Two German powerhouses return to the Bundesliga after being relegated last season and then bouncing straight back up from the second division. We may be familiar with who they are but let's take a look at the stories of how they got to this point and how they hope to continue their rebounds.
FC Schalke 04
The fact that a club as truly massive as Schalke could be relegated is beyond mind-blowing. Schalke are winners of seven Bundesliga titles and five DFB-Pokals. They played in a European semifinal as recently as 2011 and finished second in the Bundesliga in 2018. And yet here they were. In the second division. Ultimately it came down to Schalke just playing bad soccer, but it was terrible ownership, poor coaching decisions and bad transfers that really doomed die Königsblauen.
Bottom of the table Schalke have scored 4+ goals in as many league matches (2) this season as ArsenalSchalke have been relegated with one of the worst individual campaigns in Bundesliga history pic.twitter.com/AIVFLUmEys
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) May 16, 202
In their final season in the Bundesliga, Schalke employed a record five different managers in a desperate attempt to stave off relegation. These decisions were actually a key factor in their demise as the lack of consistency was a difficulty the players struggled to handle.
Going into the 2020-21 season, the squad was too weak, incapable of keeping up with other teams in the league both offensively and defensively. Even the winter panic buy of club legend Klaas-Jan Huntelaar wasn’t enough to save the club as they were relegated, accumulating just 16 points over the course of the season, a truly abysmal tally.
Schalke 04 celebrate promotion to the Bundesliga yesterday #S04 pic.twitter.com/MlrM0nSlb6— FootballAwaydays (@Awaydays23) May 8, 2022
In the second division, Schalke’s class finally began to show as they won 20 of their 34 games and won the league by two points over Werder Bremen. Striker Simon Terodde had an incredible season, winning the golden boot by scoring 30 goals in 30 games. For comparison, the next top scorer, Robert Glatzel, scored eight fewer goals in four more games.
Schalke’s defense was good, but not great, conceding 44 goals, a number bettered or equaled by four teams. The side from Gelsenkirchen has been extremely active this summer signing 23 different players for a combined $8.78 million and selling a further 21 players for just over $12 million. This high rate of squad turnover could prove costly, but only time will tell if Schalke has learned its lesson from the mistakes of its past. Schalke’s first Bundesliga test will be on Aug. 6th when they travel to take on FC Köln.
Another massive club, Werder Bremen went into the 2020-21 season knowing exactly how bad things could get if they weren’t careful. They had survived the previous season by the skin of their teeth through the Bundesliga relegation playoffs. After finishing third from last in the Bundesliga, Bremen had to play FC Heidenheim. Heidenheim finished third in the second division and the two teams played two legs to determine who would play in the Bundesliga the following season.
After tying 0-0 at Bremen and 2-2 at Heidenheim, Bremen was granted survival thanks to away goals. After staring relegation in the face, one would think the club would attempt to right its wrongs to avoid a repeat, and yet, it didn’t.
BREAKING: Werder Bremen have been relegated from the Bundesliga for the first time in 42 years.Them and Schalke down in the same season. pic.twitter.com/Vip2NXr2Gp
— Oddschanger (@Oddschanger) May 22, 2021
The club sold some of its better players including Nuri Şahin and Davy Klaasen, the latter of whom had scored seven goals in 33 league appearances. Bremen’s attempts to replace them were not successful, with their three new inclusions all playing extremely limited minutes and adding very few direct goal contributions.
Defensively, Bremen were poor, but their defensive shortcoming may have been acceptable if their offense was not even worse. Bremen’s top scorer was American striker Josh Sargent with just seven goals in all competitions. In the league, Sargent and two other players finished the season level on five. After sealing its fate at the end of the campaign the club sold many of its top players again, including Sargent and Milot Rashica, both of whom moved to Norwich City. This time around they made better purchases ahead of their first Bundesliga 2 campaign in forty years.
Ahead of their 2. Bundesliga game against Jahn Regensburg (from which they need a point to secure promotion) the Werder Bremen supporters are out in masses
— These Football Times (@thesefootytimes) May 15, 2022
The most important signing the club made in the offseason proved to be Marvin Ducksch, a German forward who the club signed from Hannover 96. Bremen had created a deadly attacking partnership featuring Ducksch and Niclas Füllkrug. The pair combined to score almost 40 goals as the club sailed back to the Bundesliga.
In the current offseason, Bremen have looked after their defense by signing 27-year-old Niklas Stark from Hertha Berlin and 24-year-old Amos Pieper from Arminia Bielefeld. These additions combined with a dangerous attack are a great cause for hope as die Grün-weißen begin their quest to stay in the Bundesliga on Aug. 6th when they take on VfL Wolfburg away from home.