Bundesliga hits the halfway point and everything that’s new is old


Julian Nagelsmann’s a genius. Bayern Munich’s incredible.

It’s Sunday, December 19, 2021, but it might as well be the start of almost any Winterpause of the past decade because Bayern Munich is almost certainly going on to win the Bundesliga.

With the exception of the 2019-20 season when Bayern was four points back of Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach after firing Nico Kovac and hiring Hansi Flick — by the way, that turned out well — Bayern has found little trouble en route to the title.

This is season is no different, especially after Dortmund, Leipzig, and Leverkusen all lost following Bayern’s 2-0 win over Wolfsburg this week.

[ TOTTENHAM-LIVERPOOL: Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bayern and new boss Julian Nagelsmann had some early hiccups but reached the end of 2021 with a seven-point lead on the field and a healthy look at a 10th-consecutive German title.

The Munich side won again this week and is showing no signs of slowing down; Rather, Bayern looks like its getting a hold of Nagelsmann’s system. It may even be in better position to compete for the Champions League crown if in fact they can keep and/or grow its distance on the chasing pack prior to the knockout rounds next month.

Bayern’s +40 goal differential at the halfway point is just 15 from the league-best +55 the club posted last season.

Not every Bayern title in the nonet has been a cakewalk — Dortmund finished two points back in 2018-19 — but their recent dominance has cast a pall over the title fight, even with Erling Haaland and a strong Dortmund hanging in the fight.

The Bundesliga needs a team within at least 5-6 points of the crown to keep it interesting, and that usually means Dortmund will have to win its matches over Bayern.

That’s why Jude Bellingham’s inspired rant against officials after the 3-2 Klassiker loss this season rings so true; The bad calls and no calls are the difference between Bayern leading BVB by nine points at the midpoint, as it is, and 3-6 six points.

The good news is that the stumbles by Leipzig and Borussia Monchengladbach have added interest to the top-six fight, with Freiburg in third and Union Berlin, Koln, and Mainz all daydreaming of a Europa League spot.

But when Bayern and Gladbach reignite the season on Jan. 7, the league is going to know it’ll take a shocking downturn from the league’s best squad — currently led by one of the world’s best young managers — to have a proper title fight (also, a zero-mistake campaign from a chaser).

There are some new wrinkles this season with Nagelsmann at the helm in Munich, but it’s telling that fans of the league are more worried about Bayern landing young stars like Haaland, Florian Wirtz, or Ridle Baku than their teams challenging for the crown.

Matchday 17 — Dec. 17-19

Bayern Munich 4-0 Wolfsburg
Bochum 0-1 Union Berlin
Eintracht Frankfurt 1-0 Mainz
Hoffenheim 1-1 Borussia Monchengladbach
Greuther Furth 0-0 Augsburg
RB Leipzig 0-2 Arminia Bielefeld
Hertha Berlin 3-2 Borussia Dortmund
Freiburg 2-1 Bayer Leverkusen
Koln 1-0 Stuttgart