Hannover 96 have today appointed veteran coach Thomas Schaaf as successor to the recently resigned Michael Frontzeck. The former Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt trainer has quite the task on his hands.
A rather dismal Hinrunde saw the Niedersachsen side finish second from bottom and led to the resignation of Frontzeck with the trainer expressing his belief that he had lost support. Club bosses have moved quickly to bring in a successor, turning to 54-year-old Schaaf to reverse their fortunes in the Rückrunde.
“I know the difficulty of the task” Schaaf explained on his unveiling. “Nevertheless, I am looking forward to the challenge, together with the team, of staying up.”
Schaaf says he knows the size of the task ahead of him, but what are his chances of achieving his goal of keeping Hannover in the Bundesliga?
Well he certainly has experience on his side with 14 years in charge of Werder and another at Frankfurt. His first season at the Weser Stadion saw him rescue the relegation threatened Grün-Weißen from the dreaded drop before going on to win the DFB Pokal. He later led Werder to the double in 2004. His time at the Commerzbank Arena with Eintracht wasn’t quite as successful with a win percentage of just 33% during his season there.
Hannover have also already moved in the transfer market to strengthen their squad with Norwegian attacker Iver Fossum and Japanese international midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi arriving at the club. With Schaaf now installed further winter signings could well be on the way to improve a squad, which took just 14 points from the Hinrunde.
Another thing in Hannover’s favour is the fact that, despite their precarious situation in 17th place, there are plenty of sides within touching distance and a few wins at the start of the Rückrunde could easily see them climb to safety. FC Ingolstadt in 11th are only six points ahead and there are more than a few teams directly above them, whose form in the latter half of the Hinrunde would be setting off the relegation alarm bells.
Schaaf’s first task will be motivational. Aside from goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler it is very difficult to pick a Hannover player, who it could be said actually had a good Hinrunde. The defence leaked far too many goals (only Stuttgart and Werder conceded more), the forwards were ineffective (just seven of their eighteen goals came from the strikers) and their home form was dire (taking just six points from eight games).
A tough start awaits Hannover in January with a home opener against Darmstadt followed by tricky games against Bayer Leverkusen, Mainz and then Borussia Dortmund.
Schaaf has a difficult job on his hands, but Hannover fans will go into the New Year with a slightly healthier sense of optimism. The rescue mission starts here.
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