2015-16 Season Preview: Hamburger SV

Full Club Name: Hamburger Sport-Verein e.V.
Founding Year: 29 September 1887
Stadium Name: Volksparkstadion(57,000 capacity)
Nickname: Die Rothosen (The Red Shorts), Der Dino (The Dinosaur (really?))
Colors: Blue-white-black
Rivals: St. Pauli, Werder Bremen, Bayern München (1980s)

2014-15 Finishes:

2. Bundesliga: 16th (35 points, -25 GD), relegation playoff win against Karlsruher SC (agg: 3-2)
DFB Pokal: Round 2 (1-3 loss to Bayern München
Top Goal Scorer (In all competition): Rafael van der Vaart (!) and Pierre-Michel Lasogga (5 goals(!)), Zoltán Stieber (4)

“60-second dossier”

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 7
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 3
Number of Matches drawn: 9
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 7
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 10
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: 1
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 1 (Away at Karlsruher SC)

2014-15 Season Summary

If you read our last season’s HSV preview, you might think about skipping this part. But as much as it is difficult to find new words to describe Hamburg’s downhill movement, I will try my best to make it interesting. The Dinosaurs continue to stay around in Germany’s top division, but once again they done so by the skin of their teeth. To be fair with their relentless attitude, it must be noted that they would have been in this season’s Champions League if the season started on Matchday 30. They lost all of their last five league matches and relied on the bottom two sides similar outcomes to book a place in the playoff back in 2013-14, but they raised their game towards the season finale to earn another life saver in what proves to be a memorable relegation battle this time around. The return of Bruno Labbadia was instrumental after director of sports Peter Knäbel endured a difficult time in the dugout as caretaker manager in the wake of Josef Zinnbauer’s sacking, who was in charge for major part of the campaign.

When Bruno Labbadia sacked by Hamburg in 2010, they were in the semi-finals of the Europa League. Only six and a half years from then, eleven managers (5 interims) have been in the hot seat of the traditional-laden club. Needless to say, that would only mean one thing; crisis. Surely the title aspirations of the 1980s, and the European nights are something of an old news for the club, as they hope their unprecedented top-flight status will not be the next thing to disappear. Last season started with the renowned hope, not least with billionaire Klaus-Michael Kuehne help for the signing of star players in the off-season, but only three matchdays into the season, the savior from previous campaign, Mirko Slomka, saw the exit door after seeing his side remained scoreless against both of the promoted sides and lowly Hannover (Slomka’s old team).

Zinnbauer couldn’t change the fortunes upfront, but at least the defense looked stubborn in his early days. They manage to shut out all the Bundesliga’s Champions League participants in the Hinrunde, and they played with certain aggregation since the arrival of the former U21 coach. But as it as been the case with most of the Bundesliga debutant managers, Zinnbauer lost territory when it really mattered, and he is shown the exit door following a lackluster home defeat against fellow strugglers Hertha Berlin. Peter Knäbel stepped in to change matters, but a horrifying heavy defeat at Bayer Leverkusen roars for the return of a certain man; Bruno Labbadia. Despite losing his first match at helm, not least against arch-rivals Werder Bremen, Labbadia managed to save the club from the drop, collecting ten points from the possible fifteen in the remaining fixtures before scraping away with a lifeline in the all-important playoff.

The nerve-wracking moment that saw HSV remain in the first division is not hugely popular in the country, though. Despite all the fuss concerning the lack of traditional clubs in the Bundesliga and the inevitable rise of the so-called marketing clubs, many people were dying to see the end of Hamburg’s ever-present top-flight status, as Mathias Ostrzolek, while taking part in the Bundesliga’s corner kick challenge, jokingly (or not so jokingly) stated everyone wanted them to get relegated last season. The fullback later pointed out another interesting point about fighting until the last second in the fun competition, with the Northerners saved themselves from an embarrassing zero point from fifteen attempts by scoring three direct corners in the final round.

Where it really matters, Hamburg pulled off yet another resilient comeback in their home opener of this season, thanks to two goals in the final ten minutes against ten-man Stuttgart in a thrilling encounter. The way they started the campaign made the win felt like more than just the first three points on board, with an early exit from the cup by the hands of fourth-tier Carl Zeiss Jena before the usual heavy defeat at the Allianz Arena in the league curtain-raiser had a negative effect of reliving the recent tumultuous years. Of course there were off-pitch wrong doings to go along, as well, thanks to stories of a stolen Peter Knäbel backpack consisting of several internal documents and inadvertently using Hertha Berlin fans’ choreography in the already produced club t-shirts.

2014-15 Trivia

Good: Despite carving out as many points as the number of games (17) in the Hinrunde, Hamburg were fourth in the fewest goals conceded table (19).

Bad: Hamburg set a Bundesliga record for the longest goal drought since the start of the season. (five games + the first 25 minutes against Eintracht Frankfurt).

Evil: The 8-0 drubbing by Bayern München makes for an interesting reading of the last five meetings aggregate scoreline at the Allianz Arena: 31-3. Well, make that 36 (an average of 6 goals per game by the Bavarians) after this season’s opener.

Money Matters

Heiko Westermann, Marcell Jansen and Rafael van der Vaart were instrumental in the playoff win at Greuther Fürth in the first of the back-to-back near-relegation experience for Hamburg, but this summer was a perfect time to move on following what seems to be the disappointing showing in their long-serving career at the club. Lewis Holtby couldn’t do much better than those three veterans while playing on loan for the red shorts, but somehow the midfielder earned an attractive three-years contract at Volksparkstadion. They also hand a second chance for Emir Spahic, whose contract at Bayer Leverkusen terminated last year in the wake of his infamous fight with club’s security guard. Although a free-transfer of such experienced player seems a real coup, the early signs are not that impressive, with the Bosnian caught wrong-footed in many occasions.

Summary: – € 5.8 mil (€ 10.7 mil earned and € 16.5 mil spent)

Arrivals

Lewis Holtby (from Tottenham Hotspur) – € 7.2 mil
Albin Ekdal (from Cagliari) – € 4.32 mil
Sven Schipplock (from TSG Hoffenheim) – € 2.4 mil
Michael Gregoritsch (from VfL Bochum) – € 1.45 mil
Gotoku Sakai (from VfB Stuttgart) – 490,000 €
Batuhan Altintas (from Bursaspor) – free transfer
Andreas Hirzel (from FC Vaduz) – 48,000 €
Emir Spahic – unattached

Promoted: Mohamed Gouaida and Ronny Marcos (from Hamburger SV II), Finn Porath (Hamburg U19)

Loan return: Kerem Demirbay (from 1.FC Kaiserslautern)

Departures

Jonathan Tah (to Bayer Leverkusen) – € 7.2 mil
Valon Behrami (to Watford) – € 3.4 mil
Alexander Brunst (to Wolfsburg II) – 192,000 €
Lasse Sobiech (to St. Pauli, previously on loan) – Free transfer
Jacques Zoua (to Ajaccio, previously on loan at K. Erciyesspor) – Free transfer
Rafael van der Vaart (to Real Betis) – Free transfer
Maximilian Beister (to 1.FSV Mainz 05) – Free transfer
Slobodan Rajkovic (released)
Heiko Westermann (to Real Betis) – Free transfer
Marcell Jansen (retired)
Julian Green (to Bayern München) – End of loan
Matti Steinmann (to Chemnitzer FC) – Loan
(All figures courtesy of transfermarkt.co.uk)

The Boss

Having had a brief stint both as a player and manager of the club before, Labbadia was a familiar figure when he arrived at Hamburg in the back end of last season. He didn’t disappoint, as the team finally avoids relegation, which forced the club officials to not stop talking about his glory all summer long. That doesn’t count for much, though, as his predecessor Mirko Slomka left ruining his luck after reliving of duty despite his heroics on their survival story a season earlier. No one can be certain to what extent they will keep their faith on Labbadia, but for sure he is one of the favorite for bookmakers choice of an early managerial casualty.

Odds: Bwin = 14th place finish

Five-Year Record

  • 2010/11 (Bundesliga): 8th place (45 points, -6 GD), (DFB-Pokal): 2nd round
  • 2011/12 (Bundesliga): 15th place (36 points, -22 GD), (DFB-Pokal): Round of 16
  • 2012/13 (Bundesliga): 7th place (48 points, -11 GD), (DFB-Pokal): 1st round
  • 2013/14 (Bundesliga): 16th place (27 points, -24 GD), Relegation/promotion playoff win vs. Greuther Fürth (agg: 1-1 (away goal rule)), (DFB-Pokal): Quarter Finals
  • 2014/15 (Bundesliga): 16th place (35 points, -25 GD), Relegation/promotion playoff win vs. Karlsruher SC (agg: 3-2, AET), (DFB-Pokal): 2nd round

Questions with a Club Fan

Thanks goes to Oliver Fisher (@olifisher), whose work collection can be found on oliverfishersports.wordpress.com, for coming up with the answers in short notice.

  • Keep an eye out for . . . “Albin Ekdal – From watching a lot of Serie A football I know Ekdal has the ability to become a key piece for HSV. He will slot nicely into the midfield”.
  • Terrace favorite . . . “Lewis Holtby – he is HSV through and through and you could see what it meant to him after the play-off win against Karlsruhe. The fans love that”.
  • Player you’d happily drive to another club . . . “This is a tough one, because I feel like the club have shed most of the dead weight, but I would have to say Iličević as he just hasn’t contributed much in his time here”.
  • Advice you’d give your manager . . . “Make sure the team are always confident and treat every game as if it could be their last in the top flight. Every 90 minutes has to be viewed as another final or play-off second leg”.
  • Opposition player you secretly admire . . . “Granit Xhaka – an all-round class act and will only get better and better, a big move could be on the cards for him soon”.
  • Opposition player you despise. . . “Most, if not all, of the Bayern and Bremen players, but if I had to pick one player it would be Lewandowski. I still feel he betrayed Dortmund”.
  • Tip you’d give away fans . . . “Enjoy the city for what it is! Buzzing nightlife, lots to see and do, and of course soak up the atmosphere of the Volksparkstadion well in advance”.
  • Where will you finish . . . “16th – I don’t feel the team has come on leaps and bounds but we will once again have just about enough to stay afloat”.

Crucial Fixtures Stretch

The DFL weren’t doing them any favors with the opening fixture at Bayern provided yet another awful start of the season, but they hold their own to get the maximum points at the expense of last season’s fellow relegation-threatened giants Stuttgart. Next in the schedule Hamburg face successive away matches at Rhine rivals Köln and Mönchengladbach before a relatively easy fixtures against Frankfurt and Ingolstadt (away). The end of November will see crucial matches, with HSV hoping to extend their impressive recent record against Borussia Dortmund before a trip to fiercest rivals Werder Bremen. In the corresponding fixtures after the Winterpause, Hamburg will hope to salvage some points to avoid yet another heart-pounding end of the season. The final match of the season is away at Augsburg. That is, of course, if a third consecutive relegation playoff isn’t on the card.

Verdict

You might think my final verdict is hugely affected by the home win against Stuttgart, but I really hope Hamburg will not let another end-to-end disastrous season to happen this time around. It might be nothing except just another of the pre-season tournaments, not to mention with matches decided in only 45 minutes of play, but they showed a great team spirit (which has been lacking all the while) and determination to prove their doubters wrong in their Telekom cup “triumph”. Apart from the old-fashioned (and one of my all time favorite) Schipplock, new signings are showing great promises so far this season, with youngster Gideon Jung also featuring regularly at the middle of the park. Its always a good recipe to have new faces taking proceedings after the club endured such a difficult time both on and off the pitch for the last couple of seasons. (13th)

The following two tabs change content below.
Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical differences, he's interested in every detail of German football, if not any kind of football. Wolfsburg's industrious away win at Hamburg started his Bundesliga obsession back in 2005. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG