Preview: FC Bayern – Hamburger SV

Justin Separator March 9, 2018

Of all people Heribert Bruchhagen, who has always been at the forefront of those who named Bayern’s huge financial advantage as the main cause of the Bundesliga boredom, was fired during the week together with Jens Todt at Hamburger SV. It was the starting signal for the next fresh start. Bruchhagen was not able to make a single decision during his term of office that would move the club forward – despite a budget exceeding that of many Bundesliga clubs. Fate’s irony?

Of course, it should not be forgotten that Bruchhagen is just another rolling head in a club that has been broken for years. In the short term of his tenure, his hands were also tied. Nevertheless, the HSV is the German prime example of the conceptless burning of money. No structure, no continuity, no philosophy, no ideas and now the imminent relegation. It will be the latest low point of a club that has been repeatedly lowered the bar.

The Dino descends

The Hamburgers are now 7 points behind the play-off spot. A deficit that no club in league history has been able to overcome at that time in the season. Even 1. FC Köln is only one point away.

With a win in Munich, the situation might look a bit better again. However, the absurdity of this sentence shows that the relegation immune HSV can no longer be saved. The 18th coach since the beginning of 2007 can’t have much influence on this either.

At least he has stabilized the defence somewhat in recent weeks. The Hamburgers still conceded seven goals in the six Hollerbach games, but it has to be said that their last opponents came almost exclusively from the upper half of the standings. In Leipzig it was even enough for a 1-1, against Bremen and Mainz the game was also somewhat unfortunate.

Despite the failure – Hollerbach gained only 0.5 points per game – the compact defence is something that HSV has developed in recent weeks. That’s what the new man on the sidelines is known for. The Würzburger Kickers also succeeded under him with a stable structure against the ball.

But that’s not the root of all evil in Hamburg. Only three goals have been scored by his team since the takeover – in no match more than one goal. No team, not even the 1. FC Köln and Werder Bremen (both only 24 goals), emanates as little offensive danger as the Hamburger SV (18 goals). Especially in the derby against Bremen, which was extremely important for a change of direction, the HSV created hardly any chances and especially no good ones. There were six shots altogether, two of them in the penalty area, only one of them was dangerous. The other one went to the corner flag.

After this defeat it was again all of nothing for the Dino against FSV Mainz 05 and even a bit more. It was not only an endgame, but also the last great hope for a starting position that could reawaken self-confidence. In the end, only five shots from the Mainz team were allowed, one of them in the penalty area and from a weak position.

A strong defensive performance. At least the attack was more dangerous than in all previous games. Out of 18 shots, ten came from outside the penalty area. Two of the eight shots within the box were not very promising due to a narrow angles. Two of the remaining six were blocked, two missed the goal and two others were parried. If the penalty kick or one of the few promising shots had been in, nobody would have cared in Hamburg that the shot selection was not good.

Bruchhagen and Todt were released during the week. It is not the first time that the HSV has taken radical actions.
(Image: Christof Koepsel / Bongarts / Getty Images)

However, the sports analysis has to start whre the HSV does not manage to create high-quality opportunities. Or, to put it more benevolently: at least not so many that it is enough to score a few goals. With the mere prevention of the opponent’s game, the almost utopian goal of reaching the play-off place will not be reached.

The balance between defence and offence doesn’t stop with Hollerbach. Previously it was the lack of creativity in game construction, now the lack of creativity in the final third and the fact that the team has neither players nor structure for sophisticated football with the ball.

However, it would be wrong to fix this to a trainer who implements the style he stands for. Hollerbach, like Bruchhagen, is just one link in a seemingly endless chain of wrong decisions, which this club began to make long before his involvement.

If you look at the squad, you’ll find some promising types of players, but there’s no direction at all. There’s a little bit of shopping for every style of play, but not exactly for one coherent one. Which trainer in the world should work with such a composition? Hollerbach could change his system and his idea at will. Ultimately, it fails due to the fact that the correct players for the respective roles are missing in several positions.

Bayern will not hand out gifts to HSV

And so the HSV once again goes to Munich and has to hope that the Bayern will not hit the goal. Just like against Berlin, when innumerable unsuccessful shots from good positions were not converted.

However, it is as likely that this scenario will be repeated as for Hamburg to stay in the league. Under Heynckes, the Bayern will not lose any percentage point. One thing the 72-year-old is almost perfect at: moderating. He will also rotate against the HSV again.

Robben and Ribéry are back and James was also in the team training again. It is extremely unlikely that Lewandowski will sit on the bench for a second time in a row. He has scored 13 times and assisted six more in 16 duels with the HSV, and he will continue to work on this balance sheet.

Heynckes and his trainer team will only have to forego the long-term injured Neuer and Coman this weekend. This does not exactly make the already poor starting position of the guests any more enjoyable. It is not only since this week that a major internal competition has broken out in Munich.

Everyone wants to play in the big games and everyone wants to show the coaching team why they have the qualities for it. Nevertheless, everyone is pulling in the same direction. A mentality that Heynckes was able to ignite in Bayern and which his team is carrying through this season, although not everything is running perfectly.

But that alone will not be enough in the coming months. Bayern still have their problems to crack compact teams in the centre. Too many attacks die with pointless crosses when the penalty area is poorly occupied.

Also the protection of their own attacks is not yet optimal. Often the opponents get good counter chances after simple turnovers. So if the duel with Hamburger SV at the weekend offers a lot of added value for the Bayern, it’s that they can continue to try and improve on these problems.

The HSV will make life difficult for them at least up to the first goal and will make the middle compact. If Bayern can’t get through there again, it will have to be a single action, a standard or one of the 40 crosses. Nevertheless, the combination through the centre or in the half-spaces would still be desirable. Because this is the element that Bayern’s Champions League games are still demanding.

Whether this is necessary at the weekend to win is more than questionable. There is no realistic scenario in which the HSV would not be dependent on a massive weakness or an absurd game story in order to have hopes of success in Munich.

From a Hamburg perspective, this is the sad truth. In the end, they will probably lose this game as well. For the time being, it will be the last meeting of two clubs that have left their mark on the Bundesliga. The difference is that one of them will continue to do so, while the other has been working for years to get out of the Bundesliga. The Hamburger SV will have reached this low point at the end of the season.

Bayern fans are allowed to say goodbye to the formerly big HSV. How long will it last? The announced fresh start should prepare the club for the new mission in the second division. Maybe they will see each other again after one year. Maybe then the preview won’t come along in such a gloomy tone. But the restart has to be successful. Otherwise, one of the biggest clubs in league history will face a new low, although at the end of the season they will be told that it can’t get any worse.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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