BUNDESLIGA PREVIEW: Hertha Berlin. Enjoy Axel Falk's preview on the Old Lady from the German capital.
Hertha Berlin has always been an odd one, a team you never really know where they are in terms of quality and expectations. They can surprise you and they can certainly disappoint you. Therefore I am rather happy my heart didn’t fall for the old lady from my favourite city on the planet. Instead my heart fell for an even more inconsistent team from one of the best cities I’ve ever visited. However nice my heart may be and however warm and loving it is (not really, more like cold and cynical), it is not what this piece is about. Now, I have liked Hertha from the very beginning as it’s an old club from my favourite city and with a stadium they somehow make a pain to visit. They have also become a team with a few strong characters and even though these characters move on to bigger clubs or even retire, there are always new talents who can rise to become the new captains and the new leaders of the Bearlin lads. From Ku-damm to Friedrichstrasse, from Hennigsdorf to Potsdam and from Spandau to the most eastern parts of Friedrichshain in this massive city, the team is loved, cheered and expected to perform miracles they shouldn’t even be able to perform. Nevertheless, they always try to and sometimes even do please their loyals in the capital of Europe.
Last season was a fluke. Or was it? It is hard to decide, the new season will have to decide that and we can only speculate, but what Pal Dardai built was a team that could fight back against even the toughest of opponents and against even the biggest of stars. He inherited a team and saw what was needed. Then he made some clever signings and tested different systems until he found one that worked for every player on the pitch. With Darida and Skjelbred as a lock in midfield and Brooks and Langkamp, at times Lustenberger, in defence he created a foundation upon which Hertha’s attacking quality could flourish. Dardai made Mitchell Weiser one of the most feared right wingers in the league, which is as big of an achievement as Ranieri making Albrighton a decent player. Hertha amazed us all with their pace and ferocity and won games they shouldn’t have won against teams they shouldn’t have stood even the slightest of a chance to. Hertha were the Leicester of Bundesliga and could have won the league wasn’t it for Darida’s injury and the fact that Bundesliga just happens to have two of the best football teams on the planet.
Oddly enough, even after signing Ondrej Duda from Legia Warsaw and highly rated 19-year old Allan on loan from Liverpool, it seems like people are seriously questionning Hertha. Now, this is a team that hasn’t lost any of their key players and have strengthened the only area that needed obvious strengthening- attack. With Ondrej Duda Berlin will get a speedy tricky attacking midfielder who has lots of experience and who’s only 21 years old and in Allan they get an as tricky central midfielder who is more on the defensive side. This means that Vladimir Darida can go back to playing in his favourite position, CDM, and Ondrej Duda can overtake the no. 10 position. If Duda works well for Hertha, then they will be worthy of fear once again.
I do not believe last season was a fluke, but a product of a well-built team. If Darida and Brooks can reach the levels of yesteryear, then we can expect a Hertha with the same ferocity and with the same fear factor as they had and add to this the prospect of Ondrej Duda’s qualilty complimenting Darida and Skjelbred in midfield. Scary. Moreover, what can be expected of the old lady? Well, Europa League Round of 16 and top eight in Bundesliga is a minimum for me even though they would need better squad depth to be able to fully deal with the madness of Europa League. However, this madness could lead to a few young talents being given a chance. Many people seem to forget the player touted as one of the brightest German prospects who happens to play for Hertha- Sinan Kurt. Kurt is a copy of Mitchell Weiser, but with greater potential and with Europa League and DFB-Pokal to tire the players, Kurt could be given the chance in midfield and so could left back and left midfielder Maximilian Mittelstädt if he’s lucky. Europa League is often seen as something bad for small clubs, but on the contrary, European competitions is never a bad thing for any club anywhere and it could lead to Hertha completing its revival.
Key player: Vladimir Darida. I'm biased as I love the man, but he was their best player last season and I'd expect him to reprise his role.
Surprise player: Maximilian Mittelstädt, young left back who could be given a chance due to the heavy schedule. Played three games in Bundesliga last season and impressed by contributing with an assist in the loss against Darmstadt. Haven't heard of him? Not surprised, This is a long shot, but we're hipsters so don't worry.
Falk's prediction: 6th in Bundesliga and the Round of 16 in Europa League.
Ali's prediction: 10th in Bundesliga after a strong run in Europe and the Pokal
lover of most things Berlin.
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