Die Rothosen were relegated back into Division Three on goal difference on the final day of Season 15 despite winning 3-0 at St James’s Park against Newcastle’s reserve team. North German rivals Werder Bremen lost at Schalke, sealing der Dino’s humiliating fall.
It was the culmination of a poor season overall, of course, even if there was some bad luck along the way.
Only Swansea in S5 have won more games (13) than Hamburger this season (12) and been relegated. Swansea are also the only team to have finished with more points (45) than Hamburg and still been relegated to D3. Only Wolfsburg in S12, and Hoffenheim in S14 have accrued 44 points and gone down. 43 points is usually enough to avoid the drop, but not this time.
The season fell roughly into four quarters. HSV failed to win in their first ten games, and managed just three draws, no clean sheets, and were bottom of the table. Lucas Alario missed all of these games with an injury he picked up at the end of S14.
We dominated matches against relegation rivals Sevilla and Schalke, but recorded just just one goal and one point in those two games. Most of the others were close games on the stats, but losing by odd goal. Played mostly 4231B with Alexis Sanchez filling in at CF in place of Alario, and Zakaria Labyad coming in on the wing.
Upon Alario’s return, the next nine games were a complete contrast, winning seven, all with clean sheets. We’d started playing the same ‘slowball’ system that had seen Hertha Berlin get off to such a great start in D1.
The turning point in our season really came when our much sought after youth prodigy Maxence Lacroix forced his way into the team. He’d been training hard, then one day (6 June to be precise) he suddenly (83 to 87) started to look like a much better option than Fortuna Wallace, who had hitherto been a mainstay at the back.
In the return fixtures beginning at the halfway stage of the season, we managed two wins and three draws from the next ten games, but just one clean sheet (in a defensive masterclass at Benfica).
On 20 June, we got two red cards at Ajax (both first choice CBs, Fernandinho and Lacroix). Went 352 for next few games to try to compensate with quantity for lack of quality at CB.
By 18 July, things were looking desperate. We went all out attack playing oldskool Der Dino 343 and dominated the Nordderby with ‘kick and hope’ Bremen, only to concede a late equaliser.
The same tactic backfired catastrophically the following week when we lost 4-0 at home to a poor Lazio team. A mistake from the manager, when reverting to 4231B would surely have seen three points and safety?
The final nine games saw three wins and two draws, a slight improvement, and despite a late season trip to a motivational boot camp, it was too little too late. Young Lacroix played 18 games, during which time we had five wins and five draws (including four clean sheets), and was sent off three times!
Not many positives to take from our season as a whole. We knew it was likely to be tough following S14’s 16th place escape, but felt we had made improvements with Rui Patricio and Luis Fernandinho coming in towards the end of S14.
Alexis Sanchez played all across the frontline and scored eleven goals – not a bad effort considering scoring goals was our problem all season with only bottom club Dynamo Kyiv managing fewer. And despite that run of seven clean sheets in nine games in the second quarter of the season, only Ajax, Newcastle and Kyiv conceded more than us over the season.
Although we reached the semi-final of the Youth Shield (thanks to DP 91 for including the final results in his must-read whole of Top 100 season mega-review), we had hoped to do better in the Youth Cup itself with our best ever team. But it never really clicked, much like for the first team in the league.
We did win a few new player lotteries this season, and hope that one or two will develop into players we can use in the first team or for trade in the future. We also made a couple of changes with next season’s Youth Cup in mind.
Work to do next season. We came close to bringing in a new keeper and striker (but were informed by the manager we thought we’d agreed a deal with that we had ‘the wrong Tavares’ to offer as part of the exchange).
In the end, we’ve decided to stick with what we have for the most part (unless anything changes, and we’ve been there before). Apologies to Glen at Napoli for sticking with the plan for so long and ultimately suffering disappointment.
Back in D3 where it all started for Marsden in Top 100 in S2, where we will be up against some higher rated but to date underachieving teams. No easy games or divisions in Top 100. Long may it continue!