2014 Bundesliga Team Preview: Hoffenheim Must Correct Their Defensive Issues

By Douglas Smith
2014 Bundesliga Preview Hoffenheim
Getty Images

The team from Sinsheim was surging after the change in calendar year, but one thing Hoffenheim never cleared up was their porous defense. Hoffenheim allowed 70 goals and finished in ninth place in the Bundesliga table. They have not made splash signings during the transfer window but hope to correct their defensive woes. Hoffenheim have a great attack, so cleaning up the defense could result in a European tournament berth.

2013-14 Recap

Hoffenheim finished 11-11-12 with 44 points. This included getting points from 12 of 14 matches from February through April. They finished with the third-most goals in the Bundesliga. Those tuning into a Hoffenheim match last year were almost assured of seeing goals as over four goals per game were scored. They did struggle on the road winning only four matches. They were only able to secure points in both matchups with a team that finished above them one time after a February draw with Borussia Mönchengladbach. However, the ninth-place finish was seven spots better than the previous season.

Defense

Oliver Baumann joined Hoffenheim in May after coming up through the youth academy with Freiburg. He had been the first-choice keeper with Freiburg since the last match of the 2009-10 season. Despite signing a new contract last September, Baumann made the move to Hoffenheim where he is all but guaranteed to take over as the top choice.

Fabian Johnson moved on from Hoffenheim, but a switch was needed for manager Markus Gisdol. Ermin Bicakcic moved over from relegated side Braunschweig, and Kim Jin-Su transferred in from the Japanese league. Captain Andreas Beck will start on the outside. Beck has made 183 appearances for Hoffenheim. Youngster Jeremy Toljan could be the other outside back when the season kicks off, and newcomer Pirmin Schwegler will be asked to support the back line as well.

Midfield

The midfield will see a lot of rotation this year. Schwegler should get the bulk of minutes as the central defensive player while club legend Sejad Salihovic sits in a playmaker role. The slender Sebastian Rudy will play in a shuttle role around the two which frees him up to create more offensively.

In many ways Rudy is the key to Hoffenheim’s success. Rudy had 87 tackles in 27 Bundesliga games last year, so don’t expect him to abandon defense. He also had six assists last season. However, he had several lapses on defense that cost his team a goal and has shown a lack of focus when defending set pieces. He has the talent but will need to bring up his mental game to help Hoffenheim challenge for a top-six spot.

Attack

There is plenty of firepower on the Hoffenheim squad. Roberto Firmino decided to extend his stay with the club much to the delight of fans. The 22-year-old attacking player registered 16 goals and 11 assists last year. He will work with Kevin Volland to try to replicate the prolific offense from last season. Volland is a good distributor of the ball, and his strength allows him to draw fouls in dangerous areas.

New transfer Ádám Szalai comes over after a subpar year with Schalke. He will try to regain his Mainz form in the attack-minded Hoffenheim system. Szalai could be a part of a prolific attack that breaks their scoring record from 2013-14.

Prediction

This team will score goals, so all the pressure is on the defense. They are outside contenders for one of the last Europa League qualifying spots in the Bundesliga. Gisdol seems to have a better grasp of his players and a clear message. They will improve the number in the win column and be in top-six contention to the very end.

2014-15 Record: 13-11-10, 50 points, Seventh Place

Douglas Smith is a soccer writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @DFresh39, “Like” him on Facebook, or add him to your network on Google.

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