The DFB reinstated the Relegation/Promotion playoff for the 2008/2009 season, and since then it has been a toss-up whether the team finishing in 16th would go down and be replaced by 3rd place in the Bundlesliga 2, or stay in the top flight.
16th place finishers:
- 08/09: Relegated – Energie Cottbus 0-5 against 1. FC Nürnberg
- 09/10: Survived – 1. FC Nürnberg 3-0 against Augsburg
- 10/11: Survived – Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1 against VfL Bochum
- 11/12: Relegated – Hertha Berlin 3-4 against Fortuna Düsseldorf
- 12/13: Survived – TSG Hoffenheim 5-2 against 1. FC Kaiserslautern
Prior to Hoffenheim this season, the survivors have progressed in their next seasons: Nürnberg finished 6th in their next season on 47 points; Mönchengladbach finished 4th on 60 points, qualifying for the Champions League. The question is whether the club from Sinsheim can replicate the successes that Nürnberg and Borussia Mönchengladbach achieved the following season?
Looking back at the 2010/2011 Borussia Mönchengladbach squad, they were filled with young players who were breaking through, Keeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen was playing with the reserves for much of the season before moving up the main squad, getting 6 appearances, including both the playoff fixtures. Marco Reus was a 22-year-old who led the team with 10 goals that season. In defense, Norwegian Havard Nordtveit started 15 matches and has continued to grow in his role since for the club.
Another crucial factor to Mönchengladbach’s improvement was that 2011/2012 was manager’s Lucien Favre’s first full season. He came to the Foals on Valentine’s Day 2011, guiding the club to 20 points in their last 12 matches before sneaking past VfL Bochum in the playoff. The next season continued the club’s success. Their lowest position on the table was 8th, and that was after match day 1. Following their 4-1 victory over Wolfsburg in the 3rd match day, they were in first place. They would go on to lose 2 consecutive games just once that season and even reached the Semi-finals of the DFB Pokal.
This year’s Hoffenheim squad does have some similarities with the 2011/12 season’s Mönchengladbach club. While no keeper for the club made more than half of the teams matches, 20-year-old Koen Casteels made the most with 16, which included some fine saves toward the end of the season. 20-year-old defender Jannick Vestergaard has also gotten better this season, making 16 appearances and scored in the 2nd leg of the relegation playoffs, sealing the club’s return to the top flight.
Contributions by youngsters were made all over the pitch from various other players, such as Roberto Firmino, Takashi Usami, and Kevin Volland. All told there were 12 players who made 146 appearances for Hoffenheim this season who are under the age of 22, so clearly the youth movement is well under way.
Hoffenheim also will have a coach next season starting his first full season in charge. Markus Gisdol took over before match day 27, guiding the team to 11 points in their 7 league matches, then winning both relegation playoff matches. While this end of the season was his first time in the manager role, he adapted well. According to Whoscored.com, Hoffenheim played in 3 different formations under Gisdol, two of which were not used by the club prior to his arrival at the club. This variation shows that he is not tied to one formation and wants to find ways to use the talent at his disposal and put the best 11 on the field.
There are some similarities between this past season’s version of Hoffenheim and Borussia Mönchengladbach’s 2010-2011 season; however, if the club from Sinsheim want to achieve the same heights next as the Foals did in 2011/2012, they will need to solve some issues. Namely, the question of their go to striker, as Kevin Volland hit 6 goals while both Joselu and Sven Schipplock both tallied 5 for the club. The club went with formations using only one recognized striker in 29 of their 37 matches, so finding that one man up top to maintain possession and allow other to get involve will be imperative. On top of that they need to find a way of getting Eren Derdiyok going, as his first season with the club was nothing less than a disaster, as he started only 6 matches and scored once, following his move from Bayer Leverkusen. While Hoffenheim has its challenges, the club does have the financial resources and the talent to push on and challenge for the European positions.
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