Hamburg’s new Sergio Ramos

HSV are probably one of the most interesting teams in Germany. Since Christian Titz took charge, they have been continually developing into a possession-based team. Titz has been gradually implementing new systems, a better structure, more aggressive pressing and a bold approach in playing out from the goalkeeper.

Despite their relegation, HSV has not had to deal with the typical departures relegated sides usually face. Players like Sakai, Pollersbeck, Holtby and Hunt have all remained. In addition to the renewal of the highly talented Arp’s contract, Kyriakos Papadopoulos has also stayed at HSV. However, Papa, like Gideon Jung, is currently injured, which brings one of the new arrivals to the fore.

That new arrival is David Bates. In the summer he moved from the physical, man-oriented and not very technical Scottish League to Hamburg. Finally, a physically strong defender next to Papadopoulos, HSV will be up to the fight in the second division and gain promotion through sheer strength and determination. This could be the stereotypical expectation of a Scottish player. Christian Titz himself alluded to this stereotype at Bates’ presentation.

‘David comes more from the kick-and-rush playstyle. We don’t really make transfers like that.’

Christian Titz

But HSV under Christian Titz would not be HSV under Christian Titz if this player only boasted physical and defensive attributes. In fact, David Bates can do much more than just defend. He has been very assured on the ball in his previous appearances.

HSV’s style of play needs centre backs who can open up the game with flat, crisp passes. Given that HSV are one of the top teams in the second division, they will often have to bring the game to the opposition. A ball-playing centre back is advantageous, if not essential.

David Bates has all the qualities needed for HSV’s style of play. Read on to find out where exactly these strengths lie and why Bates can play a leading role in HSV’s system. In Scotland they lovingly called him the Ginger Ramos.


Bates – The Man with Courage

With centre backs Gideon Jung and Kyriakos Papadopoulos both sidelined with long-term injuries, Bates will probably get a lot of game time in the 2. Bundesliga.

Even by the end of the first proper friendly against Rapid Vienna, Bates had shown where his qualities lie, shining with an uncanny calmness against Rapid’s high press.

His precise passes helped HSV to regularly get between Rapid’s lines. HSV’s good structure in possession helped the 21-year-old Scotsman, who never played for a youth academy, to fully display his strengths.

‘We quickly realised that David has an incredible desire to improve himself. He is aggressive and ready to fight, but he also wants to improve his footballing skills.’

Christian Titz

His aforementioned calmness was most noticeable in high-pressure situations. Along with Pollersbeck and van Drongelen, he beat the high press with composed and precise passes. Furthermore, at the beginning of the game he displayed skilful touches on the ball to free himself from the opponent’s grasp.

The Benefits of the Third Man

Bates managed to bypass the midfield line with ease during the game. He has good timing, his passes are sharp and flat, yet still easy to control. Bates was usually positioned at the base of a diamond, or as seem here, facilitating play into the third man.

Line breaking pass

For HSV it is crucial to have defenders who can confidently play these passes. This makes it more difficult for the opponent to press their build-up. It’s not enough to just block off the midfielders, as Bates still managed to reach the attackers in between the lines. HSV should be able to get into good attacking positions often, especially against the man-oriented defences in the second division.

Due to Pollersbeck’s high positioning and the ability of HSV’s defenders on the ball, no midfielder should have drop in between the centre backs. As a result, HSV will have one more player between the opponent’s lines.

Good Positioning

In addition to his excellent passing, Bates showed good signs with his positioning during the friendlies. Positioning is also important for a centre back when his team are in possession. This is rarely noticed by fans and pundits, but even just a few meters difference in spacing is decisive for the team’s structure.

Under Christian Titz, the centre backs split quite widely when building up. This is as a result of Pollersbeck’s involvement and also due to there being better diagonal passing opportunities for a centre back when he is positioned in the half space.

Bates is very quick in adjusting his position; for example, he would drop back if Pollersbeck was put under pressure by a high press. A centre back’s body position is key in this respect. They need to have an open body shape to be able to receive the goalkeeper’s passes and to have a clear view of the pitch and the opposition.


Bates tends to want passes played into his stride so he can immediately run forward with the ball – his quick dribbling also opens up opportunities. After a switch of play, Bates doesn’t delay in bringing the ball forward.

As a result, the opponent has less time to adjust, allowing HSV to exploit the open spaces.

Defensive Prowess

If you look at his performances with Rangers, you quickly see that his strengths lie in his defensive capabilities. Bates is very strong physically, yet he still has the necessary speed to cope with the fast-paced play in the 2. Bundesliga.

He is particularly adept with his body in the air and in 1v1s. He often positions himself well between the man and the ball or he will put in a well-timed tackle. His timing when pushing up is of an especially high level. Rarely does he push up too late and get beat to the ball; he manages to put the opponent under pressure as the pass is played into them.

‘Physical games suit me. I’ve good defensive qualities and I’m fast.’

David Bates

His defensive ability will help HSV to compete in the physical second division. Should he be able to produce defensively strong performances, he will have an advantage over Kyriakos Papadopoulos. The Greek may be a leader and a tough defender, but in some situations he does lack the technical ability to consistently play passes between the opponent’s lines.


Bates represents a clever acquisition for HSV. The 21-year-old has all the physical attributes needed for the 2. Bundesliga. In addition, he has already shown promise in his ability with the ball.

But it remains to be said that he still has room for improvement. Although I’ve waxed lyrical about his passing game so far, there were moments in the friendlies where his passes were too risky and not the best decision at that moment.

‘On the first day of training here in Hamburg I felt a bit lost. I didn’t understand the manager’s drills at all. But after a few weeks I’ve quickly got used to everything. I just had to learn which style of football the manager prefers.’

David Bates

Bates will have to get used to life in the second division in the coming weeks and months, much like every HSV player. The Scotsman is fast, but he doesn’t always look quick enough in the first few meters. However, it remains to be seen in the first few games whether or not this will be a problem. All in all, HSV has made a clever transfer in Bates, who will be able to prove himself in the coming weeks and months due to Jung and Papadopoulos’ injuries.

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