SV Hamburg's new coach Thorsten Fink takes over at the Bundesliga strugglers with myriad problems in need of solving if he is to drag them out of the relegation zone and back to the prominence of the past.
Fink will need his sense of humor once he starts work
Thorsten Fink will be under no illusions as to how big a challenge he has undertaken by becoming the new coach at former Bundesliga giants and current Bundesliga strugglers SV Hamburg.
Fink swapped Switzerland for northern Germany on Thursday when he opted to leave Swiss club Basel for Hamburg on a contract which will run until 2014 - unless, of course, he fails to drag the bottom club out of danger and back to prominence before the HSV hierarchy's patience runs out.
The former Bayern Munich player and coach of Red Bull Salzburg has been installed at the ImTech Arena as of immediate effect but will not be in charge of the team for Sunday's away game in Freiburg.
Hamburg sporting director Frank Arnesen, who claimed Thursday that Fink was top of his wish list despite the fact that new Schalke 04 coach Huub Stevens was on the brink of joining HSV less than a month ago, will take charge of the team for Sunday's clash.
Fink comes to Hamburg with the former European champions and only team never to be relegated from the Bundesliga currently languishing in last place, with only one win to their name all season.
This woeful form brought Fink's predecessor Michael Oenning's tenure to a close last month when he paid the price for Hamburg's dreadful start. After sacking Oenning, HSV turned to interim coach Rodolfo Cardoso but his lack of a full coaching license meant finding a permanent replacement became a priority, especially as the speculation began to add to the already paralyzing pressures at HSV.
Fink takes over a team devoid of confidence and lacking any kind of team spirit. For most of the season to date, they've looked to be lacking even the basic idea of what they're doing on the pitch while chaos and confusion seems to reign off it.
The problems which need fixing seem myriad - so where does Fink start?
Oenning's lack of system and strategy left HSV wanting
Niklas Wildhagen, a correspondent for the Bundesliga Fanatic blog and an authority on HSV, believes the lack of a clear-cut system under Oenning has led to confidence drifting away from Hamburg’s young squad, something Fink will have to address immediately.
"There hasn't been any consistency tactically speaking for the entire season," he told Deutsche Welle. "Implementing a system the players can rally around will ultimately foster stability and help improve results which will in turn instill confidence in these young players, which is key."
"Fink has to instill a clear-cut tactical concept in the team, and better results should come rather soon as a result of that. He's a coach who likes to play attacking soccer and is a student of the tactical side of the game just as much as coaches like Tuchel and Klopp, and that should suit the players who currently are on the roster of the HSV."
"Fink will likely take an offensive approach to games, which I think is a good thing for HSV, who have been stagnant when playing a very defensive style," Mark Farrant, the Hamburg correspondent for Offside.com, told Deutsche Welle. "With an attacking mindset, I believe the players will be more inclined to try different things to create scoring chances."
"The massive facelift that HSV received over the close season - almost the entire starting lineup has changed since last year - has no doubt thrown the players into a period of flux," said Ryan Schumann, another Hamburg blogger at Offside.
"Instead of a team of proven veterans, the team is now filled with promising, but unproven, youngsters. Oenning was unable to tap into their potential, and they at times looked like amateurs. Fink needs to install a clear and concise philosophy - not get too complicated too quickly - as the players and the team have seen so much change over the past year that everything feels directionless."
Playing to potential
Wildhagen also believes Fink needs to better utilize the players to tap into their full potential, something Oenning also failed to do.
"Players like Petric, Töre and Lam, just to name a few, are too good to get relegated, on paper at least," he said.
Fink needs to put the smile back on Mladen Petric's face
"Fink needs to get them playing to their strengths and he seems a perfect fit for HSV in this respect; he seems to be a coach who has a clear-cut vision. He is potentially another young and exciting coach that could shake up the league alongside people like Dutt, Klopp and Tuchel."
"Although Hamburg are now a very young team, they still have some experienced players that need to make the most of their talents," Farrant said. "It will be important for Fink to instill confidence in big-name players like Paolo Guerrero, Heiko Westermann and Marcel Jansen, because these are the type of players whose individual skills can be the difference to win games."
"You have to admit that Hamburg haven't had the easiest start to their season considering that they had to play away against teams like Bayern and Werder," Wildhagen added. "HSV will face Freiburg this Sunday, and then Wolfsburg and Kaiserslautern after that. If the team manages to take four or more points in these three matches they'll get some of their confidence back."
Hamburg's problems are not all on the pitch, however. The club and its fans have very high expectations and failure is not an option in Hamburg, as seen in the statistics that show that the club has had seven coaches in seven years and that on average every coach since Ernst Happel has spent about one and a half seasons at Hamburg before moving on or being sacked.
Dealing with expectations
Champions League is the least HSV fans will demand from Fink
"Fink is going to have to face the intense media pressure and expectations of the fans, and he needs to find his feet quickly in this environment," said Wildhagen. "Basel is not a small club in Switzerland but Hamburg is a big team in the Bundesliga - there's quite a difference. We'll have to see if he's ready for the challenge."
"Another plus is that he fits into Frank Arnesen's youth concept, so there might not be as much friction there."
"The appointment of Thorsten Fink looks like a positive move for HSV as he won a wealth of titles and played under some great coaches including Felix Magath, Ottmar Hitzfeld and Giovanni Trapattoni while at Bayern," said Farrant. "But before they even think about titles, Fink will need to work to get the best out of his players to bring the team out of the relegation zone and salvage this season."
Author: Nick Amies
Editor: Martin Kuebler