HSV looked to be on the up following Bert van Marwijk's arrival at the helm, but a bad run of results prior to Christmas has seen the club slip back down the table
Rafael van der Vaart says Hamburg are lacking in quality after a disappointing first half of the season that sees them sat in 14th spot in the Bundesliga.
Bert van Marwijk replaced Thorsten Fink in the Imtech Arena dugout in September, leading them to three wins from his first seven games in charge.
But four winless games, including three consecutive defeats, brought a disappointing end to the first half of the campaign, leaving them much closer to the relegation scrap than the push for Europe.
A goalless draw with Eredivisie outfit Vitesse continued Hamburg's mid-season friendlies on Friday and while Van der Vaart hopes for attacking improvement, he is enthused by a solid defensive platform upon which they can build.
"I've had the feeling these days that everybody understands we have to do more," the Dutchman said in Kicker.
"Everybody realises what is at stake.
"We had a good period, but then we had those games against Augsburg and Mainz (defeats that sandwiched a loss at Bayern Munich) which were embarrassing.
"That is why we're sitting here with such a rubbish feeling and it certainly isn't only down to bad luck, we're lacking the quality to take the next step.
"We didn't play very well against Vitesse, but we were very solid and that is one of the priorities in a situation like ours."