The hero of all Hannover once upon a time, Mirko Slomka isn’t what he was.
Relegated from the Bundesliga for the second time this decade, Hannover were hoping to immediately bounce back and secure promotion at the first attempt, like they did in the 2016/17 season. After the departure of the failed firefighter Thomas Doll, they turned to former coach Mirko Slomka to try and bring back the glory days to Lower Saxony.
However, promotion already looks out of sight. Die Roten were 14th in the table going into Monday night’s home fixture against Nürnberg, but with the Franconians also off to a slow start, it was a good opportunity for Slomka to relieve some of the pressure on him and restore the fans’ faith.
Yet within three minutes, Der Club had already taken the lead through Georg Margreitter. By halftime, it was 3-0 to the visitors, with Hanno Behrens and Robin Hack on the scoresheet. In the dying minutes, defender Margreitter added his second to make it 4-0.
The debacle was described as “an absolute nightmare” by Slomka, but it was one of his own making. The first, second and fourth goals all stemmed from a complete lack of defensive organisation and an inability to deal with crosses. If one goal is scored by an unmarked attacker, it can perhaps be put down to an individual mistake – if it happens three times, there is a fundamental problem.
This wasn’t the only area of the pitch in which Hannover were woefully ineffective. The stats show that they had 77% of the possession and completed more than five times as many passes as Nürnberg.
But with all that possession, they only created one decent chance all game and didn’t manage any shots on target. Nürnberg weren’t overly impressive themselves but were allowed to create four clear chances, all of which they took.
The defeat was especially disappointing as it followed a win over Holstein Kiel, just Hannover’s second victory of the season. The goals in that game came from Cedric Teuchert and Marvin Ducksch, which serves as a reminder that the squad has some genuine quality, with Hendrik Weydandt also featuring.
Stuttgart, Bielefeld and Nürnberg are the only other teams in the division with attacking depth like that, but Slomka hasn’t found a system in which these undoubtedly talented attackers can thrive.
That their only wins have been against Kiel (16th) and Wiesbaden (18th) shows that Slomka’s team are just not threatening against a well-drilled defence. Only in those two games have they scored more than once; the single goal they’ve scored in any of their five defeats this season was the own goal by Maxime Awoudja of Stuttgart on matchday 1.
The players shouldn’t be absolved of the blame – but there’s a reason why the criticism has been mostly aimed at Slomka. Were it not for his previous success at the HDI-Arena, would he have even been considered for the job?
Since being sacked by Hannover in 2013, he had a brief spell at Hamburg and then a disastrous 10-game stint with Karlsruhe, helping to take them down to the 3. Liga. Looking to the other big sides in the division, Hamburg have brought in Dieter Hecking, who’d just qualified Gladbach for the Europa League, and Stuttgart appointed Tim Walter, who had a successful 2018/19 season with Kiel in the 2. Bundesliga.
Both of those appointments make far more sense than signing a man with little 2. Liga experience and no recent success.
Nonetheless, even after the debacle on Monday, Slomka remains in charge. It’s unlikely that will be the case for much longer, however.
A statement released by the club on Tuesday announced that director Martin Kind and sporting director Jan Schlaudraff had discussed Slomka’s position. He will keep hold of his job, at least until the next match. If Hannover don’t improve drastically, though, he will soon find himself unemployed.
That would be for the best not just for the club, but probably for Slomka, too. His current struggles threaten to undermine his successful past at the club. Few remember that in 2010/11 he coached Hannover to a fourth-place finish in the Bundesliga, their highest ever league finish. That season, he was voted the second best coach in Germany, behind only Jürgen Klopp.
It’s difficult to see Slomka getting the same recognition this year.
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