While Bundesliga title favourites Bayern Munich have a hugely experienced veteran at the helm in the form of Carlo Ancelotti, the situation couldn’t be more different for surprise challengers TSG 1899 Hoffenheim – who have 29-year-old Julian Nagelsmann in charge.
But the fresh-faced gaffer’s age is far from the only thing which makes him – and Achtzehn99 – an interesting proposition this season.
Following a short and injury-ravaged youth career, Nagelsmann became a student of the game – quite literally – by taking a University course in Sports Science. That was followed by spells in charge of Hoffenheim’s Under-17 and Under-19 teams – so it’s no surprise that the club’s youth products are now thriving in the first team.
Young talents Nadiem Amiri and Niklas Sule have both established themselves as integral cogs in the side since Nagelsmann took charge of the seniors in February 2016, while the young boss has also blooded 19-year-old wing wizard Philipp Ochs.
But the German gaffer’s biggest man-management success lies in getting the best out of experienced players who’ve seen their careers stall.
Andrej Kramaric flopped after his big-money move to Leicester City, but has thrived under Nagelmann since his return, netting five times in six games this season. And Hungarian forward Adam Szalai has also been in fine form after being frozen out and loaned to Hannover 96 last season.
Tactically, the Achtzehn99 boss has also developed a system which works for the players at his disposal.
Lining up with a 3-5-2 system, with wide-men Pavel Kaderabek and Steven Zuber tracking back to form a defensive five when necessary, they’re a solid outfit, while defensive midfielder Sebastian Rudy has pushed forwards to provide four assists already this season.
A high-intensity side who try to blitz sides in energetic bursts, they’re especially dangerous on the counter-attack, and impossible to defend against at their best – similar in many ways to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.
Just ask Klopp’s former club Mainz, who shipped three goals in 14 minutes at home to the Baden-Wurttemberg outfit last month.
Hoffenheim’s ‘shoot on sight’ policy has also been hugely effective. The visitors had 14 shots to Bayer Leverkusen’s eight in their 3-0 win at the BayArena, meaning they have now matched – or bettered – their opponents’ number of chances in each of the last seven games.
That will be a difficult stat to maintain, with their fellow title challengers Hertha BSC and Bayern Munich awaiting in the next two league games.
However, that could be a blessing in disguise, with Hoffenheim the Bundesliga’s form team right now. Their 13 points in five games makes them the league’s form team, with Bayern winning one of their last three, and Hertha without a victory in three on the road.
It’s 13/10 that Hoffenheim beat the Berlin outfit on Sunday, with 8/1 for the hosts to chalk up a third 2-1 home win in a row against their visitors.
With Nagelsmann’s side just four points off top spot and on a four-game winning run, the 7/1 for them to finish in the top four this season looks like incredible value, while the 500/1 for a first-ever Bundesliga title is well worth a flutter.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing