New Hannover 96 head coach Thomas Schaaf has warned there will be tough times ahead as the club seeks to avoid relegation this season.

Speaking at his first press conference since he was formally announced as Michael Frontzeck's successor last week, the 54-year-old said he was looking forward to the task at hand: “I had a very positive impression from the word go. I'm excited about this new challenge.”

Nevertheless, with Hannover currently , the former SV Werder Bremen and Eintracht Frankfurt strategist is well aware of the difficulties involved in a relegation battle and indicated he would “shake the players awake” to gear them up for a hard slog.

“It's our aim to get ourselves out of this situation,” he said. "We must internalise the belief that we can do it. We have to give each other mutual support, and we'll need the fans too. Not everyone has been playing at their absolute best. We need to make some changes."

Tricky fixture list

Indeed, Schaaf faces a baptism of fire on the touchline as the 96ers meet potential relegation rivals SV Darmstadt 98 in their first game back after the winter break, and follow that up with matches against European participants Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund. “The Darmstadt game could be a tough one but we have a lot of tough matches ahead of us,” Schaaf admitted.

Yet despite the club's perilous current situation, World Cup winning goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was positive when looking ahead to the coming months: “Thomas Schaaf had a lot of success at Werder Bremen, and he's one of the most famous coaches in Germany. We're looking forward to working with him. There have been some changes, but we're optimistic about the future.”

Defensive stability

© gettyimages / Stuart Franklin

Those changes are already evident, with Hannover having made two key signings already this winter. Japanese international midfielder Hotaru Yamaguchi arrived last month to strengthen the midfield, while veteran Bundesliga striker Adam Szalai has joined on loan from TSG 1899 Hoffenheim.

“Yamaguchi is a very hard working player. He's intelligent and reads the game well,” said Schaaf. “Szalai's a great runner and he will pop up in front of goal and give himself chances.” And while the two newcomers are valuable additions to the squad, securing greater defensive resilience will be his first major task.

“We can play attacking football when we're stable in defence,” Schaaf said. “At the moment we shouldn't be thinking about whether we're playing nice football. We need to win points and play effectively.”