2015-2016 Season Preview: Hannover 96

Hannover 96
Nickname: Die Roten
Founded: April 12th 1896
Ground: Niedersachsenstadion (HDI-Arena)
Colours: black-white-green / red
Rivals: Eintracht Braunschweig

2014-15 Finishes:
Bundesliga: 13.
DFB Pokal: 2nd round (0:2 defeat to VfR Aalen)
UEFA Champions/Europa League (if applicable):
Top Goal Scorer: Lars Stindl (10 goals)

“60-second dossier”
Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 3
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 6
Number of Matches drawn: 10
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 7
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 8
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 2
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 5
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 4
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 1

2014-15 Season Summary

Given the Rückrunde, it is a pretty big miracle that Hannover is still in the top flight. At the winter break, 96 sat comfortably in 8th with half an eye up towards the European spots. From then on followed nearly an entire half of the season without a single win. After holding on to Coach Tayfun Korkut for a long while, the club finally pulled the emergency brake and sacked him five match days before the end of the season. New manager Michael Frontzeck managed to bring the club back to winning ways and secure another season in the Bundesliga.

Sporting director Dirk Dufner used his final summer with the club to rejuvenate the squad and bring in new players with potential. Old players like Joao Pereira, Marius Stankevicius, Robert Almer, and Markus Miller left the club without making a memorable impression on the pitch. Other players with longer history with the club also had to leave due to their age, namely Didier Ya Konan, Christian Pander, and Jan Schlaudraff. The latter two are still looking for a new club. Jimmy Briand had the offer to stay with the club but decided to return back to France. The departure of Lars Stindl was long reported and announced, yet filled the most eyes with tears after the end of the season. Joselu was snapped up for €8m by Stoke, the highest amount of money Hannover has ever received for a player. Lastly, Leo Bittencourt decided to leave the town for Köln.

In contrast, most of the new players are very young. Felix Klaus and Uffe Bech are pacey wingers, Oliver Sorg is the latest attempt to bring competition to the fullback positions. Mevlut Erdinc and Charlison Benschop were signed to bring back the goals, Philipp Tschauner is the new #2 in goal. Youngster Allan Saint-Maximin is a teenage prospect from France that got signed on loan from Monaco. He looks very tricky and bright.

Despite these signings, the pre-season didn’t look very convincing. The squad lacks the creativity and offensive leadership that a Lars Stindl brought and that couldn’t be replaced. The defence looks alright, Felipe and André Hoffmann are both fit for the first time in ages and are hoping for a starting spot in the centre of defence. Sorg can put pressure on both Sakai and Albornoz on either side of the defensive line.

The offensive side is the problem. Frontzeck wants to play the tactical game that most of the Bundesliga sides are playing – sitting back and hitting the opponent on the counter. During pre-season, that didn’t really work out yet. The new #10 Hiroshi Kiyotake broke his metatarsal in Japan NT training and is currently still recovering. More importantly, he hasn’t played a minute with the new players around him yet and will have to get used to that during the season.

Given all these transitions and problems, it is no surprise that the majority of experts and fans put Hannover into the bottom six teams of the league. The club’s official aim is 8th to 12th spot but given all the rumblings in the club and the upgrades the other Bundesliga teams have done, I’m sure the front office will be very happy with a solid season that sees them avoiding relegation.

2014-15 Trivia

151 – The number of days that Hannover 96 managed to stay without a win between match day 16 (a 2:0 win over FC Augsburg) and match day 33 (a 2:1 win away at Augsburg), managing eight draws and eight defeats along the way.

Money Matters

Arrivals:
Oliver Sorg – €3.5m
Mevlut Erdinc – €3.3m
Felix Klaus – €3m
Uffe Bech – €2m
Charlison Benschop – €1.5m
Philipp Tschauner – for free
Allan Saint-Maximin – on loan

Departures:

Joselu – €8m
Lars Stindl – €3m
Leonardo Bittencourt – €2.5m

Net spend: – €200k

The Boss

Michael Frontzeck (or #frontswag as his fans call him) was an unexpected choice when things looked bleak in the Rückrunde but despite his statistics he managed to keep the team up with two wins and two draws in his five games with the club. It was expected that he’d make way for a fresh coach after the season; however President Martin Kind decided to keep him and give him a new contract. Aforementioned statistics and a stuttering start in pre-season have lifted Frontzeck in the hot seat when it comes to first coach to get the sack. He’ll do his best to prove his doubters wrong.

Odds to win league:

Bundesliga Champions: 500/1
Getting Relegated: 4/1

Five-Year Record:

2010-2011 – 4th
2011-2012 – 7th
2012-2013 – 9th
2013-2014 – 10th
2014-2015 – 13th

Questions with a Club Fan:

Thanks for @runnertobi for standing by and answering the questions. Make sure you give him a follow to get updates on the club.

“Keep an eye out for… Allan Saint-Maximin. Although he only played 40 & 30 minutes for the club, a lot of hopes rest on the 18-year-old, who moved from AS St. Etienne to Monaco and was loaned for a year plus another optional year to Hannover. Young, very talented, and in a crucial role on the #10 position, he could bring the creative moments in attack. The offensive is the part of the team that stayed way behind expectations in pre-season. If Coach Michael Frontzeck fields him regularly, he could be the revelation of the season.”

“Terrace favourite… is yet to be found. After the departure of Lars Stindl the favourite is gone. Sure, there are a few candidates, who can fill Stindl’s role as a leader and therefore fan favourite. Right now there’s Salif Sané, who is on a good way with his presence on the pitch and the odd important headed goal.

Not to forget our only world champion Ron-Robert Zieler, who always produces at least solid performances and won’t be short of work in the upcoming season. He can play himself into the hearts of fans with his parades. But maybe it’ll all be different and some new guy ends up the favourite. Aforementioned Allan Saint-Maximin, but also Uffe Bech, Felix Klaus, and Charlie Benschop have the potential. “

“Player you’d happily drive to another club… Well, we already wisely sold some players this summer for more or less a lot of money. There’s not much need – before the season even starts – to get rid of another player. Though for a suitcase filled with £20m I’d personally bring Ceyhun Gülselam to a Premier League club.”

“Advice you’d give your manager… Stay patient! The start to the season won’t be easy and pre-season wasn’t great either. But people in Hannover lose their nerve pretty quickly. The team went through a lot of changes in the summer break and it’ll need time to find a clear starting XI. Frontzeck will have to experiment a bit.”

“Opposition player you secretly admire… It’s easy to pick the just gone Lars Stindl for that one; he’s done a lot for the club. Looking away from Hannover 96: I admire the path that Manuel Neuer took. It’s remarkable how he found his way after the move from Schalke to München and the hatred he received when he arrived, and how he again and again silenced his critics with extraordinary performances. We can discuss his interviews and marketing partners though…“

“Opposition player you despise… Apart from 96 defeats, there are few things that annoy me on a Bundesliga weekend as much as an interview with Philipp Lahm.”

“Tip you’d give away fans… Come to Hannover early and use your time to explore the Maschsee, the lake that sits right beside the stadium. The way the station to the stadium leads right through the inner city and can be used to enjoy some cold drinks there or in the market hall. And before the game one can relax at the lakeside and enjoy the surroundings. Oh, and make sure you go into the stadium with a filled stomach ;)”

“Where will you finish… Somewhere between 7th and 17th…. Alright, not the most precise prediction. I fear that it will be a very difficult season for Hannover. Right now especially the attack lacks players that can produce better-than-average performances. But equally there is a lot of potential in the offensive. It’ll depend on how players like Benschop, Erdinc, and Bech can reach the needed level in their first Bundesliga season. If goal scoring is as bad as in pre-season, it’ll be a long and tough season. I’m positive: Hannover will never be seriously in the relegation battle and will land in 11th at the end of the season.

Crucial Fixtures Stretch:

The start is pretty rough. Season opener away to the most underdog ever in Darmstadt will be some test. That is followed by games against Leverkusen, Mainz, and Dortmund. These games will pretty quickly determine, where the season will end up. The rest of the fixture list is pretty balanced, though for the first time in a long while Hannover doesn’t have the final game at home. DFL saw that too and for balance they gave 96 the final day of the season watching Bayern lifting the Bundesliga title in the Allianz Arena on match day 34.

Verdict

In May, all that fans hoped for was a calm next season, without never-ending winless streaks or rumblings in the club. Right now, they just hope the club somehow manages to stay out of trouble. Sporting Director Dufner has already left, the system under coach Frontzeck isn’t very progressive, and president Kind gives his opinions on a daily basis to any news outlet that is around.

Given all that, there are a lot of bad teams in the Bundesliga, even more than last season. Managing to stay up is not that difficult and if the club is somehow wondering how to survive, they can call their neighbours from Hamburg for some advice. The club hopes for 8th to 12th finish, I think it’ll be more like 11th to 14th for Hannover 96.

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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