Category Archives: fink

HSV vs The Set Piece

This season, Hamburger SV have seen their net ripple on no fewer than 22 occasions as the result of an opposing set-play. Having shipped 50 goals in total in the 1.Bundesliga from their 28 fixtures to date, a figure of forty-four per cent of all goals conceded coming from the more formulaic aspects of the beautiful game is undoubtedly a concern. And yet the questions as to why this is the case remain.

Of those 22, four have come from the penalty spot, with a further three the result of direct free-kicks (with two of those epitomising some of the lack of good fortune afforded Hamburg by being deflected beyond the luckless Jaroslav Drobny). Discounting those seven; ten and come from corners that haven’t been cleared, with the remaining five from a failure to properly defend free-kicks.

In terms of their overall susceptibility, the recent clean sheet recorded against Kaiserslautern on Matchday 28 was only the fourth shutout this term. That is the joint-lowest total in the league, and came as their first in seven games. In that same time, ten of the 13 goals conceded have come from set-pieces of one sort or another. Yet the seven matches prior to the 1-0 win over Köln on Matchday 21 saw HSV breached just eight times; and only thrice via dead ball situations. Their profligacy is still further confused by the apparent recognition of it by Coach Thorsten Fink. After the 3-1 loss to Schalke on Matchday 25, Fink bemoaned his side’s lack of discipline over free-kicks – “we can’t afford to defend like that”, only to see his backline switch off again as Freiburg delivered an imaginative set-play third, to put Hamburg to the sword just a week later on.

Assessing where the fault may lie over the deficiency is difficult to pinpoint. And Fink is certainly not a coach with a reputation for blindness in this area – recall the dogmatic way his Basel side restricted the creativity of Manchester United in both of their Champions’ League matches. Yet it is hard to countenance the rudimentary way in which they appear to defend both corners and free-kicks.

Corners

Taking the game against Schalke on Matchday 25 as an example:

Employing a standard man-to-man marking system, and with men on both front and back posts, there is a tendency to leave the edge of the six-yard box and penalty spot free. This gives opposing forwards space to attack the ball, and freedom to move.

In addition, if the offensive side adopt a ‘blitz’ sort of grouping before the kick is taken, the defenders are drawn into circling them (left). This makes it harder to get in amongst them and disrupt their runs.

There is also an apparent inclination for ‘keeper Drobny to stay on his line. His rationale here is probably vested in a lack of belief in his defenders, given the relative inexperience. But in that sense it becomes self-fulfilling, with no dominant presence from the defensive standpoint.

As the corner-taker steps up, there is a naïve inclination for the man on back post to drift. The attackers burst at the same time, making runs tough for the defence to track. That combination then leaves the ‘keeper exposed, and rooted to his line as players converge towards him along the edge of the six yard box, and space is crowded.

Coupled with an in-swinging trajectory to the ball (all but one of the goals ceded by HSV from corners have come from in-swinging plays), and uncertainty ensues.

Such plays heavily on the youthful inexperience of the back four, once again highlighting the lack of a controlling hand.

Free Kicks

Taking the game against Bayern on Matchday 3 as an example:

Once again, Hamburg set up on a man-to-man marking basis, with a defensive line angled towards the back post to match the flight of an in-swinging ball.

With seven defenders against five forwards, HSV should have all the armoury they should need. However, a run from Holger Badstuber across the first spare man (indicated by the dotted red arrow) pulls the group towards the front edge of the six-yard box. As Daniel van Buyten (indicated by the yellow arrow) parallels the line of this run, his marker is blocked by Mario Gomez, causing a momentary hesitation. Van Buyten thus gains a yard of space, and rises unchallenged to head home.

What is also notable from the touchline view is how the HSV line fails to move back with their men, leaving two Bayern players unmarked at the far post for any rebounds. Yet more ill-disciplined defence, with players drawn towards the ball.

There is little doubt that the off-field issues surrounding the Club are weighing heavy, and a certain element appears to be manifesting on the pitch too. Combine that with an apparently inherent lack of discipline – most evident through Paolo Guerrero’s horrific foul on Sven Ulreich, which resulted in an eight-game ban – and the distractions for the playing staff are many.

However, as profligate as HSV have been at the back, they have proven themselves fairly well-adept at the other end; with eleven goals in their favour coming from set-pieces.

And Fink – forever with tactical acumen to the fore – has attempted to capitalise on both aspects that this has highlighted, telling the City’s Abendblett newspaper “If we concede goals from set-pieces, the team will pay, but if we score goals, then they will earn money”. That step echoes one he employed during his tenure with Red Bull Salzburg when he was faced with a similar deficiency.

Moreover, Fink’s team currently have a goal difference of -18, which is the worst they have ever had to endure at any stage during the 48-year history of Germany’s top flight, and ahead of Matchday 22’s game with Werder, it certainly appeared that the pressure was beginning to tell. As the 44-year old was interviewed by NDR television, he angered: “Players are not machines and sometimes they have off days. We were a solid unit before Christmas, but maybe some people thought after our draw with Monchengladbach that that was it”. Before going on to ominously opine: “Maybe some people have not fully understood”.

The game with ‘Lautern was probably precisely what HSV needed come Matchday 28, with the visitors having managed to go the entirety of the second half of last season without scoring from a corner. But with six games remaining, they find themselves removed from the relegation play-off berth only on goal difference. Their next game is at home to Leverkusen this weekend, where a response to the departure of Robin Dutt is expected from the away side. Then come the proverbial ‘six-pointers’, with games away to both Nürnberg and Augsburg sandwiching a home tie with Mainz. 59 per cent of their victories so far have come on the road, and they will need that form to be confirmed to survive. But it can certainly still be considered that their destiny is in their own hands: whether that is a positive or not may well depend on Fink garnering more of a solidity to his defence, and the way in which they occupy their own space against the appropriately-monikered ‘dead-ball’ situation.

Thorsten Fink – The New Boy at Big School

When Thorsten Fink was appointed at Hamburg recently, it finally put to bed the speculation about who will be the new coach at the club, but it unfortunately left far too many questions unanswered about the future of HSV.

By the time the former FC Basel coach finally started his tenure at Hamburg, it was just shy of a month since the departure of Michael Oenning from the post. But why did it take so long to fill what should be an extremely coveted position, that many coaches around Europe should have been clamoring to take? Was it purely the case that the club wanted to make sure that they got their man? Or was it that they didn’t know the kind of guy they needed or wanted? Either way, it was probably another case of poor planning at the Volkspark Stadium that has dogged Hamburg for many a moon. Let us not forget that with the arrival of Fink it took the number of HSV coaches (including interim appointments) in the last decade to 13 (since Frank Pagelsdorf). And of those ‘permanent’ coaches, only one managed to win over 50% of his games at the club (Bremen coach Thomas Schaaf has 50.75% over the last 12-years), and that was Martin Jol. The Dutchman has been a bit of an exception to the rule of late in Hamburg, a manager who left rather than was fired and chose to go to Ajax. Yes Ajax are a big club, and he is Dutch, but when you look at the size and potential of both clubs it could be argued that Hamburg would have been an equally good fit…perhaps even better. This doesn’t paint a good picture for what is going on behind the scenes at Hamburg, as it seems that coaches are either fired or they choose to leave even when the going on the pitch is not too bad.

Last week, Hamburg Sporting Director Frank Arnesen, stated that Fink was his first choice to be Oenning’s replacement but the history of the move doesn’t exactly suggest that. There was the reported attempt to get Huub Stevens into the role, but this didn’t happen and the club were left to search again. There were big names and up and coming names flying around in the speculation. Everyone from Marco van Basten to Morten Olsen were linked with the job, and even the likes of Louis van Gaal and even Gus Hiddink was reportedly in the frame…but the man who got the job was Fink.

But is this going to be a good choice for Fink and HSV? As we know, the club expects results and when they don’t get them the manager at the time usually gets the boot. The fans expect as well, after-all, (as is so often banded around) HSV are the only constant in the history of the Bundesliga and are three time winners of the title – and this loads pressure on Fink from the off. But the good thing is that unlike his predecessor Oenning, this young manager is twice winner of the Swiss Super League and also has a Swiss Cup to his name as well. This of course is no guarantee of success at HSV. Armin Veh won the Bundesliga title with Stuttgart, but has not gone on to great things at Hamburg or anywhere else for that matter. One thing that Fink has in his favour is the fact that he has been working with a side that has had to blend youth and experience, something that at Hamburg is a must. He promoted several of Basel’s members of the Swiss under-21 squad, and blended them with veterans like former Dortmund striker Alexander Frei. This bending of youth and experience is certainly the philosophy that has been employed at HSV (even if a little rapidly), but there is no doubt that Fink if can do the same good job with Hamburg’s youthful talent and the veterans, then this will be a successful time at the club.

He is unfortunately faced with the problem of trying to get the best out of the squad quickly, which could be especially after they have seen so much of upheaval already this season. He needs to galvanise a the team, tactically and mentally and keep it up as just around the corner is the winter break. The winter break, far from being a time of rest and relaxation is crucial to a teams season, and dealing with the second half of the season preparation is key…HSV aren’t in the position to get that wrong.

Being coach of HSV has in recent time had its serious pitfalls but for Thorsten Fink, it could pay off…but then again, this hasn’t been the way for so many before him at the Bundesliga Dinosaur.

The Bundesliga Show Episode 36 – HSV get their man & lets talk 2.Bundesliga

**Podcast announcement – This pod was recorded just hours before HSV appointed Thorsten Fink as new manager **

This week on The Bundesliga Show, Jon Hartley and Terry Duffelen chat over the protracted search for a new coach at Hamburg and Thorsten Fink’s suitability for the job.

Also in the show an interview with Richard Montague from Football Radar about what has been happening in the 2.Bundesliga so far this season.

 

The Bundesliga Show Episode 36 – HSV get their man & lets talk 2.Bundesliga by soundoffootball