Munich - Taking a look at Hannover 96's progress during the first half of the season, it does not take long to work out where things were going wrong.
Away from home they were unable to pick up a single point, while their 23 goals scored were a far from satisfactory return for a side synonymous with European football a short time ago.
Judging by their first two games of 2014, they appear to have gone some way to resolving both of those issues. After a 3-1 win at VfL Wolfsburg on Matchday 18, the Reds beat Borussia Mönchengladbach by the same scoreline on Saturday, and with scoring in consecutive matches and grabbing a brace, the future is all of a sudden looking considerably brighter.
"I'm really excited," said Diouf. "I love being here and I love the city." His enthusiasm is clear to see on the pitch, and with Rudnevs now alongside him the gaps appear to be opening up even more for the 26-year-old. "It's great playing with Rudnevs," added Diouf. "We help each other out and we work well together."
Hannover's new-look attack has certainly lifted the gloom in the Lower Saxony capital, with the arrival of new coach Tayfun Korkut providing the spark the Reds needed. In celebrating back-to-back wins to mark the start of his reign, the Turkish tactician became only the second Hannover boss to begin so successfully, nearly 50 years after Helmut Kronsbein started out with the same record.
"We're going to have a lot of fun with him on the bench," predicted the 96ers' president Martin Kind. "Korkut gives the players his trust. For him, the team is the star." Kind also says that Korkut "knows what he wants", an assertion that is becoming increasingly clear with each passing week, not least in his determined recruitment of Rudnevs in January.
Striking it rich
"I'm very pleased to be here," said the Latvian frontman after scoring in successive matches. "My job is to score goals for Hannover. I feel good playing with Diouf and we both did a great job." So too did , who left the field to a standing ovation having provided two assists - only a handful of players have provided more than the Hungarian's seven so far this term.
Things seem to be improving swiftly under Korkut and Hannover are playing with considerably more spring in their step than before the winter break, where they finished just four points above the bottom three. Their two most recent victories have lifted them up to tenth and only six points now separate them from local rivals Wolfsburg in sixth. Suddenly, that much-yearned-for return to Europe seems all the more realistic.