Winter break: 1899 Hoffenheim

9th place

Grade: C+

Looking at Hoffenheim now, it’s hard to remember that when they joined the Bundesliga, they were roundly criticized as a “money-bags” team with no tradition that merely was buying their way to success. And that was largely true, but since then Hoffenheim has been mainly investing in youth schemes, and actually selling players at a profit. There remain some decent players, but nobody that really jumps out and says “I’m a budding superstar!”

This is a somewhat schizoid squad, as sometimes you feel they’ll just phone in the rest of the season, and other times they look pretty good.

Veteran GK Tom Starke anchors a fairly decent defense. Oddly enough, nobody has really stood out at the back, so clearly a team effort has led to the results rather than individual effort. Andreas Beck is the best known, having played 9 times for Germany, but his form has been pretty weak. Fabian Johnson is one of two Americans on the squad, and he perhaps has been the best performer, which isn’t saying much. Disappointments include Dutch leftback Edson Braafheid, and neither Marvin Compper nor Issac Vorsah have been overly impressive.

The midfield is basically nobodies, but central mid Sebastian Rudy (21) has been playing fairly well and his stock has been rising. Brazilian Roberto Firmino and Bosnian Sejad Salihovic have been decent, and importantly have 9 goals. American Danny Williams has also not embarrassed himself. Overall, the midfield has held things together fairly well.

It’s in attack that Hoffenheim has suffered. Central striker Vedad Ibisevic has shown signs of recovery of his pre-injury form, but remains brittle. 5 goals in only 9 matches. Ryan Babbel‘s attempt to resuscitate his career has only been partially successful. Chinedu Obasi was listed as one of those high-priced players that Hoffenheim’s money bought, but he certainly isn’t living up to his reputation. The rest you’ve never even heard of.

With this weak attack, coach Holger Stanislawski will have to continue to rely on a tight defense. At times Hoffenheim has looked disinterested, so if the trend continues, they could find themselves in trouble, although not likely this season.

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