In the third of this 4-part series we will cover the teams that finished in 9th to 12th in the Bundesliga last season writes Ryan O’ Grady.
TSG 1899 HOFFENHEIM
The most important signing this summer for Hoffenheim was goalkeeper Oliver Baumann from SC Freiburg for £4.84 million. Over the past few years this has been a real problem position for Markus Gisdol’s side. When Tim Staarke left for Bayern they thought they had a very good replacement in Tim Wiese but after some poor performances he went AWOL and has now resurfaced remarkably as a bodybuilder. Young Belgian keeper Koen Casteels has shown promise but makes too many mistakes which could’ve cost Hoffenheim dear over the last couple of seasons. Fighting with Baumann for the title of Star Signing is striker Ádám Szalai who was their most expelsive signing at £5.28 million from FC Schalke.The sale of Joselu to Hannover meant an extra striker was needed and only three days later they signed the big Hungarian who endured a difficult season at Schalke falling behind a world-class striker in Klaas Jan Huntelaar. Before his rather unsuccessful season at Schalke Szalai was one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga whilst at Mainz and if he can replicate that form then alongside Anthony Modeste and Sven Schipplock, Markus Gisdol should have some serious offensive weapons upfront this year. Another very important signing is Bosnian centre-back Ermin Bicakcic, a bargain at only £352,000 from relegated Eintracht Braunschweig. Although they were relegated he was one of their best players and his performances were good enough to earn him a spot on Bosnia & Herzegovina’s World Cup squad. Yet another defensive improvement in former Eintracht Frankfurt Captain Pirmin Schwegler for £1.67 million. He will provide some defensive solidity and also some much needed cover, last season holding midfielder Tobias Strobl repeatedly had to play in defence due to injuries leaving no cover for the duo of Sebastian Rudy and Eugen Polanski. It is clear that left-back Fabian Johnson will be huge miss but the coaching staff will be hoping that promising young left-back Kim Jin-Su will be an adequate replacement, arriving from Albrirex Niigata of Japan for £880,000. Hoffenheim already have a plethora of midfield attacking talent with the likes of Roberto Firmino and Kevin Volland but they have added even more depth to their ranks with the £3.43 million signing of Steven Zuber from CSKA Moscow. One of Hoffenheim’s main aims as a club is to bring through youth players either from their academy or from lower league sides, Niklas Süle and Kevin Volland for example. The club are hoping that one of the next players to come through will be promising young striker Janik Haberer who was signed for £440,000 from SPVGG Unterhaching.
Not too many significant departures for Hoffenheim this summer, mainly just Joselu who moved to Hannover for £4.4 million after a decent loan spell with Eintracht Frankfurt and Fabian Johnson who moved on a free to Borussia Mönchengladbach. As mentioned in the Gladbach review Johnson will be huge loss and it remains to be seen whether they can cope without him. Another striker who they got off the books is Eren Derdiyok who moved to Kasimpasa in Turkey. He arrived a couple of years ago with big expectations but failed to deliver and spent last season back on loan at previous club Bayer Leverkusen. Other big-name failures like Edson Braafheid and Tobias Weis departed the club, Braafheid to Lazio on a free whilst Weis is on loan at VfL Bochum. A departure that could come back to haunt Hoffenheim is young American Joseph-Claude Gyau who left for Borussia Dortmund II. The departures are rounded off with an unfortunate one in Boris Vukcevic, who was involved in serious car crash two years ago and has decided to take a career break and it is uncertain if he will ever return.
72 goals scored, 70 goals conceded, a simply unbelievable season for the team from Sinsheim. Only Champions Bayern Munich and 2nd place Borussia Dortmund scored more whilst 3rd from bottom Hamburg were the only team to concede more. It was clear that for this summer the focus had to be on the defensive side of Hoffenheim’s game and they have thoroughly addressed those issues whilst managing to add even more attacking talent up front.
It was clear that this summer Hannover needed to strengthen in the attacking areas after the departures of Mame Diouf & co. As mentioned earlier their star signing was Joselu from Hoffenheim. He was signed by Hoffenheim from the Real Madrid second team and looked promising but surprisingly was loaned out last year to Eintracht Frankfurt where he scored 9 goals in 24 games. He already has one goal and one assist in his first three league games for Hannover and looks like he will fit in well. Another striker signed this summer is Jimmy Briand on a free transfer from Olympique Lyonnais. Early on his career it looked like he would become a superb player for club and country but he failed to deliver on his early promise. He does however occasionally show glimpses of his talent and if Tayfun Korkut can get him to settle then he could be a decent back-up striker. To compensate for the loss of both Szabolcs Huszti and Didier Ya Konan Korkut signed Hiroshi Kiyotake from relegated FC Nürnberg for £3.78 million. Two seasons ago he was one of the best players outside the top four but last season he failed to deliver when he was under pressure, but if he can replicate his form from two years ago then Hannover have a serious player on their hands. After Chile’s impressive World Cup many of their players were in demand and Hannover got a real bargain in signing Chilean left-back Miiko Albornoz from Mälmo FF for only £1.32 million. Other signings include holding midfielder Ceyhun Gülselam from Galatasaray, and a Hoffenheim pairing of Stefan Thesker and Kenan Karaman.
There were some really significant departures from the HDI Arena this summer, the main one being Mame Diouf who left on a free transfer to go to Stoke City. He was by far their best striker and a really talented player, a fact that Manchester City fans can already attest to after he scored a brilliant goal against them at the start of their season. He was followed out the door by Szabolcs Huszti who departed for £1.32 million. At 31 he still had a another few years in him at top European level but instead he decided to move to China and play for CC Yatai. He will be a massive loss as he was Hannover’s best player last year scoring 10 goals and obtaining 7 assists. Another attacking midfielder who left for Asia was Didier Ya Konan who moved to Al Ittihad of Saudi Arabia, he like Kiyotake was brilliant two seasons ago but last year was even worse than the Japanese playmaker. Joining the long list of departures is Sébastian Pocognoli the Belgian left-back who departed for West Bromwich Albion for £1.32 million. Other departures included Artjoms Rudņevs who returned to Hamburg after his loan deal ended.
As mentioned above there were some really damaging departures for Hannover this summer and they could have sent the club spiralling down but they have replaced them well with some real quality and also kept hold of their other talents like keeper Ron-Robert Zieler so a repeat of last season’s 10th place finish would be ok but they could be looking slightly higher than that this season.
The Hertha hierarchy pulled off something of a coup this summer signing Swiss International Valentin Stocker from FC Basel for £3.08 million, he was sought after by many clubs across Europe. He is an improvement on the departing Sami Allagui and will help cover the loss of Adrián Ramos. In order to further strengthen the strikers department they also brought in Julian Schieber from Borussia Dortmund for £2.2 million and he has already scored 3 goals for the capital club. It is difficult to predict how well he will do at Hertha as he showed promise in his Stuttgart days but failed to deliver when at Dortmund under Jurgen Klopp. Salomon Kalou from Lille is a very interesting signing as he was a great impact player at Chelsea and his goal scoring record in Lille is very impressive but when he arrived this summer the Lille fans were glad to see him go which has to raise questions about his temperament. However if he can replicate his Ligue 1 goal scoring tally then Hertha will have a very good striker on their books. Roy Beerens is decent looking signing from AZ Alkmaar for £1.32 million, he already has his first assist and he along with Stocker on the other side could supply Schieber and Kalou with plenty of chances this year. Another right winger arriving at the club is Genki Haraguchi for £440,000 from Urawa Reds in Japan and he also looks a decent player with positive performances in his first couple of games including a goal in the German Cup against Viktoria Köln. In order to solidify the defence Jos Luhukay has brought in fellow Dutchman Johnny Heitinga on a free transfer after he was released from Everton FC. Other arrivals include Jens Hegeler from Bayer Leverkusen, Marvin Plattenhardt from FC Nürnberg and Per Ciljan Skjelbred’s loan from Hamburg being made permanent.
First of all Hertha lost their star striker in Adrián Ramos who as mentioned before moved to Borussia Dortmund for £8.54 million and they also lost Pierre-Michel Lasogga after his loan to Hamburg was made permanent for £7.48 million. Winger Sami Allagui also departed, he went to Mainz 05 on loan and as I have already said these players have all been replaced. Other departures include Ben Sahar to Willem II on a free transfer and Levan Kobiashvili who retired from football.
A pretty good window for Luhukay’s side, obviously losing your star striker is a blow but they have replaced him well and surrounded the new strikers with the players that look like they will provide the ammo required. From the sale of just two players for just over £16 million they have made £4 million profit which is a huge plus for the club. They will hope that these new players will provide some more consistency as last season the team faded badly after the winter break.
Bremen are team in financial difficulties which meant that this summer coach Robin Dutt hasn’t had a lot of money to play with and because of that they spent the joint least amount of money of any team alongside SC Paderborn at £1.41 million. The most noteworthy arrival was Izet Hajrovic who arrived on a free transfer from Galatasaray after a respectable performance for Bosnia & Herzegovina at the World Cup. Nearly all of their entire spend in this window went on left-back Santiago Garcia from Rangers in Chile, he spent last year on loan at the Weser Stadion and scored 3 goals in 22 appearances. This summer saw the promotion of David Selke from the second team, he is a very exciting youngster, top scorer at the recent European Under-19 Championship in Hungary and the Bremen faithful will be hoping that he can be the top striker they have been missing since Claudio Pizzaro left for Bayern Munich. Other arrivals include Fin Bartels on a free from St. Pauli, Alejandro Gálvez from Rayo Vallecano, also on a free and keeper Raif Husic from Bayern U19 for £88,000.
Only one significant departure for Bremen, the loss of Aaron Hunt to Wolfsburg. He was their best player by far and their creative spark and they will probably struggle even more without him and the fact that he departed on a free transfer will hurt the club even more as they’re in dire need of some extra income. Mehmet Ekici provided the most income for the club after he left for £1.32 million to go to Trabzonspor. A surprising departure saw promising young striker Niclas Füllkrug depart for FC Nürnberg for only £264,000. Other departures include Joseph Akpala to Karabükspor on a free and keeper Sebastian Mielitz going to Freiburg on a free as well.
A poor window for Bremen and Robin Dutt. No money to spend meant that they couldn’t bring in the players they wanted like Bryan Ruiz the Costa Rican star who had such a good World Cup. Losing their best player in Hunt also won’t help but the signing of Hajrovic is a silver lining and 3 draws in their first 3 games isn’t disastrous. A lower league finish looks likely for Bremen and another indifferent season awaits.
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