After 16 games played, TSG 1899 Hoffenheim remains the only unbeaten team in Bundesliga. Apart from having the youngest coach ever in the German top flight, what is so special about the side from Southern Germany?
First to mention, there’s a squad full of interesting player types and enough personnel for different tactical set-ups as well as for position-related changes. Probably thanks to the good periodization regime, no big injury problems have appeared so far. Nagelsmann and his men can solely focus on training at their idyllic complex in the village of Zuzenhausen.
In Oliver Baumann, Hoffenheim has a goalkeeper, who is capable in build-up and also anticipates situations well – essential for an ambitious side. In front of him, there are several solid defenders available that can be effectively used in clearly defined roles. Add to that the fact that Benjamin Hübner has made a few steps forward, especially improved in handling the ball. But without a doubt, Niklas Süle, who will join Bayern Munich in summer, is the most talented amongst the defenders. Although he generally can play good laser passes (fast ground passes) from the back and is also capable of dribbling into space, his decision-making still needs to improve. He generally knows very well when to leave the back-line and shows good abilities when defending proactively, but tends to get carried away sometimes.
As for the wing-backs, the likes of Jeremy Toljan and Pavel Kaderabek can be fielded on both sides. Both are dynamic players, who don’t just hug the touchline, but can also be very good in combinations and offer a certain degree of diagonality. The same is true for the rather dribbling-focused Steven Zuber and above all for summer signing Lukas Rupp. Rupp is a versatile, clever and pressing-resistant technician, who especially fits busy midfield roles very well, just like Nadiem Amiri who focuses more on advanced zones and even a bit more on spacious situations like somewhat of a “running no. 10”.
In contrast, Sebastian Rudy and Eugen Polanski offer more sense for strategy and often play as pivots. Polanski fits the role of an anchor better, whilst Rudy floats around a bit more. Sometimes Rudy can even resemble Luka Modric, so there is little risk for Bayern adding him to their squad as a free agent at the end of the season.
Kerem Demirbay is another interesting midfielder and has been the shooting star so far this season. Already at a less than average Düsseldorf side in second Bundesliga, he showed his promising abilities and his potential that shines brighter than ever now. He embodies more of a playmaking midfielder and possesses great dribbling abilities. Apart from that, Hoffenheim started building their squad for next season with the signing of Austrian international Florian Grillitsch from Werder Bremen – another pressing resistant and provoking dribbler, who could potentially fit in deeper roles, but has to improve his timing when and how he drops back.
Upfront, first of all, Sandro Wagner needs to be mentioned. The Bundesliga veteran is a “mentality player”, as Niko Kovac called him, who’s physically strong and doesn’t fit the profile of striker needed in a possession-based team on first sight. Compared to that, Andrej Kramaric and Mark Uth are two rather dynamic players, who can combine well with the former often being the focal point of Hoffenheim’s attacks. Eduardo Vargas and Adam Szalai also bring exceptional qualities, yet are usually not part of the starting XI or even the squad at all.