With their first ever relegation looming large, Hamburg appear in drastic need of a major overhaul. Eintracht Frankfurt’s makeover from relegation candidates to European contenders offers them a template.
Another season, another torrid campaign for HSV. But Hamburg's chances of Bundesliga survival seem lower than ever after their 3-0 loss away to Eintracht Frankfurt on Saturday.
However, should the Bundesliga Dino decide to search for solutions, they need look no further than their opponents, a team that has turned things around after being on the brink of relegation.
Eintracht Frankfurt spent the best part of the 2015/16 season in the Bundesliga's relegation areas. The club decided on a managerial change in March that season, appointing the relatively inexperienced Niko Kovac to his first role as a head coach in club football.
After stablizing the team and surviving the relegation playoffs, Eintracht turned to young players to get the club moving forwards. Most of Kovac's summer signings were hungry, hard-working youngsters that could fit into their coach's system of aggressive, high intensity play.
And it played out well for the Eagles, with two seasons of constant progress, including two DFB Pokal finals in a row and the club now sitting on the brink of European qualification for the first time since 2013/14. Kovac's successful rebuilding job at Frankfurt has also earned him a move to Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich.
Same to happen at HSV?
Whether they'll manage to miraculously avoid relegation or not, HSV can take note of the process that took place at Eintracht Frankfurt over the past two seasons, and early signs show they've already begun to notice.
Like Kovac, Hamburg coach Christian Titz possessed virtually no experience as head coach before taking over at HSV. Like Kovac, the 47-year-old has a distinctive tactical style, in his case one that relies mostly on possession and building up play from the flanks, with the goalkeeper virtually playing as a sweeper, positioning himself outside the box behind his defenders.
And the similarities do not end there. Titz, who led HSV's reserves to the Regionalliga Nord's top spot before being called in to coach the first team, has already proved he believes in giving chances to young players, even when the going gets tough. Players like Matti Steinmann and Tatsuya Ito have been given a real go in the first team, as well as Germany's U21 goalkeeper Julian Pollersbeck, who had previously spent most of his time on the bench after moving to HSV from 2. Bundesliga side Kaiserslautern.
Despite both coaches' belief in young talent, both Titz and Kovac showed they know how to make use of players that were thought to be part of the past rather than the future. SGE's Kevin-Prince Boateng is a good example of that, as well as Lewis Holtby on the blue side of Hamburg.
The former Tottenham midfielder scored four goals in Titz's first six games in charge after scoring just one in the whole season before that. That improvement came after rumours suggesting his contract would not be extended beyond the end of this season as a result of his high wages.
Patience is key
For HSV to take the Frankfurt route, the Hamburg executives first need to do something that hasn't been done at Hamburg for a long, long time: Let their coach do his job without the threat of the axe hanging above his head at any given time. The instability that comes with appointing seven different coaches in just five years has to stop. Christian Titz needs to be allowed to complete what he's started this season, whatever the outcome of next week's final day relegation battle.
Frankfurt's journey from relegation candidates to probable European qualification is proof that the patient approach bears fruit.