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Hansa Rostock | Swedish Mafia – Ep2: The start of 2020/21

In the last episode Hansa Rostock managed to reach promotion to the 2. Bundesliga in Marcus Allbäck’s first season at the helm. If you want to catch up on the previous part before moving on to this one, follow this link!

Introduction

“Welcome and congratulations once again, Marcus!” Hansa Rostock owner Rolf Elgeti smiled and briefly rose from his chair as manager Marcus Allbäck entered his office. The owner hadn’t been seen a lot around the training ground during pre-season so the invitation to his office came as a surprise. Marcus Allbäck was satisfied with the congratulations, but he had a hard time hiding his disappointment in the fact that he hadn’t been offered any real information regarding the new season’s budget or any of the signings he knew they desperately needed to avoid relegation straight back down to the third division.

Mr Elgeti must have seen the lack of a smile on his face and the darkness in his eyes. “What is troubling you, Marcus? You ought to be the happiest man in Rostock considering what you achieved last season!” The fact that Mr Elgeti kept smiling made Marcus Allbäck calm. He started to realize that his worries about the non-existent plans for the upcoming season had been unnecessary. Rolf Elgeti had a plan. He always had a plan. Marcus hoped that these plans involved some serious strengthening of the squad so he went straight to the point. “Tell me Mr Elgeti. How much money do I have at my disposal? We need at least a new keeper, two defenders, a midfielder and a solid striker.” Rolf Elgeti pretended not to understand. “What do you mean, Marcus?” He asked. “Don’t you trust the players you have, the players who brought us to this point?” His voice hardened and the smile on Rolf Elgeti’s face didn’t feel comforting anymore, it felt eerie. It seemed like he had gotten stuck in this expression, like he was hearing some sort of amusing song that no-one else could here.

“I have told you before and I will tell you again. We will not go down that route. We will not sign big names. We will work with the players we’ve got and we’ll try to find Swedish players to fit our IKEA style”, Rolf Elgeti continued.

“Are you really serious, Mr Elgeti?” Marcus replied. “Do you expect me to fight a relegation battle with these players?” Rolf Elgeti first sat quiet, still with a smile on his face, then he started to giggle before he said “No no no, I don’t expect you to fight a relegation battle”. Marcus Allbäck looked puzzled as Rolf Elgeti continued. “I expect you to stay out of the relegation battle!” He couldn’t believe what he had just been told and he honestly didn’t know what to do. Was he gonna resign straight away and leave this sinking ship and it’s mad captain or clench his fists and work harder than ever before. He stood up and silently looked over the desk at the giggling Rolf Elgeti. He quickly turned around and walked out of the office. As he walked down the corridor followed by the echos of Rolf Elgeti’s laughter he asked himself if he had really made a wise choice to stay and fight.

Transfers in and out

It became obvious going into the 2020/21 season that there really wouldn’t be any money available for signings.

The squad lacked some serious quality though, which meant that Marcus Allbäck would certainly need to work a bit of magic in the transfer market to strengthen the squad.

The bargain bin where Marcus Allbäck had found players last season simply didn’t hold players of a good enough quality, so he had to search the recycling bin this time around!

There are more than a few familiar names on that list, but they have one more thing in common; they are all way past their due date. That’s what I mean by the recycling bin expression. They were once great, but not any more. They are not completely worthless though. For us they serve several pusposes. They come in for free which saves our finances and they are all good either mentally or technically. With age they have declined physically but we really only need them for this season. This might sound like a contradiction, but we sign players for the short term with a long term aim. What I mean by this is that hopefully these players will contribute enough this season for us to remain in the 2. Bundesliga, which in turn would give us enough money to launch a rebuild with a long term focus!

Hatem Ben Arfa, with experience from several seasons in the top flight of French and English football provides a much needed attacking threat. Hopefully his physicals won’t decline too much over this season…

What Ben Arfa brought in technical skills, Cattermole brings in mental strength. He is a natural leader and was immediately appointed captain of the team. He can’t run and can’t do much with the ball. But kick the occasional opponent and lead the team, he certainly can!

Farfán is a seasoned striker who can hopefully both score a few goals and create chances for others. Still fairly fast for a 35-year-old I think he can fit both the AF and the DLF roles.

Kostadin Gadzhalov is less exciting and well-known than the above mentioned trio, but he is the best central defender no money could buy! He will slot in besides Baffo creating a solid (well…) central defender pairing.

With these players coming in the team feels more well-rounded and I actually have a feeling we could stay away from the relegation battle, despite the pundits’ predictions of us finishing 17th!

So how did we actually do? Well, not too bad…

July-September

We played two pub teams from mountain villages in pre-season but fell short against Anderlecht in the 3rd and final friendly. This seemed to spark a form never seen before as we actually crushed our first two 2. Bundesliga opponents and managed to knock out Bundesliga team Augsburg in the 1st round of the German Cup, before reality caught up with us. 6 points from the remaining 7 games of August and September was more according to the plan…

October-November

A bit of a roller coaster, this. 3 wins, 2 draws and 2 losses in the league cemented our mid-table position, which is above our expectations! Our hopes of causing another cup upset were firmly and brutally crushed by Bundesliga side Paderborn in the 2nd round of the Cup. Well, “now we can focus on the league”…

December-January

Not too many games over these two months because of the winter break. We struggled before the break and a morale boosting win against mountain pub team Schönberg didn’t change that. Despite only getting 2 points in 4 league games we only dropped one spot in the table.

As we’ve passed half time in the league we are 10th, with 11 points down to the relegation zone. If we can keep this up we will exceed all expectations (except Herr Rolf’s perhaps…) and we can start building for the future with the prize money coming in! If we keep our abysmal form we might become relegation candidates rather sooner than later. The next game is a very important one, since we play fierce rivals and mid-table competitors St. Pauli. A loss there and things might become shaky…

Until next time, auf Wiedersehen!

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