownacki from loan deals last term will feel like new signings, while centre-back Jordy de Wijs and central midfielder Ao Tanaka have made their stays in Düsseldorf permanent in a summer where continuity seems to be key at the Merkur Spielarena.
It was a tough season for Hannover fans in 2021/22, with the side flirting with relegation for large parts before closing out in 11th place thanks to two wins out of their final three games. And, after successive middling campaigns since their Bundesliga relegation in 2019, the club has made significant alterations to bring about a change in fortunes. Stefan Leitl - the 44-year-old coach who suffered top-flight relegation with Greuther Fürth last year - will lead the charge, with adding attacking potency the top of his to-do list after Hannover bettered only the three relegated clubs in front of goal by hitting just 35 in 2021/22.
Christoph Daferner hit 13 for one of those relegated clubs, Dynamo Dresden, and he should thrive in a team with ambitions of promotion, while Leitl has brought with him Norway international Havard Nielsen from Fürth. They have the potential to form an exciting attack, while 19-year-old Maximilian Beier returns for a second successive season on loan from Hoffenheim having shown glimpses of his ability with seven goals and seven assists in all competitions last time out.
Closing out the season in 12th can be seen as very pleasing indeed for Karlsruhe, who ensured that their stay in the German second tier is now extended to a fourth season since earning promotion in 2019. It was, however, a drop on their sixth-place effort in 2020/21, but Christian Eichner's side will be pleased with their efforts regardless and they can again look to build on a solid campaign when the new one rolls around.
They will sorely miss the goals of Philipp Hofmann, who struck 19 times in the league across 2021/22 and has earned a move to Bochum as a result. Michael Kaufmann (Copenhagen, loan) and Simone Rapp (Vaduz) have been brought in to replace Hofmann's goals in attack, while Kelvin Arase (Rapid Vienna), Florian Ballas (Erzgebirge), Marcel Franke (Hannover) and Paul Nebel (Mainz, loan) have all joined the cause for a campaign that Eichner has predicted will be both "extremely challenging" and "the hardest year in my coaching career so far". Strap yourselves in.
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