Hinrunde Reviews: Hannover 96

The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how Hannover fared in the Hinrunde.

The story so far

As a side coming up from the Bundesliga II, you want to start well, get as many points on the board early as you can and put some distance between yourselves and the relegation places as quickly as possible. Hannover can tick the boxes on all of those so can be pleased with the first half of their season.

An away win at Mainz started things off and that was followed by an even more impressive home win over Schalke. Hannover went the first six league matches unbeaten picking up ten points. Following a 2-0 win over Hamburg on the Friday of matchday 4, Hannover actually sat on top of the table- the first time that had been the case since August 30th 1969!

Their great start however came to an end with successive defeats to Borussia Mönchengladbach and Eintracht Frankfurt. They responded well with a 2-1 win away at Augsburg with an 89th minute winner from substitute Niclas Füllkrug turning the match on its head. An exit from the DFB Pokal at the hands of VfL Wolfsburg was soon forgotten when the Niedersachsen side produced their best win of the season by downing Borussia Dortmund 4-2 at the HDI Arena.

The final seven games of the Hinrunde witnessed just one more win (against Hoffenheim) with just two points picked up in that spell. Entertainment wasn’t in short supply in their final match of the year- a pulsating 4-4 draw with Bayer Leverkusen.

All-in-all though, Hannover can be largely satisfied with their Hinrunde. They are eight points clear of the bottom three, have six points more than their fellow newcomers VfB Stuttgart and have shown that they have the players to compete at the highest level in the Bundesliga after their brief spell in the second division.

While everything seems to be going okay on the pitch, there is still off-field discontent with swathes of the Hannover fans deeply concerned about owner Martin Kind’s intentions for the club.

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Stat central

P17 W6 D5 L6 F24 A26 Pt23 (11th)

  • Salif Sane has made the highest number of defensive challenges in the Bundesliga with 234. Team mate Waldemar Anton is second with 220.
  • The 2-1 loss at Borussia Mönchengladbach on matchday 7 was the first defeat suffered by trainer Andre Breitenreiter since his appointment on 20th March 2017.
  • Ihlas Bebou can claim to be the fastest player in the league having been recorded at 35.25 km/h.

Top Performer: Ihlas Bebou

Hannover’s Togolese striker scored 11 goals for Fortuna Düsseldorf last season in Bundesliga II and is on target to match that in the Bundesliga after a fine start to his career in Niedersachsen.

Playing wide or through the middle, Bebou has caused all sorts of problems for defenders with his pace and dribbling (he averages 6 per game). He’s scored five goals so far- the first against Hamburg, but his brace against Borussia Dortmund will be what he is remembered for in the Hinrunde. He finished the year well with goals against both Hertha Berlin and Bayer Leverkusen.

The 23-year-old has pace to burn and he has been recorded at speeds in excess of the likes of Marcel Heller, Timo Werner and Karim Bellarabi.

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The summer signings

As a promoted side the signings made to strengthen the squad were always going to be extremely important for Hannover and based on the Hinrunde, they have proved to be some quite astute purchases.

Ihlas Bebou has been mentioned above as a stand-out player so far this season, but fellow attacker Jonathas has also had a positive impact. The Brazilian signed from Rubin Kazan scored three, but a thigh injury have limited him to seven appearances.

Right wingback Julian Korb has made that position his own under Andre Breitenreiter after his summer move from Mönchengladbach and has missed just one game. He scored the equaliser against Leverkusen to make the score 4-4 in the final game of the Hinrunde.  Matthias Ostrzolek on the other flank has also played in all but one of Hannover’s matches, while midfielder Pirmin Schwegler has missed just two. The only of the summer arrivals not to make an impact so far is keeper Michael Esser. He has been number two to Philipp Tschauner and the one match he was given a start in saw Hannover thumped 4-0 by Werder Bremen.

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Hinrunde lowlight

The aforementioned loss to Werder has the low point of a largely satisfactory season so far from Hannover. Coming just two games after their 4-2 win over Dortmund, it showed that perhaps a little fatigue was setting in following their great start.

Werder hadn’t beaten anyone all season and had the inexperienced Florian Kohfeldt in the dugout, but none of that showed at the Weser Stadion as Hannover suffered a real off-day.

Fin Bartels gave Werder the lead in the first-half before a Max Kruse hat trick in the second 45 minutes made it an afternoon to forget for Andre Breitenreiter and his team as they flopped against their local(-ish) rivals.

Hinrunde highlight

The 4-2 win over Borussia Dortmund probably eclipses sitting proud at the top of the table overnight. Striker Jonathas gave Hannover the lead from the penalty spot only to see Dan-Axel Zagadou equalise. Ihlas Bebou restored the home side’s lead on 40 minutes, but once again BVB managed to get themselves level through Andrey Yarmolenko’s goal.

The game turned on the sending off of Zagadou on 59th minutes as the visitors were doubly punished when Felix Klaus curled in the resulting free-kick superbly to put Hannover in front for the third time.

Forced to commit men forward, Bebou used his pace to outrun the Dortmund defence four minutes from time to complete a famous win for Hannover.

The forecast

If Hannover can replicate the form they showed in the Hinrunde then Bundesliga safety will be a guarantee. There have plenty of teams clearly worse than them this season and it would a slump of some proportions to see the 96er slip down into a fight against relegation. That said, Andre Breitenreiter will be taking nothing for granted and will want to avoid any complacency.

One win in their last seven games wasn’t a great end to the Hinrunde, so if they can equal the good start they made when the Rückrunde kicks-off, they’ll be fine. They face Hamburg, Freiburg and Köln fairly early on, and those points could prove extremely important in the long-run.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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