When the dust settled on the last Bundesliga season, Hannover found itself in the middle of the pack. Hannover were a relegation candidate for much of the year. The retirement of USMNT wing back Steve Cherundolo due to injury was the start of large change for the Lower Saxony club. They have made many offseason changes increasing the uncertainty ahead of the 2014-15 season. The team will have to search for chemistry early and hang on late in what is sure to be a grueling year.
Hannover secured 13 of the last available 15 points on the season to finish in the 10th spot. This followed a four-game losing streak that put them in the relegation discussion. They had three losing streaks of at least three matches on the season. Hannover won three of their first four games, which were all against teams that would finish in the top seven. They only managed six draws on the season while ending the season with a -13 goal differential.
Sebastien Pocognoli left for West Bromwich Albion, but they have brought in plenty of players over the last two years to increase the spirit of competition to win a spot on the back line. This year Hannover has added two 23-year-old defenders including 6-foot-5 Stefan Thesker. He will be in competition with fellow new addition Miiko Albornoz, Marcelo, Salif Sané and Christian Schulz for playing time. Sané could be moved into a defensive midfielder role by manager Tayfun Korkut.
Ron-Robert Zieler is fully entrenched as the number one keeper. He has 117 appearances in the Bundesliga at 25 years old.
Leon Andreason returns to help lock down the opposition. He was one of the most durable players with Hannover last season appearing in 30 matches across all competitions. He could be joined in a two-man grouping in front of the back line by Ceyhun Gülselam who came over from Galatasary. He brings recent Champions League experience to a team in transition.
The right side should continue to be occupied by Leonardo Bittencourt. He exceeded expectations last year in his first year with Hannover 96. Bittencourt scored four goals and added five assists last season. A smarter approach to tackling was also easily recognized.
Three of Hannover’s top scorers left in the transfer window, but there is one familiar name remaining. Captain Lars Stindl will continue in the attacking midfield role. Stindl had a below-par year with only three goals scored in 2013-14, but one could argue that team play gave him few chances to start the attack. The newly-acquired Joselu figures to line up in front of Stindl, but he may have a short leash. Joselu has never quite lived up to the hype created during his time with Real Madrid B.
Veteran Jan Schlaudraff is another option in attack that could play out wide. The newest addition in the attack is Hiroshi Kiyotake. He came over from relegated Nürnberg and was a member of Japan’s World Cup squad.
Hannover has to get on the same page in the next couple weeks. Their first two games are against teams that finished in the top seven last year. The starting lineup is still in flux as many players are getting time during the preseason. The results have been good in training, although Hannover has had trouble maintaining a clean sheet against mostly inferior opponents. They did get a 2-0 victory behind closed doors against Werder Bremen on Thursday.
Regardless, this will be a tough season for Hannover. They should survive relegation, but remain in the bottom half most of the season.
2014-15 Record: 9-10-15, 37 points 13th Place