Bundesliga Column: Hannover 96 Is Doing the Splits

H96 REUTERS Morris Mac Matzen
Photo by REUTERS/Morris Mac Matzen

These days, a common truism in the Bundesliga is that Hannover 96 (H96) can’t play on the road. This truism has been around since last season and has only gained steam this season. It’s easy to see why. Through 10 road trips, Hannover have the league’s worst record: 3 total points (!) taken from one win, zero draws, and nine losses with a road GD of -14 (only 9 goals scored and 23 conceded). Dreadful.

Thankfully, H96’s home form is more impressive: they have the 6th best home record in the league with six wins, three draws, and one loss with a home GD of +8 (20 goals scored and 12 conceded). These home results are good enough to ratchet Hannover to 10th place in the Bundesliga table. But without the disastrous road trips, H96 could have it so much better. In the light of baseball stats splits talk, Hannover 96 has a case of the home/road split blues.

So there’s definitely some truth to the home/road truism for Hannover, especially in relation to the “big stuff,” like wins/losses and goals scored/goals conceded. This much is obvious, which leads us to a cause-and-effect problem in trying to determine why H96 keeps singing the road blues. And we have pitfalls to avoid, like mistaking statistical noise for the signal when combing through home vs. road stats for H96; in other words, assuming that Hannover’s road woes are caused by particularly woeful statistics, some of which simply could be random occurrences instead. I’m going to try to avoid this problem by stating that I’m not trying to demonstrate causality in the case of H96’s road woes. I don’t have practice with the right statistical tools to begin making this case. Instead, I’m going to look for “home/road splits” that are symptomatic of Hannover’s problem. Okay, got that?

First, some brief context in case Hannover 96 is a new Bundesliga club for you. Hannoverscher Sportverein von 1896 come from a relatively midsized German market (i.e. the city of Hannover in Lower Saxony). The 96ers have won two domestic championships (1938 and 1954) and one Pokal (cup) title. They entered the top flight in 1964, but bounced around, including a long spell in the 2.Bundesliga. Hannover reentered the Bundesliga in 2002 and have worked hard to cement their (mostly) mid-table place in the top flight. Most recently, H96 enjoyed a relatively successful two-year run in the Europa League, but missed out this season because of a mediocre table finish at the conclusion of 2012-13. Stylistically, in recent years Hannover has evolved from a quintessential counter-attacking side, to an open attacking unit, and finally to a fairly balanced 4-4-2 side. Mirko Slomka was the coach who brought Hannover through their run of recent success, but he was sacked in late December and replaced by Tayfun Korkut as the club insipidly wrapped up the Hinrunde.

This string of history leads us to today with the 96ers sitting at 10th in the table, but with their woeful road results. So what do we observe?

Points and Goals per Match Splits

Starting with the basic splits, Hannover averages 2.10 points per match at home, but only 0.30 points per match on the road. I already mentioned Hannover’s -14 GD on the road, which works out to a per match GD of -1.4, only slightly better than Eintracht Braunschweig’s per match GD of -1.6. Putting it another way, H96 has only scored 9 goals in 10 matches on the road, while conceding 23. Within the broader league-wide contest, Hannover’s road futilities really stand out. On average, away sides either win or draw 53% of the time and average 1.43 goals per match for a per match GD of -0.32. By contrast, H96 is conceding close to a whole extra goal per match that their opponents on the road, yet only averaging 0.90 goals per match on the road. Furthermore, the 96ers are drastically underperforming in terms of wins and losses (i.e. only 5% of their matches have led to a positive result on the road).

At home, the 96ers are much more productive in this category with a +8 GD total and a per match GD of +0.8. Their goals for/against is much better too. At home, they’ve scored 20 goals and only conceded 12 for an average of 2.0 goals per match at home. Finally, 45% of their home matches have been wins or draws.

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