Holtby hopeful of Hamburg improvement
Hamburg's Lewis Holtby labelled criticism of him "understandable" but he is confident his second season with the Bundesliga club will be better.
Holtby joined Hamburg on loan from Tottenham before the 2014-15 season but the attacking midfielder failed to hit the back of the net throughout the Bundesliga campaign, as the northern club went within minutes of being relegated for the first time in their history.
With an impressive looking squad including Holtby, Ivica Olic, Rafael van der Vaart and Valon Behrami - Hamburg fans were unimpressed as their club moved towards the Bundesliga's promotion-relegation play-off for the second straight year.
Holtby confronted some of the club's supporters as Hamburg dropped to the bottom of the Bundesliga towards the end of last term after taking issue with claims Bruno Labbadia's men were not trying, but the 24-year-old was more conciliatory when speaking to Kicker on Wednesday.
"I have also wondered about my performance. I expected something else from me," said Holtby, who notched two assists in 22 games in 2014-15.
"The fee for me was high, expectations also, so in large parts the criticism is understandable."
Hamburg made Holtby's move to Imtech Arena permanent last week and the former Schalke man is hopeful of making more of an impact in 2015-16 as he enters his first proper pre-season with the club.
Holtby spent much of pre-season a year ago with Tottenham, while he missed Hamburg's winter break training period due to a broken collarbone.
"I see this phase now as very important for me," he said.
"I want to be the player who I once was for HSV [Hamburg]."
Holtby added that Hamburg's two-legged play-off win over Karlsruher - a year after they avoided relegation against Greuther Furth - had helped build some team spirit, which he hopes to build on in the upcoming campaign.
Hamburg defeated Karlsruher 3-2 on aggregate but needed a stoppage-time free-kick from Marcelo Diaz to force extra time, where Nicolai Muller scored the winner.
"We became a real family in the last weeks of last season. It would be nice if HSV can take the power from this relegation battle into the future," Holtby said.
Hamburg's first pre-season friendly will be held away to Borussia Monchengladbach on Sunday.