Hoffenheim continue to rise, despite RB Leipzig ending their Bundesliga unbeaten run in late January.
1899 survived relegation by the skin of their teeth, after Nagelsmann swooped into rescue them from the dreaded drop. They won 7 of their last 14 games and finished one point above the relegation play-off place.
This sounds very similar to Leicester’s survival season, which was followed by their fairytale Premier League title winning campaign. Those memories are buried in the past at the King Power Stadium but Hoffenheim continue to perform and deliver promising performances to convince their critics.
They slipped up at the end of January with their first defeat of the season, which was inflicted by second-place RB Leipzig. It’s been a season of twists and turns in the Bundesliga this season, with the usual suspects struggling to make an impact in the higher standings in the table.
The decline of Bayer Leverkusen, FC Schalke, Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg has cleared the closet for other teams to run into and lock firmly shut. Hoffenheim, along with Eintracht Frankfurt, RB Leipzig, Hertha Berlin and FC Koln are all vying for a place in the Champions League.
Bayern Munich still remain dominant in the Bundesliga and currently top the table by four points. However, emerging teams are threatening the dominant forces in Germany and Hoffenheim are one of the teams attempting to knock them off their perch.
This is largely down to the youthful and tactical approach from manager Julian Nagelsmann. He was appointed manager in February 2016 and became the youngest manager in Bundesliga history.
He turned things around in the later stages of the season and is caused a stir in the first half of the current season. 1899 ended the first half of the Bundesliga season unbeaten and third place in the league table.
They’ve dropped to fifth but are still in contention for a place in the Champions League. Hoffenheim just need to record more wins and have drawn the more games than any team in the Bundesliga this season (10).
Who is Julian Nagelsmann?
He’s young, enthusiastic and a tactical genius, who has masterminded the resurrection of Hoffenheim last season and their relentless rise this term. Let’s just hope to pressure of being a modern day football manager, doesn’t gobble him up and drain the life out of such an energetic soul.
Nagelsmann was forced into coaching and management, following a premature end to his playing career. A persistent knee injury ended his playing career at under-19 level and he was unable to make an appearance for the B teams of both 1860 Munich and FC Augsburg.
He studied Sports Science and had spells as assistant manager with 1860 Munich and Hoffenheim’s under-17 squads. He gradually moved up through the ranks and was promoted from under-19 coach to senior team coach at Hoffenheim in October 2015.
The German was originally meant to begin his tenure at the beginning of the 2016/17 season. However, former coach Huub Stevens was forced to resign due to health issues, which brought forward the agreement and had him in the dugout by February 2016.
He was only 28-years-old when he became manager of Hoffenheim, which made him the youngster manager in Bundesliga history. He masterminded the plot for Hoffenheim’s magical comeback from certain relegation to Bundesliga outfits.
The 29-year-old has experimented with various formations and has applied countless intelligent tactics to prevent his opponents from breaking Hoffenheim’s resistance. This lasted for 17 matches until RB Leipzig signalled an end to their record by beating them in January.
Nagelsmann has been an influential figure in developing young players in the Hoffenheim academy. Nadiem Amiri, Jeremy Tolijan and Niklas Sule have all benefited from this and have played essential roles in their successful season.
He also showed great knowledge and strength in the transfer window when he was faced with the departure of key player Kevin Volland. The German international departed to Bayer Leverkusen in the summer and Nagelsmann replaced him with Sandro Wagner.
Wagner cost the club just £2.4 million when he switched from Bundesliga relegation strugglers Darmstadt. The 29-year-old scored 15 goals in 34 appearances for his former side last season and has replicated his goal scoring form at Hoffenheim. He’s featured 18 times in all competitions this season and has netted an impressive 11 goals.
It’s very refreshing to see a young and aspiring manager achieve greatness in football and it’ll be interesting to see how far Nagelsmann can go with Hoffenheim. He’s been compared with Jose Mourinho, who had a very brief playing career but still went onto win countless trophies during his managerial career.
The comparisons are merited but it’s very early to hail him as the next Jose Mourinho. He’s enjoying his time at Hoffenheim and continues to help grow and improve the club, who have only been in the Bundesliga for 9 years overall.
Investing in Youth and Shaping Hoffenheim’s Future
The youth development scheme in Germany has produced various talented players in recent years. Players such as Mats Hummels, Marco Reus, Mezut Ozil and Mario Gotze have all benefited from Germany’s plan to improve their coaching and facilities for young players.
This also resulted in a large amount of those players featuring in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph in Brazil. It’s important that this trend continues throughout German football and Hoffenheim are set to contribute to this immensely.
Nadiem Amiri, Jeremy Tolijan and Niklas Sule have all been given platforms to perform on from a young age at Hoffenheim. Nagelsmann also brought in promising star Kerem Demirbay in the summer and he’s enjoyed several impressive displays in the Bundesliga.
Hoffenheim will always be vulnerable to the threat of Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen, FC Schalke and Wolfsburg stealing their players. It occurs in the Premier League with Southampton selling their top players to Liverpool, Arsenal, Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur.
Unfortunately, regardless of the team’s league standing in the table, the reputable forces will always have the advantage. The important thing for Hoffenheim is that they have a contingency plan, a plan B.
Just like Southampton did when they were forced into selling their most precious talents. It requires intelligence, planning and analysis. Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Dejan Lovren, Luke Shaw and Calum Chambers all walked out of the exit door at St Marys’. As a result, Koeman signed Dusan Tadic, Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle, Toby Alderweireld and Ryan Bertrand to replace them.
It’s a very promising sign that Nagelsmann replaced Kevin Volland effectively with this season’s top goal scorer Steven Wagner. Unfortunately, he will have to replace top players once again in the summer due to the upcoming departures of Niklas Sule and Sebastian Rudy, who join Bayern Munich at the end of the season.
Is there a possible reshuffle in German dominance?
FC Schalke, Wolfsburg, Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Monchengladbach have all slumped down into the lower standings in the Bundesliga table. Some may say, it’s a one-off and they may be correct. Others may say it’s a revolution, which is set to erupt and cause many twists in the top flight of German football.
Bayern Munich are still set to be knocked off their perch and Borussia Dortmund are still in contention for a high finish in the table. However, the other teams who have been vying for the last two Champions League spots could be set to be replaced.
RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, Eintracht Frankfurt, Hertha Berlin and FC Koln have all emerged to produce one of the most exciting races for the top four in Bundesliga history. The Premier League endured a very peculiar season in its last campaign, in which Leicester City were crowned league champions.
This season has seen the return of the usual suspects with Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United all holding a place inside the top six. This could symbolise the current situation in the Bundesliga and next season could be a very different kettle of fish.
FC Schalke, Wolfsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen have such big fan bases and superior financial backing. Meaning they may be able to manufacture a return to the top places.
However, with good performances and finishes come more financial benefits, which these teams will be set to earn this season. Of course, RB Leipzig are excluded from this due to their Red Bull owners giving them such great financial backing.
Hoffenheim are producing extremely talented youngsters, who have a connection with their younger manager. The clubs transfer window marketing has also been very impressive, which means they should fare well when facing key departures.
It’ll be interesting to see if this season is just a flash in the pan or the beginning of a German football revolution. The new emerging top flight titans, going to war to win the top places in the Bundesliga from the former greats.