Looking Ahead – Bundesliga Season Preview 2014-15
In the first installment of the Bundesliga Preview 2014/15 we analysed the chances of six clubs from Germany’s top tier. Now, we preview the prospects of six other clubs.
Germany is a model for all other European super powers. After Spain, they are now dominating World football both at club and country level. Sayan Chakraborty looks at the clubs which churn out footballers like anything. Bundesliga preview, part two with Goalden Times.
Mirko Slomka, the 46 year old German is held in high regards in his homeland. Last season, Slomka took charge at a time when the HSV’s record of being the only club to play in every season of Bundesliga, one they have held for 63 years, was in severe jeopardy. They qualified for the relegation playoff places where they beat Greuther Fürth over two legs to preserve their Bundesliga status. In his first full season in charge, Slomka would hope for a much better performance from the ’Sleeping Giants’ of German football. Slomka, Hannover’s longest serving coach, took charge of them in similar circumstances to those of HSV and guided them to their most successful era with two successive Europa League finishes before taking charge of HSV. The passionate HSV supporters would expect no less from him. Slomka and his Sporting Director Oliver Kreuzer acted quickly in the transfer market by selling a host of fringe players along with talented playmaker Hakan Çalhanoğlu. They made permanent the loan deals of former German U21 international striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga from Hertha BSC and Johan Djouru from Arsenal. Tough tackling Swiss midfielder Valon Behrami arrived from Napoli. HSV have also managed to sign exciting winger Nicolai Müller signed from Mainz. They still have the talent and guile of Dutch playmaker Rafael Van Der Vaart, who probably has the last chance to sign before he sinks into oblivion. Once among elites, this season may well be fight for survival for Hamburger SV once again.
Key Player : Pierre-Michel Lasogga (Germany)
Pierre-Michel Lasogga was the club’s sole bright light in an otherwise forgettable season. Signed on loan from Hertha BSC, The 6’ 3” striker scored 13 goals in just 20 apps for HSV. And after signing permanently, Lasogga told local paper Hamburger Abendblatt “I want to play my part in building something here at HSV. This club does not belong where it was last season.” The same sentiments were echoed by thousands of HSV fans. A proper target-man, Lasogga is strong aerially and also a good finisher in the box. Lasogga is the sort player who can deliver consistently if remains fit. His form will be most crucial for HSV’s hopes of survival.
Some eyebrows were raised when the Hannover hierarchy appointed the relatively unknown and inexperienced Tayfun Korkut as the head coach in December after sacking fan favourite Mirko Slomka. A former Turkish international, Korkut, despite the fact that this is his first job at senior level, proved his ability during the second half of the season. Korkut, 40, now considered to be one of the up and coming coaches, has an impressive CV of coaching the youth teams in Spain, Turkey and Germany before taking over the mantle at Hannover. Last season was a season of turmoil for the Lower-Saxony side, who failed to reach the heights of back to back Europa League finishes and were much closer to danger than their final position suggests. This season, there is a lot of change in Hannover’s playing squad, with long serving American defender Steven Cherundolo retired and talismatic striker Mame Biram Diouf departed for Stoke City. Another striker Latvian Artjoms Rudņevs also moved back to his parent club HSV. Experienced players like Szabolcs Huszti, Didier Ya Konan and Sébastien Pocognoli have all left this summer. Korkut, having a tough job to build a fresh squad recruited Turkish international Ceyhun Gülselam from Galatasaray, Lithunian captain Marius Stankevičius from Gaziantepspor, Joselu from 1899 Hoffenheim and Japan playmaker Hiroshi Kiyotake from FC Nuremburg. With a new squad and an inexperienced manager, in all probability Hannover would struggle this season and might finish in the lower half of the table.
Key Player : Hiroshi Kiyotake (Japan)
Hiroshi Kiyotake, 24, was often linked to English Premier League Clubs in recent past. So when Hannover signed him from newly relegated Nuremberg on a 4 year contract it was considered to be a major coup. Kiyotake was one of the standout performers in the 2012/13 season and although he had an indifferent 2013/14, he would hope for a better showing after Hannover handed him a fresh start. Known for his assists, passing, vision and holding the ball, the Japanese playmaker needs to return to his best form if Hannover expects to have a good 2014-15 campaign.
Markus Gisdol’s Hoffenheim were one of the success stories of last season with their exciting attacking brand of football. Only Dortmund and Bayern Munich have scored more goals in Germany’s top division than Hoffenheim. But they also conceded the most goals apart from the bottom 3 in the table. Another product of Germany’s grass-root revolution, Gisdol played football for semi professional teams before becoming a youth coach and later an assistant under Ralf Rangnick at Schalke. Gisdol was in charge of Hoffenheim’s reserves when the Hoffenheim management relieved Marco Kurz from his duties and appointed him as head coach. After saving Hoffenheim from possible relegation, Gisdol has never looked back. And although a lot of clubs are trying to prize away their possession Roberto Firmino, Gisdol is confident that they can keep him at the club. Players like Joselu, Edson Braafheid, Fabian Johnson were sold and in came highly rated German goalkeeper Oliver Baumann from Freiburg, Swiss midfielder Pirmin Schwegler from Frankfurt and Hungarian striker Ádám Szalai from Schalke. If Gisdol can keep up the good work from last season and improve his leaky defence, there is no reason why Hoffenheim can’t qualify for Europa League places if not more. The primary concern for the club would be their inexperienced back line. Other than skipper Andreas Beck and Jaanik Vestergaard, the rest of the defence is pretty new. It will be a challenge for Gisdol and Beck to organize a young defense against some strong attacking teams across the league.
Key Player : Roberto Firmino (Brazil)
The standout performer from last season, Brazilian Firmino scored 16 goals and also provided 12 assists for his teammates. Such was the quality of his performance last season that the 22 year olds’ omission from Brazil’s World Cup squad was considered a shock. The Brazilian’s Samba skills dazzled the Bundesliga last season. His trickery, deft touch and eye for pass made him a fans favorite at the Rhein-Necker Arena. One of the hottest properties of European football right now, Hoffenheim needs to keep hold of its prized asset to take a shot at the Europa league places.
Peter Stöger, the 48 year old former Austria international took charge of Köln after marshalling FK Austria Wien as champions in his homeland Austria in 2013. He took little time to settle in German football. Köln for the fifth time since the turn of the millennium, book their place in the Bundesliga with the second youngest squad in 2. Bundesliga. Stöger, somewhat pragmatic in his approach, made Köln very hard to beat with a stoic defense and would hope to do the same in German footballs top flight. Stöger retained the core of the side that won promotion last year and brought in some new faces like highly rated German striker Simon Zoller from Kaiserslautern, Japan striker Yuya Osako from 1860 Munich, German U21 international midfielder Kevin Vogt from Augsburg and Chelsea defender Tomáš Kalas on loan. Stöger has reiterated the claim of staying in the division and a season of consolidation in their first season in Bundesliga and Köln supporters will also be hoping the same from a club which has always flattered to deceive in recent times.
Key Player : Daniel Halfar (Germany)
Daniel Halfer, 26, is considered to be a proven 2.Bundesliga player having played with relative success for clubs like Kaiserslautern, Arminia Bielefeld, 1860 Munich and now FC Köln. A constant assuring presence in Köln’s midfield, Halfer appeared in all but one of Köln’s 2.Bundesliga promotion winning campaign and contributed 2 goals and 7 assists.The importance of Halfer to the team has been acknowledged by his head coach Peter Stöger who had said, “When Daniel’s fit, he’s one of our vital creative players. If he’s in halfway decent form, I’d see him in the team. He’s actually pretty indispensable.” With success in Germany’s 2nd tier under his belt, Halfer would now be determined to do well in the countries elite division.
Bayer Leverkusen have appointed 47 year old German Roger Schmidt as their new head coach from 2014 onwards in a 2 year deal. Last season Bayer started the season well under Sami Hyypiä but after a string of poor results midway through the campaign Bayer sacked him and with improved performances under interim manager Sascha Lewandowski, Bayer once again qualified for UEFA Champions league. Schmidt has prior German managerial experience, most notably with SC Paderborn 07 in 2. Bundesliga. But his greatest success has come with Red Bull Salzburg in Austria. Schmidt led the club to second place in the Austrian Bundesliga in 2013 before taking the league title last season. A firm believer of attacking football Schmidt’s team had surprised the football fraternity last season when they defeated European heavyweight AFC Ajax 6-1 over two legs in the last 32 of the Europa League in a fantastic display of attacking football. Schmidt working in tandem with Sporting Director Rudi Voller has been able to bring in some high quality players this summer like Josip Drmić, last seasons 3rd highest goal scorer in Bundesliga from newly relegated Nuremburg, Croatian wonderkid Tin Jedvaj on a 2 year loan deal from AS Roma, highly rated Turkish midfielder Hakan Çalhanoğlu from HSV and exceptionally talented but injury prone Greek international defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos on loan from Schalke. As usual there are some high profile departures as well, with last season’s key players Emre Can and Sidney Sam have moved to Liverpool and Schalke respectively. But with the talent Schmidt has at his disposal – the likes of Stefan Kießling, Sven Bender and Heung-Min Son – anything less than an UEFA Champions league qualification would be perceived as a failure by Leverkusen supporters.
Key Player : Stefan Kießling (Germany)
Stefan Kießling, 30, may have fallen out of favor with German National team coach Joachim Löw in recent times, but, having scored over 100 goals for the club in Bundesliga, he has already achieved legendary status at the North Rhine-Westphalia club. Failure of Kiesling in big matches has hurt Leverkusen in the past and the striker would be desperate to shrug off this criticism of him this time. .Although this season Leverkusen have an array of attacking options to choose from, Kießling remains as important as ever for Leverkusen. Exceptionally good in the air and a lethal finisher, Kießling has to be at his predatory best for Leverkusen if they hope to have a strong campaign this term.
Mainz finished in the Europa League spot last season under Thomas Tuchel, widely regarded as one of the brightest coaches in Germany. So when Tuchel left the club this summer Mainz quite surprisingly appointed Danish side FC Nordsjælland’s coach Kasper Hjulmand. Apparently, Christian Heidel, Mainz’s sporting director, was at a scouting trip in Denmark and was so impressed with FC Nordsjaelland’s short-passing style that when Tuchel left, Hjulmand was the only name on their list. Hjulmand has a reputation of attacking football focusing on youth in his homeland and that bodes well for Mainz who also have a similar philosophy. This is a season for change at Mainz who operating at one of the smallest budgets in the league and are famous for giving relatively unknown coaches a chance to shine, most notably Jürgen Klopp amongst others. There have been some key departures with the likes of Cameroon international striker Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting and exciting German winger Nicolai Müller moving to Schalke and HSV respectively. Mainz have brought in a few players, majority of them in free transfer and loans. The loan signing of Serbian international midfielder Filip Đuričić from SL Benfica stands out. The season started on a sour note for Mainz in the UEFA Europa League as they were eliminated post a 3-2 (agg) defeat against Asteras Tripolis FC. With European football now out of their way, Mainz would hope to match last seasons finish but with such wholesale changes the target is easier said than done.
Key Player : Shinji Okazaki (Japan)
Shinji Okazaki arrived in Germany in 2011 to sign for VFB Stuttgart having scored loads of goals in J-League. But two and half average years and 10 goals later he landed at Mainz in 2013. Thomas Tuchel, The erstwhile Mainz boss took a gamble on him and after his 1st season at Coface Arena it is safe to conclude that it has paid off handsomely. Okazaki scored on his debut for Mainz against his old club Stuttgart and finished the season with 15 league goals – a single-season record for a Japanese player – to help his new club qualify for Europa league for the second time in five years. Currently Japan’s third-highest all time goal scorer, Okazaki would have to lead the line this time with even more authority after his partner in crime Nicolai Müller left the club this summer.