2014 Bundesliga Team Preview: Hamburg Will Avoid Relegation Zone
Last year Hamburg were on the brink of their first ever relegation from the Bundesliga. They escaped by beating Greuther Fürth in the relegation playoff. On paper they have stabilized their club after that tumultuous season and should avoid the relegation zone this season. They have made solid acquisitions and have an upper hand on their rival Werder Bremen. Coaching changes should be a thing of the past. Hamburg can only go up and they should when the season concludes.
Hamburg finished 16th with only 27 points. With a chance to move out of the bottom three, Hamburg lost five in a row to finish the season. Thanks to the teams below them failing just as miserably, they were able to fight for their life. They gave up an average of 2.21 goals per game and finished the season with a minus-24 goal differential. They also switched coaches twice, including a move only a month into the season. They were unable to put together two wins in a row the entire season.
Gojko Kačar returns from loan to solidify the defense. He generally played in the midfield but is purely a defensive player who has toned down his offensive tendencies to focus on being a lock-down defender. He scored only one goal in 13 games for Cerezo Osaka last season. Coach Mirko Slomka is expected to move Kačar to center back with new signee Valon Behrami taking the defensive midfielder position.
On the back line Jonathan Tah showed flashes of quality last season. He played 16 matches last season but may sit behind Kačar to begin this season. He has come up through the Hamburg system and is being given a big opportunity at just 18 years old.
Marcell Jansen was cut from the World Cup winning German squad before they made it to Brazil. He is a versatile player who has played at striker and left attacking midfielder. To put the best lineup on the field he will return to a familiar left back position this season where he will still be able to show off his pace and crossing ability. His tall frame allows him to be a force in the air.
Rene Adler will be a solid keeper as always. He will surely love having better defense in front of him.
Rafael van der Vaart returns to captain the squad. He plays behind a lone striker in Slomka’s 4-2-3-1 formation. The Dutch player is natural in that position and provides great leadership and experience for the team. He scored three goals in the first four games last season.
Another new addition, Nicolai Müller should lock down the right attacking spot. He comes over after a nine-goal season in 26 games with Mainz.
Pierre-Michel Lasogga had 13 goals in 20 appearances while on loan last season. That convinced Hamburg to sign him and install him in that lone striker role. The 22-year-old will be part of a young striker duo despite the departure of Hakan Calhanoglu. Lasogga should be backed by 21-year-old Kerem Demirbay. Demirbay has tallied double-digits goals in the preseason despite his natural position being the role that van der Vaart fills.
Hamburg have humbled after last season and are aiming to simply improve and not flirt with relegation. This is a wise decision after declaring that European competitions were their goal prior to last season. They have a chance to get off to a great start with the first two games against recently promoted clubs FC Köln and Paderborn. They will be favored in those matches and should live up to that billing.
2014-15 Record: 12-11-11, 47 points, Ninth Place