The Bundesliga needs a new champion, that much is obvious. But the continuation of a top five for the first time in almost 20 years provides a brighter outlook for title challenges in the future.
That’s thanks to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen finding consistency at the same time, something they’ve failed to achieve in the past.
Along with Schalke, they have flitted in and out of the top four in the last decade, struggling to maintain a steady path in order to truly kick off an assault for the title.
This season, however, both have impressed and neither deserves to miss out on Champions League qualification.
Across the past 10 seasons, the highest points total needed to qualify for the Champions League was 62. The average required has been 58.6 points – which Gladbach (56) and Leverkusen (57)will almost certainly both surpass.
The fact that it’s been the toughest year in a long time for teams to break into the top four is a good sign for the Bundesliga’s competitive outlook.
The next step
Of course, the key now is to compete regularly in the Champions League in order to increase chances of a title challenge.
Gladbach sporting director Max Eberl pointed out this week that it’s a careful balancing act.
“We don’t have the money to hire three players for one position. That is why it has always been important for me to think ahead,” Eberl told Der Spiegel.
“We have to ask a year earlier what could happen to us in the squad, which of our players could switch to a large club. A squad is like a puzzle that you have to put together.”
Eberl has excelled in his role over the past 12 years and has regularly been linked with a move to Bayern Munich. But the ambitious 46-year-old will know that three Champions League campaigns in that time is not good enough.
In coach Marco Rose, who’s turned Gladbach into an attractive as well as competitive outfit in just his first season, Eberl may have found the missing puzzle piece to take that next step.
Leverkusen, similarly, are on the right track.
This will be the first time since 2002 that the top five makeup has remained unchanged. If there is one thing Bundesliga clubs – outside Bayern Munich – have struggled with, it’s consistency.
No one wants to see a closed top six like the English Premier League has largely had over the last two decades, but the more clubs that can find consistency, the more competition there will be in the title race.
Borussia Dortmund have re-emerged under Lucien Favre, despite a fair amount of criticism, and RB Leipzig threatened to challenge Bayern this season before falling flat in Julian Nagelsmann’s first season.
Combined with Gladbach and Leverkusen showing real potential in the past two seasons, a promising upper tier in the Bundesliga is emerging.
So while this season’s Bundesliga title race is as good as over, the signs are there that a number of clubs are lining up to challenge Bayern’s monopoly.