Is the 2. Bundesliga weaker? A points comparison

Were Bielefeld worthy champions? Did Stuttgart deserve promotion? These are the questions you may have been pondering since the 2. Bundesliga season came to a close.

Looking at how many points each time won and comparing with previous season is by no means an exact science, but it does provide some context to these questions, and possibly some answers as well.

Here, we’ll compare this year’s points tally with every season since three points for a win came into effect in 1995, with a closer look at the last ten years. There will be no definitive answers, but at least offer an interesting perspective on how the season stacks up.

Bielefeld above average champions

There have been some – mostly salty Stuttgart and Hamburg fans – that have questioned whether Arminia Bielefeld were worthy champions. Looking purely at their points total of 68 though, it’s fair to say they did.

The average since 1995 is 67.68 and in this decade is 68.7, so about par, but it is also five more than the 63 that were enough for Fortuna Düsseldorf and 1. FC Köln to be champions in the previous two seasons. The only team to win the league with less points than that is 1. FC Nürnberg back in 2003-04.

Since Hertha BSC won the league with a 34-game record of 76 points in 2012-13, only SC Freiburg in 2015-16 broke into the 70s with 72, whilst Stuttgart a season later got just one more point than Bielefeld did this year.

Stuttgart well short of 2017

VfB Stuttgart had an erratic campaign – at times brilliant, but all too often rather mediocre. It’s not difficult to image that if Hamburg had kept themselves together, they should have done enough to have taken second place instead of die Roten.

Stuttgart collected 58 points in the end, with 17 wins and 7 draws. Since 1995, the average has been 62.12, whilst in the last decade it has been 63. So whilst Stuttgart weren’t too far off, they were certainly off par, and looking back at previous seasons in term only serve to lay this bare.

Only one team has gone up automatically this decade with less points – Paderborn in the 2018-19 season, another team that benefited from a Hamburg collapse, went up with one less point. The only other occasions since 1995 that the runners-up took less than Stuttgart were in 1994-95 and 2003-04 – funnily enough, that was Bielefeld on both occasions.

It’s worth comparing Stuttgart’s record with the last time they were in the league three seasons ago. As mentioned already, they won 69 points, leaving them 11 worse off this year. The title-winning side of Hannes Wolf managed it with four more wins and three less defeats, and apart from the odd calamity (the 5-0 defeat to Dynamo Dresden), there was little doubting their worthiness.

Same points, two places higher

The picture regarding third place really does give the impression that this year’s top three were weaker. 1. FC Heidenheim won 55 points last season, the same as last season when it was only enough for fifth, but they aren’t too far off the last two play-off contestants. Holstein Kiel had 56 two years ago, whilst Union Berlin last year had 57.

The average since 1995 has been 59.72, and 60.2 in this decade. In fact, only one team has finished third with less points than Heidenheim’s 55. That was in 2003-04, back when third went up automatically. That was 1. FSV Mainz 05, under one Jürgen Klopp.

For any Heidenheim fans looking for omens for Monday, the number of points won has been no indicator as to whether the team going into the play-off eventually goes up. In fact, the three highest third-place finishers since the play-off was restored have all failed to go up, including Eintracht Braunschweig who won a total of 66 three years ago.

For the record, fourth-placed Hamburger SV’s total of 54 points is disappointing too. Only three teams have finish fourth with less points – SpVgg Unterhaching in 1995, FC St. Pauli in 2016 and Bielefeld (them again) in 2018. The last team to breach 60 was Jens Keller’s Union Berlin in 2016-17, a memorably competitive season.

Strong bottom three?

If it’s any consolation to Dynamo Dresden fans, only once since 1995 has a team won more points and finished bottom, which was 1. FC Kaiserslautern in 2018, who won 35 points comparted to Dresden’s 32. (That excludes the 1990-00 season, when Tennis Borussia Berlin were defaulted to bottom After having their licence revoked, having won 40 points.) The average since 1995 is 26.76, with the ten-year average 26.7.

Wehen Wiesbaden’s total of 34 is above average as well. Braunschweig went down in 2018 with 39 (!) whilst Erzgebirge Aue had 36 in 2014-15. 1. FC Nürnberg can count themselves unlucky to have ended up in the play-off with 37 points, with only Aue (again in 2018) having to play for their right to stay up since the play-off was reintroduced, having won 40 points – usually enough for safety.

In contrast though, Karlsruher SC won a relatively low points total of 37 to stay up automatically. Only two teams in the last decade, where 36.8 points is the average needed for survival, have won less points – Karlsruhe themselves in 2010-11, and 1860 Munich in 2015-16 (the season between their two 16th-place finishes).


Looking at the top positions in the league, it is easy to conclude the lower points totals mean that the league was weaker. Whilst anecdotally this may be the case, the amount of points a team wins each season is completely relative to the other 17 teams in the league.

Using at how many points Dresden and Wiesbaden won, the counter argument could be made – that the league is actually stronger. So it this shows anything, it’s that the league is more evenly matched at the moment – and when you consider a side like Wiesbaden can do the double over Stuttgart, just as one example, it’s difficult to argue anything differently.

Maybe the league is weaker, but what makes it so entertaining isn’t necessarily the strength of the top sides, but the competitiveness of the league as a whole, and there’s no question that makes for a more gripping competition to watch.

Published by jamesrees1989

Football writer. 2. Bundesliga geek. Ex-Football Radar, VAVEL, Read Bundesliga. Tweets at @germanpyramid and @OxonFootball.

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