Steinmann’s unexpected return at the deep end

Matti Steinmann has recently found himself playing a key role in Christian Titz’s system, being utilised as a lone holding midfielder. The Hamburg-born 23-year-old knows what it takes to play in that role and is hoping to carry on implementing the new coach’s ideas together with his teammates.

1,274 days after making his Bundesliga debut on 20th September 2014 in a 0-0 draw against FC Bayern Munich, Matti Steinmann finally got his second top-flight appearance in the recent 2-1 home loss to Hertha Berlin. This time it was a maiden start for the youngster, who even had spells at Chemnitzer FC and Mainz 05 II between those matches, before returning to the HSV U21 setup and his hometown in summer 2017.  It’s no surprise that Steinmann wasn’t exactly expecting to feature. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t something very special for me. Walking out with the rest of the team and putting in a great first-half performance was a lot of fun. It makes it all the more painful to drop off after the break and ultimately lose the game.”

“Worked with intensity during the break”

The fact that the former Germany youth international even had the chance to make his Bundesliga return in front of 50,000 supporters has a lot to do with the appointment of new head coach Christian Titz. Steinmann had made 19 appearances and 18 starts under him in the Regionalliga Nord-topping reserve team this season. The 1.89m-tall midfielder was something of a link between the coach and the players for HSV II, playing in the crucial holding-midfield position. “The coach expects you to get on the ball a lot and secure possession. A lone holding midfielder has to be the conductor, bring the playmakers into the game and make sure there’s a certain stability between the attack and the defence,” says Steinmann, who feels he has Titz’s concept for possession football very much internalised.

It’s part of the reason why there were already clear signs of the new coach’s influence in the Rothosen’s play against Berlin. “It’s how we played in the U21s. Obviously we were able to do it in a more dominant manner because it’s something we had been working on as a team for a long time, plus the level is nowhere near as high as in the Bundesliga,” said Steinmann. In order to try and make it work on the big stage, HSV have been working hard on the new approach during the international break. “We’ve used the extra time to practise the new system. I feel like it’s gone well over the last few days. The friendly against Odense helped us a lot too. The foundations have been put in place, but we still have a lot of potential to improve,” added Steinmann.

A “tough” trip to Stuttgart

The team may have been grafting hard and getting down into the fine details during training this week, but there have been plenty of smiles around the training ground. Steinmann and his fellow youth players have brought a positive atmosphere with them from the successful U21 team. “I think the squad have gone about the task this week very well. The coach has tried to promote a relaxed atmosphere but also instil confidence. I feel like the small game-like exercises have helped that.” 

The next competitive match awaits HSV on Saturday as the Bundesliga returns for matchday 28. Hamburg go into the weekend bottom of the table without a win in 14 games and will take on – of all sides – arguably the league’s most in-form team. “Stuttgart are on a roll right now. They haven’t lost any of their seven matches under Tayfun Korkut and have scored quite a few goals. It will be a tough game for us,” Steinmann knows. If the Rothosen stand a chance of getting that all-important win, they will need to remain composed for the full 90 minutes, not to mention another collected performance from Steinmann. The first steps have already been taken.