Who makes the Bundesliga Team of the Season based on Opta Data?
At first glance it was business as usual in the 2022-23 Bundesliga, with Bayern winning their 11th consecutive league title. But if only it was that simple for the Bavarians. Bayern won the Bundesliga on goal difference ahead of Borussia Dortmund after their final day slip-up at home to Mainz. It could have all been so different, but alas Bayern triumphed once again.
Elsewhere, Union Berlin and Freiburg battled it out to qualify for the UEFA Champions League for the first time. Union prevailed on the final matchday as they joined RB Leipzig in the top four, while city rivals Hertha dropped down a league alongside giants Schalke.
But which players impressed us the most during the exciting campaign? Here’s the OptaFranz Bundesliga Team of the Season.
Frederik Rønnow – 1. FC Union Berlin
Union Berlin continued that fairytale journey through German football with their first qualification for the UEFA Champions League, coming in what was just their fourth season as a top-flight club. Boasting the joint-best defence in the Bundesliga with 38 goals conceded (level with Bayern) and 13 clean sheets (same as Freiburg), both numbers were new club records in the competition.
A key player in keeping the ball out of the net was goalkeeper Frederik Rønnow who, after featuring in just seven matches last season, became first choice at the club last summer. He immediately repaid the faith of coach Urs Fischer, becoming the only goalkeeper to concede less than a goal a game in 2022-23 (27 conceded in 29 games – min. 20 appearances). In the five games he missed this season, Union averaged 2.2 goals conceded per match.
The Dane’s shot-stopping abilities stood out, with Rønnow preventing 8.5 goals according to Opta’s xGOT model (27 goals conceded from 35.5 xGoT, excluding own goals), more than twice as many as the second-best keeper in the Bundesliga (Gregor Kobel 4.0). Even more impressively, Rønnow’s save percentage of 78% was the best of any keeper to feature in 20+ Bundesliga matches during a single season over the past seven campaigns (Manuel Neuer: 80% in 2016-17).
When Union face Europe’s elite in the UCL next season, they’ll know they can rely on their extraordinary shot-stopper. Until then, Rønnow will hope to add to his eight caps for Denmark in the upcoming international matches.
Raphaël Guerreiro – Borussia Dortmund
Borussia Dortmund came mightily close to ending Bayern’s Bundesliga monopoly, thanks to their strong surge in form following the winter break. Dortmund picked up the most points (46) and scored the most goals (58) in the Bundesliga in 2023, while no player tallied more goals and assists in the competition since the turn of the year than attacking full-back extraordinaire Raphaël Guerreiro (13).
The Portuguese assisted 12 goals in the Bundesliga this term, which was more than any other player, while his goal in the desperate final matchday draw with Mainz took his tally to a personal best 16 goal involvements this Bundesliga season.
A left-back on paper, Guerreiro has been one of the best playmakers in the Bundesliga in 2022-23, creating 47 chances from open play – a number only surpassed by the two attacking midfielders Jamal Musiala (52) and Moussa Diaby (53). No player managed a higher expected assists (xA) average per 90 from open play than he did, either (0.26 – min. 2,000 minutes).
Guerreiro will leave Dortmund this summer on a free transfer. Wherever he ends up, the team will enjoy a full-back whose quality going forward is almost unrivalled among his peers in Europe. Since he joined Dortmund in the summer of 2016, only Trent Alexander-Arnold can match Guerreiro’s 66 goal involvements (30 goals, 36 assists) among defenders in Europe’s big five leagues.
Matthias Ginter – SC Freiburg
Some eyebrows were raised when Matthias Ginter left Borussia Mönchengladbach to return to his hometown club SC Freiburg in the summer of 2022. Just under a year later and no one is questioning Ginter’s choice, as Freiburg have completed their best ever Bundesliga season in the three-points-per-win era (59 points).
Ginter was a key contributor to Freiburg’s success, with the defender the only outfield player to not miss a single minute of his team’s Bundesliga matches in 2022-23. Remarkably, it is the third time Ginter has managed that feat (after 2017-18 & 2020-21), with only his teammate Christian Günter (three) achieving this feat among outfield players in the competition in as many separate seasons since 1992-93.
With the reliable Ginter at the back, Christian Streich’s side kept a joint-high 13 clean sheets in the Bundesliga in 2022-23 (with Union), tying their club record in the top-flight (in 2012-13 and 2000-01).
Ginter had a 63% duel success rate in the Bundesliga in 2022-23, ranking him in the top 10 (min. 100 duels). On top of that, the Germany international also made a league-high 151 clearances. Both are skills that Hansi Flick’s men might have made more use of during their dismal 2022 World Cup campaign. Ginter featured for just one minute in Qatar, appearing in the final group match against Costa Rica.
Ginter also helped Freiburg in attack, scoring four goals in the Bundesliga this term, as many as he had scored in his last three seasons at Gladbach. In fact, only Union’s Danilho Doekhi scored more goals (five) among BL centre-backs in 2022-23. Unsurprisingly, all of Ginter’s goals came from set-pieces, with Freiburg also scoring the most goals from such situations (24).
Jeremie Frimpong – Bayer Leverkusen
Bayer Leverkusen may have finished three places lower (sixth) than they did last season in the Bundesliga, but Jeremie Frimpong was one player who managed to retain his excellent form across the two seasons. He takes the right-back spot in our Bundesliga Team of the Season, just like he did in 2021-22.
Xabi Alonso’s side waste no time getting the ball forward, with Bayer Leverkusen scoring six goals from direct attacks – no side managed more, while only Bayern (83) tallied more direct attacks overall than the ‘Werkself’. Key to creating such attacks is having players who can move the ball quickly upfield, and nobody carries the ball as well into attacking areas from defence than Frimpong.
The Dutchman led the league for progressive carries of 10-plus metres (184), but not only did he excel in quantity, his average carry progress of 9.6m was the highest among Bundesliga players to make at least 50 ball carries.
Even when opponents managed to catch up with the seventh-fastest player in the Bundesliga (his top speed in 2022-23 was 36kmph), he finds a way to get the ball past them. No player in the division this season beat an opponent with more take-ons than Frimpong did (88).
The Leverkusen star became more prolific both in front of goal and creatively in 2022-23 as well. His 15 goal involvements (eight goals, seven assists) was the second highest among players at Leverkusen this season (Moussa Diaby: 17), while his tally was more than twice the number of goal involvements he managed in his 35 Bundesliga appearances prior to the season (seven – one goal, six assists).
Joshua Kimmich – Bayern Munich
With Bayern slipping up much more often than they usually do, Joshua Kimmich was the target of much criticism during the season. In the end, Bayern still ended up winning the league with Kimmich as the conductor in midfield. The 28-year-old has set such lofty standards throughout the last few seasons that it’s easily forgotten just how well he has performed in comparison to every other player in the Bundesliga this term, despite all the negative noise.
The Germany star remains the heart of the record champions as Kimmich was involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than any other player in the league (199). He also had more touches than any other player in the league (102 per 90 – min. 1,000 minutes) and played the most passes into the penalty area (356).
Kimmich’s assist tally went down from 11 last term to six in the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, but he still created the second most chances in the division (86, behind Jonas Hofmann 99). On top of that, he also attempted the most through balls (29). While Kimmich may have registered fewer assists than usual, he did score five times – his best tally in the league since 2016-17 (six).
Kimmich anchored Bayern’s midfield, winning possession 262 times, with only Leverkusen’s Edmond Tapsoba managing to do so more often (270). As soon as the Bayern midfielder has won the ball, he will look to start an attack himself. With his recoveries, Kimmich initiated 53 shot-ending sequences, at least 18 more than any other player managed in the Bundesliga this term.
Jude Bellingham – Borussia Dortmund
Despite Dortmund ultimately falling short of winning their first Bundesliga title since 2012, Jude Bellingham has been crowned as the league’s official Player of the Season, and it’s hard to argue with that choice. Bellingham has been excelling throughout the season at everything you could ask from a central midfielder, with such an ease that you’ll easily forget he only turns 20 at the end of June.
The Englishman is integral in Dortmund’s build-up play, with only Musiala (181) and Kimmich (199) being involved in more open-play shot-ending sequences than Bellingham this term (176). The 19-year-old is a dangerous passer and ranked third for successful passes into the final third (196, behind only Upamecano’s 208 and Kimmich’s 281), but he is just as good using his quick feet to advance into dangerous positions, as demonstrated by the fact no player completed more take-ons than Bellingham (88, level with Frimpong). He also had the best take-on success rate (55% – min. 50 take ons)
He’s improved in terms of goalscoring, with his eight league goals this term twice as many as he had managed in his first two Bundesliga seasons combined. No other BL midfielder joins the attack as regularly as Bellingham, who ranked first in shots (67) and second for touches in the opposition box (121) among midfielders this season behind only Christoph Baumgartner’s 135.
Still, the England international manages to fulfil his defensive duties as well, with only two players winning possession more often in the final third (Kimmich 38, Randal Kolo Muani 32) than Bellingham (31). He also won more tackles than any other Dortmund player (42), while only Guerreiro (36) made more interceptions among his teammates (35).
Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich
Borussia Dortmund could have been forgiven for thinking they had one hand on the trophy on the final Saturday of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season, but then Jamal Musiala came along. After coming on as a substitute in Bayern’s end-of-season game at FC Köln, the 20-year-old displayed his skill and agility with the decisive 89th-minute goal to shatter Dortmund’s dreams.
That strike was Musiala’s 12th of the season – one more than he’d managed in 57 Bundesliga appearances before 2022-23. The only other player aged 20 or younger in Europe’s big five leagues to score more goals than the Bayern star this season was Montpellier striker Elye Wahi (17). Musiala was also one of just two players in this Bundesliga season with double figures for both goals and assists, along with Kolo Muani, while his total of 22 goal involvements was similarly only surpassed by the Eintracht Frankfurt forward (26).
Musiala simply combines everything: he’s strong in finishing, he sets up chances for his teammates and is a very good dribbler. Among all Bundesliga players in 2022-23 with at least 2,000 minutes of playing time, Musiala made the second most take-ons per 90 minutes (6.4, level with Leroy Sané), which was only bettered by his teammate Alphonso Davies (6.6). The future is incredibly bright for such a special talent.
Jonas Hofmann – Borussia Mönchengladbach
With only 43 points, Borussia Mönchengladbach played out their weakest Bundesliga season in 12 years (2010-11: 36 points) and only finished 10th in the table. Despite this, one player who can be proud of his individual performance in 2022-23 was Germany international Jonas Hofmann.
Hofmann was a consistent performer and by the end of the season he shared third spot in the league goal involvement rankings (21 – 12 goals, nine assists). Those 12 goals meant he equalled his best top-flight tally in a single league season (also 12 in 2021-22) and his goal involvement tally was the best he’s ever managed in a campaign. Arguably his best performance of the season came against eventual champions Bayern Munich, when he was directly involved in all three goals (one goal, two assists) in a 3-2 win on matchday 21.
Hofmann stood out especially when it came to providing chances for his teammates. He created a league-high 99 opportunities and had the highest expected assists value (10.9) in the Bundesliga. It’s hard to imagine where the Foals would have ended up this season without his talent.
Randal Kolo Muani – Eintracht Frankfurt
Eintracht Frankfurt once again did everything right with the transfer of Randal Kolo Muani. The Frenchman arrived from Nantes on a free transfer in the summer of 2022 and needed little time to find his feet in the Bundesliga.
By the end of his first season at the club, Kolo Muani tallied 26 goal involvements (15 goals and 11 assists), more than any other Bundesliga player. Additionally, the striker was one of only two players in the 2022-23 Bundesliga campaign to tally 10+ goals and 10+ assists, along with Bayern’s Musiala.
He is not only a strong finisher in front of goal but also provides a creative threat for his teammates. He was always found in dangerous areas of the pitch and his 220 touches in the opposition box was the most in the Bundesliga this term. Of course, his outstanding performances did not go unnoticed by Europe’s top clubs, so it will be intriguing to see if Frankfurt can keep the 24-year-old for next season.
Kolo Muani was also able to show himself on the big stage with France at the 2022 World Cup – and who knows how big his name would be now had he put away that infamous chance to score the winning goal in extra time against Argentina in the final.
Niclas Füllkrug – Werder Bremen
Werder Bremen’s Niclas Füllkrug was one of this season’s high-flyers, as the striker of a promoted team whose main focus was to avoid relegation. They did just that, and more, with Füllkrug having a superb campaign. He was crowned top scorer with his 16 goals in 28 appearances, becoming the first Bremen player since Miroslav Klose 17 years ago (2005-06: 25 goals) to be awarded the “Torjägerkanone” in the Bundesliga.
His strong performances for Bremen also led to his call-up to the German national team for the 2022 World Cup, becoming one of very few positive aspects for Germany in Qatar before their woeful group stage exit (two goals, one assist).
Füllkrug’s importance to Bremen was further displayed by his side’s poor record without him – they lost five of the six league games he missed in 2022-23.
The powerful striker scored the opening goal in seven different matches in 2022-23, the highest tally in the Bundesliga alongside Freiburg’s Vincenzo Grifo. Moreover, his 16 goals were worth an outstanding 14 points for Werder Bremen, the second best value in the league behind Grifo (15), who very narrowly missed this TOTS himself.
After scoring six in as many international matches, Füllkrug is currently Germany’s great hope for the central striker position – even though he is already 30 years old. He has his strengths both with the ball at his feet and in the air, exactly the type of striker the DFB team needs. Füllkrug scored four times with his head in the last Bundesliga season, only Union Berlin’s Dekhi (five) surpassed that tally.
Christopher Nkunku – RB Leipzig
Deep into injury time on the final matchday of the season, Leipzig star Christopher Nkunku scored his second goal of the game against Schalke to draw level with Bremen’s Füllkrug as the top scorer of the 2022-23 Bundesliga season. In doing so, Nkunku became the first Frenchman to lead the scoring charts at the end of a top-flight campaign in Germany, despite only playing 25 of a possible 34 games this season.
Nkunku had the highest xG value per 90 minutes (0.69) and attempted the second most shots (3.5 per 90), only bettered by FC Bayern’s Serge Gnabry (3.8). On average, Nkunku scored every 119 minutes of play, which of all Bundesliga players with at least 1,000 minutes of action was only surpassed by Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting (every 112 minutes).
However, to reduce him to his strength in finishing would be unfair. Once again, the Bundesliga will lose one of its best players this summer, as it is almost certain Nkunku will leave RB Leipzig and reportedly head to Chelsea after 83 goal involvements in 119 Bundesliga matches (47 goals, 36 assists).
Nkunku played a major role in establishing France as the most successful foreign nation in the Bundesliga across this campaign. A total of 114 goals in the 2022-23 season were scored by French players, which was only surpassed by Germans (381). It will be interesting to see which Frenchman will follow in his footsteps in the German top-flight across 2023-24.
Urs Fischer – Union Berlin
The only way is up for Union Berlin, who have qualified for the Champions League for the first time in their club’s history and just four years after they were promoted to the Bundesliga for the first time. Thus, the title for the coach of the season has to go to Urs Fischer, who has been at Union for the entire journey.
The Eisernen have finished each season in the top tier with a new club-record points tally, while also steadily improving their final position, in stark contrast to crosstown rivals Hertha’s recent development. More impressively, Union have managed to do so despite having smaller financial resources than most other clubs in the league.
Union had lost their best goal scorers from last season in Grischa Prömel and Taiwo Awoniyi, but Fischer found other players such as Sheraldo Becker (11G 7A) and Kevin Behrens (8G 1A) to fill in these gaps. All the while Union boasted the joint-best defensive record in the league, conceding just 38 goals (same as Bayern).
Fischer’s side had no problem at all playing in three competitions, as on top of their excellence in the Bundesliga they also managed to reach the semi-final of the DFB-Pokal and advanced to the knockout stages of the Europa League.
While there was some tough competition from the likes of Christian Streich, who nearly led Freiburg to the UCL; almost-champion Edin Terzic; or Thomas Letsch, who turned Bochum’s season around and led them to a third consecutive Bundesliga season, Fischer is the much-deserved winner of our Coach of the Year award.