Death, taxes and Bayern Munich winning the Bundesliga title.
It is slightly paraphrasing the old idiom to say these are the only three things certain in life.
Such is the optimism of football fandom, though, the question always arises ahead of the new campaign whether this year will be the one where someone steps up and takes Bayern’s throne.
The 2021-22 season saw the Bavarian giants claim their 10th Bundesliga title in a row, with Julian Nagelsmann leading Bayern to the championship by eight points in his first season at the Allianz Arena.
Since Jurgen Klopp’s exciting Borussia Dortmund side of 2011-12, no team has been able to halt the relentless Bayern dominance of German football.
In fact, in the last decade, only the 2018-19 campaign saw anyone finish closer than the eight points Dortmund were behind last season, when BVB were just two points shy of their Der Klassiker rivals.
How can anyone seriously make the argument that their run will halt any time soon then? Well, let Stats Perform have a go as we take a look at some of the reasons why Bayern might struggle to maintain their stranglehold in 2022-23.
Loss of Lewy means new Bayern approach
Bayern’s signing of Robert Lewandowski from Dortmund in 2014 was one of the catalysts for their concerted period of dominance.
However, after eight years of service and 238 goals in 253 Bundesliga games for Bayern, the Poland striker wanted to move on and eventually sealed a transfer to Barcelona.
His goals-per-game ratio in the German top flight of 0.94 bested even the great Gerd Muller (0.85), and his loss was certainly not one Bayern had planned for, with the club initially indicating they expected him to honour the final year of his contract, before finally relenting.
Despite being 33 years old, Lewandowski’s impact had not waned at all, with him scoring 50 goals in all club competitions last season, making it seven consecutive seasons with at least 40 goals to his name.
Nagelsmann has insisted his team will evolve in Lewandowski’s absence, though, and the signing of Sadio Mane appears to suggest that.
After Lewandowski’s sale was confirmed, Nagelsmann told BR24: “I’m not worried right now, we are very well-equipped offensively and I’m still spoiled for choice. We have a possibility of building FC Bayern without a striker that can reliably score 40 goals.”
With 120 goals in all competitions for Liverpool, Mane averaged a goal every 178.3 minutes for the Reds – a return of one in slightly under two matches. He also assisted 37 goals, meaning he was directly involved in a goal every 137 minutes.
In the Premier League, only Harry Kane (134), former team-mate Mohamed Salah (118) and Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy (104) scored more goals than Mane (90) over the course of his Liverpool career.
His scoring rate has never been close to that of Lewandowski, though he has played a significant amount of his career on the left of a front three rather than through the middle, where he ended last season for Liverpool and is expected to mostly play at Bayern.
That means the likes of Serge Gnabry, Leroy Sane, Kingsley Coman, Jamal Musiala and Thomas Muller will need to step up and contribute more goals, while it will be interesting to see if 17-year-old striker Mathys Tel will feature much in his first season after signing from Rennes.
The club has also added Ryan Gravenberch and Noussair Mazraoui from Ajax, while former Ajax defender Matthijs de Ligt has arrived from Juventus to replace the outgoing Niklas Sule, who chose to swap Munich for Dortmund when his contract expired.
Will Dortmund finally solve flakiness issue?
Marco Rose looked to be a very astute appointment in 2021, but the former Borussia Monchengladbach boss just did not work out at Dortmund.
Rose has been replaced by Edin Terzic, who enjoyed a spell as caretaker boss in the second half of the 2020-21 campaign, winning the DFB-Pokal.
Terzic now has the reins permanently and has two big jobs on his hands.
The first is fixing a leaky defence, which conceded 52 goals in the Bundesliga last season, more than any other team to finish in the top eight, and only one goal fewer than relegated Arminia Bielefeld.
The club may have addressed the issue in the transfer market as they have essentially procured the German national team’s central defence by adding Sule from Bayern on a free transfer and the highly rated Nico Schlotterbeck from Freiburg.
Schlotterbeck won 69 per cent of his duels in the Bundesliga last season, the joint-most of all players who contested at least 100 duels, while Sule was third with 68 per cent.
69% – Nico Schlotterbeck has won 69% of his duels this #Bundesliga season, the joint most of all BL players with at least 100 duels (tied with Mohamed Simakan). Future teammate Niklas Süle is joint-third (68%, together with Mavropanos). Transfer. #BVB pic.twitter.com/xf7uW7dXYV
— OptaFranz (@OptaFranz) May 2, 2022
Another issue that needed addressing was similar to Bayern’s Lewandowski issue, with Erling Haaland having departed for Manchester City.
The Norwegian scored 86 goals in 89 appearances at Dortmund, including 22 of their 85 league goals last season, though he was only able to feature in 24 games due to injury.
Sebastien Haller was signed to replace Haaland but will unfortunately miss the first few months of the campaign after undergoing surgery for a testicular tumour.
The addition of exciting young talent Karim Adeyemi from Salzburg will give them a dynamic in attack they have missed since selling Jadon Sancho to Manchester United, while in Haller’s absence it will be interesting to see if Youssoufa Moukoko, still just 17-years-old, can add to the five Bundesliga goals he already has to his name.
Having also signed defensive midfielder Salih Ozcan from Cologne to provide some steel alongside Jude Bellingham, who it appears they will be keeping hold of for another season at least, the balance of a frequently wobbly side could be there for Terzic to build some momentum.
Best of the rest
Bayer Leverkusen enjoyed a strong campaign last season and have replaced Lucas Alario with promising Czech striker Adam Hlozek.
They also appear to have fought off interest in Moussa Diaby so it would not be a surprise to see them go well again, but with Champions League football to contend with, questions remain whether they have the depth of squad to excel on all fronts.
RB Leipzig will hope to provide a challenge and have also kept hold of their star player in Christopher Nkunku, though losing Tyler Adams and Nordi Mukiele will be a blow, while Eintracht Frankfurt will want to build on last season’s Europa League success.
It would be churlish to write Bayern off, of course. They go into the season as heavy favourites and rightly so.
Mane might not have the same goalscoring output as Lewandowski, but football has proven time and again that having one player who scores lots of goals is not the only way to be successful.
The African Football Player of the Year has the chance to be the face of the new Bayern, where everyone will be expected to chip in and Nagelsmann can truly cement his ideas on the team.
However, while Bayern have been somewhat forced into a new era, Dortmund appear to have reached theirs more by design and if everything clicks early on for Terzic, an exciting title race could develop.
After all, the only thing that is certain about football is that nothing is certain.