“Berlin is poor, but sexy” Governing Mayor Klaus Wowereit once famously said about his city. Something that cannot be said about Hertha Berlin though. They might be poor, but they are far, far away from sexy. The entertaining times of the Marcelinhos, Pantelics and Voronins are long gone and have been replaced by a crippling boredom that sucks the life out of everyone who dares to watch.
After Hertha just missed out on Champions League football in 2008/09 with Lucien Favre, the side crashed down all the way to the second division in the following season. In that time since 2009 Berlin has seen 9 coaches – interims included – all hired and fired by Michael Preetz, meanwhile most fun is poked at HSV for constant change-over on the coaching position. Yet Preetz has made an enormous mess by hiring names like Friedhelm Funkel, Markus Babbel, Michael Skibbe, Otto Rehhagel. One could have assumed that Jos Luhukay would have changed things for the better after his successful stint at FC Augsburg, but that was not the case either.
Now Hertha Berlin are a crass assemble lacking any philosophy and direction, not to mention appeal. Their games are like an extended tolerance-themed elementary school play that lacks any wit. It was adorable for the first five minutes, now you just want to go home, but instead you have to wait out, crammed into a room way too small for way too many parents.
Under Pal Dardai, Hertha’s defensive minded approach hasn’t changed much. It’s still destructive football with little attacking flair, overly reliant on counter attacks and set-pieces. It looks to be enough to survive in the league, but for a capital club you might think there is more potential than the ‘grey mouse’-status. After all, the Olympiastadion can be a great venue for a football match, as the DFB Cup final proves once a year. It’ll take change in philosophy, one that electrifies the masses and a bit of clever marketing and this club would quickly have a very different standing in Germany. Maybe Jürgen Klopp is someone who can bring sexy back to the capital club – it wouldn’t be too surprising, if Dortmund’s former coach decides the Old Lady his project.
Until then it might a case for the Bundesliga promo team, whose Mad Men rip-off is so desperately trying to be original, that it gives you thirdhand embarrassment – yes, it’s that bad. But to include at least one Mad Men reference, Hertha’s new claim might very well be “It’s toasted” after Sunday’s match. Which can easily be the case, as the weather forecast predicts a sweat inducing 30°C (86°F) and also because Borussia Dortmund currently is on fire.
Unless Hertha can find a lucky strike, the odds are firmly stacked against them. The abject performance that saved them a point against Werder Bremen on the previous match day will hardly suffice to hold off this Dortmund attack. “Miki plays.” Thomas Tuchel said on Saturday’s news conference, following by quoting his midfielder “Of course I want to play” – six magic words the Armenian had to utter to make his coach forget all about Belastungssteuerung.
Of course he plays, how you could say no to the glow in Mkhitaryan’s eyes when he is standing on the football pitch? His absolute screamer of a goal from distance alone was enough indication that he is improving with every match and will make this Hertha side sweat on Sunday. Finally Dortmund fans can be optimistic about a match against Hertha Berlin – they’ve lost a couple against the capital club in the recent year, biting on the stonewall. But Borussia now have a plan to unlock sides that sit deep and stand compact. It worked against Gladbach, it worked against Ingolstadt and it probably will work against Pal Dardai’s line-up as well.
BVB aren’t as prone to run into pressing traps of the lurking Per Skjlebred anymore with their sharp ball circulation. If die Schwarzgelben find the same swagger and flow as they did in their recent matches, there can only be one winner in this match – granted they will convert their chances. For Dortmund it would be disappointing to not win all three points against a mediocre side like Hertha in the Westfalenstadion. Plus it’s about time to surpass this horrible Stuttgart outfit in the ‘eternal table’!