Thorsten Fink: The Chef of a Complicated BurgerBy: ryan_s | February 18th, 2013
Hugely Important Victory
Hamburg registered a tight, fairly equal victory over fellow Europe-hopefuls Borussia Mönchengladbach via an absolute rocket from the talented left foot of Rafael Van der Vaart. Other than that, it was a tale of two halves – Hamburg dominated in the first, BMG faired much better in the second. Hamburg cemented 6th place, tied for 5th on points with Hamburg, and finish the weekend three points out of a tie for the final champions league spot. With hopes for Europe no longer being easily dismissed as ‘never gonna happen’, Fink thundered this quote about the situation: “We are still not ready for Europe.”
But first, the game. Mönchengladbach have had quite the leaky defense this season (compared to last), and this was again exploited in their midweek Europa League matchup against Lazio Rome. As the game plan for Lazio was quick, early crosses meant to bend around the centerbacks’ high defensive line, the game plan was thusly for Hamburg. Jansen usually puts in his fair share of early crosses anyway, but it was the fact that Diekmeier (who usually tries to beat everyone with his pace before looking up to cross) was also doing so that alerted me to the fact that this was a tactical decision by Fink. This also meant that the staple of Favre (which has struggled since the pace of Marco Reus has left them) of quickly transitioning from midfield to attack and then scoring opportunities would also be quelled – if the fullbacks are crossing early, then they aren’t as far down the field, keeping them in a defensive position. This tactic ultimately lead to a lot of ‘attempted ideas’ in offense, with the defenses being well coped to cut them out (true for both sides). Still, Hamburg were much the better side in the first half.
This was rewarded by something that wasn’t much in the way of buildup play, or tactics – Mönchengladbach misplaced a pass (that the always aware and always full of energy, no matter who has the ball) Rudnevs picked off in BMG’s own half. He smartly played the ball across the middle to Van der Vaart, who despite having to lunge a bit to get his first touch, rifled his foot through the ball from outside the box with his second touch. The ball swurved away from the helpless Ter Stegen, and Hamburg were up 1-0 due to a bit of individual class. It was Van der Vaart’s second goal of the season – both wonder goals, both against the Foals.
After that, Hamburg’s dominance of the game went wayward – an annoying trait with this young and inexperienced team. Unlike Bayern, who will cruise about the park with even more confidence than before and make sure the other team never gets the ball, or Dortmund, who remain in waiting to unleash a killer counterattack, Hamburg kind of say “Cool! We have the lead! Shitshitshitshit don’t give up a goal”. This is no way to spend 50 minutes of a match that you’re only winning by 1 goal!
Thus brings us to Fink’s comment on Hamburg not being ready for Europe. This team has talent all over the place, and even depth in most areas (notably not striker) – but it’s the mentality that continuously makes them look fragile and young. Going into Dortmund with nothing to lose helped them play the whole game with confidence, but usually Hamburg plays one fabulous half and then one half where they aren’t quite sure how they’re supposed to play. Now, this is better than the beginning of the season, where the whole game was the team shaking in their boots and then thanking Rene Adler at the end, but it’s still not good enough. I’m not saying they need to be Bayern controlling 98% of the game, but you need to do better than one half. And, maybe even more importantly, Hamburg continue to look nervous once they’ve taken a lead. Too many times they coil up into their shell and stop really trying to make headway into the opponent’s half – they don’t know whether to kill off the opponent with another goal, or to just play it safe and pass it around the back forever. This ends up with a cautious team that ends up having a lot of problems retaining possession – simply because they don’t know what the plan is yet. This will come with more experience. But, right now, despite them having beaten Europa League challenger BMG and champion’s league group stage performers Dortmund, I would not want them to be in Europe. Honestly, I think it would be an embarrassing experience. But give them another six months…
Anyway, this team is looking good. This was a workman-like victory against a good, though not very good, team. You’re going to have games like this throughout the season, and it’s a very positive sign when you can work three points out of it. Fink’s plans for the team are clearly more subtle than the ‘fireman’ type coach (Huub Stevens) who perhaps would have gotten a quicker response. But where is Stevens now?
Drobny – 7.0 – Got a rare start as Adler was out injured, and picked up where he left off last season: a nicely above average goalie. Doesn’t have the reflexes or organizational skills that Adler does, but might have a better command of the area, especially on corners. Very nice game.
Diekmeier – 6.5 – Dennis continues to progress, ever so subtly, every game. Remember when he was an awful defender and he was only good for his runs forward? Now he’s a responsible member of defense, wins a decent amount of headers and marks well. He’s not a tackling champ like Jansen yet, but give this physical specimen some time!
Westermann – 7.5 – Great game from Der Kapitän. Was imperious at the back and tackled like he usually does, with some nice distribution. This was a game for the defenses of both sides, and Westermann was a huge part of Hamburg’s.
Rajkovic – 8.0 – What a game from Slobodan! If you guys remember, he was my preferred of the three new guys (Bruma, Mancienne and himself) for the other CB spot next to Westermann, until… well until he kept smashing people in the head. Through injuries and suspensions, Slobodan found himself back in the starting lineup, and looked determined to show himself good. I hope he gets more starts! I had forgotten about his ball skills – dude can dribble and pass with great technique – including one time in the first half where he got by a couple of defenders and played Aogo through into the BMG’s box. Is also strong as an ox – in 50/50 challenges, not a single BMG player could budge him off the ball. Still, whiffed on a ball in the box that BMG could have pounced on, otherwise would get a 9.0.
Jansen – 7.0 – Jansen’s resurgence continues – what a talented man! Enjoys his partnership with Aogo immensely, and tackles people with his long legs that nobody would think possible. Consistently put the ball into dangerous areas in attack.
Badelj – 6.0 – An odd amount of misplaced passes from Badelj, who I still think gets the short straw in the 4-4-2 diamond – the role in the diamond is a bit more suited for someone like Rincon. Also not quite the crusher he can be, ‘only’ winning ten tackles. Solid, but not exceptional performance.
Skjelbred – 7.0 – Another nice performance from Per, who has really stepped up his game defensively. Ten tackles and 30/36 in passing makes up for a very nice game, though he needs to learn to shoot when he has the chance. Could have made it 2-0 at one point.
Aogo – 6.5 – A similar performance to Skjelbred, just slightly less 50/50’s won and a slightly worse passing ratio. Still, good game.
Van der Vaart – 7.5 – Drifted in and out of the game, but it was his sublime wonder goal that won the game. It’s a wonderful luxury to have that boot on the pitch in a tight game.
Son – 5.0 – There’s been a lot of praise from Son recently, including from me, but he still has a long way to go. He’s essentially useless when he’s not given time on the ball, which makes him not particularly versatile. For the entire game, Son was 8/12 in passing. And, unlike Rudnevs, who had a fortunate assist, Son didn’t turn up to win 50/50’s either – the lowest number for either side’s starting outfield players.
Rudnevs – 6.0 – Was, like Son, made to be very quiet in this game, but never stopped running and eventually made the interception and the pass to assist Van der Vaart. Also won a very nice amount of duals.
Marcus Berg – 10 million – For still being on the team and wanting to play
Anyway, sorry for the long post – I’ve been a busy young man recently and so haven’t had been able to properly post. Post your thoughts! nur der HSV!