March 22, 2017

Thomas Schaaf’s ringing in the changes at Hannover 96

The winter break may only have lasted for a month, but what a hectic four weeks it turned out to be for Hannover 96. The club brought in one of the Bundesliga’s longest-ever serving managers to replace Michael Frontzeck at the helm and as many as 5 new players as they look to avoid an end to a fourteen year stay in the top flight this season.
Frontzeck, who was responsible for keeping Die Roten in the league last season, failed to get the team to reproduce last year’s end-of-season form which saw them just lose once in the last 5 matches of the season. Just 4 wins in the Hinrunde looked to be just a continuation of Hannover’s poor form throughout the calendar year and with the team second from bottom along with having the second worst attack in the league, a decision had to be made and in the end Frontzeck decided to leave himself.
A new man in charge – Thomas Schaaf

To turn their dire season around Hannover boss Martin Kind and managing director Martin Bader have decided to bring in Thomas Schaaf. Most Bundesliga fans know him well from the 14 years he spent in Werder and from last season when he was in charge of Eintracht Frankfurt. In his 40 years within German football the 54-year-old has never been relegated, which fans of Die Roten may consider a promising omen.

Over the break, there’s been quite some speculation as to how Schaaf will set up the team in the Rückrunde, which players and formations will he settle on, and how he’ll integrate the new signings into his plans. The Belek Cup during the winter preparations were supposed to give some insight into what Schaaf is planning on doing. So far it appears that he is set on using 4-2-3-1 as his base formation – having used it in three of the four games with his old defensive 4-4-2 as his alternative tactic. Interestingly it seems like he’ll stick with the same system that Frontzeck settled on during the final weeks of the Hinrunde, but Schaaf is certainly flexible enough tactically to try several different variations if necessary(until he finds the right fit for his current group of players).

Adding depth and quality to the side

So far this season Hannover have been lacking in quality on the pitch as well as being vulnerable whenever they faced injuries to some of their better players. To address that matter Martin Bader has taken his cheque book into his hand splashed out on no less than five new signings. Hugo Almeida and Adam Szalai add two interesting options in attack to help solve Hannover’s scoring problems. Both players haven’t seen an awful lot of playing time of late, and it is questionable if they’ll be able to help their new club straight away. With Artur Sobiech also around, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Schaaf go with a two-striker system in some games where Hannover really need the points from.
Talented playmaker Iver Fossum and Japanese international Hotaru Yamaguchi add some much needed creativity and steel to their midfield which comes at a good time with Hiroshi Kiyotake possibly out for a while with a fractured foot injury. Marius Wolf has come in from 1860 Munich and adds width to their roster as well as productivity from the flanks, something this current squad seems to have lacked before his arrival. The management has done its homework by pinpointing the problem areas from the Hinrunde, bringing in different types of player to solve these issues.
With half a season still to play and just a couple points off from safety, the situation is not a dramatic one for Die Roten, as they have plenty of time to get out of the danger zone. A win at home to Darmstadt on Saturday would be signal of intent and may be the dawn of a new beginning for the club under Schaaf after a quite disappointing, forgettable overall 2015 year.
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Edin Halilovic

Edin is a Bosnian currently residing in the United States whose interest in the Bundesliga and German football in general has been increasing heavily in recent years. Follow him @edinh_96