Hamburger SV - Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Dinosaurs looking to continue progression

Will Hamburg's youthful revolution see them climb up the table and surprise a few this year?

Hamburger SV - Bundesliga 2016-17 Season Preview: Dinosaurs looking to continue progression
Image credit: VAVEL

The Bundesliga will soon be back, meaning we German football fans get to feast our eyes on a whole host of new players, managers and fresh optimism ahead of what promises to be an exciting season for all teams involved.

In this season preview, VAVEL's Oliver Fisher takes a look at a team that has had somewhat of a rollercoaster ride over the last few years in Hamburger SV. Will it be back towards the dangerzone for Bruno Labbadia's men? Or can they continue their climb up the table?

Looking back

Hamburger SV enter the 2016/17 season on the back of what can be considered a calm campaign by recent standards. The Dinosaurs avoided the bottom three comfortably, improving on their finish of 16th place in 2014/15 by ending up in 10th position.

Indeed, fans of the German giants saw serious progress on the pitch under Labbadia, after avoiding relegation in 2014/15 only through a late rally in the second leg away at Karlsruher SC thanks to goals from Marcelo Diaz and Nicolai Müller. During that season they had accumulated just 35 points from 34 games, losing 17 of them and scoring a league-low 25 goals.

Diaz saves HSV | Image: welt.de
Diaz saves HSV | Image: welt.de

There were perhaps worries of a similarly nervous fate awaiting HSV last season, especially after a 3-2 loss at Carl Zeiss Jena and a 5-0 opening day defeat at Bayern Munich, however these fears were never to really materialise.

In 2015/16, Hamburg only managed to amass six more points, improving to 41 points for the season, but there was an overriding sense of comfort about the season for the Red Shorts as they were rarely threatened by the bottom sides. They achieved a respectable goal difference too, scording 40 goals (an improvement of 15 on the season prior) and conceding 46.

Fresh faces

The story of the summer for Hamburg in terms of recruitment has been one of proactiveness and efficiency rather than frustration, with the club making numerous impressive signings.

The Dinosaurs added plenty of attacking firepower as Labbadia looks to give his side an exciting overhaul. The main addition is Filip Kostic, signing for a fee believed to be around £12million from VfB Stuttgart, who suffered relegation to the 2. Bundesliga last season. The Serbian amassed a combined 22 goals and assists in 63 appearances for Stuttgart in his time there, and will provide HSV with a key wide option to expand their play.

Alen Halilovic also joins the Rothosen in a £4.25million move from FC Barcelona. The Croatian operates primarily as an attacking midfielder, and spent last season on loan at Sporting Gijon where he scored three times and assisted five in 36 appearances. Halilovic is somewhat of a wild card, as was Albin Ekdal who arrived at HSV from Cagliari, but the hope is that the 20-year-old continues developing and finds the enormous potential he has shown.

Halilovic ready to start new chapter | Image: hsv.de
Halilovic ready to start new chapter | Image: hsv.de

Bobby Wood and Luca Waldschmidt join from Union Berlin and b respectively as Hamburg have addressed the gaps in their frontline left by an inconsistent Pierre-Michel Lasogga. Wood was in fine form for Union last season, with the USA international bagging 17 league goals, and he joins for around £3million. Waldschmidt meanwhile is another unknown quantity, but at 20-years-old he has plenty of time to score his first Bundesliga goal and prove his £1.11million price tag.

Arianit Ferati also makes his way to the Hanseatic city from VfB Stuttgart, with the 18-year-old attacking midfielder another exciting acquisition by Hamburg, joining after accumulating a combined five goals and assists with Suttgart II last season. He was loaned out to Fortuna Düsseldorf for the season.

Goalkeeper Christian Mathenia arrives from SV Darmstadt and represents both the only signing that is not an attacker and also the oldest player bought by HSV at 24-years-old. Bakery Jatta also joined the club on a free transfer; the 18-year-old Gambian likely not to feature in the first team squad.

Ultimately, Hamburg have addressed their goalscoring needs by signing Bobby Wood (though his adjustment to the top flight remains to be seen), and have plenty of potential through the likes of Halilovic and Kostic. The main concern for fans of the club will be that the defensive core still looks questionable, with the likes of Johan Djourou and Emir Spahic struggling to project an image of back-line resilience.

Moving on

Although the youth revolution in terms of additions seems to point towards a new era for Hamburger SV, the departures this summer also tell their own story.

The Dinosaurs let go of their dinosaurs, if you'll excuse the pun, allowing five players 28 or over to leave the club. Ivo Ilicevic, Jaroslav Drobny, Philipp Müller, Gojko Kacar, Artjoms Rudnevs, Matti Steinmann and Ivica Olic all left on free transfers, representing a significant wage trim.

Olic departs Hamburg | Image: abendblatt.de
Olic departs Hamburg | Image: abendblatt.de

Meanwhile, Mohamed GouaidaSven SchipplockBatuhan Altintas and Arianit Ferati all leave on loan to get valuable game time; the most notable being Schipplock who struggled to impress after joining from Hoffenheim.

Zoltan Stieber, once viewed as a promising and dynamic winger by many Hamburg fans, departed for 1. FC Kaiserslautern for less than £300k, while Kerem Demirbay joined Hoffenheim for £1.45million in what represents the riskiest departure for HSV, as the attacking midfielder has a lot of potential.

Pre-season

Hamburger SV participated in nine preseason friendlies over the summer as Bruno Labbadia attempts to get his squad up to fitness ahead of what promises to be another demanding season in Germany's top flight.

The first three games saw HSV face largely inferior opposition, winning 2-0 at Anker Wismar before beating Weiche Flensburg 7-1 and Schakendorf 8-0. A tricky 1-0 defeat to VfL Bochum followed a stalemate with Hansa Rostock, but the team responded with a 5-1 win over Al Jazira and a 1-0 victory against Stoke City. Hamburg wrapped up preparations with a 1-1 draw versus Italian side Cagliari before beating Lyngby 3-1 on August 15 to conclude preseason.

Gregoritsch impresses in preseason | Image: sport.orf.at
Gregoritsch impresses in preseason | Image: sport.orf.at

VAVEL Deutschland writer and Hamburg supporter Pascal Martin believes that HSV can take a lot from preseason.

"I think Michael Gregoritsch made a good impression, he played quite well in his "new position"; a mix between CAM and deep-lying forward.

"Also Kostic and Halilovic showed why the club signed them. In general I would say the whole offensive section impressed and showed good performances.

"Lasogga looks quite fit, Schipplock scored a lot (but he has now moved, which is good) and Müller was good."

Key player

The current HSV squad does not have any stand-out stars, something which could work in their favour or against them once the first ball of the competitive season is kicked.

Kostic ready to kick on for HSV | Image: mopo.de
Kostic ready to kick on for HSV | Image: mopo.de

However, looking at the youthful and exciting recruitment that Hamburg have shown, fans should look to Filip Kostic to provide plenty of exciting moments for the Rothosen this season. Although at times he can be guilty of wastefulness (both his shooting and passing percentage were below 65% last season), Kostic is a dynamic player who will feed the forward line with plenty of chances if able to manufacture time and space.

The Serbian created 74 chances for Stuttgart last season, and if HSV can get the likes of Wood and Lasogga in firing form, then look for Kostic's numbers to get even better.

Getting started

For Hamburg, it all begins with a DFB-Pokal match away at FSV Zwickau, and Labbadia insists his side are ready to kick off the new season.

"We are all very pleased that it is now finally starts" he told the club website. 

"This is our first competitive game, and we have spent all the time preparing for it. We must now deliver results. 

"I myself am a big cup fan. This competition is also great fun and has a high priority. The final in Berlin is of course the absolute highlight: the atmosphere is unique. But you always have to be aware that this objective also have many other teams."

Labbadia wants winning start | Image: abendblatt.de
Labbadia wants winning start | Image: abendblatt.de

"We have been intensively and focused on the way FSV Zwickau prepare - always keeping in mind that it will be our first competitive match of the new season. 

"The game will be a hot game. Zwickau just went up only in the third league, they are moving into a new stadium - and the euphoria will be there. We have the enemy also observed and know something about them.

"They [FSV Zwickau] are a good start to the season [for HSV], have a clear structure within the team and are very strong in the tackle - that we must accept. We know what to expect and are well prepared."

Season predictions

The business done by Hamburger SV over the summer signifies a completely different approach by Bruno Labbadia, Dietmar Beiersdorfer those at the top of the club. This isn't just a case of 'getting by' for one of Germany's biggest clubs any more; their squad is fresh, young, hungry and energetic, and they are ready to prove to a lot of people that they have what it takes to enter the European picture once again.

Due to a lack of experience and a requirement for the squad to gel, I cannot see this being the season when they make that jump, but the key is to make the Volksparkstadion a fortress once again, and deploy an effective plan on the road.

They face competition from sides who are already established in the top half of the table, such as Mainz, Monchengladbach, Hertha BSC and Wolfsburg, and as a consequence expectations should be limited.

However, the project is exciting, and fans in the North have a reason to believe once again.