It’s almost no surprise that Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has failed to gain a regular spot in a Bayern team filled with immense talent, failing to shackle the likes of Phillip Lahm and Xabi Alonso. Despite Bayern Munich rotating their starting 11 so frequently, for players like Hojbjerg it is far from easy to maintain a first team spot at an elite club like Bayern.
Who is Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg?
Hojbjerg is a Danish central midfielder with a build similar to Bastian Schweinsteiger. The 6 foot tall midfielder is occasionally deployed by Pep Guardiola as a wide midfielder as a result of limited opportunities in central midfield. This can underutilized his physique but at the same time, he is capable of adapting and continually expresses his desire to play more.
Hojbjerg started his footballing career as an 8 year old in his home country playing for BK Skjold, FC Copenhagen and Brondby IF consecutively. He made his move to Bayern Munich aged 17 in the summer of 2012 where Jupp Heynckes handed him his professional debut against Nurenberg in March 2013, where he came on as a substitute for Xherdan Shaqiri, and by doing this, he became the youngest ever player to make a Bundesliga appearance for Bayern Munich. He went on to make another appearance in that treble winning season.
In the 2013/14 season Guardiola took charge of Bayern and he made a further 9 appearances, with only 2 league starts. However he did start the DFB-Pokal final in which he helped Bayern to a 2-0 win over Dortmund. In time between his first team appearances he mainly featured for Bayern II where he played 44 times scoring 12 goals over 2 seasons.
He caught the eye early for the Danish national side. Starting in the under 16s, he progressed gradually and through to the under 21 side making a combined total of 40 appearances for the national youth sides. Most impressive was in the 2011-12 where he played in 18 games, scoring 5 goals and this earned him the Under 17 player of the year accolade.
He was called up to the senior national side for the first time against Sweden in May 2013 and scored his first international goal against Armenia in a Euro 2016 qualifying match which Denmark eventually won 2-1.
In the 2014/15 season his first appearance came against Dortmund but this time it was a reverse of the Pokal final as Dortmund won the Supercup by a scoreline of 2-0. Despite that being their first competitive match, he has failed to become a regular in the starting line-up due to the abundance of talent which Guardiola has to his disposal.
When he has been given starting opportunities has performed a little better than coming off the bench, but overall he’s been on the fringes in an almost unstoppable Bayern team this season. So far, his best performance came in the 6-0 thrashing of Werder Bremen where he had an average rating of 8.18 per whoscored.com
After 25 games in all competitions for Bayern or the 2 and a bit seasons, he is yet to find the net for the Bavarian giants.
The youngster was named in our 100 Best Young Players to watch in 2015 feature, coming in at #12 in our list of midfielders.
Style of play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Flexibility is a very important attribute in Guardiola’s Bayern team and it is one that Hojbjerg offers. He has the ability to adapt his playing position; he’s used mainly as a central midfielder or wide midfielder, but he’s also capable of playing wing back as the has great attacking and defensive attributes.
Another strength is his ability to adapt his style of play based on the strength of opposition. It could be passing it simple to more creative or attacking players or hugging the touchline as a wing back. Primarily with his natural physique and time at Bayern II suggests he is a capable box to box midfielder, similar to Schweinsteiger who started his career playing as a wide midfielder, he has recently become one of the best central midfielders and was instrumental in Germany’s world cup success.
When given a role in midfield, he contributes both in attack and defence. He possesses creativity and can bring much to the table. That being said, he isn’t yet capable of being Bayern’s primary playmaker. The arrival of Sebastian Rode ad Gaudino gives Hojbjerg direct competition in the midfield position, a spot much coveted since the departure of Toni Kroos.
His best attribute certainly is passing, having completed just over 85% of his attempted passes this season. Hojbjerg enjoys having the ball at his feet (backed by his style of play – likes to dribble) suggests if he is given the chance to progress he can turn into a fine midfielder, capable of dictating tempo in games with his passing and movement on the ball, much like Kroos or Manchester City’s Yaya Toure.
Everything suggests he can follow a similar route, but lack of first team football can be a hindrance. Toni Kroos benefited from a season out on loan at Leverkusen, Hojbjerg could do with the same. Getting regular first team football at a higher level would bring invaluable experience.
One thing he is lacking at the moment is discipline: he can over commit himself in challenges and average 0.8 yellow cards a game. though he is yet to be sent off. But with experience, his ability to read the game should improve and he will become more disciplined and perhaps not commit in needless challenges.
His primary responsibility isn’t to score goals but it’s an area that he lacks greatly. Hitting the back of the net at least a few times a season should be an area of focus and it would do a great deal to his confidence if he started scoring goals consistently considering he certainly holds the ability to do so.
Hojbjerg has expressed how open he is to leave Bayern Munich for first team football, even permanently. For now, he now out on loan at FC Augsburg which was a good step for him to take. Bayern won’t want to let him go if he does well there but if they do it, will certainly push his value up. For Hojbjerg the sky is the limit as he’s shown great potential already by featuring for a great team several times at the age of only 19.
Regarding his future, he was quoted saying:
“I am not angry with Bayern and I am not unhappy with the coach or the board either,”
“It might look a bit strange when a 19-year-old comes out and says he wants to play, but that’s football. We all want to play our role. Everybody has their personal ambitions. We are athletes and want to be involved”
Credit to him for saying this, but he needs to manage expectations. In the current Bayern fold, there are certainly players who are better than him but in a couple of years, quite a few players, the likes of Lahm, Robben, Ribery and Schweinsteiger will need to be replaced and he might be in with a chance when the time comes.
It will be interesting to see what the future holds but if Bayern do decide to sell him after his loan spell, it might be wise to install a buy back clause in case he becomes the fine midfielder many expect him to become.
Written by Raphael Chidavaenzi
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