November 21, 2017

2017-18 Season Preview – Will Nagelsmannia continue for Hoffenheim?

Hoffenheim's 30 year old head coach, Julian Nagelsmann.

Basics

Name: Turn-und Sportgemeinschaft 1899 Hoffenheim e.V

Nicknames: Die Kraichgauer, TSG(regional), “Hoppenheim”(Social media)

Founded:  1st July, 1899

Club colors: Blue and White

Primary Rivals: SV Waldhof Manheim, VfB Stuttgart and SC Freiburg (local rivals)

Fan friendships: Probably not their cup of tea, let us know if you know anyone. (Hint: You won’t)

Wir-Sol Rhein-Neckar-Arena

Capacity: 31,150

Average 2016-17 attendance: 478,640 (28,155 per match – fifth lowest in the league)

Trophies

Not even the Sunday League

2016-17 Finishes

1.Bundesliga: 4th, with 62 points. (64 goals scored, 37 allowed, +27 GD)

DFB Pokal: 2nd round, (beaten by Köln 2:1 at extra time)

“60 second dossier”

Number of matches won by 2 or more goals: 10

Number of matches won by one goal: 7

Number of matches drawn: 14(!)

Number of matches lost by one goal: 5

Number of matches lost by 2 or more goals: 0(!)

2016-17 Top Scorers

Andrej Kramaric: 18(8)

Sandro Wagner: 12(4)

Adam Szalai: 8(1)

Pre-season record so far

Record: 3-0-2

Goals Scored: 12

Goals Conceded: 7

TSG Hoffenheim 4:2 Standard Liege

TSG Hoffenheim 2:3 Genoa

Derby 1:2 TSG Hoffenheim

TSG Hoffenheim 3:0 Bologna

TSG Hoffenheim 1:2 Bologna

View from a Fan

I’ve managed to connect with Dennis Askari, a resident of Mannheim. Dennis works as a football coach for the 9-year-olds and also works as a volunteer for his local football association. He studies Sport and Event-management in Mannheim. You can find him via Facebook here.

Who to look out for?

Kerem Demirbay. After an excellent season, he can show whether he is a consistent performer or just a one season wonder.

Fan favorite….

Our fan favorite is Oliver Baumann. Of course, he has to win our hearts in order to gain more respect and trust. Last season, it was Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle but this year, it would be our number goalkeeper to claim the spot. He is a hard worker and is very consistent. He is like Sebastian Rudy, very underrated in his respective position. Baumann ended our goalkeeper dilemma after Tim Wiese, Heurelho Gomes and Koen Casteels.

Advice you’d give your manager?

He is young. He should not overreact and has to stay calm in front of the media and public, especially when a wave of criticism comes. He has to continue trying something new and if he feels staying at Hoffenheim will stop his development as a coach then he should leave.

Opposition player you despise?

I don’t have much emotions for opposition players. Umm, maybe I hate everyone who scores against us.

Player that should be driven to another club…

Nah, we need all the players because we play in three different competitions this season. Steven Zuber is one who can just run, while all of his passes are incomplete and most of our good attacks come from right because Zuber has no potency. But he is young and can still develop as a proper fullback. So yeah, probably no one at the moment.

What will opposition fans underestimate?

Last year everyone underestimated our tactical setup. But this year, they won’t underestimate us anymore. Hoffenheim need to prove their teamwork and to show that they are not a hoax.

What will TSG fans overestimate?

Our ‘tradition’. Hoffenheim fans should accept the fact that we would play in a Sunday league without Hopp. We have a brilliant youth academy and great training programs. Everything in Hoffenheim is absolutely professional but this is not the Hoffenheim before Hopp. It is like SSV Markranstadt and RB Leipzig with the different being that the name has not been changed. As an objective spectator, I am a Hoffenheim fan but in my heart, it will always be Fortuna Koln. Hoffenheim is too professional to reach the same emotion as other teams. 

Tip you’d give to foreign fans visiting Wirsol Rhein Neckar Arena for first time?

Do not eat there! Near the stadium there is an awesome Italian restaurant called Pizza Pasta, not very innovative, I know. But you should at least have a try.

Your stand-out moment from last season?

There are many. Kerem Demirbay against Munich, the goal from Kramaric in the second game against Bayern and our first win against Bayern Munich. Also, Demirbay’s goal against Köln, a goal which guaranteed European competitions. Countless saves by Oliver Baumann. All the interviews with Nagelsmann from which I learned a lot.

Where will Hoffenheim finish next season?

I think we will end somewhere in the middle of the table. Schalke and Leverkusen will attack the higher places again and they will probably succeed in doing so too.

Aspiration:

European places! These lads won’t be settling for anything less than a place among the European elites. Dietmar Hopp has been plundering money, ever since he took over his boyhood village club. Sure, their rise to prominence in the Bundesliga has been nothing short of magnificent but Die Kraichgauer haven’t been to an European adventure since 2008-09, which was also their debut season in the Bundesliga.

Reality:

People have been underestimating Julian Nagelsmann’s troops for long enough. However, almost every club in the Bundesliga will now be wary of their credentials going into the new season. Therefore, it will definitely be a lot tougher for TSG this time around, especially with the burden of playing in three different competitions. Moreover, the team has lost two of its most significant players in Sebastian Rudy and Niklas Süle. Therefore, one shouldn’t expect a whole lot from Julian Nagelsmann this upcoming season.

The BOSS:

Julian Nagelsmann. Truth be told, there’s not a lot to talk about this magnificent 30-year-old genius, who first guided Hoffenheim to safety back in 2015-16 season and then followed it up with a Champions League playoff finish last season. He is the highest rated German coach at the moment. His appointment to Hoffenheim, catapulted, in what was a revolutionary time in German football.

Unless you’ve already read Archie Rhind-Tutt’s excellent piece about the growing legacy of young coaches in Germany, let me revise that a total of six out of 18 managers in the Bundesliga are still in their thirties. And Julian Nagelsmann serves as the epitome of this coaching revolution transpiring the Bundesliga. Former Bayern Munich technical director Michael Reschke has also named Julian Nagelsmann alongside two former Dortmund bosses, in Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel as ‘door openers’ for young coaches in Germany. (Source: Archie’s article)

Plus, who else uses real-time video in practices?

Philosophy:

Tactics are the most important part in Julian Nagelsmann’s footballing vision. Nagelsmann himself is an astute tactician, who has a broader knowledge about the use of footballing data and social competence as well as glorified transitional play.

Nagelsmann’s usual formation consists of three different aspects.

  1. The central defenders + the holding midfielder
  2. The Wingbacks
  3. The attacking players

In a 5-1-2-2 formation, there will usually be three central defenders. Benjamin Hübner, Kevin Vogt and probably, Havard Nordtveit or Ermin Bicakcic. Vogt is particularly important in their buildup game. The ex-Köln midfielder was turned into a center back by Julian Nagelsmann last season. Vogt serves as the catalyst of TSG’s buildup game, who is allowed to go forward and link up with the corresponding number six. His ball playing abilities lend him an extra advantage over his teammates in the backline.

The central defender moving forward creates a hole in the backline, and that’s when the defensive pendulum comes into play. The wingbacks, shift inside, thus forming a four-man structure at the back. The same can be said for the wingbacks as well, in which case the right or the left sided center back moves wide to fill out the hole.

Nageslmann uses a very fluidic and hard pressing scheme with more emphasis on ball retention. Unlike any normal counter attacking side, Nagelsmann’s TSG likes to keep hold of the ball for long, after winning possession. They do so by moving the ball from the middle, with Sebastian Rudy, as mentioned before, acting as the catalyst for offensive transition. Dribbling is one important part of their tactical scheme. Midfielder Kerem Demirbay or Nadiem Amiri have the license to drift through the wider areas, while Demirbay is also an adept dribbler, who can collect the ball from midfield then make a driving run into space with pace. Hence, they’ve loaned Serge Gnabry from FC Bayern, who not only has the sheer natural pace but is also an able dribbler of the ball. He can make things happen in the final third.

With a solid back six and a creative front four, Julian Nagelsmann has successfully managed to build the core of this team, and it looks likely to stay this way for long.

Plan B:

In the defeat against Liverpool, the lack of a composed midfielder cost TSG two valuable away goals. The home side was failing to progress through the middle nor did they manage to have a well-constructed defensive setup, especially in possession phases. Kevin Vogt had to go forward more often than he usually does, which ultimately suited Jürgen Klopp’s men, as it meant that Hoffenheim were losing their defensive stance time and again, effectively making it easier for the likes of Sadio Mane and Mohamed Salah to have a go at two remaining center backs in Benjamin Hübner and Ermin Bicakcic. The latter, in particular, struggled to contain the pacy Mane.

Therefore, it’s needless to say that Die Kraichgauer do need to rope in a composed central midfielder, who can realistically replace Sebastian Rudy and no, it’s not Sebastian Rode we are talking about. Furthermore, Nagelsmann also need to focus on their mistakes against Liverpool properly, and thus, try to re-address them.

A realistic yet quite unrealistic plan B would be to have faith in two fraudulent defenders in Ermin Bicakcic and Havard Nordtveit, whilst having Vogt play in the holding role.

Transfer Market:

In a pragmatic way, it hasn’t necessarily been a good transfer market for Hoffenheim. The club has lost two of its most influential players, one for a free transfer. However, they did rope in a few experienced Bundesliga players as well as signing couple of highly talented youngsters.

Havard Nordtveit arrives at the club, having failed to thrive in the Premier League in his terribly terrible stint for West Ham United. That being said, we shouldn’t forget the influence the Norwegian had in his days with Borussia Monchengladbach. Oh! Pardon me if I said he’s a fraudulent defender anywhere in my article, how cruel of me!

Nico Schulz is another exciting player, who failed to make a significant impact for the Foals. Nico’s versatility in the left flank would be useful for coach Julian Nagelsmann, especially when youngster Jeremy Toljan is constantly linked with a move elsewhere.

Justin Hoogma, Serge Gnabry and Florian Grillitsch are all talented youngsters in their respective position. Even though Grillitsch has lost his shine in recent months, he will remain a handy option for Nagelsmann. Hoogma is another exciting defender coming in from Eredivisie while Serge Gnabry will undoubtedly be Hoffenheim’s offensive cardinal.

Net Expenditures: €14.70m

  • Havard Nordtveit (West Ham United – €8m)
  • Nico Schulz (Borussia M’gladbach – €3m)
  • Justin Hoogma (Heracles Almelo – €2.7m)
  • Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich – Loan fee. €1m)
  • Florian Grillitsch (Werder Bremen – Free transfer)
  • Robert Zulj (Greuther Fürth – Free transfer)

Net Earnings: €24.90m

  • Niklas Süle (FC Bayern – €20m)
  • Marco Terrazzino (SC Freiburg – €2.50m)
  • Fabian Schar (Deportivo La Coruna – €2m)
  • Antonio Colak (FC Ingolstadt – Loan fee. €300 Th.)
  • Baris Atik (1. FC K’lautern – Loan fee. €50 Th.)
  • Nicolai Rapp (Erzgebirge Aue – €50 Th.)
  • Sebastian Rudy (FC Bayern – Free transfer)
  • Pirmin Schwegler (Hannover 96 – Free transfer)
  • Danilo Soares (VfL Bochum – Free transfer)

Weaknesses:

I’d like to point out TSG’s weaknesses first, just because it’s more important for their season to clear out their mistakes. In fact, getting rid of one problem could actually turn out to be a strength for Julian Nagelsmann’s side. So, what do these vicious creatures lack in their overall squad ethic?

As I stretched before, Hoffenheim pretty much lack someone who could facilitate the midfield. The catalyst, who can not only distribute passes to either end of the field, but offer a substantial defensive credibility for his backline. Sebastian Rudy was just the kind of player. If you are still not convinced of Rudy’s qualities, I strongly suggest you to read my colleague, Abel Meszaros’s sensational piece about the current Bayern Munich midfielder here.  Rudy’s absence is sure to haunt Hoffe this season, and sooner rather than later, they need to find someone who is capable of replacing the 27-year-old.

Aside from Sebastian Rudy, it’s worth mentioning that key defender Niklas Süle has also left the Rhein-Neckar Arena this summer. However, Hoffenheim’s work in the transfer market, in order to replace the two departing player, have been rather clement. Havard Nordtveit, initially coming in as a Rudy/Süle replacement, is rather doubted on whether or not he can perform at his peak. In fact, he was absolutely poor after coming on against Liverpool in the second half and ended up scoring an own goal, albeit an unfortunate one. But then again, all own goals are pretty unfortunate. Jeremy Toljan is also heavily rumored to be leaving the club, with TSG already securing the services of Gladbach defender Nico Schulz. Coach Julian Nagelsmann definitely needs to address these holes left by his departing men pretty quickly in order to find a greater rhythm in their overall performance.

Strengths:

Tactical astuteness will by far be Hoffenheim’s greatest asset this upcoming season. They are undoubtedly one of the most tactically flexible team in the league. Julian Nagelsmann, himself, is known for his ability to turn anyone into a decent Bundesliga player, and quite frankly, that is the only hope the fans have, following the arrival of some fairly average players.

Hoffenheim have perfect balance in their team and that’s reflected on their performances. A solid defense and a creative offensive force to drill through opposition, guided by someone, who has some serious knowledge about the game of football, is just what you need to forge a successful team and Hoffenheim have that in abundance, it’s all about transforming that eminence into the field of play. 

Crucial Stretch in Schedule:

Julian Nagelsmann will be severely tested early on in the season. After hosting Werder Bremen on the opening day, TSG will have to travel to Anfield to face Liverpool FC in their second leg of UCL qualification playoffs. They’ll return to Germany before the matchday 2, where they will visit Leverkusen followed by a home encounter against the mighty Bayern Munich. And it’s not the end of story just yet, sturdy Hertha will also visit the Rhein-Neckar Arena in matchday 4, followed by games against Mainz and Schalke. So, it’s definitely going to be rough for the 30-year-old coach, who seeks a bright start to his third season at Hoffenheim.

Final Prediction:

Bundesliga: 6th

DFB Pokal: Round of 16

UEFA Champions League: Out in UCL Qualifiers (They have already lost 2:1 to Liverpool in the first leg at home, so things are looking bleak)

The following two tabs change content below.
Bundesliga connoisseur and writer at Bundesliga Fanatic. Also a Bundesliga correspondent for The4thOfficial. In love with the Bundesliga since birth. Big fan of TwentyOnePilots and basically every other teen stuff(Star Wars not included). Still waiting for my man Milos Raonic to win a Grand Slam. Come to my house and we will watch Netflix and eat Nutella. lol just kidding. Follow me on Twitter @CoverShadow09

1 Comment

Leave a Reply