The end of 2020 means that we are at the halfway point of the Frauen-Bundesliga season. This season, the scheduling was compressed so that most teams already played one more game beyond the Hinrunde before the winter break began. Before play resumes on January 31, Bundesliga Fanatic reviews all the actions thus far and looks ahead for some storylines to watch in the Rückrunde:
"Bei uns ist es so: Wenn der Zug rollt, dann rollt er." Nicole Billa im Interview vor #TSGPDM 💥 Kantersieg der @FCBfrauen – damit rutschen die @FrauenSCSand auf einen Abstiegsplatz.#DieLiga #MACHTLÄRM pic.twitter.com/PZR4Z74utT
— DFB-Frauenfußball (@DFB_Frauen) December 20, 2020
Bayern Munich are flying high
At the risk of jinxing them, Bayern Munich should have no problem reclaiming the league title for the first time since 2016. After years of playing second-fiddle to VfL Wolfsburg, Bayern are reaping the rewards of an excellent summer transfer window. All six new signings have settled well and made vital contributions, helping Bayern to a perfect record and only one goal conceded so far. Marina Hegering, in particular, has scored several game-winners from set-pieces. Even Giulia Gwinn’s ACL tear and Viviane Asseyi’s more recent ankle injury—both suffered while on international duty—did not slow down the momentum. Head coach Jens Scheuer was rewarded with contract extension, and Bayern’s 4–1 win over Wolfsburg in November seemed to indicate a “changing of the guard” both on and off the pitch.
With all due respect to Bayern’s exploits so far, they have come at the ideal time: reigning champions Wolfsburg are approaching the end of an era. Even with injuries to Ewa Pajor and Fridolina Rolfö, Wolfsburg remain only five points behind Bayern. The evergreen Zsanett Jakabfi led the team with nine goals, and her retirement from international duty will surely keep her fresh. Lena Oberdorf, meanwhile, is on pace to double her previous best in terms of goals scored. The return fixture between the two clubs in May could be a title decider, and head coach Stephan Lerch will want to go out on a high note. At the same time, Wolfsburg are investing proceeds of Pernille Harder’s world-record transfer by buying up some of the hottest properties from Scandinavia and the Netherlands. Rebecka Blomqvist and Sofie Svava both join from the Swedish Damallsvenskan in January, and they will hope to make an immediate impact in the Rückrunde.
Tight race for third
Although Frauen-Bundesliga remains a duopoly between Bayern and Wolfsburg for now, the race for third place is taking on additional significance. As the Women’s Champions League includes a group stage next season, the third-placed team now qualifies for Europe for the first time. After an early-season wobble under new head coach Gabor Gallai, Hoffenheim recovered and sit third at the moment. They are once again powered by Nicole Billa, who already scored 14 goals and top nearly every attacking statistic in the league.
As Hoffenheim were heating up, Turbine Potsdam hit a relatively lean period after their good start to the season. A combination of strength of schedule and regression to the mean, the young squad in Potsdam is sitting at that tier just below genuine title challengers. They desperately need a consistent goalscorer to step up from the group to move up any further.
The top half of the table are completed by an overachiever and an underachiever. Bayer Leverkusen, consistently flirting with relegation, find themselves a surprising fifth behind Milena Nikolić’s seven goals and Henrietta Csiszár’s five assists. Hopefully with safety likely secured this early, Leverkusen could start the planning early and increase investment for the transfer window. Eintracht Frankfurt, on the other hand, have the opposite problem. Laura Freigang remains a reliable goalscorer and the team recruited following the Eintracht takeover, but the team remains inconsistent. Lara Prašnikar has disappointed following her switch from rivals Potsdam, unable to hold down a starting spot following a COVID-19 outbreak while on international duty. If she develops chemistry with Freigang, Frankfurt could move up the table quickly in the Rückrunde.
Player of the Hinrunde
With apologies to Nicole Billa’s goalscoring prowess, Marina Hegering’s two-way threat, Lena Oberdorf’s all-action energy, the crafty play of Viviane Asseyi and Linda Dallmann, and the consistency from players like Svenja Huth, Zsanett Jakabfi, and Lina Magull, the one breakout star of the Hinrunde is Bayern Munich midfielder Sydney Lohmann.
After narrowly missing Germany’s 2019 Women’s World Cup roster, Lohmann had an inconsistent season and looked to be regressing last year. But now fully healthy and in the form of her life, she looks ready for primetime. Already a Frauen-Bundesliga veteran at age 20, Lohmann has managed to keep established senior internationals like Sarah Zadrazil and Simone Laudehr out of the starting line-up at Bayern. She has nine goals and four assists (both team-highs and career-highs) in 11 games as a central midfielder, is third in non-penalty goals and assists per 90 in the league, and has provided Bayern with the box-to-box physicality in midfield that they have lacked in recent years.
In November, Bayern rewarded Lohmann’s performance with a contract extension, keeping her in Munich until 2024. With Lohmann, Magull, Asseyi, Dallmann, and Zadrazil, Bayern have a nice blend of creativity and physicality among their young core of midfielders and wingers. If they can wrap up the club first league title since 2016 in June, we could be seeing a changing the guard for real this time.