Opinion: The Bundesliga must attempt the impossible | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 24.08.2018
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Opinion: The Bundesliga must attempt the impossible

A new Bundesliga season rolls around, and with it the issue that continues to haunt Germany's top flight: competition at the top. DW's Jonathan Harding argues the key is to find a solution that doesn't break the bank.

The 2018/19 Bundesliga season is almost here, and with it a chance to watch young talents develop, see impressive amounts of fan support and wonder whether Christian Streich really can work wonders in Freiburg one more time. Barring a collapse of epic proportions, it also means watching Bayern Munich win their seventh straight title, and that leaves the league with a familiar problem.

A lack of competition haunts the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich's sporting and financial advantages have left them so far ahead it has become a case of whether they'll play well enough to win it in March or badly enough to win it May. Even the billing of the "classic" encounter between Bayern and Borussia Dortmund now feels forced, suffering under the same desperate strain of hope the league delivers week in, week out.

Read more: Are Lewandowski and Bayern back on track?

Deutsche Welle Englisch Fußball Jonathan Harding (DW/P.Henriksen)

DW's Jonathan Harding

Make no mistake, there is so much to like about the Bundesliga. From the opportunities it affords young players and coaches to fanatical support, special stadium atmospheres and brilliant coaching techniques, German football deserves to be where it is today. But there is a more troubling side.

Germany has just one top team: Bayern Munich. Granted Borussia Dortmund have endured a great deal in recent years but their inability to retain some of their talents has hampered them. Schalke, Leverkusen and Gladbach haven't been consistent enough to be anything more than above-average sides, with trips to Europe too rare an occurrence. Apart from the occasional overperformer, the rest of the teams are just trying to stay in the league. It took the rampant rise of RB Leipzig to remind the league of that.

While Leipzig's financial approach has unsurprisingly tempted many, this cannot be the answer to German football's competitive conundrum. Change is required, but for a league that is already further along than it could have dreamed of, complete upheaval is too far. Such a step would only begin a process of gradually wearing down the soul of German football culture, leaving in place another business template solely designed to increase profits, viewing numbers and shirt sales.

Perhaps it's an unattainable goal, but the Bundesliga must try to be more competitive without selling too much of what makes the league so great.

There isn't a definitive answer, but structure might be a good place to start. Clubs must make sure the right people are employed in the right positions, including the right coaches. They, in turn, must show that Julian Nagelsmann isn't the only talented coach in Germany capable of implementing tactical solutions and assembling a special group of players. The bigger picture of coaching content also needs to be assessed, with a clear need for more individualism, particularly at youth levels where kids needs to be exposed to more facets of the game.

Even in a league where stars appear but don't shine brightest and where coaches grow but rarely win it all, there are ways for these teams to improve and this league to be more competitive. Bayern won't be stopped this season, but now is the time to start work that will make life harder for Bayern, and better for the Bundesliga in the seasons beyond this one.

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