Category Archives: HSV

Bundesliga Review – Same old Bayern, taking the Piz by Archie Rhind-Tutt

Dinosaurs may now be extinct but when they did roam the planet they were said to be fearsome creatures. Now, by definition of the fact Hamburg have been in the Bundesliga for all 50 seasons, they are renowned for being the division’s dinosaur. Sadly for Thorsten Fink, they were more like Barney the Dinosaur at a time when they could least afford it; because any team who puts in a weak performance against this Bayern Munich side risks a thrashing.

The Bundesliga record champions displayed on Saturday why they’re on course to become the greatest team in the competition’s 50 year history. After a series of poor performances by the high standards they’ve set themselves this season, Bayern responded by annihilating Hamburg. The away side have had eyes on a Champions League place of late but their 9-2 thrashing at the league leaders should end those dreams.

Four of those goals came from third choice front man Claudio Pizarro. He has been something of a “Cash and Carry” striker this season as when he’s scored, he’s done so in bulk. The Peruvian played a part in six goals on Saturday, a Bundesliga record for a single game and he also moved into the list of the top ten Bundesliga scorers of all time. His performance alone showed how this season even players who warm the bench at Bayern do not disappoint when they’re let loose in the red shirt.

Pizarro’s return to Bavaria in the summer seemed strange though. He was never going to be the first choice striker, yet he had been one of the top scorers in the division last season, netting 18 for Werder Bremen. His quadruple on Saturday makes it harder to pick holes in his logic of moving back to Bayern. Whilst he could have played regularly for another club in the Bundesliga, it takes a very strong character to turn down Bayern Munich. When you’re averaging a goal every 72 minutes or so, as Pizarro has done this season, it’s unlikely he’ll have any regrets, especially after Saturday evening.

Both the Peruvian and die Roten were majestic, in contrast to visitors Hamburg who equalled their worst ever defeat in the Bundesliga, 49 years after they were beaten by the same scoreline at Bayern’s neighbours, 1860 Munich. Saturday’s apocalyptic performance also came 49 days after Hamburg thrashed Borussia Dortmund 4-1 at Signal Iduna Park. After Bayern’s nine though, you have to question whether a 4-1 score line even qualifies as a thrashing.

If it had a been a bout, the blue corner would have thrown in the towel at half time, though Thorsten Fink’s side effectively did, conceding another four after the league leaders had planted five past them in the first half. Still, there were a few positives for HSV. At least they scored (not many have done so against this Bayern side), at least their opponents didn’t get into double figures and at least Hamburg won’t have to travel to the Allianz Arena until August at the very earliest – in their last three visits, they’ve conceded 20.

As for Bayern, they will bounce into their Champions League quarter final with Juventus on Tuesday. The team that started on Saturday was lacking a few first choice members such as Alaba, Ribery and Mandzukic but they comprehensively outplayed a team challenging for a European place in the Bundesliga. A win next week at Eintracht Frankfurt will seal their 23rd Bundesliga title and never has it been more deserved for Bayern Munich.

Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:

  • Despite being constantly linked to Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski ensured his potential employers would have to wait until next week to seal the title. He scored the winner as Borussia Dortmund overcame Stuttgart. The side behind BVB, Bayer Leverkusen, were much more comfortable in Düsseldorf, as they swept past Fortuna thanks to two from Stefan Kiessling and two from André Schürrle.
  • Speaking of doubles, Max Kruse also netted a pair against Borussia Mönchengladbach ensuring Freiburg kept in the hunt for a Champions League place. And wouldn’t you just know it, he’s been linked with a move recently to… Borussia Mönchengladbach! Another fine pair could be found in Augsburg as Konstantin Rausch got both goals in a rare away triumph for Hannover.
  • However, it is Schalke who now lead the race for that final Champions League place after a 12 minute treble salvo saw them past lowly Hoffenheim. Level on points with the Royal Blues though are Eintracht Frankfurt. The Eagles won their first game in six and more poignantly, since Armin Veh signed a new contract during the week. They snuck past Greuther Fürth in an entertaining encounter on Sunday afternoon.
  • Mainz scored the quickest goal in their history when Adam Szalai scored after 12 seconds. Coincidentally, it was the fastest goal Werder Bremen have ever conceded too but Thomas Schaaf’s side recovered to grab a share of the points. As fate would have it, Sokratis and Marko Arnautovic, fresh from scuffling on the training ground, combined well to set up Aaron Hunt for the equaliser.
  • And finally, in what should have been labelled as the Dieter Hecking derby, Wolfsburg and Nürnberg played out a draw on Sunday. Hecking’s current side took a two goal lead before generously letting it slip as his former charges fought back to secure a draw. It included what can only be described as a “Thundercracker” from Belgian defender Timmy Simons.

Matchday 27 Results:

Augsburg 0-2 Hannover

Fortuna Düsseldorf 1-4 Bayer Leverkusen

Freiburg 2-0 Gladbach

Mainz 1-1 Werder Bremen

Schalke 3-0 Hoffenheim

Stuttgart 1-2 Borussia Dortmund

Bayern Munich 9-2 Hamburg

Wolfsburg 2-2 Nürnberg

Greuther Fürth 2-3 Eintracht Frankfurt

Table

Rank Club Matches W* D* L* G* GD* Pts.*
1 FC Bayern Munich 27 23 3 1 78:13 +65 72 CL*
2 Borussia Dortmund 27 15 7 5 62:32 +30 52 CL*
3 Bayer 04 Leverkusen 27 14 6 7 50:35 +15 48 CL*
4 FC Schalke 04 27 12 6 9 46:43 +3 42 CL* Qual.
5 Eintracht Frankfurt 27 12 6 9 42:39 +3 42 EL* Qual.
6 1. FSV Mainz 05 27 10 9 8 34:30 +4 39 EL* Qual.
7 SC Freiburg 27 10 9 8 35:33 +2 39
8 Borussia Mönchengladbach 27 9 11 7 35:37 -2 38
9 Hamburger SV 27 11 5 11 32:43 -11 38
10 Hannover 96 27 11 4 12 49:46 +3 37
11 1. FC Nuremberg 27 8 11 8 31:34 -3 35
12 VfL Wolfsburg 27 8 8 11 32:42 -10 32
13 VfB Stuttgart 27 9 5 13 29:46 -17 32
14 SV Werder Bremen 27 8 7 12 43:52 -9 31
15 Fortuna Düsseldorf 27 7 8 12 33:40 -7 29
16 FC Augsburg 27 5 9 13 23:40 -17 24 Play-offs
17 1899 Hoffenheim 27 5 5 17 30:52 -22 20 Relegation
18 Greuther Fürth 27 2 9 16 18:45 -27 15 Relegation

Table thanks to official Bundesliga website

Originally written at Football Fan Cast

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.