Hoffenheim are working hard to underpin their free-scoring exploits with a much-needed defensive foundation
Hoffenheim are working hard to underpin their free-scoring exploits with a much-needed defensive foundation

Gallant Hoffenheim seek best of both worlds in 2014/15

Munich - On the face of it, 1899 Hoffenheim's almost serendipitous "you score two, we'll score three" approach to the 2013/14 campaign was as much courageous as it was cavalier.

Prolific meets porous

Either way, the Sinsheim club have a lot to live up to in 2014/15 as they look to turn their entertainment value into hard-earned points.

"I'm sick to the back teeth of it," bemoaned head coach Markus Gisdol after Matchday 14's characteristic 4-4 home draw with SV Werder Bremen. "I've stopped believing that we're going to have a normal game again this season. If we ever manage to score seven goals, we'll no doubt concede seven as well!"

Sadly, for the neutral at least, that 14-goal thriller never happened, but that's not to say Hoffenheim were any less absorbing in the months that followed. Indeed, only FC Bayern München (94) and Borussia Dortmund (80) outscored the ninth-placed Sinsheimers (72), with only third-from-bottom Hamburger SV's (75) similarly soft underbelly exposed more often (70).

Defensive reinforcements

"It's pretty unusual to finish ninth with just 44 points," admitted Gisdol, whose buccaneering troupe became the first side since SV Waldhof Mannheim to ship 70-plus Bundesliga goals and still beat the drop. "We're going to have to be more flexible. I wouldn't say I've had to go overboard in the transfer market, but I've been selective. Our goal is still to establish ourselves in the top flight."

To help his long-term cause, the fastidious Gisdol has moved quickly to reinforce an often porous back four now without the services of departed USA international Fabian Johnson. The arrival of former SC Freiburg goalkeeper Oliver Baumann should bring continuity between the posts, while the likes Ermin Bicakcic, Jin-Su Kim and Pirmin Schwegler underline the club's watertight strivings in light of the foregoing campaign.

More of the same

"We've made a point of bringing in players with great leadership qualities," Gisdol explained. "There were also times last season when we didn't have enough alternatives because our squad was pretty thin on the ground. Now we've got more options when it comes to personnel and formations. Above all, though, it's still about high tempo football. You could see that at the World Cup and that's how it'll be for us in the new campaign."

Supplemented by the raft of defensive reinforcements, the goal-scoring threat of fellow newcomer Adam Szalai and boosted by Roberto Firmino's decision to extend his stay at the club, Hoffenheim begin their latest Bundesliga chapter with all the ingredients in place to surpass last term's surprise top-half-of-the-table finish. They also do so as unwitting for possibly the most captivating FIFA World Cup in living memory. If Gisdol is to be believed, however, die Kraichgauer are only just getting warmed up.

Christopher Mayer-Lodge