Bayern Munich’s stranglehold over German football is one that may last forever. The record 32-time champions of Germany have lifted the Bundesliga each season for the last decade, and at the end of the last campaign, it looked like that dominance wasn’t going anywhere soon. Jurgen Klopp’s Borussia Dortmund were the last team to break Bayern’s vice-like grip, lifting back-to-back titles in 2011 and 2012. But once their superstar striker Robert Lewandowski departed Signal Iduna Park - for Bayern’s Allianz Arena of all places - he took any hopes of further titles with him. But has another transfer of the Polish striking sensation caused sweeping changes throughout the German top-flight?
Lewandowksi’s €45m transfer to Spanish giants Barcelona was always going to sting. The former Lech Poznan striker amassed a mighty 344 goals in 375 appearances in all competitions in Bavaria. He won the Bundesliga in every season he played for the club, as well as three DFB Pokals and the 2019/20 UEFA Champions League. His goal tally is good enough for second on Bayern’s list of top goalscorers, only behind legendary German striker, Gerd Müller. Lewandowski's 312 goals for both Dortmund and Bayern in the Bundesliga are also good enough for second place in the all-time list of the division's top scorers, again behind Müller. To put it bluntly, his absence was always going to be felt.
As things stand after seven games of the new term, Julien Nagelsmann’s side are languishing way down in fifth in the Bundesliga table. They haven’t won in their last four, drawing three on the bounce before falling to a 1-0 defeat away at fellow Bavarian side Augsburg, with Mergim Berisha grabbing the only goal of the game five minutes after halftime. The result leaves them three points behind perennial contenders Borussia Dortmund, who look to be handling the loss of their own striking superstar, Erling Braut Haaland, better than their Der Klassiker rivals.
But it isn’t the Schwarzgelben who lead the pack; that honour goes to Union Berlin. Often referred to as Berlin’s second club, Union are currently undefeated in their first seven games, winning five and drawing two. They have pulled out an early two-point lead over Dortmund and a five-point lead over Bayern, leaving their fans dreaming of adding their name to the list of football’s greatest shocks, alongside the likes of England’s Leicester City.
The current Bundesliga standings are a far cry from those of last season. After seven games last term, Bayern sat comfortably at the division's summit, despite just falling to a home defeat against eventual Europa League winners Eintracht Frankfurt. The Bavarians had won five of their opening seven, including 5-0 and 4-1 thumpings over Hertha Berlin and RB Leipzig respectively.
Goals, once again, have not been hard to come by this term. Bayern are the top scorers in the Bundesliga, netting 19 times, four more than league leaders Union. 19-year-old sensation Jamal Musala tops the scoring charts at the Allianz Arena with four, and new signing Sadio Mane has also bagged three times domestically since his €32m move from Champions League runners-up Liverpool.
The problem, though, seems to be falling behind early on. In two of their recent draws - one away at Union and the other at home to Borussia Monchengladbach - the reigning champions twice fell behind in the first half. Both times, they managed to battle back and salvage draws, but as the table suggests, draws will not be enough to claw their way back to the Bundesliga’s summit.
Of course, with all this being said, Bayern remain as the overwhelming favourites to retain their crown for the 11th consecutive season. There won’t be too many punters backing against them. But maybe, just maybe, there could be a changing of the guard in Germany next May.