Season Preview 2014-2015: Hannover 96

Nicknames: “Die Roten” (The Reds)

Founded: 12 April 1896

Club colors: Black, white, and green

Primary Rivals: Eintracht Braunschweig

Fan Friendship: Hamburger SV

Trophies:

  • German Championship (2): 1938 & 1954
  • DFB Cup: (1): 1992

Stadium: HDI-Arena (formerly Niedersachsenstadion; renovated in 2004). Inaugurated in 1954.

2013-14 Finishes:

  • Bundesliga: 10th
  • DFB Pokal: Second Round (knocked out by Bayern München 1-4)

Top Goal Scorer: Szabolcs Huszti (11 – in all competitions)

2013-14 Season Summary

Club Reputation

Ever since the club’s promotion to the top tier of German football back in 2002, Hannover has enjoyed a life of spectacular mediocrity. Despite some years in which the club shortly flirted with relegation or, more recently, two pretty successful stints in the Europa League, Hannover is the stereotypical “Graue Maus” (“grey mouse”), a kind of boring and uneventful team.

Reality

Club officials, first and foremost club president Martin Kind, try and discuss internal things via the media. And as there are not a lot of newspapers in Hannover, there are plenty of interviews and statements in nationwide outlets, be it newspaper, TV or radio. This kind of “open” approach to the matters at hand as season expectations, transfer rumours, rumblings in the team, and disputes with fans have made things not much easier to deal with behind closed doors. This has seen the team get a new manager in Dirk Dufner before the start of the 2013/14 season, and a new coach in Tayfun Korkut during last season’s winter break.

Philosophy

Whereas former coach Mirko Slomka preferred a 4-4-2 with Mame Diouf and Didier Ya Konan up front, the change in coaching and playing staff has seen the strategy shift to a 4-2-3-1. Korkut used this system in the Rückrunde and his decision to give Lars Stindl the number-10 role worked out really well. While the system under Slomka was based on quick counterattacks (and getting all points at home because of the woeful away record), Korkut had this summer to build his own team and will look at a more possession-based approach.

Plan B

While the focus on possession will most likely work better against the smaller sides, Hannover still has pacy players to surprise bigger opponents who defend with a high line, with counterattacking moves. Players like Leonardo Bittencourt or newcomer Hiroshi Kiyotake can bring the ball forward quickly very well. Another focus will be set-pieces. Although Szabolcs Huszti has left the club to play in China, Christian Pander and Kiyotake can very well step up and swing in dangerous free kicks and corners.

Strengths and Weaknesses

Korkut can trust the first ever Hannover 96 World Champion in Ron-Robert Zieler in goal, boosted by a new contract signed after the World Cup. His form had had a dip 18 months ago, but since then he has returned to be a solid goalkeeper on a very high level. The midfield has a core of experienced players in Leon Andreasen and Lars Stindl, who got the captain’s armband plus the number 10 jersey this summer. By signing Joselu, Hannover broke their transfer record (€5m) for a player who had a very good last season with Eintracht Frankfurt and who will be looking to replace Mame Diouf, who left the club for Stoke City.

The turnover in the squad is quite remarkable. In a brave effort to rejuvenate the squad, the club let go, amongst others,  Diouf, Huszti, and Dider Ya Konan (released), all their offensive assets from last season. The new signings have to show their worth pretty quickly so that scoring goals won’t become a problem. Another area with question marks over it is the defense, which looked unstable at times last season. Andre Hoffmann tore his ACL on the second day of pre-season training and so the club brought in 33-year-old Lithuanian defender Marius Stankevičius from Turkish side Gaziantepspor to bring depth to the centre of defense. The lack of pace in defense might be a problem when playing with a high line.

Takeaway from 2013-14

A season without rumours of rumblings in the team will do as well for the team as a Hinrunde with points gained away from home. Slomka’s credit also ran out because he managed to get 0/24 points away from home.

Trivia

With 71 bookings and 6 players sent off, Hannover lead the disciplinary league table in the 2013/14 season. This is the first time they have led this table since 1985/86, when they collected 61 bookings and had 4 players sent off.

Verdict

The aim must be to keep the newly improved away record at a steady level and turn this year of major transition into a quiet campaign without drifting to either of the extremes of the table. A finish in the upper half of the table would be considered a success, although there is no pressure to aim for the top 6. The new players have to show, whether they can compensate the 50% of goals that have left the club. The mood around the club reaches from optimistic to skeptical and even to anxious.

The Boss

Tayfun Korkut is beginning his first full season with the team and has assembled a lot of young players around him. After the derby defeat midway through the Rückrunde and a schedule against most relegation candidates ahead of him, his tenure was in jeopardy already, but he managed to steady the ship and steer it into calmer waters, finishing with five games unbeaten.

Odds to win league:

1000/1 (courtesy of Ladbrokes.com)

“60-second dossier”

  • Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 7
  • Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 5
  • Number of Matches drawn: 6
  • Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 4
  • Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 12
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 5
  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 2
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 2
  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 2

Five-Year Record: 15th, 4th, 7th, 9th, 10th

Q & A with a club fan: @Nithiel

“Which Hannover player do we need to keep an eye out for?”

In my humble opinion, this season will be Leonardo Bittencourt’s season. The young winger has always given his best, running miles on end but “only” scoring four goals. With good tactical training and a bit more composure on the ball he will overcome his obstacles and help Hannover 96 to achieve more.

“Which player is the terrace favorite?”

Although Joselu seems to be a close contender after his recent contribution in the Pokal, this award has to go to Lars Stindl. Ever since scoring that goal in Copenhagen (which I just re-watched just to amuse myself a little), Hannover 96’s supporters had a special place in their hearts for their number 10. Taking over from Steven Cherundolo, the role as skipper came naturally to him. With his composure and sobriety, he braves the stormiest of waters like facing the fans after a painful derby defeat in Braunschweig.

“Which player would you happily drive to another club?”

Felipe. No question about that. He has been with the club for what now? Two years? And he hasn’t given us anything. When he is not injured or ill himself (ingrown toenail – how can a professional footballer let that happen?), he manages to injure other players. To be on the safe side, I wouldn’t drive him myself though. I bet we wouldn’t make it there in one piece.

“What piece of advice would you give Tayfun Korkut?”

Tactical genius me has no proper advice to give but I’d tell him not to lose his playfulness. When he took over from Slomka, the team was drifting apart. But with his fresh approach he seems to have melted them back together.

“Is there an opposition player you’d love to play for Hannover?”

I’m being delusional here but Marco Reus. His pace might just be what Hannover 96 needs.

“Which opposition player do you despise?”

It took me a while to answer this. I’m not usually one to hold grudges. But I guess I’ll pick Franck Ribéry. Why? He just seems to be so full of himself.

“Where will you finish in the Bundesliga? How far will Hannover make it in the Pokal?”

We lost our most important forwards in Huszti, Ya Konan and Diouf (plus on-loan man Artjoms Rudņevs) but also made good signings like Joselu, to name but one. I think we can expect a good couple of goals from him. Plus Lars Stindl really grew into his new role in midfield and as a leader. Others will come forward and I see us finish in 6th or 7th place.

We’ve been a bit unlucky in recent years, drawing big clubs early in the cup (Borussia Dortmund 2012, Bayern Munich 2013). But after getting the taste of it and then losing out of European football two years in a row now leaves the team hungry for achievements. I think we’ll make it to the quarter finals.

“What will the atmosphere be like in the stadium this season?”

This is actually a tough question to answer. Honestly – I am a bit pessimistic about it since the ultras announced their boycott will continue throughout the next season. At least it will take a couple of games to get used to and for other groups to take up the initiative to start a song and so on. But my hope is that all in all it will be a more peaceful feeling on the terraces. The negativity amongst supporters was a real burden at the end of last season.

Fixture list:

August

  • 23 Schalke 04 (H)
  • 30 Mainz 05 (A)

September

  • 13 Hamburger SV (H)
  • 21 SC Paderborn (A)
  • 24 1. FC Köln (H)
  • 27 VfB Stuttgart (A)

October

  • 04 FC Bayern München (A)
  • 18 Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)
  • 25 Borussia Dortmund (A)

November

  • 01 Eintracht Frankfurt (H)
  • 08 Hertha BSC (A)
  • 22 Bayer Leverkusen (H)
  • 29 1899 Hoffenheim (A)

December

  • 06 VfL Wolfsburg (H)
  • 13 Werder Bremen (A)
  • 16 FC Augsburg (H)
  • 20 SC Freiburg (A)

January

  • 31 Schalke 04 (A)

February

  • 03 Mainz 05 (H)
  • 07 Hamburger SV (A)
  • 14 SC Paderborn (H)
  • 22 1. FC Köln (A)
  • 28 VfB Stuttgart (H)

March

  • 07 FC Bayern München (H)
  • 14 Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)
  • 21 Borussia Dortmund (H)

April

  • 04 Eintracht Frankfurt (A)
  • 11 Hertha BSC (H)
  • 18 Bayer Leverkusen (A)
  • 25 1899 Hoffenheim (H)

May

  • 02 VfL Wolfsburg (A)
  • 09 Werder Bremen (H)
  • 16 FC Augsburg (A)
  • 23 SC Freiburg (H)

Crucial Schedule Stretch:

October and March only feature games against Bayern and the two Borussias, three of the sides who will most likely finish in the top 6 this season. Any points gained there will look good, if only to avoid overly dramatized “Three losses in a row – crisis in Hannover?” headlines. The games against the promoted sides come early in successive weeks, a good point in time to get points under the belt.

The following two tabs change content below.
Ansgar Löcke is a diehard Hannover fan who has written previously for the Bundesliga Fanatic on his adventures following the 96ers in Pokal competition and in Denmark. You can follow Ansgar on twitter @Ansgarius_90

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.