Hoffenheim have established themselves as one of the mainstays in the Bundesliga since their promotion in 2008. A club ethos that thrives on a high press and attacking football, the Sinsheim based club have been one of the most exciting teams to watch over the past decade. As if Huub Stevens’ tenure at the club wasn’t thrilling enough, Julian Nagelsmann has taken Hoffenheim to the next level. Qualifying for the Champions League group stages after finishing third last season, a lot of Hoffenheim’s success is down to their recruitment.
Mark Uth, Andrej Kramaric and Serge Gnabry provided an attacking threat while the departures of Niklas Süle and Sebastian Rudy to Bayern Munich were soon forgotten given the performances of Kevin Vogt and Florian Grillitsch.
The 2018/19 campaign is to be no different. Hoffenheim are expected to be challenging for a place in Europe once again despite the departures of key players. Uth – the joint-second highest scoring German last season – joined Domenico Tedesco’s Schalke while Gnabry’s loan spell ended, returning to Bayern Munich. The arrivals of Leonardo Bittencourt, Vincenzo Grifo and Ishak Belfodil for a combined €17 million is the typical work of sporting director Alexander Rosen while the arrival of Young Boys defender Kasim Nuhu epitomises the traits needed in a modern day centre-back.
A report in 2017 found that almost 70% of Premier League players are foreign and so it’s extremely difficult for youngsters to break into the first team, hence the deadline day signing of Reiss Nelson. Unless they’re world class from a young age – think Marcus Rashford – then players have little to no chance in featuring. If they do and don’t impress after a couple of opportunities, they’re out of the team and replaced by a foreigner.
Which is why Nelson’s transfer to Hoffenheim is a smart move for all parties. The Arsenal forward has joined the Bundesliga club on loan until the end of the season, likely taking Gnabry’s place in the team. As high-profile players such as Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Reece Oxford (Borussia Mönchengladbach) and Ademola Lookman (RB Leipzig) have shown, the grass is certainly greener on the other side with the trio enjoying first team football last season for their respective clubs.
Signing a contract extension with Arsenal before joining Hoffenheim, Nelson has joined the Bundesliga club in search of first team football – something that Nagelsmann can offer. The 18-year-old has already been compared with former Arsenal and Hoffenheim player, Gnabry.
“He’s versatile and can bring an injection of pace into the game,” said Nagelsmann.
Switching between a 3-4-1-2 and a 3-5-2, Nelson will be expected to play several roles during his season in Germany. The youngster can play on either flank as shown at Arsenal towards the end of last season while Nagelsmann is more likely to use Nelson through the middle, like Gnabry’s role at the club. Defensively, the 18-year-old will need to show that he’s willing to press the ball high up the pitch. It’s a trait of Nagelsmann’s side while the pressing similarities between Nagelsmann and Arsenal head coach Unai Emery is suitable reasoning behind this transfer.
As well as being fast, Nelson has an eye for goal. Contributing to 12 goals (nine goals & three assists) in the Premier League 2 last season, the Arsenal man could be well suited to replacing Gnabry in this Hoffenheim side. Nagelsmann moved the German from a winger to a second-striker with immense success, 10 goals & seven assists in 26 games while Nelson could well have a similar impact.
His move to Germany will only help his progression as shown by fellow Englishman who have done it in the past. But as Oliver Burke has shown, players must have the right temperament if they are to succeed. Unfortunately, the Scot didn’t settle to life in Leipzig but as Everton’s Lookman showcased, there has been success stories alongside himself and Sancho.
Nelson will certainly get a chance under Nagelsmann and it’s an opportunity that could propel the Englishman into Emery’s first team at Arsenal in the future.