Hinrunde Review: Trouble Ahead for TSG 1899 Hoffenheim

With half of the season over, TSG Hoffenheim is certainly not in a position they would have wanted to be once the season began. Sitting in the relegation playoff spot with 12 points and just 3 wins and 3 draws from their 17 games, Hoffenheim sit 7 points adrift from safety and have glaring weaknesses defensively. The good news is that the club have brought a new manager in.

Marco Kurz has been hired to lift the squad’s fortunes. Kurz last managed Kaiserslautern from 2009 through March of 2012. He led the team to promotion and in their first full season in the Bundesliga, then finishing a stunning seventh in the 2010/2011 campaign. But they could not sustain this good fortune, and he was fired after 26 games the following season with the team sitting at the bottom of the table. In recent interviews with Kurz, he pointed out that the team doesn’t necessarily have poor defenders, but the team defense hasn’t been as strong as it needs to be.

To be fair, it certainly helps Hoffenheim that they sit in 16th rather than 18th. Both Augsburg and Greuther Fürth have been atrocious so far and show few signs of catching up. One concern though is that Hoffenheim’s Rückrunde begins by facing squads currently in 8th, 4th, and 5th respectively. So Marco Kurz certainly faces a challenge to kick off his new job. On top of that, when Hoffenheim will get chances against the 4 teams closest to them in the table, only one of the four will be in Sinsheim.

The new coach has succeeded in terms of changing the atmosphere at the club according to inside sources at Bild and other German newspapers. “A new chapter has started”, Tim Wiese told Bild. A number of players are keen to get a second start under Kurz, especially the likes of Patrick Ochs and Eren Derdiyok, both of whom have been disappointments so far this season.

The season so far

There are many reasons for Hoffenheim’s poor form this season. The goalkeeping has been uneven to say the least. Tim Wiese was brought in to replace Tom Starke in the offseason, and has not been playing well. Wiese has only featured in eight games, conceding 23 times in those matches. He has been injured, but once healthy he was not reinserted into the starting lineup. Koen Casteels has taken the #1 jersey but he too has had his doubters, conceding 18 goals in his nine matches. Neither of these keepers have been fantastic, and this must change if Hoffenheim is to climb the table. While there is the possibility of adding a keeper in January, the money could probably be better spent addressing the defense.

The defense shouldered much of the blame for their poor form. While Fabian Johnson has notched three goals for the club and seems entrenched down the left side along with Andreas Beck on the right, the center of defense could use some help. Matthieu Delpierre has played well, but Marvin Compper’s play has left a lot to be desired at times. On top of this, the back-ups are young and error-prone, so moving someone in alongside Delpierre wasn’t always a viable option for Markus Babbel.

The midfield on the other hand is showing promise. Sebastien Rudy has been fantastic in the holding/defensive midfield role and was one of the few consistent elements in an otherwise very inconsistent season. Kevin Volland is have a fantastic debut season for Hoffenheim. The former 1860 Munich player has notched a goal and a league leading nine assists. The team is also getting good play from Roberto Firmino and Takashi Usami, either of which could be the necessary spark plug in the Rückrunde.  As a group the midfield is credited with 10 of the team’s 22 team goals so another problem is the lack of a consistent goalscorer.

The strikers should be evaluated on a case by case basis. Joselu, who was brought in from Real Madrid Castilla, leads the team with 4 goals, but has only made 11 starts. One would hope he continues to grow in confidence and adds to his tally. 24-year-old Sven Schipplock has also been somewhat of a revelation for the club, notching 3 goals in 9 appearances. While these two have played a decent season thus far, Eren Derdiyok has been an enigma for his new club. The Swiss striker, who Hoffenheim signed from Leverkusen in the summer for €4.8 Million, has only 1 goal to his name so far. He has a total of 13 appearances, but with only four starts, some might say he hasn’t been given enough time to make a similar impact as he did last year, when he scored 10 goals in all competitions for Leverkusen.

Looking into the future

So what should Hoffenheim do? While I am not a football manager by any stretch, I think this team needs to create more offense to help out its struggling defense. The team has played with a single striker for 15 of their 17 league games, but I believe the strength of this team is clearly its attackers. Getting two players up top could help in maintaining possession, a category where they rank 16th in the Bundesliga according to whoscored.com. Getting two of Joselu, Derdiyok, and Schipplock working together up top might also improve the team’s scoring chances. Hoffenheim averaged 12 shots per game, and while this is certainly a fair amount, 48% of those shots are coming from outside the 18-yard box, which isn’t the ideal location.

A new manager typically brings in new players during his first transfer period at the club. Hoffenheim have so far only brought in the 22-year-old Peruvian right back Luis Advíncula. The youngster has 20 caps for the national team so far and comes highly recommended by Hoffenheim’s scouting depertment. He may certainly prove to be a challenger for Beck, but Hoffenheim are still looking for a central defender according to many German media sources. Given how poorly Compper has performed at times, it might prove to be a worthwhile investment giving Marco Kurz the option to pair Delpierre with another defender.

Hoffenheim have historically been a first half squad, so their small gains through the Hinrunde is certainly a concern. However, I believe that this team will find ways to close their defensive gaps and move up the table. They are not the only club in transition, as Wolfsburg in 15th have a new manage, who they grabbed from 14th placed Nüremburg. All it takes is one of them to really slip up and the club from Sinsheim will survive to fight another year.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

The following two tabs change content below.

Andrew Smith

Born in Indiana, Andrew is a 27-year-old Social Studies teacher who has traveled to Germany on multiple occasions. He enjoys learning more of the tactical side of the game and can be followed on Twitter at andsmith_46.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.