Will Hannover’s ‘Wind of Change’ Push Them to Europe?

Hannover have been a mid table team since they got promoted from the 2. Bundesliga in 2002. This, however, could possibly change this season, with the potential of European competition ahead for recently re-signed Coach Mirko Slomka’s side next season.

The 96’ers have had a fairytale season so far. A place high in the top half of the table, a number of impressive victories and new exciting players like Moa Abdellaoue and Moritz Stoppelkamp that have performed well throughout this entire campaign. Nobody expected that to happen before the season.  Hannover were set to fight against relegation according to most experts. And these so called experts haven’t really offered any good reasons for why the opposite has happened. So let’s me and you take a closer look at it and find out.

A change in culture
While their youth teams always have done excellent and spawned a number of great players, Hannover have for a long time struggled to find the right signings for their squad. Good strikers like Fredi Bobic left the club immediately after one good season or so. Other signings like Mike Hanke and Jan Schlaudraff have struggled and cost a lot of money.

This has changed after sporting director Jorg Schmadtke arrived at the club in 2009. The signings after his arrival have simply made more sense, and added more class to the team.  The former Fortuna Dusseldorf player and coach has done very well, considering how precious little resources he has had. The best example of Schmadkte’s fantastic ability to find good signings for very little money are the transfers of Didier Ya Konan, from Norwegian side Rosenborg BK,  and Moa Abdellaoue, from Norway’s Valerenga club. These two strikers cost the club a combined estimated amount of 1.5 million Euros, a superb value for the money spent.

As an article in the German magazine “Der Spiegel” pointed out, the hierarchy amongst the players at the club is flat. Meaning that the players are taking decisions as a group, and don’t have their captain, veteran American international Steve Cherundolo, or two or three other players taking their decisions for them. (Note: The same can be said about this year’s dynamic Dortmund team).

Over performing?
It has been pointed out that Hannover, under Coach Mirko Slomka,  might be over performing in the table. That might be partly true. The team relies heavily on their strikers. Didier Ya Konan and Moa Abdellaoue have scored 15 out of their 28 goals. Hannover do very little with the ball. They have an average possession of the ball of around 40%. Their passing accuracy is the worst in the entire league.

But, it has to be pointed out that Hannover haven’t really made their fortunes upfront this season. It has been their sturdy defense that has been the corner stone of their success. 96’ers veteran Christian Schulz and another 2010-2011 newcomer, Emanuel Pogatetz, have had as much to do with the team’s victories as striker Ya Konan.

The tipping point?
Hannover have reached a crucial point in their campaign. It is, mildly put, fly or die time. If the team want to hang on to the top half of the table, and continue to play for a finish in the international places, they need a good start to their spring season. The 96’ers have lost two times so far, but against opponents that are supposed to be better then them. In that respect their game next Saturday against Wolfsburg is crucial. If Hannover manages a home victory against the side from the Volkswagen city, the team can still dream about a their best ever finish in the league.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

1 Comment

  1. Great article. Hannover is a great model for other “small” clubs to follow. They’ve taken the necessary steps and been patient and overcame several obstacles. Suffice to say, it has paid off.

    Rausch has also been a revelation for them so far. And who would have thought that “Mad Dog” Pogatetz would have the season he has had with his reputation coming from England? Credit to Slomka and Co.

    After last year’s hardships, Hannover’s supporters have surely deserved a season like this.

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