Matthew Marshall – PreZero Arena, Sinsheim
Hoffenheim cruised past a poor Paderborn side 3-0 in the Friday night Bundesliga fixture at the PreZero Arena. It was the fifth straight win for Alfred Schreuder’s side who have room to improve, while a porous Paderborn appear destined for relegation.
Contest over after 25 minutes
Robert Skov’s free kick in the 2nd minute started the rout, Pavel Kaderabek finishing off a fine team move in the 15th minutes before delivering a cross to Jürgen Locadia who made it 3-0 in the 25th minute. Paderborn’s defence was parted like the Red Sea with Hoffenheim taking full advantage of an opponent that appeared underprepared.
Ilhas Bebou squandered chances and substitute Sargis Adamyan saw a close range effort saved by Leopold Zingerle, but the job was done and a stroll in the park for Die Kraichgauer. Paderborn rarely got near Hoffenheim’s goal, resorting to long range efforts that never troubled Oliver Baumann.
Alfred Schreuder slowly sorting it out
It was always going to take time for Alfred Schreuder to stamp his mark on this squad. The Dutch tactician had to balance the tactics and formation the team had become accustomed to under Julian Nagelsmann and the 4-3-3 total football philosophy he helped fine tune at Ajax under Erik ten Hag.
Inconsistent results included two 3-0 home defeats to Freiburg and Borussia Monchengladbach. The 2-1 win at Bayern Munich kick started Hoffenheim’s season with Schreuder’s side now winning five consecutive games including a 2-0 win at MSV Duisburg to advance in the DFB Pokal.
Schreuder knows his team has a long way to go: “Of course, it’s great hearing the compliments after the game but we are still developing and still not totally happy. We need to follow our path and not get off track.”
“In the first half, we witnessed a perfect Hoffenheim. The boys did exactly what we wanted to do. They demonstrated how talented, disciplined and concentrated they are.”
Schreuder and Hoffenheim have a long way to go but they will be helped with key players returning from injury. Benjamin Hübner’s return has coincided with Hoffenheim’s winning run, he set the tone early against Paderborn with some crunching challenges and produced a crucial tackle on Streli Mamba in the second half.
Ishak Belfodil and Andrej Kramaric combined to score 33 Bundesliga goals last season but both have hardly featured this campaign. Belfodil is out with a knee injury and Kramaric wasn’t risked against Paderborn after scoring in back-to-back Bundesliga matches against Schalke and Hertha BSC.Kramaric is key and I expect a significant improvement for Hoffenheim once he regains full fitness.
Skov finding his feet at left wing-back
Hoffenheim swooped to sign Robert Skov from FC Copenhagen for €10 million early last summer. His production in the Danish Superligaen was sensational but moving to a new country and making a step up in class can often be overwhelming.
Skov appears to be relishing the challenge as he revealed to reporters after the match: “It’s always difficult to move away from family and friends but you have to get out of your comfort zone to improve as a player and as a human being.”
“I am learning a lot about myself, there have been difficult moments but everybody is really nice and I am happy to be here. We are getting a lot of good results and the team looks really good so it’s a great feeling right now.”
Playing on the right wing throughout his career, Skov has been converted into a left wing-back by Schreuder which is slowly coming to fruition. “I just want to play a lot of football games and learn, in modern football you have to cover a lot of positions.”
“It’s quite different from what I am used to, but it’s great learning and I get a lot of help from the players and coaching staff. It’s about keeping an open mind and learning from each mistake to try and be better.”
Skov’s set piece delivery is top class and it was no surprise that his first Hoffenheim goal came from one of his trademark free kicks. It’s another to add to his impressive highlight reel, but there is much more to his game and his combination play and defensive awareness will only improve as he adjusts to his new position.
Grillitsch going great guns
Florian Grillitsch stamped his mark on this match early, producing a lovely piece of skill to find space and provide Ilhas Bebou with a 1 on 1 chance. Grillitsch assisted Kaderabek for Hoffenheim’s second before releasing Kaderabek who assisted Locadia for Hoffenheim’s third.
The 24-year-old has been an underrated player at Hoffenheim but there is no doubt that Schreuder understands his importance to the team. Running the show from central midfield, Grillitsch creates chances and is in great form after producing a goal and two assists in his last three matches.
He produced a commanding performance against Paderborn and deserved more than one assist. There will be scouts from bigger clubs tracking Grillitsch’s progress with plenty of improvement to come from the Austrian enforcer.
Paderborn destined for relegation
Paderborn were pitiful in Sinsheim and deservedly beaten. They attempted a high press in the first half but Hoffenheim simply sucked them in and passed the ball around before releasing their speedsters.
Steffen Baumgart saw his side score nine goals in their first seven Bundesliga matches where they earned just one point in a 1-1 draw at Wolfsburg. His attacking approach is admirable but an inability to defend is one of the characteristics that defines clubs that get relegated.
Paderborn Managing Director of Sport Martin Przondziono told DAZN at half-time: “We’ve been acting pretty stupid, defending like a schoolboy team. This morning I watched a U19 game, they defended better.” Brutal truth from Przondziono which could spell trouble for Baumgart.
Baumgart hooked Mohamed Dräger and Oliveira Souza at half-time, bringing on Laurent Jans and Streli Mamba but it made little difference. The main issue is a lack of top quality talent at his disposal.
It’s simple economics. Paderborn have the lowest budget in the Bundesliga and it’s evident on the pitch. Their 2-0 home win against Fortuna Düsseldorf came despite having 0.74-1.44 expected goals, a metric that doesn’t look good for the roller coaster club.
Paderborn have the second lowest expected goals and highest expected goals against in the Bundesliga. Baumgart’s side have conceding 2.4 goals a game and are on course to concede 85 this season. Their last Bundesliga campaign in 2014/15 resulted in automatic relegation with 65 goals conceded. It’s not looking promising for Paderborn.