Saurabh Ananth makes his third appearance on the Fanatic, this time around the Hoffenheim blogger writes about his favorite’s team upcoming season.
There was an collective sigh of relief at the Rhein-Neckar Arena as the final whistle went on the final day of last season. Relief that the behind the scenes bust ups and the boring football was finally over. Relief that Ralf Rangnick’s reign officially ended after the departure of his former assistant Marco Pezzaouli. That quickly turned into excitement as fans were expecting the arrival of ex-St Pauli boss, Holger Stanislawski. Stanislawski and Andre Trulsen were both taken aback by the warm welcome they received in Sinsheim. Fans were eager for the St Pauli duo to get to work to transform Hoffenheim.
The ambition of the club has been to play in Europe, but now with the Fair Play rules coming into play in the coming seasons, Dietmar Hopp has been pushing for the club to function on it’s own. As a result, the appointment of Stanislawski was seen by many as a smart move. As a manager who has succeeded under a strict budget and one with a good attacking philosophy it was an ideal hiring.
People were a little worried about the state of the team early on with Vedad Ibisevic claiming he wanted a move to England, Sejad Salihovic saying this would be his last season and Juventus trailing captain Andreas Beck. There was also the problem in midfield where the team really missed the presence of Luiz Gustavo after he left for Bayern in the winter. Fortunately, under new management the three most important Hoffenheim players in the team have stayed. And sporting director Ernst Tanner has managed to play the market very well.
Now, with a very small budget to work with, Hoffenheim have made a few good signings. The team’s three major signings of the summer have solidified Hoffenheim’s policy on bringing through younger players. Fabian Johnson (23) from Wolfsburg, Sven Schipplock (22) from Stuttgart and just a week ago, Knowledge Musona (21) from South African team Kaizer Chiefs were brought in over the course of the summer.
The team’s preseason was very low key as Stanislawski focused on the squad’s movement and positioning in attack. On various occasions Stanislawski even showed his unhappiness about the flow of the offense despite raking in 10-15 goals. It’s something that was received well by the fans as that “not good enough” attitude was sorely missed last season.
Schipplock and Johnson played the entire preseason and were not expected to compete for a starting spot but both players put in great performances during the summer. Fabian Johnson even pushed Andreas Beck all the way for that starting right back spot. Instead on the first game of the season Johnson was played up front, starting from the left wing and moving around in midfield, his tenacity made all the difference. The move showed Stanislawski’s tactical prowess, as the presence of a defensive player on the left wing would ensure that he would track back and defend higher up the pitch. Meanwhile, Andreas Beck’s defensive quality allowed Ryan Babel to attack further up the pitch.
With the three competitive matches that have been played this season it’s clear that the team will be just fine. Under Stanislawski the attacking tactics have been completely overhauled. With an attack that is completely interchangeable with wingers being able to play as strikers and strikers being able to play as wingers, the team is able to rotate and is able to make marking man marking a serious issue for other teams. It was something that was effective against Hannover and even though the team lost, it took an array of last ditch tackles from the Hannover defence to stop Hoffenheim from scoring.
The most recent addition to the team was Knowledge Musona who was signed after a successful trial period and he’s been known for his speed and finishing ability. Veteran goal scorer Ibisevic has been unavailable due to injury, joining Gylfi Sigurdsson, Andreas Ibertsberger, Boris Vukcevic and Tobias Weis on the sidelines. Unfortunately, just before he was set to make his debut against Dortmund last weekend, Musona himself was injured.
It raises concerns about the depth within the team as even last season the squad was stretched thin in the midfield last season as well, and now Hoffenheim have started its season without an out and out striker.
Still, Hoffenheim have every reason to be optimistic. With a brand new manager whose exciting and ambitious tactics could captivate the league. Hoffenheim have been notorious for starting great and falling off in the second half of the season but this season they could push for Europe once the big names are fit.
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