The players to look out for in the Bundesliga this season
The Bundesliga is basking in the recent publicity its receiving and this weekend marks its return. A quick look at some players who may be about to have a big year.
It was last summer when the Ukranian born defensive midfielder joined the Gelsenkirchen based side on a free transfer from Gladbach. Neustäder as well as Marco Reus had helped Gladbach reach the champions league qualifiers and represented something of a coup for Schalke to get him on a free transfer. From then the midfielder went from strength to strength, impressing at the emirates as the Germans triumphed in a surprise over Arsenal. He formed a good partnership in the double pivot Schalke operated defensively to protect their back four. At 190cm he represents an imposing physical presence but can also cover ground with surprising athleticism, impressing with his intercepting and tackling abilities. Schalke struggled for form in parts of the season and clinched the fourth champions league spot right at the death, one positive however was the performances of Neudstädter and this was rewarded when he was called up to Low’s German side gaining himself two caps for the national team. Schalke have strengthened well over the summer and Neustädter will again have a big season as his side look to get closer to the top of the Bundesliga, build on last year’s Champions League run and for him personally add to his collection of caps.
In 2011/2012 season Borussia Monchengladbach conceded just 24 goals and finished 4th, one goal less than eventual winners Dortmund. Just as well because they only managed to score 49. One year later however and that figure had dropped even lower to only 45 goals scored and 49 conceded. This season the focus for Gladbach has to be tightening up the defence and adding more goals. The man tasked with adding more goals is 25 year old Max Kruse. Signed from Freiburg for only € 2.5 million, he is an absolute bargain. A newly capped German international that has 1 international goal from his 2 appearances, coming when he netted against the United States, Kruse can play on the right, left, in the hole behind the striker and ultimately up front. His return of 8 Bundesliga goals and 5 assists helped take Freiburg to a Europa League spot and his new employers will be hoping he can have a similar impact.
2012-13 was a great year for Leverkusen as they came within point of Champions League runners up Dortmund in the race for second. However rivals all around them have strengthened whereas Leverkusen look to have weakened. Last season’s star performer Daniel Carvajal has returned back to Real Madrid and the sensational Andre Schurrle has moved on to pastures new in the English Premiership. Leverkusen sold the German for €20million and spent €10million replacing him with the South Korean Heung-Min Son. An excellent season in Hamburg for the South Korean, as he played the support striker role and managed to get 12 league goals. This role suits Leverkusen perfectly and they will be hoping Heung-Min manages to forge a partnership with the consistently underrated goal machine Stefan Kie?ling. More games will come this year for Leverkusen as they prepare to test themselves on the Champions League stage, making this season an interesting one for the South Korean and for Sammi Hyppia’s side.
Hardly an unknown quantity Draxler who is only 19 years old has played over 100 times already for Schalke. Last season he managed 11 goals which is an exceptional return for a 19 year old. His dribbling skills make him a joy to watch and he follows the recent German blueprint for tricky playmakers. This season may be the year he really explodes on to the scene however, the last two seasons Schalke have played with Raul, and then Lewis Holtby behind the main striker of Klass-Jan Huntelaar. This has resulted in Draxler playing predominantly from the left side, but after Holtby’s move to White Heart Lane in January, Draxler was moved centrally and his influences on games grew even larger. Already with 6 international caps and 1 goal to his name, Draxler looks sure to add to this in the future. Schalke have bought smartly and increased squad depth this season, and they will be hoping for a fruitful return to the Champions League via the qualifiers. Particularly after last season’s run which saw a great victory when they beat Arsenal 2-0 at the Emirates. This season with Draxler operating in the number 10 role we could see him blossoming on all fronts domestically, in Europe and internationally.
Undoubtedly a top talent Moritz Leitner will have surely been left cursing his luck the last two seasons. A tidy player on the ball with excellent passing abilities Leitner has been restricted over the last two seasons to mostly substitute appearances for Dortmund. In his first season at the club he was limited by the form of the excellent Shinji Kagawa. When the Japanese international left he was then limited again by the blossoming of Mario Gotze in the number 10 role and Ilkay Gundogan’s dominance as the deep-lying playmaker. (Probably not helped by the return of fan favourite Nuri Sahin either.) This season though Leitner has been loaned out by Dortmund to VFB Stuttgart. At only 20 years old there is no doubting his obvious talents in possession of a football but this has always been restricted, this season if he is given regular football could see him really come into his own. After all he in now fighting for his future at Dortmund, and a good season with Stuttgart could really give Jurgen Klopp a future headache.