TSG 1899 Hoffenheim are one of the surprise packages in the Bundesliga this season. After 13 matchday, Julian Nagelsmann’s side are still unbeaten and find themselves in the top four. They will be hoping to continue their run against Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday evening (20:30 CET). Nadiem Amiri, who has established himself as a key player in Sinsheim, will hope to be involved in the match. The U21 international made his debut in the Bundesliga in February 2015 and has since made 44 appearances for TSG.
In an exclusive interview with DFB.de, the 20-year-old discusses his side’s good form, his journey into professional football and next year’s U21 European Championship (16th-30th June 2017).
DFB.de: Mr Amiri, last season your side were battling against relegation, now you are unbeaten and sitting fourth in the league. How can you explain this development?
Nadiem Amiri: We had a good team last season, but sometimes you just have a year when things don’t go to plan. We’ve had some solid additions to the squad this year and we were able to use the summer to properly prepare for the new season.
DFB.de: Julian Nagelsmann took over as head coach back in February with the target of avoiding relegation. Now he’s had the benefit of a whole pre-season.
Amiri: Exactly, that was very important for us. We play better football. We link up much better and are a lot calmer on the ball. It’s also important that we have more stability at the back. Benjamin Hübner and Kevin Vogt, who arrived in the summer, have played a big role in that.
DFB.de: Last season you had three coaches: Markus Gisdol, Huub Stevens and Julian Nagelsmann. How much has the team’s style changed in that time?
Amiri: I think that, under Julian Nagelsmann, we are playing our best football. Under Stevens, because of our situation, it was all about sitting deep and using the counter. With Gisdol our focus was pressing and reacting quickly whenever we regained or lost possession. Now our tactic is to be more dominant on the ball, but also to react quickly.
DFB.de: Next up you face Eintracht Frankfurt. Last season this match was a relegation scrap, now you are aiming for a European spot. Hertha BSC, 1. FC Köln and RB Leipzig are all among the top teams in the league. Is the Bundesliga going crazy?
Amiri: It’s fun! Especially for the fans it has gotten a lot more interesting. The last few years Bayern München have led the table by a long way, now it’s a bit tighter. Frankfurt is also one of the teams that are doing well at the moment; it’ll be a big game.
DFB.de: You arrived at Hoffenheim in 2012. Shortly afterwards Julian Nagelsmann became your youth coach. Was he a different coach back then?
Amiri: Absolutely not. It’s a credit to him that he has stayed true to himself in the professional game.
DFB.de: Were you a key player in Nagelsmann’s team?
Amiri: With the U19s I sat on the bench for most of the first half of the season. We had a very strong team and the results were always good. He told me back then that I needed to be patient and that my time would come. He was right. In the second half of the season I was almost always in the team.
DFB.de: You have been playing for the U21 national team since March, making five appearances. How would you sum up the past year?
Amiri: It was obviously frustrating to lose the final match against Poland. Before that we were on an incredible run. It would have been nice to end the year unbeaten. Overall I am happy to have been regularly involved with the national youth teams. It’s helpful to be able to play with players in the same age group because you get an idea of how far you have come.
DFB.de: Next year you have the European U21 Championship, with Italy, Denmark and Czech Republic awaiting you in the groups. How do you fancy the team’s chances?
Amiri: We have a good team and definitely a good chance of going far. We have a new manager now in Stefan Kuntz. He may not have 30 years of experience, but has knows a lot about football. I am looking forward to it.