The Bundesliga has long prided itself on not selling out to large corporations, foreign or domestic. All around Germany, passionate fans turn out in the tens of thousands to cheer for teams they indirectly control as club members. Inevitably (perhaps unfortunately) corporatism is starting to put chinks in the armor of tradition. Red Bull Leipzig, Volkswagen FC (Wolfsburg), and Leverkusen (Bayer is literally in the name) have all shown in recent years that outside money can buy Bundesliga success.
With the amount of shit fans are giving RB Leipzig, it’s almost surprising that people so quickly forget why Hoffenheim are in the Bundesliga. Why the hell, does a village with 3000 people have a Bundesliga team!? Oh yeah because they’re pretty much a division of SAP AG. When founder Dietmar Hopp started backing the club in 2000 they were in the fifth division a la Leipzig. Then miraculously in 8 years they’re a Bundesliga team that’s qualified to the Europa League. For Christ’s sake, their first professional season was one year before they were promoted to the Bundesliga! So how many points can SAP buy this season?
How did they do last season?
Hopp definitely didn’t bang for the buck last season as Hoffenheim finished a single point above the relegation zone. The village team really felt the departures of Anthony Modeste and Roberto Firmino to Koln and Liverpool respectively. Despite an improved defensive record, they really struggled for goals.
Strategy and Tactics
The traditional understanding of football says there are two phases: attack and defense. Or in Hoffenheim’s case, there’s half attack and no defense. Seriously there is no defense, there hasn’t been a defense for a while, and it doesn’t look like there will be a defense next year either. Seriously, this is a team that has consistently been in the bottom five in goals allowed even in years where they were consistently mid table. It’s just that in their good seasons, they’ve been able to outscore opponents no matter the score. but after losing Firmino last summer and Volland this summer that no longer appears to be the case. Oh make no mistake Julian Nagelsman will still pour numbers forward and be questionable defensively. He literally only has 2 fullbacks on the roster right now. 2.5 if you count Sebastian Rudy. And to fix all of these, he made one purchase in defense....one! Hubner was solid at Ingolstadt but this is a team that at the very least could have used a defensive midfielder and a fullback as well. Expect this team to be slightly more organized in the back but as always to pour suicidal numbers forward. Exciting team for neutrals to watch...
SAP their own fans may have hearts in mouth though.
Andrej Kramaric-Striker from Leicester City for €10.0 million
Lukas Rupp-Midfielder from Stuttgart for €5.0 million
Sandro Wagner-Striker from Darmstadt for €2.8 million
Kerem Demirbay-Attacking Midfielder from Hamburg for €1.7 million
Kevin Vogt-Midfielder from Koln for €1.5 million
Benjamin Hubner-Central Defender from Ingolstadt for €800,000
Adam Szalai-Striker from Hannover after loan deal
Kevin Volland-Forward to Bayer Leverkusen for €20.0 million
Janik Haberer-Attacking Midfielder to Freiburg for €2.0 million
Tobias Strobl-Defensive Midfielder to Borussia Monchengladbach on a free transfer
Jens Grahl-Goalkeeper to Stuttgart on a free transfer
It’s a real shame that a goalie as good as Baumann plays behind a defense as bad as Hoffenheim’s. With the limited improvements the club made to a dismal back line last year Baumann will need to be as spectacular as ever if not better to reduce their hideous goals against statistics.
In case you haven’t realized already, Hoffenheim is ALL about scoring goals. Sandro Wagner scores goals. No one is going to mistake him for a complete striker like Aubameyang or Lewandowski, but he does his job. You could say he’s a poor man’s Huntelaar. Wagner will be counted on to replace leading scorer Volland’s production. Don’t be surprised if he nets nearly 20 times in the Bundesliga this year.
One of the biggest reasons Die Kraichgauer struggled last year was because of the lack of creativity in midfield. Firmino’s departure was devastating. Nagelsmann will hope Demirbay can continue his impressive displays with Fortuna Dusseldorf of the 2. Bundesliga in the top flight. Demirbay is a technical attacking midfielder who at his best can score and create chances. They’ll need those gifts to show to justify throwing everyone forward.
The losses of Kevin Volland and Tobias Strobl are really going to hurt them. Volland was their leading scorer who was able to create and convert chances out of nothing at times. They don’t have anyone on their roster nearly as talented. Strobl shielded a backline that will need as much help as possible. Even so, the club made shrewd signings with Volland’s transfer fee. I think they’ll be firmly mid table and finish 9th this year. Wagner will finish the chances that sheer numbers and Hoffenheim’s midfielders will create. Nagelmann also has the tactical acumen to play a more accommodating style and game plan for each individual opponent. With bounce back years from returning players, solid contributions from sound buys, and a young student of the game managing the team, Hoffenheim should make a good return on SAP’s investment this year.