A mid table finish would have been a reasonable aim for Hamburger SV at the beginning of the 2012-13 Bundesliga season. Having finished 15th in the table last season, their worst finish in ages, the club was going through a tough time. It was a fresh start for the new coach Thorsten Fink who only took over as the head coach in October 2011 and merely survived relegation.
It is never easy to be in a coaching position of a club like Hamburger SV, they are one of the three premier clubs from Germany to win UEFA champions league. Battling relegation is something that neither the fans nor the club is used to. Even though a top four finish would seem quite impossible now, many die-hard Hamburg fans would fancy a top 7 finish from the 1982-1983 European Champions.
Thorsten Fink and Sporting Director Frank Arnesen made some interesting signings in the summer that have so far paid off well, most notably Rene Adler from Bayer Leverkusen and Rafael van der Vaart from Tottenham Hotspur (on transfer deadline date), along with valued playmaker Milan Badelj from Dinamo Zagreb.
Hamburg’s 2012-2013 campaign started off with disastrous results with three successive defeats against Nuremberg (0:1), Werder Bremen (2:0) and Eintracht Frankfurt (3:2).
Everything seemed to be going against Hamburger SV. In the first two matches they found it too difficult to score and Thorsten Fink was struggling to find the perfect attacking players to find the back of the net. Rafael van der Vaart made his second debut with the club against newly promoted Eintracht Frankfurt and it seemed like Hamburger SV started to find some creativity in the midfield. Hamburg, however, went down to ten man as Petr Jiracek was sent off in the first half, and Hamburg failed to cope with the loss. Already trailing by a goal (2:1), the match ended in 3:2 and Hamburger SV were still without a point in the opening three games, with champions Borussia Dortmund next on their schedule..
Hamburger SV made some key tactical changes against the reigning champions. Marcel Jensen was moved back to left back position from left midfield, which was occupied by Ivo Ilicevic,and Tolgay Arslan came in for the suspended Jiracek. Despite losing their first three matches, Rene Adler remained fantastic in all the matches, but it was the game against the German Champions that Adler announced his return as one of the best keepers in Germany.
Hamburg had a flying start to the match with Rafael van der Vaart providing Son Heung Min a perfect cross to take the lead in 2nd minute, but Dortmund leveled in 46th minutes with Ivan Perisic. Adler time after time frustrated Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Robert Lewandowski to keep the HSV hopes alive. Finally Hamburg found the net twice in quick succession with Ilicevic and Son to make the score 3-1, Dortmund came back strongly with Ivan Perisic scoring again in the 60th minute, however the heroics of Rene Adler kept the score 3-2 in Hamburg’s favor to provide the club their first points in the 2012-13 campaign and possibly the crucial win that rejuvenated the team’s season.
The win over the reigning champions Dortmund gave Hamburg a much-needed confidence boost. As they continued to impress in the matchday 5, this time against Borussia Mönchengladbach. HSV were 2-1 up at the half time with Rafael van der Vaart and Artjoms Rudņev in the scoresheet. Borussia Monchengladbach were a man down early in the second half, but HSV failed to increase the lead as a van der Vaart spot kick was saved by Marc Andre Ter-Stegen. Gladbach salvaged a draw with a late 90 min strike from Álvaro Domínguez.
Artjoms Rudņev continued to impress as HSV beat Hannover by 1-0 at home. However it was Rene Adler again who single-handedly kept frustrating their opponent with simply world-class performance that helped Hamburg record their second win of the season. In matchday 7 Hamburg again came as victorious, this time against Greuther Fürth 1-0. It was Hamburg’s first away win of the season with HSV’s South Korean star Son Heung-Min scoring his third goal as HSV climbed to 8th in the table.
HSV lacked consistency in the next few weeks. They suffered 0-1 loss at home against Stuttgart, but four days later came back to pin a 2-0 defeat on FC Augsburg as Son, Rudnevs and van der Vaart put up a fine attacking display.
The next match saw Hamburger SV facing giants Bayern München. The Bavarian giants were a class apart as they ease past HSV with a comfortable 3-0 victory. Things got worse for Hamburg in the next match as they were held 0-0 by SC Freiburg with Paul Scharner sent off in the 35th minute. HSV were lucky to rescue a point as they played with 10 man for nearly an hour. Rene Adler again was in superb form under the bar.
Hamburger came back strongly in the next game as they topped Mainz by single goal from impressive Son Heung-Min, the defence led by Captain Heiko Westermann kept Mainz frustrated throughout the night. However HSV suffered a shock loss against Fortuna Dusseldorf in the following match as they went down in the bottom half of the table in 10th position.
In the next game, Hamburger SV hosted Schalke, who were lately struggling after having a decent start this season. 3-1 victory over Schalke, followed by a draw against Wolfsburg and then 2-0 over Hoffenheim saw HSV climbing to the 7th spot in the league table.
However Leverkusen spoiled the party in the last game before the winter break with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Hamburg, leaving HSV in 10th place in the table at the Hinrunde’s end.
Player of the season so far: Rafael van der Vaart and Rene Adler
Best Performance so far this season: 3-2 win over Borussia Dortmund
Top Scorers: Artjoms Rudnevs and Son Heung-Min (6 goals)
“With the exception of Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, there’s no other player whose aura and personality have changed the atmosphere within a club and a city like Rafael van der Vaart did, even before he’d played his first game,” stated Hamburg and Germany goalkeeper Rene Adler.
With only three points separating six teams after 17 games, the places are up for grabs. After a nightmare start to the 2012-13 campaign, Hamburger SV is now comfortably placed in the mid table with a lot of room for improvement. In January transfer window they might want to bolster their fragile defence or may opt to add further creativity in their attacking play to bring out the best from Rafael van der Vaart, Rudnevs, Berg, Son Heung-Min and others. Wins over Dortmund, Schalke 04 and Hannover proves Hamburg’s can give good sides a run for their money, however they need more consistency in their overall performance and more depth in the squad to keep their European dreams alive.