Hamburger SV Season Preview 2015-16: Der Dino hoping for better showing this season
Hamburg supporters cheer on their team. Image credit: hamburg.de

The 2014-15 campaign for Hamburger SV drew an amazing parallel with the prior season. Der Dino, as they are affectionately known for their ever-present Bundesliga status, stayed in the top flight of German football in large part down to a last minute Marcelo Diaz free-kick in the second leg against Karlsruher SC.

Last season

Aside from the dramatic survival, last season was a fairly dismal one for Hamburg supporters. Having failed to score in the first three games of the season, HSV were demonstrating a lack of "lessons learned" under Mirko Slomka, resorting to a style of play that can only be described as Stone Age. Slomka was relieved of his managerial duties on September 15th, and club legend but relative coaching newcomer Josef Zinnbauer was appointed.

The results didn't come instantly, and by the halfway stage Hamburg had scored just nine times as they struggled to stay above the drop zone. Into the Rückrunde, it was a case of keeping heads above water for Hamburg, who sacked Zinnbauer on March 22nd. Peter Knäbel was appointed as a temporary manager before Bruno Labbadia returned on April 15th to hopefully save the club.

In terms of results, HSV helped themselves with wins over Paderborn, Hannover, Augsburg and Mainz to set up a thrilling final game of the season. Hamburg did the business, defeating Schalke 2-0 thanks to goals from Ivica Olic and Sloboan Rajkovic, setting up a relegation play-off with Karlsruhe. Rouwen Hennings had given the visitors the lead in the first leg, but the unlikely Ivo Ilicevic struck back to leave it all to play for in the Wildparkstadion.

Just as Reinhold Yabo looked to have sealed Hamburg's fate, Marcelo Diaz stepped up and curled home a free kick with virtually the last kick of normal time to force an extra 30 minutes, where Nicolai Müller was the hero with five minutes left. Another close shave for the Dinosaurs, but as they say it's the results that matter rather than how it is achieved.

Diaz and Müller - HSV saviours. Image credit: wed.de

Summer business:

A host of players have left the Volksparkstadion this summer already for various reasons in a much needed clear out. Rafael van der Vaart, disappointing on his return, left for pastures new in Real Betis, while the same club greeted the released Heiko Westermann.

Maxi Beister was picked up by Mainz on a free having failed to make the required impact at HSV, and Valon Behrami left for Watford for a fee of £2.45m. Alexander Brunst joined Wolfsburg for a small fee, while Lasse Sobiech moved to city rivals St. Pauli following a successful loan.

Ajaccio signed Jacques Zoua on a free, and Slodoban Rajkovic was released as the squad was trimmed. Marcel Jansen decided to call time on his career at the age of just 29, his reasons very admirable, and in a disappointing statement of intent (or lack thereof) Jonathan Tah was sold to Bayer Leverkusen for £5.25m.

In terms of recruitment, HSV have been shrewd in their dealings, picking up some underrated players and doing business early. Lewis Holtby triggered an appearance-based permanent switch from Spurs following a loan spell, for a fee around £4.55m. Albin Ekdal will provide midfield reinforcement having joined from Cagliari for just over £3m, and should sit on either side of a midfield three as a deep-lying playmaker.

Michael Gregoritsch completed a long expected move from Bochum for £2.1m and should compete for a starting spot. Sven Schipplock signed from Hoffenheim for under £2m in a move that may see a subsequent departure for Artjoms Rudnevs. Gotoku Sakai provides depth at full-back, joining from Stuttgart for £500k, and free agent Emir Spahic joins the red-shorts having been let go by Leverkusen.

Emir Spahic joins HSV. Image credit: goal.com

Pre-season:

HSV have been encouraging in their round of friendlies thus far, losing just once in what has been a period of experimentation.

Hamburg got off to a good start beating Mönchengladbach on penalties after a 0-0 draw, before beating Jahn Schneverdingen 7-0.

Then, they lost 2-0 at newly-promoted Arminia Bielefeld in a disappointing showing, but responded with wins against Hessen Kassel (2-0) and Aalborg (4-1).

Hellas Verona came to the Volksparkstadion for a celebration of the stadium name change back to its original form, and Hamburg took the win thanks to a late show from Olic and Holtby.


Important fixtures:

Hamburg open their 2015-16 campaign on August 14th with the daunting task of a visit to the Allianz Arena to face champions Bayern Munich. Last time the sides met, HSV were on the wrong end of an 8-0 demolition, so they will be looking to avoid that fate this time out.

The first home game at the newly renamed Volksparkstadion will come against VfB Stuttgart on August 22nd, with games away against Köln and Mönchengladbach preceding a home game against Frankfurt in a tough opening five games for HSV.

The first installment of the Nordderby between Hamburger SV and SV Werder Bremen will take place at the Weserstadion on November 28th during matchday 14, with the return fixture set for April 23rd. Borussia Dortmund (A), Bremen (H), Mainz (A) and Wolfsburg (H) come before the last game of the season in which Augsburg play host to Hamburg at the SGL-Arena.

One thing Hamburg will know about the Bundesliga from their many years involved is that a tough game is never far away.


Key players:

Pierre-Michel Lasogga must recapture his form from the loan spell at the end of 2014 in which he essentially single handedly kept Hamburg in the top tier. The former Hertha Berlin man is a natural finisher, so he will require service from the midfield, but they need his goals for sure.

Lewis Holtby is a crucial player for HSV in the upcoming season. Image credit: Eurosport.

Speaking of the midfield, and Lewis Holtby sticks out as another important player in the upcoming season for HSV. Undoubtedly a creatively gifted player, he too must rediscover previous form from his Schalke days in order to live up to his transfer fee and repay the faith that the Hamburg management has shown in him.

Emir Spahic will arrive at Hamburg with the intention of doing more than just making up numbers. In addition to his experience and composure, he will provide a mentoring role in the dressing room to help the team along, while hopefully simultaneously shoring up the defence.


Potential worries:

The big worry for HSV will always be their ability to score goals. Last season it was a real struggle for them; as mentioned they had tallied just nine goals in the league by the half way point.

They have gone some way to addressing creative needs, and hopefully players like Ekdal and Holtby can come through with Olic, Lasogga and even Schipplock providing the finishes.

Hamburg must also keep it solid at the back though; another 8-0 defeat to Bayern would not do their season any good.


Prediction: 14th

Hamburg have looked at their areas for improvement and have signed shrewdly, not spending vast amounts but doing enough to create a sense of optimism for the upcoming campaign.

Understandably, there are plenty of worries, but HSV should just about have enough yet again for the 2015-16 season in my view.

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