Hamburg has the distinction of being the only club to play in every season of the Bundesliga. If they do not make some drastic changes quickly, that impressive streak may end.
Hamburg coming into Sunday’s match sat just above the relegation zone. Darmstadt and Ingolstadt seemingly are all but relegated as the bottom two clubs, but their positive play in recent weeks has closed the gap between them and the rest of the league. However, the five clubs above them are playing their matches this season trying to remain out of 16th and the relegation playoff, as well as trying to prevent a precipitous slide even lower.
Markus Gisdol’s club faced a fellow struggling club in Augsburg, who at that time were in 16th. What made the match even more interesting was that Hamburg have been abysmal on the road and Augsburg has a solid home record.
Gisdol made an interesting tactical decision to start. He decided to trot out his 4-3-3 with Bobby Wood up top as a lone striker and former Premier Leaguer Lewis Holtby as a support striker or advanced midfielder in the middle. Keep in mind that Hamburg were playing their third choice keeper and have the second worst away record in the league. Despite this, Hamburg decided to play a more positive style with the hope that their five midfielders could get the ball to Wood.
This hope was fruitless. Early on both sides traded possession as neither could hold onto the ball for any substantial period of time. About 15 minutes in a pattern began to be established. Augsburg decided to eschew substantial possession as Hamburg had cluttered the middle of the field. While the forward three of the visitors played off the Augsburg defence, they simultaneously played a high line. Augsburg’s backline simply thumped the ball over the top trying to find their forwards running behind the defence, and this tactic slowly gained traction.
A number of good saves were made by Tom Mikel kept Hamburg in the match but a goal was inevitable. The first goal from Halil Altintop was because he received a pass from the wing and didn’t have a defender within two feet of him. Same with the second – pass from the wing found Altintop with no defender to challenge him.
Hamburg when they had the ball could do nothing. Their midfield had trouble finding Bobby Wood and often lost possession too easily. To his credit, Gisdol knew his club was flailing and at half time made two changes to try and generate a more offensive presence.
However, the results were the same in the second half and a respectable 2-0 score-line turned into a 4-0 rout, in a situation where goal difference could well matter. Afterwards, Augsburg manager Manuel Baum were blunt on what he saw saying “We could have scored even more goals. But more than three points wouldn’t have been possible.”
Hamburg’s staff showed no innovation or ability to compete to grab an important point. Instead they sit in 16th and if they don’t pick up the pace, it’s hard to see them escaping a relegation play off.