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Bundesliga Review – Week 9

Inside the home of Hamburger SV’s Volksparkstadion contains a clock. What makes this clock special is that it marks the total time that their team has been in the Bundesliga. It is there to proudly commemorate the fact that they are the only team to have played in every season of the competition, since its conception in 1963.

They are one of only three German teams to have won either the European Cup or Champions League. These are facts that contribute to a history for which they can justifiably be proud. Whilst Hamburger SV’s 1983 European Cup triumph is in the history books forever, there is a real threat that this special clock could soon become extinct.

When the final whistle blows at the end of the VfL Wolfsburg v TSG 1899 Hoffenheim game on Sunday, it will signal the end of Matchday 9 and, if not done already, conclusions will start to be drawn on how the 2017/18 Bundesliga table is shaping up. After all, over a quarter of the season will have been completed. For some teams, it will make for happy reading but for one of the Bundesliga’s mainstays – it will not. Hamburger SV will be rightly concerned at the start they have made –  they currently occupy 16th position.

Sadly, for Hamburger SV this has become increasingly familiar territory and since 2011/12 they have finished higher than 14th position on just two occasions. Managers have come and gone – they have had 11 of them over the same period, including current incumbent, Markus Gidsol. This lack of stability, as they have tried to unearth a winning formula, has contributed to a decline that has seen them not only flirt coyly with relegation, but become almost amorous towards it. It has become far too close to comfort for both the club and fans alike. They have survived two relegation playoff matches in recent years, courtesy of an away goals win against SpVgg Greuther Furth in 2013/14 and needed an injury time equaliser against Karlsruhe in 2014/15 before going on to win in extra-time. They only avoided a third appearance in four seasons courtesy of an 86th winner in the last match of 2016/17 against VfL Wolfsburg, condemning their opponents to that same fate.

This season however had started so positively with wins against FC Augsburg and FC Koln in the first two games. However, they have since embarked on an alarming run of five defeats in their last six games, with their solitary point since Matchday 2 earned in the Nordderby with fierce rivals Werder Bremen. The visit on Saturday from FC Bayern Munich, back under the stewardship of Jupp Heynckes where they enjoyed incredible success, whilst unavoidable is unwelcome, given their current form. And despite their impressive performance with 10 men, HSV succumbed to a 1-0 defeat.

Their struggles should not come as much of a surprise given their modest summer transfer spending in attempting to reverse their fortunes. Greek international Kyriakos Papadopoulos turned his successful loan spell from Bayer Leverkusen in the latter half of 2016/17 into a permanent transfer, costing an initial €6.5 million. The club also shelled out €6 million on the purchase of once-capped German international Andre Hahn from Borussia Monchengladbach.

Whilst these are welcome additions, Hamburger SV’s overall start to 2017/18 would seem to suggest that they do not seem equipped to fare much better, if at all, than in their recent campaigns. This could be the season where they finally run out of luck. Hamburger SV’s fans will hope that they can muster enough points to avoid relegation and keep their famous clock ticking.

1 | Borussia Dortmund remain top of the Bundesliga despite surrendering a 2-0 lead at Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday, with Jupp Heynckes Bayern Munich level on points with Peter Bosz’ side. BVB’s slip in Frankfurt means the early leaders have now dropped five points in their last two games.

Even with their injury crisis, Eintracht Frankfurt is exactly the team that Dortmund need to be beating should they wish to top the Bundesliga come May. Their defensive frailties should concern Bosz, given that neither Sokratis, Ömer Toprak, Marcel Schmelzer nor Łukasz Piszczek were available.

Dortmund’s midweek DFB Pokal tie against FC Magdeburg will no doubt allow Bosz to rest several key players with an eye on their Bundesliga trip to Hannover 96 on Saturday.

For Heynckes’ Bayern Munich, they overcame a Hamburger SV side that were reduced to 10 men in the first-half. Ultimately, a 1-0 win against now 16th placed HSV isn’t good enough, given that it took Bayern Munich 52 minutes to find their only goal of the game.Even though they got the three points, Heynckes slammed his ‘arrogant’ Bayern Munich players for their performance in the first-half before praising their second-half display.

Unfortunately for Hamburg, it looks as though it could be another one of those sticky situations they’ve got themselves into following the less-than-impressive recruitment in summer from the club’s hierarchy.

2 | Goals were expected between Borussia Mönchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen on Saturday but no-one could have predicted B04’s five goal tally in the second-half. Three goals in 13 second-half minutes from Sven Bender, Leon Bailey and Julian Brandt cancelled out Fabian Johnson’s opener before Kevin Volland and Joel Pohjanpalo got on the scoresheet inside the final 20 minutes.

It’s just the performance that Heiko Herrlich needed to convince fans that he is the right coach for this Leverkusen team. There had been uncertainties at the start of the Bundesliga campaign but those seem to have disappeared with die Werkself now on a four-match unbeaten run.

3 | Early signs seem to suggest that VfL Wolfsburg have appointed the right head coach in Martin Schmidt following their earlier dismissal of Andries Jonker. Felix Udoukhai rescued a point for the home side on Sunday evening against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim but it’s their performance against Julian Nagelsmann’s team that deserves the plaudits.

Had it not have been for Oliver Baumann in goal for TSG, then Wolfsburg could’ve easily gone on to pick up the three points. Max Arnold ran the game from midfield while Liverpool’s Divock Origi struck the post for Wolfsburg – we’re finally starting to see the performances VfL fans are expecting from their team.

However, it’s a game that Nagelsmann will want to be forgetting. That’s two consecutive games now that he’s seen his side concede late on and while they’re only four points behind leaders Borussia Dortmund, he’ll certainly be reminding his players that it’s the small margins that make the difference in football.

By Jonathan Shelley & Daniel Pinder.

 

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