Holstein Kiel 2018/19 Season Preview: Can Die Störche replicate last seasons heroics?

The Basics
Name: Holstein Kiel (Kieler Sportvereinigung Holstein von 1900 e.V)

Nickname: Die Störche

Founded: October 7 1900 (117 Years Old)

Team Colours: Blue, White and Red

Rivals: FC St Pauli, VfB Lübeck

Holstein-Stadion
Capacity: 11,386

Attendance: 178,537 (10,502 per match – 89.9% Capacity)
14th Best in 2.Bundesliga last season

Note: The East Stand of the Holstein-Stadion is being reconstructed which will increase capacity to 15,000*

Trophies
German Champions: (1) 1911/12

2017-18 Finishes
2.Bundesliga: 3rd place (14 wins, 14 draws, 6 losses), Goals For 71, Goals Against 44, Goal Difference +27
Holstein Kiel were defeated 4-1 on aggregate in the relegation play-offs to VfL Wolfsburg

DFB Pokal: 2nd Round (Defeated by Mainz 05 3:2 aet)

2017/18 Top Scorers (All Competitions)
⦁ Marvin Ducksch (19)
⦁ Dominick Drexler (14)
⦁ Kingsley Schindler (14)
⦁ Steven Lewerenz (8) Scored four on the final matchday against Eintracht Braunschweig

Pre-Season Results
Record: 3-0-0
Goals Scored: 20
Goals Conceded: 0
⦁ Holstein Kiel 10-0 TSV Büsum
⦁ Holstein Kiel 10-0 Hetlinger MTV
⦁ Holstein Kiel 4-0 Todersfelde

Questions with an Expert:

For the best league in the world, it would be fitting to bring the expert of all experts for 2. Bundesliga in Jonathan Walsh to talk about the upcoming season for Holstein Kiel. Although Jonny is avid VfL Bochum, his encyclopaedic knowledge on 2.Bundesliga is second to none.

MK: What should we expect from Holstein Kiel this season?

JW: I think it’s going to be a tough year for Kiel. Not only have they lost key starters in Rafael Czichos, Dominick Drexler and Marvin Ducksch, a lot of the regular loanees have all returned to their parent clubs. It might not seem like a major blow to lose three key players but given that they made up a high percentage of goals and assists, it is a huge hit for the Storks. They have replaced them with some very interesting names, which alone makes their season a worthwhile follow. They are aiming to break the so-called curse of third place, where the relegation play-off side fails to flourish the year after. This, coupled with the loss of the big names, makes for a tough season on paper. However, they have been shown to be a confidence side and should they hit the ground running, they should be okay in the end.

MK: Name one player to watch out for?

JW: David Kinsombi. He ended up playing as an eight last year and he had to do a lot of clever work between defence and attack to allow Dominick Drexler the opportunity to flourish. He’ll be key in keeping the link between the two given the new faces in the side. It’s a big responsibility for someone who can be quite raw at times, but his lack of positioning at times is made up for by his never-say-die attitude and ability to recover defensive situations.

MK: How much will the departures of Dominick Drexler and Marvin Ducksch be felt?

JW: Massively. To lose such a huge part of their attack is a massive blow. It will be interesting to see who replaces Drexler in midfield, yet both Benjamin Girth and Janni-Luca Serra provide an out-of-the-box solution to Ducksch’s absence. The lack 2. Bundesliga experience, yet could flourish under Tim Walter’s tutelage. Despite Ducksch grabbing the headlines, regular watchers of the league will confirm that replacing Drexler will be much more difficult. If Walter can find someone suitable to replace the star man, he will be on the road to stability.

MK: What are your thoughts on new manager Tim Walter?

JW: I really like Tim Walter. While not many, if any, players have made the breakthrough from Bayern II through to the senior squad he has certainly developed them well. His record in terms of results is very impressive, and he was someone I had in mind for the job before it actually came about. His work with youth teams fits the profile that a lot of 2. Bundesliga clubs like and he was unfortunate not to do better in the Regionalliga Bayern last year – had it not been for 1860 Munich, it could easily have been Bayern’s title. Nevertheless, he should be a good fit for what Kiel want to do.

When We Last Saw Them

Holstein Kiel played well above its pay grade last season, where safety was a realistic expectation for Markus Anfang’s side. The plucky club from the north were spectacular to watch and provided real entertainment for their supporters. It was the first time since 1981 that Holstein Kiel had competed in the second tier of German football. Die Störche would finish the 2017/18 campaign 3rd in the standings with an impressive record of 14-14-6. An extreme overachievement by Kiel who hadn’t finished that highly in the second tier since winning the Regionalliga Nord back in 1965.

The devil is in the detail

When watching Holstein Kiel last season, there is one thing that is evident and that’s their hunger for goals. 71 goals! To put that into perspective, in the last five 2.Bundesliga seasons only one other team has managed to achieve 70 plus goals. That was Freiburg in the 2015/16 season where they scored 75 times on their way to winning 2.Bundesliga. It’s the first time this decade that a team has scored more than 70 goals and failed to gain promotion. Eintracht Frankfurt, Greuther Fürth managed to score 76 and 73 goals respectively in the 2011/12 season and both gaining promotion.

The table above shows Holstein Kiel’s position relative to each fixture throughout the season. For the majority of the campaign, Kiel found themselves in the hunt for automatic promotion until the latter stages where they were able to hold onto third place from the chasing pair of Arminia Bielefeld and Jahn Regensburg.

They were able to achieve this feat by playing consistent football and going through stretches throughout the season where they didn’t drop points. Not at any stage throughout the 2.Bundesliga season did Holstein Kiel lose twice in a row, when defeat struck Kiel would find a way to get a result the following matchday. A testament to a strong mentality within the squad.

Aspiration

Mid-Table: Last season, Holstein Kiel’s goals would’ve been just to survive and yet they accomplished the unthinkable in making their way to the relegation play-off being just two games away from promotion. Like in every season, the teams around you improve and there is no doubting that some teams have gotten stronger whilst others have consolidated their lists heading into the new campaign.  Kiel have been a side that has had to fight hard for every step forward, but have made steady progress.

Nonetheless, for me, losing Dominick Drexler and Marvin Ducksch without really replacing them is a huge downer for Kiel and it seems evident on paper at least, that repeating last season will be extremely difficult. However, keeping  Kinsombi, Dominik Schmidt and  Schindler is a major boost for Holstein Kiel. But in future, it’s very likely that clubs from the Bundesliga and abroad could look to buy the trio in winter.

In what could be a lean season, the magic of the DFB Pokal could be something of note for Holstein Kiel who almost knocked out Mainz in the second round. However, they would be thwarted by a former player in Robin Zentner who produce multiple saves to send Die Störche out of the cup.

Reality

Safety: As I mentioned for the club’s aspirations about their previous campaigns goals of avoiding relegation, this will be the reality for Holstein Kiel this season. Last season, 2.Bundesliga was super tight and being consistent was a real feature of Die Störche. However, losing Drexler and Ducksch is a massive in the context of their offensive output. Can they find 10-15 goals from new comers Girth and Serra and will they be able to cope with the riggers of 2.Bundesliga.

Can they get 14 goals once again from Schindler? It’s a big ask.

The squad is weaker and the direction of the club is to rebuild with a more youthful looking side. In fact in the 2017/18 season, Holstein Kiel had the equal oldest squad per average age in the league at 24.9. Yet, this season Kiel possesses the 12th youngest squad at 24.8. Yes other sides have become older.

It’s true that plenty of things will need to go favourably for Holstein Kiel to avoid the drop, but it is certain that Die Störche will be entrenched in the relegation dogfight.

The Boss

Tim Walter is up for the challenge in Kiel

With the departure of Markus Anfang to fellow 2.Bundesliga club 1.FC Köln, Holstein Kiel have employed former Bayern Munich II Manager Tim Walter. The 42-year-old has bought his time waiting for the right opportunity and after cutting time with the Bavarian’s at the end last season, seeking a chance in a high division. Holstein Kiel came calling, giving Walter his first  senior squad job of his career.

Prior to becoming the manager of Kiel, Walter worked at Karlsruhe with the U17’s and U19’s for two seasons before joining the U17’s of Bayern Munich. With the Bavarians Walter had a very successful two seasons during which his team won 39 of the 55 matches (2.18 points per match). In his final season in charge of the U17’s, he led them to the title, beating Werder Bremen in the final 2-0. Walter has been the head of developing Lars Lukas Mai and Franck Evina, who are both promising prospects for Bayern in the future.

His final season at Munich was very respectable as he moved from U17’s manager to manager of the second team. Full of talent such as Milos Pantovic, Kwasi Okeyere Wreidt, Fabian Benko and Leo Weinkauf between the sticks. Walter’s side was the main contender to rival 1860 Munich but couldn’t get past the standard set by Die Löwen who ran out Regionalliga Bayern champions by nine points.

It’s evident that Walter has a proven track record in improving and developing young talent, the question remains if Walter can handle the rigours and challenges of Germany’s second division.

Philosophy

Many would hope that Holstein Kiel would be able to play a similar brand to last season which saw the side finish third, and for the most part we could see this. Yet, we are also likely to see an injection of fluidity through the philosophy of new manager Tim Walter. In an interview the 42-year-old did Andreas Geidel from Sportbuzzer. Walter conveyed that his sides don’t exactly have a system, but has a basic order where fluid transitioning is important.

Walter also went onto say he would like his Holstein Kiel side to be extremely ball orientated and with possession, switch the ball quickly and once losing possession, its imperative to aggressively counterpress through defensive transition and offensive organisation. Without possession, an active defence is required from Holstein Kiel whilst producing a high press.

In the long run, Walter hopes for “the opponent should adapt to us”.

Formation wise, we are likely to see Holstein Kiel in a 4-2-3-1 with the two defensive pivots under Walter. Unlike last season where Anfang implemented a 4-1-4-1 for most of last season which worked well.  Kinsombi who played an important role for Kiel as the number 8, will be joined with an additional defensive midfielder in either Dominic Peitz or Alexander Mühling. Establishing a strong midfield pivot will be pivotal going forward for Walter.

Transfers – As of 16th July (All Figures in Euros)
Out:
⦁ Dominick Drexler to FC Midtylland (2.5 Million)
⦁ Rafael Czichos to 1. FC Köln (1.8 Million)
⦁ Lukas Kruse (Released)
⦁ Joel Gerezgiher to SG Sonnenhof-Gorßaspach (Free Transfer)
⦁ Luca Dürholtz to SV Elversberg (Free Transfer)
⦁ Sebastian Heideinger (Released)
⦁ Niklas Hohender to Chemnitzer FC (Free Transfer)
⦁ Marvin Ducksch to St.Pauli (End of Loan – Would later join Fortuna Düsseldorf)
⦁ Aaron Seydel to Mainz (End of Loan)
⦁ Chistopher Lenz to Union Berlin (End of Loan)
⦁ Tom Weilandt to VfL Bochum (End of Loan)
⦁ Amara Condé to VfL Wolfsburg (End of Loan)
⦁ Max Besuschkow to Eintracht Frankfurt (End of Loan)

In:
⦁ Stefan Thesker from FC Twente (Free Transfer)
⦁ Dominik Reimann from Borussia Dortmund (Free Transfer)
⦁ Timon Weiner from Schalke 04 U19 (Free Transfer)
⦁ Tobias Fleckstein from Schalke 04 U19 (Free Transfer)
⦁ Heinz Mörschel from Mainz 05 II (Free Transfer)
⦁ Jannik Dehm from Hoffenheim II (Free Transfer)
⦁ Janni-Luca Serra from Borussia Dortmund (Undisclosed)
⦁ Benjamin Girth from SV Meppen (Undisclosed)
⦁ Hauke Wahl from FC Ingolstadt (Undisclosed)
⦁ Mathias Honsak from RB Salzburg (Loan)
⦁ Philipp Sander from Holstein Kiel II (Promoted to First Team)
⦁ Utku Sen from VfL Osnabrück (Loan return)

Strengths

High pressing and willingness to go forward in numbers was a massive strength of Holstein Kiel’s last season and under Walter, it seems to be the recipe for the up coming campaign. Kiel play with a midfield five and when in attack, the wide players in Schindler and Steven Lewernz play a high line and cause plenty of havoc when they get in and behind the defence.

It wasn’t a mistake that Kiel were the best goal scoring team in 2.Bundesliga last season, but it shouldn’t be understated how defensively sound this team was. 44 goals conceded for the season which is the same as the champions Fortuna Düsseldorf with only Nürnberg, Bochum, Sandhausen and Eintracht Braunschweig having better defensive records. The back four will have one forced change thanks to the departure of Czichos who follows ex-coach Anfung to Köln. Stefan Thesker has plenty of 2.Bundesliga experience and should form a formidable partnership with the excellent Dominik Schmidt.

Although the goal scoring was a big feature of Kiel’s uprising, the defence shouldn’t be underestimated.

Weaknesses

What was a strength for Holstein Kiel has seamlessly become a weakness heading into the 2018/19 campaign. With the departures of Ducksch and Drexler, Kiel lose 32 of the 71 league goals scored last season. That’s a massive gulf and on face value, it seems that for the moment they haven’t been able to adequately replace those departing from the final third.

Granted, Holstein Kiel doesn’t have the budget the likes of Köln or Hamburg and being transfer savvy will be the difference between remaining in 2.Bundesliga or relegation. Serra and Girth seem to be the front-runners to play up top as the replacement to Ducksch, both have been amongst the goals in pre-season but have limited experience in 2.Bundesliga. It’s very likely that Die Störche will be hopeful that  Schindler can replicate his 12 league goals from last season whilst seeing more goals out of  Lewernz.

Critical Stretch

Die Störche face an important stretch comes between matchday 7 to 11. This starts with an away fixture at Union Berlin. Last season, Die Eisern caused all sorts of trouble for Kiel defensively with Union taking four points out of a possible six. In those two fixtures, Union scored six goals with four coming on matchday two. Then Kiel will host Darmstadt who they failed to beat last season, both games ending in draws. They will play Aue on matchday 9 who will also have a new manager for this season in Daniel Meyer.

The international proceeds before a huge two weeks, matchday 10 is the reunion with Anfang and Czichos making their returns to the Holstein-Stadion for the very first time as Köln representatives. What will undoubtedly be an emotionally charged encounter. Finally, Kiel make the short journey to Hamburg as they face rivals St. Pauli. The boys in brown took a maximum six points away from Holstein Kiel last season and once again will fuel for an exciting derby encounter.

These five fixtures could potentially make or break Holstein Kiel’s season.

Verdict

13th Place
Like a few teams in 2.Bundesliga this season, goal scoring could be a real issue and I believe this to be the case. Any optimism of Holstein Kiel repeating their stellar 2017/18 campaign have gone out the window for me as this season feels more of a rebuild then a retool to lead back to the top three. New manager  Walter has a difficult task replicating Kiel’s form but he also understands the situation of keeping Die Störche in 2.Bundesliga. Finding a goal scorer will be very important for Kiel and if they are able to do so they should survive; however, with how tight the league is its very possible that we could see  Walter’s side near the drop zone. All being said, I believe Holstein Kiel will finish 13th.

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Matthew is currently partaking in a Bachelor of Management (Marketing) at the University of South Australia and has been a RealSport’s writer since December of 2016 He predominately devotes his fandom to German football where he’s a passionate Schalke 04 supporter, and competes as a goalkeeper for the Rostrevor Old Collegians Soccer Club in Adelaide’s Collegiate Soccer League. Follow @MatthewKaragich

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