Hamburger SV’s struggles against Ingolstadt and beyond

Ingolstadt entered the game vs. HSV as the league’s unluckiest team with a 5.6% conversion rate then proceeded to obliterate HSV from two long-range bombs by Markus Suttner and Pascal Gross. 

While Gotuku Sakai’s rocket might win goal of the week, it’s alarming that every team seems to break out of their scoring funk against Hamburg. Markus Gisdol is also having trouble figuring out a consistent lineup that can provided enough attack (Nico Müller started on the bench after not training much all week) and hold up defensively. This type of first half shot output is simply not enough, HSV need to figure out a way to get closer and better quality looks, regardless of conceding fluky bombs. 

Shooting too often from bad locations is a Hamburg trademark, and Michael Gregoritsch has been one of the biggest culprits. The promising Austrian has a cannon of a left foot, but has taken 22 of his 38 shots from outside the box. The results have been tragic, as 71% of those 38 shots do not make it on target, with 16 going off target and 11 getting blocked. His shot map, provided by Alex Rathke,  could not be any clearer: He is a wonderful aerial presence who can score from close range, but either because Gisdol doesn’t always put him up there (starting Bobby Wood), or because the teammates don’t find him, he rarely gets in good enough positions to score, and is thus reduced to long-range speculation. Ironically, Bobby Wood, who is a forward that should be scoring his goals from inside the  box is failing there spectacularly:

All his misses are from point-blank range, while he has scored his four goals on shots with 5% expected goals value! In the match vs Ingolstadt, Wood managed to add SEVEN bad touches to his gaudy totals and continues to among the league leaders in that category despite playing just 926 minutes so far. Filip Kostic is still the most dangerous HSV player, but there should be some serious questions asked about whether it is justifiable to trot him out there for the one or two key passes (17 of his 28 come from crosses or corners) that he contributes, as he is just so inefficient:  While he is 10 of 20 on corners, out of his 100 attempted crosses, only 23 of them have been accurate, and he is yet to deliver an accurate free kick on eight tries! 

There have been far too many Kostic games like this and HSV’s supposedly high-powered offense (remember when they were supposed to have the best counterattack in the league with Halilovic, Kostic and Müller!!) has scored 15 goals, second worst behind Darmstadt!

Although he could’ve done a better job of pressing the initial long ball that led to the first goal, Waldschmidt, who actually went 11 of 17 on passes and 3 of 5 in the attacking third, was not the sole problem. However, his position in the starting XI is the least stable and it was not a surprise that Nico came on for him, nor was it a surprise that he went 4 of 10 on passes with zero shots and dribbles or key passes. Yet, the offense was not the main cause of the loss.

Defensively, Gisdol tried to solve their problems in the center of the park by bringing in Gideon Jung for the rather tame Matthias Ostrzolek (three fouls, and zero successful tackles in the CDM role) and Dennis Diekmeier committed his usual mistake (khm the Frankfurt match) to seal the deal. Kyriakos Papadopoulos was pretty unlucky to deflect that Suttner free kick that left Mathenia no chance and was quite impressive with ten clearances and a couple of blocked shots. He won 7 of 11 aerial duels as well.  Mergim Mavraj also contributed a lot with six clearances and seven interceptions, including 9 of 11 on aerial duels, but struggled to pass the ball forward (11 of 20). Poor Dario Lezcano was just 5 of 20 in the air versus the two giants and is now losing two-thirds of his aerial battles on the season.

Douglas Santos who leads the league in tackling had a quiet afternoon with just one attempted and successful tackle, but struggled to pass forward, going 1 of 6 on long balls and 18 of 33 on forward passes. It would also be harsh to blame him for Pascal Gross’s superb goal, as he actually to use a basketball term “closed out” pretty well and contested the shot. It’s a different question, as to why the defenders didn’t do a better job of assigning the marks better, as there were three FCI strikers in the box and Santos was already covering Matthew Leckie, who won the duel against him to set up PG.

Gotuku Sakai was perhaps the best defender on the pitch for HSV, and not just because of his wonderful goal. While Leckie’s athleticism was giving him trouble, the Japanese RB who also played CDM after Diekmeier was brought on ended up leading his team with five tackles and 69 passes (Holtby had 50 in 2nd place) with six ball recoveries to boot. The one negative was going 1 of 5 on aerial duels, which is below his usual standards: he has won 25 and lost 16 aerial duels this season!

Ostrzolek’s tackling was already covered above, but one needs to mention that he also gave away the foul for Suttner’s free kick and managed just two ball recoveries in 45 minutes. Lewis Holtby should share some of the blame for a disastrous first half, as he succeeded on just one of his three tackles, though at least he made eight ball recoveries. Poor Gideon Jung did have a nice chance to score (and HSV probably had a decent shout for a PK after Gregoritsch was shoved), but going 7 of 21 on passing with zero ball recoveries is not what you want from a CDM. What they do want apparently is Brazilian Olympic champ Walace, who looks to be on his way from Gremio for around 10 million per SportBild. It’s definitely a good idea, as Holtby has proven to be much better as a CAM, while the makeshift options of Ozzie, Sakai, Jung and others have never really worked out.

For Hamburg fans, the hope was that the worst was behind them and that a couple of results against teams in the same relegation battle boat in Wolfsburg and Ingolstadt would boost their season. That ship has sailed, and now they face a disappointed Leverkusen side on Friday that starts a brutal stretch: a midweek cup match vs the new Barcelona   Cologne is followed by  trips to Leipzig and Munich with three home matches against Freiburg, Hertha and Gladbach representing some chances to take points. It does not get easier, as they travel to Frankfurt and Dortmund as well, so things might not improve….

11 months ago
BundesligaTeam Feature
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Written by vanbasten99
About Abel Meszaros Abel started out watching and playing soccer in Hungary, before falling in love with the Bundesliga in the mid - 90s (thanks to Kicker and Sat1's Ran). Abel is faithful to BVB, but also endlessly fascinated by the emergence of new teams and talents from Germany. His first English love was the Liverpool teams of Macca and Robbie Fowler, but these days he just roots for the underdogs. He loves to talk/read/write/think about soccer! Otherwise, you can find him working in publishing, teaching ESL, and/or drinking craft beer - not necessarily at the same time, or in that order. Abel tweets at @VanbastenESL and at @BundesPL

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