Remarkable to think last season's relegation escape artists and European hopefuls have swapped roles just 10 games into the new Bundesliga season. A late winner for Hamburg on Friday night leaves them flying.
Hoffenheim 0-1 Hamburg
Change is afoot in the Bundesliga. Tipped for European success, Hoffenheim has floundered. Tipped for further relegation woe, Hamburg is stabilizing. It seems odd to suggest that these two clubs are swapping places, but after Pierre-Michel Lasogga's late winner against Hoffenheim at the start of matchday 10, the Bundesliga table shows that is very much the case.
Hamburg has calmed under the now not-so-new head coach Bruno Labbadia. Their form remains patchy - two wins, two defeats and a draw in their last five - but is certainly heading in the right direction. Labbadia has restored confidence in the defense, which once again kept a clean sheet. Under the maturing leadership of Johan Djourou and returning strength of goalkeeper Rene Adler, Hamburg is threatening to be nowhere near the relegation battle this season. Considering last year the club escaped second-division football by the skin of their teeth thanks to a remarkable relegation playoff turnaround, that is quite some achievement. The difference is, this season they are winning games they lost or drew last season and that has put them inside the top 10 with a healthy 14 points from the first 10 games of the season.
Final week for Gisdol?
Hamburg's Friday night visit to Sinsheim to play Hoffenheim was not a pretty spectacle. There was plenty of effort, but little end product as both sides exchanged periods of momentum. Across the game though, Hamburg was the better team and only ended the half level because Oliver Baumann made two strong saves. With 20 minutes to go, Hamburg was handed that final incentive when Ermin Bicakcic picked up a needless second yellow card to leave the home side a man down. And just in time, Lasogga was on hand at the back post to finish off into an empty net after good work by Michael Gregoritsch (Hamburg's outstanding performer on the night) and former Hoffenheim man Sven Schipplock.
As much as Markus Gisdol needed a win, Hoffenheim didn't deserve three points. One though, might just have been fair. The fact they lost is perhaps typical of their season so far, as is the manner in which they conceded. The problem was, for their few chances, they looked short of a plan. Understandably, Kevin Volland's individual quality couldn't shoulder the responsibility alone (he really is missing Roberto Firmino). Granted, new man Eduardo Vargas has been a good addition, but he has been just as hot and cold as his new team.
There was lots of talk before the game about an ultimatum being in place for Gisdol, a head coach who apparently lacks enough communication skills for Hoffenheim's chief financial source, millionaire-man Dietmar Hopp. If the picture was bad beforehand, it was bleak afterwards. Hoffenheim has just six points so far this season and is one point off the foot of the Bundesliga table. The squad good enough to finish in the top 10 is floundering. All eyes will be on what happens next at the unpopular Bundesliga club, but it is hard to imagine the man who brought so much stability might have reached his ceiling.