From Robert Lewandowski's prolific scoring to the importance of passing and proving it really is 'Home, sweet home' for the German champions, bundesliga.com answers the call to explain the who, what, when, where and whys of the 2018/19 Bundesliga season.
Will Lewandowski make history as a back-to-back top scorer?
He would not be the first player to do it though just seven men can boast of being the Bundesliga's top scorer in successive campaigns. Borussia Dortmund's Lothar Emmerich won the Torjägerkanone in 1965/66 and 1966/67, though he shared the title with Bayern Munich's Gerd Müller in the second season. Der Bomber was the first man to achieve the feat on his own, doubling up as the division's top scorer 1968-'70 and 1971-'73, and even topping the chart again in 1973/74, sharing top spot with Borussia Mönchengladbach's Jupp Heynckes, who claimed the honour all for himself 12 months later. Cologne legend Dieter Müller (1976-'78) is another member of the exclusive club, as is current Bayern CEO and former striker Karl-Heinz Rummenigge (1979-'81).
Watch: Lewandowski gets his 2018/19 season off to a goal-filled bang in the Supercup!
Ghanaian Anthony Yeboah is the only foreign-born player to have done the double, but the ex-Eintract Frankfurt man shared the award with Bayer Leverkusen's Ulf Kirsten in 1992/93 and then Kaiserslautern's Stefan Kuntz in 93/94. Kirsten was the last man to do the double on his own (1996/97, 97/98), while Lewandowski has won three of the last five, coming second each season he did not win it. He was two goals behind Frankfurt's Alex Meier in 2014/15 and just a single strike off Dortmund's Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang in 2016/17. Bayern's prolific Pole is surely odds-on to earn himself a little slice of Bundesliga history this season...unless another challenger can step up?
What comes up must go down?
Kaiserslautern made Bundesliga history by becoming the first newly promoted team to win the league title at the first attempt in 1997/98. More recently in 2016/17, RB Leipzig finished second in the club's first-ever top-flight season, equalling Bayern's maiden campaign of 1965/66. But the reality for most new arrivals to the big boys' playground is far grimmer as they are more often than not bullied.
Over one-third — 38.1 per cent — of the 139 teams who have tasted the sweet success of promotion to the Bundesliga have had to swallow the bitter pill of relegation 12 months later. Just 25 of those promoted teams — a miserly 18 per cent — finished in the top half of the table. Fortuna Düsseldorf and Nuremberg have their work cut out this season…
Home or away: where is the title won?
Since 2012/13, Bayern's dominance has been such that they have been the best team at home and on the road as they have claimed the last six titles. However, their 2008/09 Bundesliga-best away record could not take them past Wolfsburg while in 2010/11, they picked up a league-high 41 points at their Allianz Arena yet only finished third.
In fact, the 2010/11 season broke the mould entirely. Bayern had the best home record, Leverkusen were the best team away from home, and Dortmund ended up as champions. It is the only time in the last decade the club with the best home record has not won the title.
How key are set-pieces?
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia saw 40 per cent of goals — 68 of 169 — scored from set-pieces, a trend that follows on from the Bundesliga 2017/18 season. Nearly 30 per cent of goals — 251 strikes of a total of 855 — in the German top flight last season were scored as teams came alive at dead-ball situations, up nearly four percent on 16/17. The 2017/18 percentage is the highest of the last six seasons, but it has twice been bettered in the last decade with 30.2 and 30 per cent of goals coming from laser-guided set-pieces in 2011/12 and 2008/09 respectively.
How many runners-up have become champions?
It's just one more step to take, right? But it seems it's the hardest step of all. On just ten occasions has the previous season's runner-up lifted the Meisterschale a year later. No prizes for guessing that Bayern lead the way — and by far — in that feat, stepping up to top spot in the table eight times. The only other sides to have gone from bridesmaid to brides are Gladbach (1974/75) and Hamburg (1981/82).
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Schalke, the 2017/18 runners-up, have finished second on seven occasions, the most of any club that has never won the Bundesliga title. Can Domenico Tedesco's men shake off the Gelsenkirchen outfit's unwanted tag and end their long-suffering fans' wait come next May?
Is this the youngest batch of coaches ever?
In Julian Nagelsmann, 31, Domenico Tedesco, 32, Florian Kohfeldt, 35, Manuel Baum, 38, and Sandro Schwarz, 39, the Bundesliga boasts five coaches under-40 at the start of the season. But even with veteran Heynckes gone, the average age of a top-flight coach in Germany this season is 46.4 years, two years older than at the start of the 2017/18 campaign!
How come? There were actually six bosses aged under 40 at the start of last season, and this term, Düsseldorf boss Friedhelm Funkel is 64 while new Dortmund coach Lucien Favre and Ralf Rangnick, who has taken over Leipzig for the season, are both 60, pushing up the average.
Is the 40-point target myth-matics?
When players and coaches at the sticky end of the Bundesliga table start talking about the 40-point mark to ensure top-flight survival, it's not just a cliche. Since the introduction of three points for a win, no club has been relegated after racking up at least 40 points.
The advent of the relegation/promotion play-off in 2008/09 has given top-flight strugglers a safety net, and means no team has gone down with a minimum of 35 points to their names. The drink at the last-chance saloon with the third-placed team in Bundesliga 2 meant Hamburg survived despite picking up just 27 points in their 2013/14 campaign.
Can you pass your way out of trouble?
The good news is that you don't have to be the German equivalent of Pep Guardiola's Barcelona to compete in the Bundesliga… but it would help. In the last decade, only four of the 21 relegated teams have been the worst passers in the division. But as you can imagine, the ability to pick out a teammate accurately does generally translate into picking up points — 17 of those 21 relegated teams were in the lower half of the 'passes completed' table.
'Keep calm and pass the ball' would seem to be the message, but even being among the finest purveyors of the beautiful game is no guarantee of success. Freiburg were as easy on the eye as they were their opponents as they succumbed to the drop with the seventh-best passing ratio in the Bundesliga in 2014/15 while only four teams passed the ball better than the stylish but unsuccessful Frankfurt side relegated in 2010/11!
Does the top-scoring team always win the title?
'Strikers win games, defences win trophies', but that's not usually the case of the goal-bonanza that is the Bundesliga. Eight times in the last ten years, the team that has scored the most goals has been crowned champions, the exceptions being Dortmund — runners-up with the best attack in 2015/16 — and Bayern, who were third in 10/11.
And what about defences?
Schalke boasted the best defensive record in 2008/09, but the 35 goals they conceded only earned them eighth place, champions Wolfsburg actually conceded six goals more than the Royal Blues. They were pipped by Bayern in the legendary 2000/01 season, despite being the division's meanest side.
Bayern were the Scrooges of the 2011/12 campaign, but still saw Jürgen Klopp's Dortmund take the Meisterschale, though being the German top-flight's stingiest side has helped the Bavarian giants finish top of the pile in each of their last six title-winning seasons.
How often does the Herbstmeister win the title?
The Herbstmeister or 'autumn champion' is the team at the top of the table at the halfway stage of a Bundesliga season (i.e. after 17 matches), and 69.1 per cent of the sides in that position since 1963/64 have gone on to be German champions in the same campaign.
Bayern — surprise surprise! — lead the way with 23 honorific 'autumn' titles, 20 of which they have transformed into the actual league crown, including in each of the last six seasons. The first seven Bundesliga campaigns saw the same club atop the table at the halfway stage and the finish line; Gladbach were the first team to buck the trend, pipping Herbstmeister Bayern in 1970/71.