In Berlin… you can be anything…: New season, same Hertha… or is it?

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Preseason: Ibisevic and Selke at the training camp in Austria

It’s that time of year. The Pokal first round is done, the draw has been made and the Bundesliga has officially begun for the 2018/19 season.

But Hertha is still Hertha. Same old Berlin, same old problems, same old same old, but is there eternal hope for this coming season?iih
Is it “the same old Hertha”?
“You can’t win anything with kids” a famous English man once said about Manchester United.
That season United won the title and went on to become one of the worlds most dominant and successful clubs.
Is anything possible in Berlin?
Maybe…
Maybe not…
Who knows?
It’s been a long time since Hertha BSC won their opening two games of the season, but times could well be changing since in 2018/19, that is exactly what they have done.

What’s been happening in the world of Hertha BSC? Well…. to be honest, a hell of a lot and not all of it positive, as is always the way with the Herthaner.

World Cup Misery: Hertha boys shine bright but fail

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World Cup Misery: Marvin Plattenhardt and Germany fell well short in Russia

With Genki Haraguchi leaving for Hannover in the summer just before the world cup, Mathew Leckie and Marvin Plattenhardt were the two representatives of Hertha BSC on the worlds biggest stage.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end well for either of their nations.
Plattenhardt’s and Germany’s path would be the more shocking of the two, with an unbelievable fall from grace for ‘Die Mannschaft’.

Australia are never expected to be a major success at international competitions but their gutsy performance against France gave them a shot at progressing.
Leckie was by far the best and most impressive player of the tournament for the Socceroos, his pace and skill caused problems for every team the Aussies faced. But his talents weren’t good enough to help them team advance to the knockout stages as Australia crashed out in the groups.
Leckie however, received huge praise for his performances despite not scoring.
Marvin Plattenhardt on the other hand, would be always be playing second fiddle to Jonas Hector in Germany’s line up.

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Battle until the end: Mathew Leckie’s Australia team were knocked out but put up a mighty battle against eventual world champions France

It was a surprise to see Plattenhardt’s name appear on the starting line up team sheet against Mexico… although it was down to Hector suffering an illness.
Sadly for Platte, his call up would not be one to remember.
Germany were abysmal and fell massively short as they were defeated 1-0 by the Mexicans and with Hector returning from illness the following game, Plattenhardt’s time in the line up was limited to the bench.
Whilst Toni Kroos’s last second free kick earned a win against the Swedes, it was the game against South Korea that would prove to be the most diabolical performance by a German team this decade.
Clueless, with no constructive ideas, no team work and a lack of chemistry, Germany were so poor during their match against Korea, that even an undeserved victory would not have appeased the German supporters. From beginning to end, it was an utter mess.
At 1-0 down, and needing a win, Neuer came down field for the final seconds and ended up playing left wing… for no reason whatsoever, in fact the decision was a foolish one. Neuer hadn’t been as stellar as he had the previous world cup and the lengthy lay off he had with injury, which lead to Bayern employing Sven Ulreich as their number 1 for almost the entire season, showed up here. Sadly Manu only proved here that he may not have been up to the challenge. His usual cool was gone, concentration was vacant and his decision making was just incredibly naive.
That isn’t to say the rest of the German team weren’t  at fault.  The likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Timo Werner and Jerome Boateng were all poor by their standards and Boateng in particular had a nightmare of a tournament.
They fully deserved to be eliminated, the first time they had not made the last 16 since 1938 (Oh deary me, insert pun here about the war… or actually, no, please don’t).
Plattenhardt had played little part in the downfall of the German national team at the world cup, in fact the one game he did contribute to and there were rumours circulating that Toni Kroos has refused to pass to Plattenhardt because he “Did not trust him with the ball”.
Problems like this, rumors of discord circulating, doesn’t bode well for team morale or harmony. In fact above all, it makes the team looks like fools. The entire campaign had been a disaster from start to finish and the plane leaving early from Russia was possibly the best thing that could’ve happened as it forces Germany to take a step back and look at themselves thoroughly before the next major competitions.
The cracks had been showing ever since their monumental triumph at the 2014 world cup, and suddenly the dam had finally burst. The cracks could not be papered over any more, even the win against Sweden was not well and truly deserved but rather, was extremely fortunate.
What’s more the blame cannot be laid on the fact that Joachim Low decided to leave Leroy Sane at home either. This was a team issue, not an individual one and only time will tell if the German national team can be mended before the next Euros.
Plattenhardt has made his world cup debut, but it won’t be one to remember. It’s a real shame the team performed so badly, as Platte’s performance wasn’t one that could be criticised.

“Lined with palm trees and all these new faces”: Berlin newcomers

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Like father like son: Pascal Kopke joined Hertha from Aue. His father played for “Die Alte Dame” as a goalkeeper

Departures are inevitable during the summer break, especially since some obscure little competition called “the World Cup” was taking place.
Hertha fans were already well aware that Mitchell Weiser would be leaving the club in the summer. It came as no surprise as young Weiser decided not to show his face during the last home game of the season at the Olympiastadion (when the likes of Julian Schieber did so).
Weiser’s move to Bayer Leverkusen was confirmed shortly after and his contract would become active on July 1st. The club of his choice was also not a surprise, as his father coaches at Bayer and his attitude in general during the 2017/18 season was poor. When you lose your ability to perform because of your attitude then there’s a serious problem and that is exactly what happened. The message from Hertha fans during his final appearance for the club (the first half as he was subbed off for Mathew Leckie at half time against FC Koln) was simple… ‘If you don’t want to be here, we don’t want you here… so just go’… he got the message, despite the fact his mind was already made up by the looks of things.
Weiser’s departure was met with a mixed reaction. Some were glad to see the back of him and his attitude and others were disappointed that the club had lost, on his day, a fantastic right back. For many, Weiser’s final response to coach Pal Dardai was the final straw.
According to Dardai, he had asked Weiser if he wished to play in he final game of the season against RB Leipzig. Weiser’s response had been “I don’t know”. Rumours emerged that he had become lax at training and sluggish and that wasn’t through anyone else’s fault but his own. Weiser was dropped for the final game, but his decision not to even appear at the stadium to say goodbye to the supporters was not met well.
The complete opposite could be said for striker Julian “Julo” Schieber, who had not been offered a contract extension and would become a free agent at the end of the season.
His destination it turns out, would be FC Augsburg, but only a month after arriving in Bavaria, Schieber picked up yet another knee injury that will see him sidelined for the foreseeable future. It was that delicate knee that caused so many issues during his tenure with Hertha.
His final game of the season was against Red Bull Leipzig, as he was subbed in around the 50 minute mark and despite the terrible defeat that day, it was Schieber that took centre stage post match, celebrating with fans in the Ostkurve, even grabbing the microphone himself and joining in the customary chants.
Hence why ‘Julo’ became a player that will always have a special place in Berlin fans hearts, a respectful, funny and down to earth guy that always showed appreciation to the fans that made his job possible.
The final loss was that of Japanese midfielder Genki Haraguchi, who announced his move to Hannover 96 during the world cup.
Haraguchi had spent the second half of the 2017/18 out on loan at then Bundesliga 2 outfit Fortuna Dusseldorf,  who obtained promotion by winning the division on the final day of the season, pipping Nurnberg to the title.
His most memorable moment of the season had been his incredible assist against Bayern Munich in which he’d skipped past 3 German internationals, and instead of being greedy and taking the shot on himself, teed up Ondrej Duda to begin an epic comeback from 2-0 down to draw the match 2-2.
Haraguchi was willing to return but there seemed to be no foreseeable place for him in Pal Dardai’s plans and so, he was sold to Hannover for around 5m Euros.
With Weiser departing for a fee of 12.5 million, Hertha made a pretty neat profit, as the newbies brought into the side were not going to break the bank.

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Right back: Lukas Klunter was brought in from relegated FC Koln.

As FC Koln were relegated from the Bundesliga, many expected the majority of their stars to part ways with the club.
Miraculously, many did the complete opposite with the likes of Timo Horn and Jonas Hector signing new contracts with the club despite their demotion. It sent out the signal, that they planned of being back very soon.
It seems to be going well so far, but one player that did part ways with the Billygoats was right back Lukas Klunter.
Klunter would be employed to take up the position left vacant by Weiser.
Klunter and Weiser have played for the same youth German national teams, but Klunter has slightly less experience. For just 5 million Euros, the quick and young right back looks like a bargain… although based on some of Weiser’s performances last season, anyone would be an improvement on him purely for the attitude.

The only other player to actually cost anything at all was Pascal Kopke. Brought in to replace Julian Schieber,  Kopke had been top scorer at Aue in the Bundesliga 2, however they had just managed to escape relegation the previous season. Not even 2.5 million Euros, Kopke again, is young but not yet experienced.
His father is also linked to the club, having been a Hertha goal keeper but Kopke chose the play in a position at the other end of the pitch. Kopke proved he can score in the second division but the Bundesliga is a different matter entirely.
Only time will tell with players so young, but development for them is key.

The other new signings included free transfers, internal switches and loan deals.

Javairô Dilrosun, a young player brought in from Manchester City’s youth and reserve side, looks to be a bright star. Pacey and skilled he could be menace in midfield if given the playing time to develop. For now, he’ll most likely stick with Hertha II to help his development or he’ll be confined to the bench. With little to zero chance of him getting into the Manchester City first team, a move to Berlin was always a positive one.
Internal switches included the likes of U19 champions Muhammed Kiprit, who scored twice in the 4-0 home win of the championship semi final vs Dortmund.
Kiprit’s contract was in contention for some time before eventually an agreement was made. His team mate, Dennis ‘Jatze’ Jastrzembski (also known as DJ) was offered a contract with the professionals as well. ‘Jatze’ is a quick, versatile midfielder who is only 18 years of age but in this game, age means nothing. He’s one of the brightest talents to emerge out of the youth system. It was his assist that provided the winning goal in the DFB Pokal match against Braunschweig.
Two loan signings were also made in the very latter stages of the transfer window, one with a ‘to buy’ option and one without.
Liverpool’s Serbian midfielder Marko Grujic joined for a year for 1 million Euros, however there seems to be no purchase option on the player if he wishes to remain in Berlin… it looks as though if he doesn’t wish to return to Merseyside, Hertha may be paying a hefty fee for him, but if he has a decent season he could well be worth it.
With the aging the Skjelbred, a holding midfielder might be desperately needed this season and Grujic is strong, young but also experienced, something that Klunter and Kopke and Dilrosun lack.

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Fresh young blood: Dilrosun was brought in from Manchester City in the summer

The final addition (so far) has been the loan signing of Derrick Luckassen from PSV Eindhoven. A centre-back, he may the solution to some issues in the backline that have appeared early in the season as Pal Dardai desperately tries to make his new 3-4-3 formation work.
The signings are not expensive, they’re not flashy but it seems Michael Preetz has done well in the market, looking for talent that can be developed and molded to the teams design. It now all comes down to how Pal Dardai coaches these players and how they fit into his plans and his system.

Schuss! Tor! Hurrah: Hertha in Pokal

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Thank goodness for that: Vedad Ibisevic scores a minute after Braunschweig equalise

Last seasons DFB Pokal campaign was somewhat of a disastrous horror show at home.
Hertha were well and truly defeated to eventually relegated FC Koln… embarrassing from a Berliner’s perspective, especially considering that at that point, Koln had hardly won a Bundesliga game that season. Their win in Berlin was a rare taste of victory.
All that after only two years before, Hertha had made it to the semi finals where they lost out to Borussia Dortmund.  It as Dortmund that would knock them out again in 2016/17.
But like the FA Cup, the DFB Pokal is the stage for upsets and the first round this season proved that point, with the likes of St Pauli falling to lower league opposition, semi professional clubs. Even Dortmund had struggled to defeat lower league opposition.
Hertha were subject to the final day of matches against a tough opponent in third tier Eintracht Braunschweig, who were relegated on the last day of the season in the previous Bundesliga 2 campaign as they were sunk 6-2 by Holstein Kiel. (Ironically, Hertha also lost their last game of the season by the same scoreline to RB Leipzig)

Playing teams from the lower division is notoriously difficult. There’s almost no pressure on teams such as Braunschweig to dominate or even play well at all. The pressure is always on the team from the higher division, because losing would call into question just how their season will pan out and it’ll put pressure on the players by messing with their mindset, especially since the Bundesliga season hasn’t begun at this point. However the lower tiers of the German football pyramid have started, meaning the likes of Braunschweig have already had competitive matches.
But the likes of St Pauli had already fallen to lower league opposition in the cup before the Monday night clash between Hertha and Eintracht.
The 3-4-3 formation is something new for Hertha and something Pal Dardai is keen to get right to bring more attacking flare to the side. It can result in far more exciting football, but the risk is that defensively it can leave huge gaps and lead to mistakes.
It showed here.
Hertha did dominate the game in possession but Eintracht were solid and there seemed to be no way through.
It took a piece of Marvin Magic to break through the yellow and blue wall. When a free kick swung in from Lazaro on the right flank.
It wasn’t the worse delivery nor was it the best as the home side’s keeper punched it well clear, only for Marvin Plattenhardt to smash it on the volley with his favoured left foot right into the keepers top left hand corner.

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Stunner: Marvin Plattenhardt celebrates with Maximilian Mittelstadt, after an incredible opening goal

Cue a shocked response, it was the first open play goal Marvin Plattenhardt has ever scored in his career with all his 6 previous goals coming from direct free kicks.
A moment to savour for Germany’s second choice left back, who was linked heavily with a move to the Premier League in the summer transfer window.
But everyone knows one is never enough and unfortunately for Hertha that point was proven in the 81st minute.
The chances had been few and far between but Braunschweig had been creative in front of their own supporters, testing a wobbly Hertha defense. They were rewarded when Hertha’s defensive unit seemingly imploded, with 5 players clustering around the ball and mis-timing challenges, allowed a strike to be taken and find its way past Jarstein.
But Hertha did not want extra time and so, seconds after being pegged back, Dennis Jastrzembski, the 18 year old who had been subbed on, set up Vedad Ibisevic who made it 2-1 in the 83rd minute.
Hertha managed to hang on to the that, taking the victory as well as some valuable lessons as to what would need improving before the season opener against Nurnberg in Berlin.

 

Nur nach…. what?!: “WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE?”

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Tradition: 25 Years Hertha’s song has been ‘Nur Nach Hause’

Is 24 hours before something happens, what you would consider “in advance”?
No, me neither.
But that’s what the powers that be considered to be “notice” when the ‘Einlauflied’ was tampered with just a day before the opening home fixture against newly promoted FC Nurnberg.
The song as the Hertha team enters the pitch has been Frank Zander’s ‘Nur Nach Hause’ for the past 25 years. Since the Hertha amateur’s success in reaching the DFB Pokal final (in the days where reserve sides were allowed to compete), the song has been Hertha BSC’s hymne and has been sung at every home game since then.
It’s is part of the club itself, a sacred anthem that, when sung aloud by the fans before kick off, sends shivers down the spine. It’s something in which the players can not only hear, but they can feel, as they prepare themselves for the oncoming challenge. It’s a moment in which the thousands of Hertha fans, who may be total strangers or not see eye to eye in other walks of life, from all over the city, or even the World, come together and sing for their beloved team. Just for a minute or two, thousands of people sing their hearts out for Hertha. We all share our adoration for our team and our city. It has been that way for a quarter of a century. The song is special to every Hertha fan out there. Even if some fans don’t love the song itself, they understand its significance and its special place in Hertha’s club history and tradition.
The evening before the first match of the season, Hertha fans and members received and email detailing changes to the program, along with the match day news… only the changes were hidden away at the bottom of the email, where very few people would read it.
The morning of the match, the umbrella branch for the Ostkurve’s Ultras, representative of Harlekins98 and Hauptstadtmafia (Förderkreis Ostkurve), posted a website article detailing the events of the previous evening.
They had apparently received a phone call from the management, to be told that there would be changes to the pre match programme, with the “hooking” and singing of ‘Nur nach hause’ now deleted from the line up. Instead, ‘Nur Nach Hause’ would be performed by Frank Zander 20 minutes before kick off and the team would enter the stadium onto the pitch to a new ‘Einlauflied’, which was named as the song ‘Dickes B’ by the Berlin group ‘Seeed’.

The issue here wasn’t that was song was changed, but the fact the marketing management and the Hertha executive board had failed to actively discuss any such changes with the members and supporters prior to the match. Fans were left angry and upset that their beloved song had ultimately been stripped away from them without any chance to even object.
That said, it didn’t stop the Ostkurve from protesting both online and in the stadium itself. The ultras made a statement in their post that basically read… ‘we are going to do this the way we always do it together. We won’t listen to or stand for this. We will sing our song no matter what’.
Whilst the fans joined in with Frank Zander as he performed, loud and proud, they weren’t as receptive to ‘Seeed’ being pumped through the sound system.
Zander admitted that he too, had been kept in the dark about the changes, until the day of the performance. He stated that he was uncertain whether or not he would even turn up to perform and that he was hurt that the club would decide on such a thing without concern for or addressing the fans.
When the team emerged from the tunnel, the marketing teams plan completely backfired. They were greeted not with applause but with jeers, boos and whistles as ‘Dickes B’ was basted so loud out of the PA it was deafening in what was quite clearly an attempt to drown out the jeers of the supporters.
Instead of accepting the changes as they were, Hertha fans were represented by an Ostkurve banner that simply read ‘Nur nach Hause- Jetzt!’ (Nur nach hause- NOW!) and proceeded to sing as loud as their lungs would take them, singing the clubs true anthem of ‘Nur nach Hause’ together, just as they always do.

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Nur Nach Hause… NOW!: Fans were left angry over the sudden change to the Hertha Einlauflied

It was a clear message to the board… ‘You’ve made a huge mistake… take it back and give us our song’.
What’s more, with the disastrous marketing campaigns that had been used previously the board had started steer the commercial side of the business element in the right direction. They had reverted back to the clubs roots and started to address the local community by reintroducing the “Kiezkicker”, where the team train in different districts of the city.  The clubs outlook had changed to be inclusive of all residents of Berlin and children under 14 years old would be admitted into home matches for free (except for against Bayern and Dortmund).
With such positive ideas, this one was truly a kick in the teeth for the supporters. To take away a club anthem, especially without addressing the supporters first was just a total undoing of all the previous good work in the seasons preparation.
The team suffer for something they haven’t even done as they were greeted with whistles, not directed at them but at the Einlauflied, and the stadium mood and tone was set to a negative degree.
It could’ve easily affected the manner in which the players approached the game as well, as on the pitch they clearly struggled to break down a mediocre Nurnberg side.
After the match ended, within a few days of further disgruntled fans attacking Paul Keuter (Head of digital marketing amongst other things) for the part he’s played in some of the more criticised moves regarding the marketing strategy, the club took a U-turn on the issue by announcing that not only would ‘Nur nach hause’ once again be the einlauflied but also that Frank Zander would be performing it live (schedule permitting) at every home match this season.
It wasn’t made completely clear whether it would just be the fact Zander would be performing, or whether the teams song would be switched back. Some media outlets reported that ‘Dickes B’ would still be the entrance song, but the club seem to have stated that things will be reverted back to their previous state with ‘Nur nach Hause’ being the entrance song.
Zander was openly pleased to be asked to perform at every game but the mistake had already been made by the board and whether their attempt at appeasement will work, only time will tell.
Only thing that is certain is that the majority of the supporters will refuse to call anything else the clubs anthem other than ‘Nur nach Hause’ and regardless of whatever song they try to play as the entrance music, it will always be ‘Nur nach hause’ that is sung in the stands.

The Bosnian boy and the man with magic hands: Matchday 1… FC. Nurnberg… oh boy

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Zuruck: Ibisevic scores the only goal of the game against FC Nurnberg

Regardless of what had happened just prior to the match, the support of the fans was as strong as ever, after all, it wasn’t the players that decided anything regarding the change in the pre match programme.
But that wasn’t to say the icy atmosphere couldn’t be felt inside the stadium, especially since VAR would also play a pivotal role in the match.
It wasn’t the most glamorous of games either, both sides looked tentative and neither wanted to be the first to make a mistake and concede on the opening match day.
Nurnberg also had a point to prove, having just been promoted back to the Bundesliga as runners up of Bundesliga 2 the previous season.
Whilst they did look strong in some areas they didn’t produce any real threat on the Hertha goal and vice versa. That was until the 27th minute when fantastic footwork from the tricky Valentino Lazaro, meant that Vedad Ibisevic slotted home after he was found from a perfectly timed and accurate pass.
Whilst the fans in blue and white celebrated with Ibisevic in the Ostkurve, the referee’s doubt would shadow the celebrations. VAR asked the referee to clarify a potential foul by Ibisevic in the build up to the goal… turns out the Nurnberg defender had just fallen over his own tangled up feet. The goal stood and the home side took a 1-0 into the break.
The second half wasn’t filled with magic either. Hertha created a few changes including a powerful header on target from centre back Niklas Stark however the keeper was equal to it and the score stayed at a rocky 1-0.
One is never enough… ever. Again point proven on 83 minutes.
Whilst Nurnberg had created bits and pieces their opportunity to level came in the last 10 when a strike smacked Karim Rekik on the arm. Poor defensive communications yet again, had lead to the chance in the first place.
Harsh? Perhaps, there was barely time for him to react to the flight of the ball, his arm didn’t unnaturally move towards the ball but it was placed in an awkward position to begin with.
The referee consulted VAR and a penalty was given.
The chance for Nurnberg to equalise however, was squandered. A half poor penalty resulted in the biggest moment of the match as Rune Jarstein saved the spot kick and it was cleared away. Cue celebrations from the fans and Jarstein’s teammates as he put in a class, man of the match performance with a save that ultimately won Hertha the game.
The boys in blue managed to hold on for the three points after a cagey affair and an opening game that was filled with more relief than anything else. Much like the opening day against Freiburg two seasons ago, late late drama but the best result.
At the end of the day however, it was a deserved victory, and no one deserved it more than Rune Jarstein, who’s heroics had ultimately, snatched the three points to keep them at home in Berlin.

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Berlin’s Wall: Rune Jarstein was the hero of match day 1.

15 years of hurt… no more: Hertha WIN in Gelsenkirchen

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Auswartsieg!: Hertha beat Schalke in Gelsenkirchen for the first time since 2004 (0-2)

The last time Hertha won an away match against Schalke 04, was 2004. Almost 15 years ago.
Since then, it has been a miserable affair for the Herthaner in Gelsenkirchen with defeat becoming the norm in the Ruhr valley. In fact, Hertha have had more luck at the Royal Blues local rivals Borussia Dortmund in recent years.
Last season saw two defeats from two, home and away against Schalke. They are not an opponent any Hertha fan enjoys playing however, the pressure was all on the home side as they’d lost their opening fixture to last season relegation playoff participants, VfL Wolfsfburg.
It’s not as if the Wolves had been a fantastic side either, Schalke could’ve easily dominated and won the match… but they didn’t and had failed to take a number of chances where as Wolfsburg had not squandered taking theirs.
Already at a low, there was no better or worse time to play Schalke at the Veltins Arena.
On the one hand they would be hurting and doubting themselves from the opening day loss, on the other hand Schalke would be revitalised, with home advantage and determined to seek a victory.
Whatever Pal Dardai’s game plan was, it worked perfectly.
Schalke were not massively poor, however they struggled creatively throughout the game, in particular in the second half. But they did create chances that they just failed to capitalise on. Shots wide, shots high and good handling from Jarstein, frustrated the home side… until the elfmeter curse struck Hertha for the second week running.
Marko Grujic, the Liverpool loanee, made the diabolical error of lifting his hand above his head.
At first, as a cross come in and was cleared away, only a few protesting Schalke players appeared to notice the potential handball, but VAR once again intervened and to the dismay of Hertha players and their traveling supporters, the blatant handball was spotted on the replay as Grujic, with his hands raised, allowed the ball to graze his finger tips. The movement on the ball changed, making the decision clear, despite the fact the actual flight of the ball has not been altered. Grujic was left blushing after his terrible misjudgement and it was left to Schalke man Daniel Caliguiri to convert the spot kick… only to fluff his lines spectacularly. The penalty wasn’t killed by Jarstein as it had been the previous week (although he did guess the right way), but instead was blasted agonisingly wide.
A let off for Hertha, but perhaps also a kick up the rear end. Just moments after the missed penalty, the ball broke to Dilrosun, who had been substituted on for Karim Rekik who’d been forced off injured. Dilrosun used his pace to create space and then whip in a ball to the edge of the penalty area to find an open Ondrej Duda who smashed the ball past Ralf Fahrmann.
Hertha unexpectedly 1-0 and it could’ve gotten a lot worse for Schalke as Kalou was played through to a one on one with Fahrmann… only he couldn’t find the target.
1-0 at the break and one would expect the home side to come out second half firing on all cylinders.
They would be mistaken.

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Next please: Ondrej Duda celebrates his second goal against Schalke

In fact, the home side could barely muster a shot on target for the entirety of the second half, until the last few minutes when new signing Mark Uth smashed the ball towards goal only to find Rune Jarstein in the way.
With time running out, the 04’s desperately tried to dig deep for an equaliser, but the ball was cleared and out ran Dennis Jastrzembski, who managed to take the ball away from the Schalke defenders and with blistering pace set himself up with a chance to score… only he missed the opportunity when he was brought down by Yevhen Konoplyanka just outside the box. As Konoplyanka was the last man and denied a clear goal scoring opportunity, the referee was left with little choice than to produce a straight red card. It presented Ondrej Duda with a glorious chance to make history…and that he did.
From the resulting free kick, 6 minutes into what’s was suppose to be the 4 additional minutes of injury time, Duda planted the ball into the top corner to seal the game and points for Hertha’s first away win against Schalke for almost 15 years.
Dardai and his team erupted into celebration…the last victory in Gelsenkirchen had been when he was still playing for Hertha. It was well deserved history for Hertha who were well worth their three points.
Schalke on the other hand look weary and cracks are starting to appear that don’t bode well for the upcoming Champions League campaign.

The rise of the minnows and fall of the giants?: Wolfsburg and Hertha on top, Leverkusen and Schalke rock bottom.

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Dismal: Bayern Leverkusen lost 3-1 at home to Wolfsburg on Match day 2.

Bayern are top… only just.
Wolfsburg second and Hertha third.
Hertha BSC are the only club after two matchdays to have not conceded a goal.
Leverkusen and Schalke, both contenders in European Competition, are pointless at the international break.
What’s going on?

In regards to Wolfsburg, it can be said ‘not much’ to be fair. Their two victories have come against struggling teams in which they themselves did not really dominate the game and against Schalke, were relatively lucky to get all three points.
Labbadia hasn’t done anything spectacular  nor has he made any great signings over the summer but the confidence that builds after the first few games when you win, no matter how, means that the players take that with them going forwards.
Wolfsburg haven’t been terribe, they haven’t been anything special either. They’ve been helped somewhat by the failure of two teams expected to do well (Schalke and Leverkusen), both with their own problems at present.
It’s hard to say whether Wolfsburg will continue to be a threat this coming season. Their general play hasn’t been anything that special but they’ve been good on the counter. They’ve also conceded goals in both their opening games proving that they’re not altogether, defensively sound.

Leverusen and Schalke have similar problems. Both in Europe, both with decent seasons in 2017/18 but has the effect of that season finally worn off?
It’s not as though they haven’t signed players or that they have poor coaching staff or that they’ve even had major changes. Other than their signings everything is as it was last season… perhaps that could be the problem?
Complacency as well maybe? Schalke and Leverkusen were expected to win their match day 2 fixtures easily as both were at home against what are considered lower standard opposition (Leverkusen played Wolfsburg and Schalke played Hertha BSC), but is there the chance that because of last seasons final standings the teams just considered their second match day fixtures as an easier match to win? Arrogance can play a role in failure but ultimately it just seems that both teams are massively under prepared for the season.
Look at how lax defensively both teams were on Match day 2 and it’s easy to work out where they’re going wrong. Defensive complacency can’t be outweighed by attacking prowess, in the case of Leon Bailey for example, Leverkusen cannot depend on his goals to save them, they must be able to defend their lead as well as score.
It’s a different problem for Schalke, who ended last campaign in second place behind Bayern Munchen.
Instead, they seem weak in both areas of the pitch, lacking any kind of flare or creativity in the centre of the park and the chances they do create are just wasted.
Their only goal so far has been from the penalty spot. Losing both matches also doesn’t do anything for the teams confidence.
It’s the lack of stability in Leverkusen and Schalke that has seen them fail in the first two weeks.
Perhaps after the international break they will come back stronger and begin to revive their dreadful start to the season. At the moment they are dragging themselves through the matches they play.
Hertha BSC, like Wolfsburg, are a team not expected to do well in the current season.
They haven’t lost a great deal of creative talent and have brought in some fresh faces, many of which are young and from the U19 and U23 academy squads. Fishing the local talent means Hertha have a great pond to catch talent from and it’s all local talent crafted in the capital city. It also gives young players the opportunity to develop, rather than the club shelling out for international talent.
The difference between Wolfsburg and Hertha is that they seemed to have changed approach in their two games.
Against Nurnberg there seemed to be a fear of being turned over by the newcomers who would be determined to start the season well. The new 3-4-3 system too would prove to be difficult to adapt to outside of the training ground.
There’s always a difference between training ground and match day. On the training pitch your opponent is that of players you know and who know you, on the pitch it’s the opposite, they’ve no idea who you are and you’ve no idea how they’ll deal with you.
The only way to perfect a new formation is in play and against Schalke, especially when Rekik was taken off and Dilrosun was introduced, this formation seemed to work perfectly, playing on the counter, adding more attacking options and yet players were tracking back in numbers to defend all over the pitch, severely limiting Schalke in their own attacking options.
Where as Wolfsburg had a few slices of luck in the poor performance of Leverkusen and Schalke, Hertha did not have this, especially when Schalke were at home having reviewed their opening day loss.
Schalke did not play that badly against the Berliners but it was the style of Hertha that prevented them from actually being a massive threat throughout the match.
Hertha managed to grab their victory with a carefully balanced game plan and by introducing new players that fit the place of the match perfectly with Dilrosun and Jastrzembski, who’s pace and skill made life difficult for Schalke defenders.
Who knows what could happen when Hertha face Wolfsburg after the international break.
And what’s more, Bayern are not dominating in performance as they expected to be. Two extremely lucky goals against Hoffenheim gifted them a pretty undeserved victory.
Confusion as to why a penalty that was quite clearly a dive was given, then retaken after being missed despite an incursion in the box being made by one of their own players (Robben) and then a potential offside not called back?
The second game against Stuttgart was customary… Stuttgart were exceedingly poor throughout the match and deserved to be well beaten. But Bayern have conceded, the only team not to so far, is Hertha BSC.
The record champions may be winning but their dominance looks a little on edge if their performance against Hoffenheim is anything to go by.

Welcome back: Selke ist Zuruck.

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Welcome back: Davie Selke scored in a friendly against Hertha Zehlendorf

For the second season running, Davie Selke could not participate in the opening match.
During his maiden season in Berlin, Selke had been injured preseason resulting in him being benched and recovering until October.
This season the bad luck has struck again, with Selke missing the first two games of the season despite now being seemingly fully fit and back in full training and participating in warm up training matches.
He scored upon his return to the Hertha team in a training match against Hertha 03 Zehlendorf during the international break in a 3-0 victory (Which saw even Per Skjelbred score!).
Selke had joined up with Hertha during preseason, but suffered a Pneumothorax (Collapsed lung) around the time of the Hertha training camp in Austria.
No one is quite sure how it happened but the dangers of such an injury are apparent.
Selke had surgery then returned home and was expected not to make a come back until October at the earliest.
A blow for the striker that scored 5 in 6 games in the latter stages of last season.
But Selke recovered far quicker than expected and was back in light training by August. In September he was participating in full training and in practice matches and upon his comeback scored for Hertha.
His recovery was a nice surprise. Pal Dardai was questioned over whether Davie would be available for the game against Schalke, but stated that despite fit, he did not want to risk taking Selke to Gelsenkirchen and asked to give him a week or two more.
It was a good move. Selke’s first full game back in action proved to be a success.
An injury like this one can have a devastating lasting effect and so it’s extremely fortunate that Davie is in good health and has recovered in the minimal time. Now, he looks set to be back against Wolfsburg and appear at his first home game against Borussia Monchengladbach, who’ve also enjoyed a decent start to the season.
Selke watched from the sidelines in Berlin as they defeated Nurnberg on matchday one, now, he looks set to return in the second home game of the season… hopefully with the winning goal to top off what is quite frankly a remarkable recovery.

The kids are alright: The Rise of Hertha’s young talents.

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Bright like a diamond: Muhammed Kiprit is just one of several young talents to have signed a pro contract this season

Hertha are fast becoming the template for any club looking to run a football academy.
This season a remarkable 12 players that are in the first team line up having come through the U19-23 youth system in Berlin.
Jordan Torunarigha, Maximilian Mittelstadt, Maximilian PronichevDennis Smarsch, Sidney Friede, Julius Kade, Palko Dardai, Arne Maier, Dennis Jastrzembski, Muhammed Kiprit, Maurice Covic and Florian Baak have all made the step up from the amateur league to the first team. Most of these young players are not yet 20 years old and with the likes of Köpke, Lazaro and Dilrosun joining the squad, themselves only just in their 20s, Hertha look to have one of the youngest teams in the league.
Admittedly, not all these young players will play at the professional level just yet. Kiprit, Covic, Smarsch and Baak are more likely to be set for a spell with Hertha II, who compete in the fourth tier of the German football pyramid. Many of them have already established themselves in Hertha II. Maximilian Pronichev, who began his career at Hertha before moving to various clubs in Russia and Germany before heading back to his native Berlin, was loaned out to Aue this season to gain experience although he too signed a professional contract.
Jastrzembski, Kiprit, Smarsch, Dardai, Maier and Pronichev were all part of the Hertha U19 team that won the championship titles in 2017/18, the first at that level for the Hertha.
After impressing throughout the season they were all offered professional contracts where as many of the U19 went on to be re-signed to the clubs U23 (Hertha II).
Of those players, several have featured for the professional team. In fact Palko Dardai made a little piece of history when he appeared for Hertha against Augsburg in the 2017/18 season, being the first father/son coach/player to feature in the Bundesliga in decades.
Palko isn’t in the team though because of who his father happens to be. He has genuine talent as a pacey and skilled attacking midfielder, having made an instant impact when he featured against Augsburg last season.
Arne Maier is another revelation to work his way up through the ranks. He now features as a starter for Hertha on a regular basis and even assisted a goal in the 2017/18 season. A more defensive midfielder, Maier has the ability to track back as well as create which made him useful against the likes of Schalke. He’s represented Hertha at U19 and U23 level and is a youth international as well.
Kiprit was the top scorer for Hertha’s U19 in their successful season as they lifted the title. It took  a while to gain his signature but he eventually came through, however he may have to settle in the U23’s for now as he faces competition from the likes of new signing Pascal Köpke and established starters Vedad Ibisevic and Davie Selke.
Jordan Torunarigha and Maximilian Mittlestadt are two names that stick out.
Regulars for the U23 Hertha II team, both are now well established in the senior side. Mittelstadt is making more appearances in 2018/19 as Dardai tries the new 3-4-3 system that sees Mittelstadt employed as an attacking option despite his favoured position being more of a defensive role.
Torunarigha, like Arne Maier, has been somewhat of a revelation.
Having already scored twice for Hertha, (Once against Darmstadt in 2016/17, once against Hannover in 2017/18), he was initially employed as a centre back, a tall and menacing young player with a lot of strength in the air. But in the absence at any given time of Marvin Plattenhardt, he can also be distributed as a left back.
Torunarigha is quick as well, he has the ability to be attacking minded but his strength is certainly his defensive qualities, as shown by his man of the match performance alongside Rune Jarstein against Bayern München in 2017/18, away in Munich. Down to his and the keepers heroics, Hertha were the only team not to concede at the Alianz Arena during the season 2017/18’s entirety.

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Fight: Jordan Torunarigha had to fight to earn his place in the regular line up.

Hertha BSC are a club that know all too well just how dangerous overspending on players can be. People from the outside see it as fishing for players out of the recycling bin when the club signs the likes of Köpke, Klünter, Esswein, Selke… simply because these guys are not considered Europe’s greatest talents.
The truth is, these players are only as good as the coaching staff make them. In the case of Ondrej Duda, who had a difficult first two seasons due to injury, was given the chance by Dardai and his team in 2018/19 and shone brightly against Schalke in Gelsenkirchen.
But purchasing players for stupid fees is a dangerous game Hertha do not wish to repeat.
In the 2000’s, when the club last achieved Champions League success, they borrowed money, brought in fresh new talent, then couldn’t afford to keep them and were almost made redundant. It took a lot of hard graft to avoid being dissolved.
This means the club is extremely careful in its financial dealings.
Hertha don’t have the clout and the pull that Bayern have, not only because of the lack of success but also because they can’t guarantee to meet massive wage demands.
Look at the difference in squad value between Bayern and Hertha… Bayern Munchen, €745 million…
Hertha BSC? €121 million. A seven fold difference. Success breeds riches.
What it does mean is that every player signed by Hertha, has to WANT to be a Hertha player, they have to want to earn the right to represent Berlin and fight for a spot in the starting line up, and if they fail to make the grade, still be proud to represent the city by being a Hertha player.
The one way to do this is to develop the talent you already have in the city, scout the local talent, sign them and train them to follow the standards and the values of the club itself.
Hertha can’t afford to purchase a new, hot, 40 goals a season striker every transfer window, so instead, they invest in developing their own striker that could eventually be a talent that could net 40 a season. Don’t purchase… build. Don’t buy… create.
What’s more, it feels as though for coaches and fans, that they have helped nurture these players into being world class talents by encouraging them and supporting them through the times where they were still learning.
And when they are shining, there is a sense of pride around the stadium that they are “one of our own” as the saying goes in England.
One such example is the bright star that is Dennis Jastrzembski, who looks set to become one of the leagues top talents.

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Lighting up the league: Dennis Jastrzembski is only 18 years old but is set to be a regular in the Hertha line up.

Already making impacts from the bench, he won the free kick that ultimately led to Hertha’s match winning goal against Schalke on match day 2. But it’s his blistering pace and the fact he’s still only 18 that makes his appearance in the side so remarkable.
Of all the youth prodigies coming through this season, he looks set to be the highlight in an already bright future for Hertha BSC.
Hertha’s current motto, “The future belongs to Berlin” is not so far off. The club does have ambitions. By developing young players to a high standard and then giving them the opportunity to actually prove themselves, the future could well belong to the capital. One thing is for certain, they are setting an example to the rest of the European leagues in regards to how youth and local talent should be developed.

 

Focus: Ondrej Duda

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Have it: Ondrej Duda scored a magnificent free kick in a man of the match performance vs Schalke

“Everybody sing this song, Duda! Duda!”… That was Salomon Kalou’s instagram reaction to Ondrej Duda’s match day 2 performance against Schalke 04.
The Slovak netted twice in the first away victory of the season and Hertha’s first successful trip to Gelsenkirchen for almost 15 years.
Why is this so significant for Duda in particular?
Everyone knows it’s not been an easy first two seasons in Berlin for Duda, who honestly acknowledged that fact himself in his post match interview. But it was his sheer determination and grit that landed him the man of the match award against Schalke after struggles of almost two years in the capital.
Duda joined Hertha from Legia Warsaw two seasons back but failed to make any kind of impact during his first season in Berlin.
Injury blighted his path to the first team and he spent most of the season recovering from injury after injury that saw him sidelined and his chances to play extremely limited. He spent most of his time in Hertha II, playing as regularly as possible in order to regain full fitness.
In his second season the injury crisis struck again but he did manage to find more playing time in 2017/18, which included his first goal for the club, against Bayern München of all clubs.
It was his goal, after outstanding work from Genki Haraguchi in the box that saw the Japanese international outwit 3 of Germany’s world cup stars, that resulted in a fantastic comeback against the record champions from 2-0 down (it would be the second week running they would throw away a 2 goal lead) to snatch a 2-2 draw.
It had been a simple tap in, and Duda wasn’t yet showing his full capabilities. He didn’t make much of an impact for the remainder of the season.
But during the off season something seemed to change. All of a sudden, something finally clicked.
During the preseason training camp matches Duda showed his class by scoring and assisting time and time again and showing his worth in some wonderful performances in friendlies.
Finally with the injuries that had been tainting his chances of regular first team football seemingly behind him, Duda began to display the very reasons that Hertha signed him in the first place…the old Ondrej Duda, the Duda we’d seen for Slovakia at the Euros, the Duda we all wanted to see.
Against Nurnberg, no single player had an outstanding performance. The entire team looked nervy and unsure of themselves.
But against Schalke, Duda was by far the biggest threat. He played his midfield role perfectly, becoming an absolute nuisance for the Schalke defense and creating chances as well as finding the target himself, twice.
His stunning free kick at the very end of the match topped off a performance saw Dardai’s and everyone else’s faith in him restored. There wasn’t a single concern over injury as Duda ran about the park as if he’d never suffered an injury in his life.
After a disastrous two seasons to start his career in Berlin, it seems now that finally the real Ondrej Duda has appeared for the 2018/19 season. Provided he stays fit, he could be an integral part of how Hertha’s campaign shapes up this season.
If he continues to perform the way he did against Schalke for the remainder of the season, it could well be a bright one for both Duda and Hertha.

 

Bring on Wolfsburg and Gladbach…. and LETS KEEP THIS GOING

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HAHOHE!

 

 

 

 

 

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