SV Sandhausen - 2. Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: With Schwartz gone, can SVS cope?

It's the beginning of a new era at Sandhausen.

SV Sandhausen - 2. Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: With Schwartz gone, can SVS cope?
Image credit: VAVEL

It's been all change for SV Sandhausen this summer, as the Baden-Württemberg-based outfit have undergone a facelift during the transfer window.

A new manager, plenty of new players and perhaps have a new outlook will grace the turf at the Hardtwaldstadion this season.

They will have to cope with some big-name departures, not least their head coach, in what should be an intriguing campaign for SVS.

Super start, sorry end

After their 2014-15 campaign ended in near relegation, many Sandhausen fans were worried that a three-point deduction to start the season could prove crucial - more so fatal - to their hopes of staying up. However, despite the doubts, this couldn't have been further from the case as they kept their heads above water for the entire year.

An incredible start to 2015-16 saw them race towards the promotion spots, in a run of form that they themselves would have hardly believed after last season. Sandhausen, seventh at Christmas? No-one, not even the most hardcore SVS fan, had them down to do this well. Unfortunately, it fell down in the Rückrunde.

Just 14 points would follow in the 15 games after the Winter Break, which eventually left them in 14th. Despite the drastic drop in form, the players had given their all and the effort and level of performance in the Hinrunde just wasn't sustainable with injuries and a drop in form across the board. Nevertheless, extremely impressive.

More of the same, but more consistency needed

The obvious change and arguably the most critical came when 1. FC Nürnberg snapped up Alois Schwartz as the replacement for René Weiler. As to who would take the unenviable task of taking over from Schwartz, that has fallen to Kenan Kocak. The Turk has moved up two tiers to take the job, and will be hoping to hit the ground running.

Kocak left SV Waldhof Mannheim after narrowly missing out on promotion to the third tier with the club he has spent his entire managerial career with. His aim will be to keep up the good work Schwartz has put in place, at least for next season, to consolidate Sandhausen as a second division side that is here to stay.

A campaign similar to the one just gone would be satisfactory for all involved with the club, who should recognise that losing a manager like Schwartz is a huge blow. In spit of this, Kocak is just 35 and will bring fresh ideas to the table maybe even taking them to another level. If pre-season is anything to go by, there are positive signs he could. 

Captain Kulovits in action for Sandhausen. | Image credit: SVS
Captain Kulovits in action for Sandhausen. | Image credit: SVS

Familiar faces bid farewell

It has been an extremely busy few months for Sandhausen, who have seen a whole host of first-team regulars depart for pastures new. However, there have been a fair few new arrivals to welcome in and get excited about. Whether or not they can all gel in time is not yet certain, though it will certainly be interesting to watch.

The first departure came in the form of Jakub Kosecki, who had been loaned out from Legia Warsaw. The Pole had impressed with his pace but opted not to stick with the 2. Bundesliga outfit, even though he did seem to settle well with Sandhausen. Nevertheless, a replacement has been found on a free; like every other Sandhausen transfer.

There was not just Kosecki to depart from midfield, with Robert Zillner and Kevin Kratz both released and are yet to find news clubs. Alexander Bieler was snapped up by Holstein Kiel without the need for a transfer fee, and the same could be said of Dominik Schulz and his switch to F91 Dudelange.

Seyi Olajengbesi and Daniel Schulz - the back-up centre-backs last season - were let go at the end of the season, with Schulz now plying his trade with Stuttgarter Kickers. The biggest centre-half loss, however, was the transfer of Florian Hübner to Hannover 96. The only deal to bring in some money, but he will be sorely missed by SVS' faithful.

With defensive and midfield loses, it would only be appropriate for changes up front to occur. Ranislav Jovanovic, you guessed it, is off to FSV Frankfurt on a free while Aziz Bouhaddouz has left to join FC St. Pauli. The latter is a loss akin to that of Hübner, and the new signings have big boots to fill in the coming weeks and months.

In two less high-profile departures, Eric Schaaf and Philipp Kühn have also departed the club.

Exciting new arrivals at the Hardtwaldstadion

So, to make up for all the players exiting the club, there was a huge recruitment drive by the club officials. They can most definitely be happy with the business, too, as plenty of exciting players have been brought in. One small deal of note was the return of Michael Hiegl from a loan last season, who looks set to be Marco Knaller's back-up.

Continuing up from goalkeeper to defence, three new centre-backs have joined. Benedikt Gimber, one of the nation's most promising defensive talents, has come in on loan from Hoffenheim. Daniel Gordon is a fantastic free agent get from Karlsruher SC, and adds some much needed experience. Tim Knipping joined from Borussia Mönchengladbach II and will be looking to learn the tricks of the trade from Gordon and Tim Kister.

To make up for the loss of central midfielders, Maximilian Jansen and Markus Karl have arrived. The former is a good foil for the experienced Karl, who looks to be a very shrewd addition to their midfield. Richie Sakuta-Pasu will take up the mantle of replacing Aziz Bouhaddouz's power and presence up front; another free transfer from Cottbus.

Julian-Maurice Derstroff and Lucas Höler are the two most exciting arrivals, as the 1. FSV Mainz 05 II pairing tore up the 3. Liga last season. The pair have an obvious understanding and that could be something that sees them installed into the starting line-up immediately. Can they do it in the 2. Bundesliga? Only time will tell.

Can Sandhausen cope with losing some key players? | Image credit: SVS
Can Sandhausen cope with losing some key players? | Image credit: SVS

Stellar preparations for SVS

As far as pre-season goes, there is very little else Sandhausen could have done to better their set of results. Plenty of goals, six clean sheets in eight games and only a late winner denying them a famous draw against the current UEFA Europa League holders. Most important of all, perhaps, is the form of Andrew Wooten and the forwards.

The American netted nine times in the opening three fixtures, with Sandhausen scoring 37 unanswered goals against lower league opposition. They were then held to a surprise 0-0 draw with Hauenstein before bouncing back with a 2-0 win over FC Augsburg, and a 2-1 triumph over Stuttgarter Kickers. Unfortunately, Sevilla edged out SVS 2-1.

SV Sandhausen 4-0 SpVgg 06 Ketsch: Knipping (7'), Wooten (9', 41'), Vunguidica (89').

SV Sandhausen 15-0 FC Finkenbachtal: Höler (7', 30', 39'), Karl (20), Gordon (23'), Wooten (26', 32', 53', 56', 66'), Pledl (35'), Vollmann (67', 77'), Kuhn (76', 79').

SV Sandhausen 8-0 1. FC Mühlhausen: Wooten (4', 16'), Höler (20'), Derstroff (36', 44'), Sukuta-Pasu (75', 78'), Klingmann (81').

SV Sandhausen 0-0 SC Hauenstein.

SV Sandhausen 2-0 FC Augsburg: Karl (21'), Pledl (47').

SV Sandhausen 2-1 Stuttgarter Kickers: Derstroff (21', 27') - Scepanik (61').

SV Sandhausen 1-2 Sevilla: Wooten (10') - Konoplyanka (41'), Pablo Garcia (81').

Sandhausen were narrowly beaten by Sevilla. | Image credit: SVS
Sandhausen were narrowly beaten by Sevilla. | Image credit: SVS

Time to tighten up, but strikers need to be consistent

There is room for improvement across the pitch as far as Sandhausen are concerned, with a vastly contrasting first and second half of the season reflecting the need for consistency. In fairness to the defence, the injury to Leart Paqarada did not help matters and nor did the other knocks, niggles and suspensions that increased over the year.

His return will be a major boost, even if Damian Rossbach did do a decent job as his deputy. Gordon and Kister will need to form a partnership fairly quickly to make up for Hübner's departure, although Knipping or Gimber could well slot in if Kocak isn't happy with how things are going between the likely starting duo.

There are issues up front and those centre around how consistently Sandhausen can find the net. Wooten managed it for the first few months of the season but slumped afterwards. The departure of Bouhaddouz does not ease the pressure on the American's shoulders, that much is for sure.

If Höler and Sakuta-Pasu can hit the ground running and provide adequate support, then there is no reason to doubt that everyone can flourish as a result. Derstroff will add important goals from the wing, and hopefully help Sandhausen be a more regular threat. All in all, there are plenty of positives from their point of view.