A whirlwind. That would be one way to describe Hertha Berlin’s season. They teetered on the edge of relegation twice in the middle of the season and were in the conversation for the calamity that was the last few match days. Even if their chance was slim to get relegated, they didn’t help themselves by posting the league’s third worst form in the second half of the season with 4 wins, 5 draws and 8 losses. The DFB Pokal didn’t go so well either, as they were one of Arminia Bielefeld’s victims amid the 3.Liga sides’ impressive run. The Berliners didn’t have the season they’d hoped, but in looking at it and their position on the table, it could have been much worse.
The Meh: Salomon Kalou
Hertha took a chance on the former Chelsea and Lillie center forward Salomon Kalou, acquiring him for a 1.80 million euro transfer fee. For a player who has struggled since his Chelsea days, he shone brightly for Hertha, ending the season as the second highest scorer on the team behind Julian Schieber. Considering how Kalou had three of his six goals while fellow center forward Schieber was injured, he stepped up in big ways… in the beginning.
The veteran might have had a little episode involving the Berlin Wall, and he might have really fallen off towards the end of the season but Kalou looks like he could be a very constructive signing for the future as Hertha looks for an improved season next year. Thankfully for Hertha, their attackers did what they could with the service they were getting. Hertha ended the year with 43.7% possession and while possession may not be the most useful of stats, they didn’t make use of the possession they had. Hertha could try to go for a more consistent striker, but if they stick with Kalou (who turns 30 in August) and come together as a team more, he could prove to be very useful.
The Bad: Defending Woes
Goal differential saved them, but Hertha still let in entirely too many goals this season. With 52 goals let in on the season, this number is worse when you consider that Hertha only came back from one of their 20 deficits this season and got only 5 points when falling behind. This could be the result of a coming together season; 11 players were new arrivals, there was a managerial change midseason and honestly a tough end of the season schedule wise, with consecutive matches against Dortumnd, Bayern and Gladbach.
Regardless of the situation they were in, Hertha allowed 2 or more goals 10 times this season and the defensive situation is going to have to be the first thing that manager Pal Dardai must work on. Whether it’s a formation switch or technical skills, the back line are going to be vital to any improvement going on next year. They get Fabian Holland back from his loan to newly promoted SV Darmstadt 98, who started all but three games after his subbing in on the 7th match day. He can play left back or defensive midfield and could be invaluable for Hertha in improving their defense.
The Berliners have a capable attack that fell off when they needed it most but will surely gel together during the summer, but they can do themselves some favors by taking the lead instead of falling behind. Shoring up the defensive effort can help them stay out of relegation next year.
Turnaround Moment: Manager Change Saves The Day
Hertha Berlin’s change of manager in February from Jos Luhukay to Pal Dardai was very timely and looks to be the right move. He changed the formation to a 4-2-3-1 and finished out the season with 4 wins, 5 draws, 6 losses, and 12 goals to the 14 that Hertha allowed. That might not look very impressive, but to come in to a situation where relegation is a possibility in the 20th match day and fulfill the goal of not going down proves his capability to keep the fires from burning too high. Dardai has been a coach of the youth team, and also had success leading Hungary’s national side, but hasn’t had a tenure of being a coach for a team in the first division. This is actually a good thing, for he can come in and grow alongside the team who are trying to mesh together and he knows how the youth are developed in the club.
Best Game: 1-0 Win over Augsburg
When looking at best win, you have to look at the timeliness of it instead of the score line. Hertha managed a 1-0 win against a team that would eventually be in the Europa League in a match that eventually would become of the saving graces of the season. Figuring that they could have lost this match, Hertha would have had a harder time climbing the mountain that they did. It’s hard to speculate how they would have done had they lost this, but from a hindsight sense, this proved vital to starting a streak of seven games without a loss. Though the quality of those seven was down, they gained confidence with the Augsburg win which lasted until their match with Bayern. Plus Kalou scored for the first and last time in 2015, so that’s quite a special moment.
Worst Game: 4-4 Draw against Eintracht Frankfurt
What makes this worse than the 5-0 loss against Hoffenheim is the fact that Hertha was up 3-0 before the 40th minute. It speaks to the problem they had over the season of not getting results when they needed to. Generally speaking, being up 3-0 is an amazing thing especially because it was the last time they’d score 3 goals for the rest of the season. They couldn’t stop Alex Meier, even though to be fair not many teams could, and he scored twice to level the game to 4-4.
Player of the Season: Valentin Stocker
Finding the most valuable player for Hertha is difficult because everyone pretty much underachieved. Valentin Stocker, however, put the team on his back when Schieber was out for the end of the season. Valentin’s first season with Hertha proved to be a valuable one. He was an assist leader in the beginning and scored two vital goals towards the end of the season against Paderborn and Hanover. The Swiss international struggled a bit with injuries, but still managed to end the season with 7 assists and 3 goals. He looks like he’s going to be a great all-around player, looking to be a threat for scoring as well as his ability to move the ball.
Weirdest Moment of the Season: Salomon Kalou and the Berlin Wall
Using the Berlin Wall as a prop to show how you’ll break down Schalke’s defense is wrong in many ways, especially when you don’t end up doing it. I don’t know why Kalou thought that taking a hammer to one of the world’s most famous pieces of history was a great idea and I wasn’t sure why he thought the Berlin crowd would be behind the move, but give him credit, he went for it. Next time, he should go for a Lego reenactment instead of earning the ire of his fan base in the middle of a slump.
Hertha Berlin’s got a lot to work on this offseason, but a foundation of remaining in the Bundesliga is one they can certainly use to have a better year next year. Whether the club feels that their new signings aren’t right or if their new signings need to bond, we will see during the transfer window. This wasn’t the season fans were hoping for, but escaping relegation was a big victory all things considered. If Hertha’s going to want to get to the level they want to play at, the players will have to come together as a team or management will need to find new players who will.
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