At the midpoint of the 2013-14 Bundesliga season Hertha Berlin were sitting in a Europa League qualifying spot after playing three of the top teams in the country. The second half was not as successful, but they stayed in the top tier and now aim to take the next step. Manager Jos Luhukay has kept the goals realistic saying that one place better in the table than last year is the aim. These aspirations may not be ambitious, but fulfilling them would be a new normal for the The Old Lady.
Hertha were as high as fourth during the first half of the season. They found themselves in sixth place after beating Borussia Dortmund on matchday 17, the halfway point of the season. They were defeated 10 times in the next 17 matches. The 13 points gained in the second half of the season pushed them to an 11th place finish. This second half performance would have resulted in a 17th place finish if the season ran only January to May.
Adrian Ramos scored 40 percent of Hertha’s goals last season. That was enough to be picked off by Dortmund for the coming year.
John Brooks comes off his memorable header in the World Cup for the USMNT as the focal point for U.S. fans. However, his place in the starting back line is not quite secure. Fabien Lustenberger is all but guaranteed one of the center back spots. New signee John Heitinga and Sebastian Langkamp are Brooks’ competition for the second spot.
Lustenberger is the middle of a solid defensive center. Hajime Hosogai will hold down the defensive midfielder role and support his back line. Both players will be safe outlets for keeper Thomas Kraft.
Luhukay has favored a flat-four midfield in front of Hosogai. Former Basel left winger Valentin Stocker is expected to be inserted into the starting 11. Nico Schulz has played a similar position to Stocker, but could be moved just inside of him. As the season approaches there are several permutations of the midfield that are not outside the realm of reality.
Ronny is hoping to secure an attacking midfield role. However, 19-year-old Hany Mukhtar remains in the running after an up and down season saw him figure in 10 league matches. Mukhtar recently scored the European U-19 Championship winning goal for Germany.
With Ramos’ departure, the forward position is open as well. This adds to the complications in the midfield as new arrival Roy Beerens could play on the right or as the lone striker. Julian Schieber and Japanese striker Genki Haraguchi will also carry some scoring burden.
Hertha have added up front after scoring only 13 times in the last 17 matches last year, but they lost their best weapon. The changes in attack added uncertainty and the players might have trouble finding the net against better competition. They have scored a lot in preseason, but boiling that down to the best competition tells a different story. Hertha was shut out by Sevilla and managed one goal against PSV. The defense will have to hold up to give Hertha a chance to survive the first half of the season.
2014-15 Record: 10-9-15, 39 Points, 11th Place