Where have Hannover 96 gone wrong?

Hannover’s 3-0 loss against Eintracht Braunschweig was a bitter pill to swallow for Tayfun Korkut and Hannover 96. The 96’ers are now only 2 points above the drop zone and their form of late has left a lot to be desired. Five points from the last 10 games and a goal difference of -14 from those ten matches tell a story of their own. The Lions from Braunschweig showed everything that their Lower Saxony arch rivals Hannover 96 were missing. They played with passion, a desire to get forward and with precision.

The Reds have missed all those qualities over the last few weeks and their key players seem to be either injured our out of from whilst the season is drawing towards a close. Szabolcs Huszti’s free kick delivery against Braunschweig let him down. Didier Ya Konan and Artjom Rudnevs partnership upfront didn’t trouble the Braunschweig defence, and Hannover’s back four is making too many school boy errors at the moment.

On top of that Ron Robert Zieler’s shot-to-save ratio has been going down every season over the last three years, meaning that the 96’ers keeper has gone from being amongst the hot contenders for the Germany squad in Brazil to be amongst the outsiders.

Both Szabolcs Huszti and Andre Hoffmann made matters worse for the team by getting suspensions (Huszti on a yellow card ban and Hoffmann for a straight red card). Fittingly there team has now lost 16 matches so far this season (more than any other Bundesliga side this season), and they are on a streak of four losses, something which hasn’t happened since the 2009/10 season.

Hannover still have their fate in their own hands and they will now face the teams around them in the table over the last five weeks of the season. Next week’s home match against Hamburger SV is another opportunity to widen the distance between the Lower Saxons and their rivals in the battle against relegation.

Firing Slomka – The right decision?

Serious questions need to be asked about Hannover’s performance this season. Martin Kind told Wolfsburger Allgemeine Zeitung ahead of the season that his club was aiming at a finish between 3rd and 6th. Given these ambitions it is understandable why Mirko Slomka was let go after the Hinrunde.

Eighteen points and not a single point taken on the road were too little to keep up with the teams fighting for Europe. Hannover were in fact in 13th place after the first 17 matches of the season, four points ahead of the drop zone. Five matches before the season ends Hannover are still tied up in that very same position, but the team’s gap down to the relegation spots has gone down to two points.

Going by Hannover’s results so far during the Rückrunde questions can be raised about wether or not Tayfun Korkut was the right man to replace Mirko Slomka. Did it really make sense to throw a coach who had worked as an assistant for the Turkish national team and as a youth coach at Hoffenheim and Stuttgart into a Rückrunde which could see Hannover fighting relegation?

The officials at the Niedersachsenstadion seemed to think that they had wiggle room giving them the option to go for a roll of the dice by hiring a coach who had a massive upside given his credentials, but who also brought with him inherent risks given his inexperience at this level. Therefore it is safe to assume that Korkut’s failure would inevitably also be linked to Martin Kind and new sporting director Dirk Dufner.

What is going to happen in regards of the Turks future at the club is still up in the air at the moment. Hannover chairman Martin Kind fled the stadium in Braunschweig before the final whistle, whilst Dufner told the press:

“Blindly reacting to something will backfire. One has to consider one’s options carefully, and one needs to think how one is approaching these matters.”

Mistakes of the past

Dufner’s comments are certainly not a ringing endorsement of the work Tayfun Korkut has done during the four months he has spent at the club. However, neither Korkut nor Slomka should take the entire blame for what has been going on over the last few months. Martin Kind’s comments ahead of the season put an unnecessarily large burden on the team at the start of the season.

Furthermore, one has to wonder if Kind chose correctly when the fight between former sporting director Jörg Schmadtke and Mirko Slomka had gotten to a point where the two of them couldn’t work together anymore. Choosing Slomka, who was in the midst of finishing a mediocre season, over Schmadtke who had shown excellent long term vision and managed to find several good signings on the cheap might have been the mistake which set the current season’s disastrous downward trend into motion. These days Schmadtke is doing an excellent job of keeping the city of Cologne somewhat grounded…

His replacement Dufner had left Freiburg after falling out with the officials at the club. Filling his predecessors shoes was always going to be a tough ask for the new sporting director and his performance in his new job might indicate that he has failed to do so during his first season at the club. Hannover’s new signings Edgar Prib, Leonardo Bittencourt, Marcelo and Salif Sané haven’t been the improvements to the team that the 96’ers fans had hoped for.

After the dust has settled and the 2013/14 season has been played there are still a number of questions which the officials at the club need to answer. Hannover’s fans are certainly keen to find out how a club which played in the Europa League two seasons ago could slide into such a mess.

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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.

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