A Changing of the Forward Guard at Hertha Berlin

The new 2019/20 Bundesliga season heralds a new era at Hertha Berlin with new trainer Ante Covic moving up to replace the long-serving Pal Dardai at the helm at the Olympiastadion. It is however not just in the technical area that change may be afloat.

Die Alte Dame may be about to witness a changing of the guard in the striker department with ‘old timers’ Vedad Ibisevic and Salomon Kalou facing the threat from a younger generation.

Over the past few seasons the experienced duo of Ibisevic and Kalou have been an ever-present and reliable source of goals under the tutelage of Hungarian trainer Pal Dardai. However with age catching up on the veterans (Ibisevic is 35, Kalou 34), this could well be the season where Davie Selke finally reaches his potential, or where new signings Dodi Lukebakio cements his Bundesliga pedigree. There also comes the youthful threat of Daishawn Redan, who is chomping at the bit to make an impact in Germany.

The old guard

Both Ibisevic and Kalou go into the season as first-choice based on past performance, but both know that age is catching up on them. It is remarkable to think that it was way back in 2008, when Ibisevic burst onto the Bundesliga scene scoring an outstanding 18 goals in 17 Hinrunde matches for newly promoted Hoffenheim.

The Bosnian has carried on scoring ever since with 48 goals in 123 games for TSG, 33 in 86 appearances for VfB Stuttgart and 38 goals thus far for Hertha in 113 matches.

Ivorian Kalou was a Champions League winner with Chelsea back in 2012. Both have been regular scorers for Hertha since arriving in the German capital. 2015/16 saw Kalou finish as Hertha’s leading Bundesliga scorer (14 goals) with Ibisevic succeeding him the following season (12 goals). Kalou was back on top in 2017/18 with 12 strikes.

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It was only last season that their reign was broken with midfielder Ondrej Duda scoring 11. Who will finish as the club’s top scorer this season is more open than perhaps it has been in good few years.

The Challengers

All good things naturally come to an end (unless you are Claudio Pizarro), and the challenge to the hegemony of both Ibisevic and Kalou is under threat like never before.

Chief amongst the potential usurpers is Davie Selke. the 24-year-old joined in July 2017 from RB Leipzig, but a series of injuries have hampered his development. He has scored 13 times in 57 outings for the Old Lady. Last season he scored three and provided nine assists from 16 starts.

This year however he is targeting double figures in the Bundesliga. “I feel very good, I feel fit and ready,” he told Kicker. “Whenever I’ve been in as good shape as I am now, I’ve been able to perform on the pitch. My aim is to reach double figures for goals scored this season. That’s my objective.

“We’re starting from scratch again, it’ll be a good battle,” Selke said of the competition for places. “If I can stay fit I’m not worried at all. I’ll get my minutes on the pitch.”

Those minutes will be challenged by summer signing Dodi (Bayern-slayer) Lukebakio. The on loan striker caught the eye last season with his display for Fortuna Düsseldorf on matchday 12 against Bayern Munich when he hit a stunning hatrick at the Allianz Arena to secure a 3-3 draw.

Hertha paid Premier League side Watford €20 million to secure his services so they are going to want to see some return on that in goals and that means game time. New coach Ante Covic is certainly convinced Lukebakio will succeed.

“Dodi must get to know the plans as quickly as possible and get a feeling for the team”, Covic was quoted as saying by German daily the Berliner Morgenpost.

“That is why I brought him with us. In the future he will be a difference maker for us”, the Hertha Berlin coach added.

18-year-old Daishawn Redan is potentially another option having been signed from Chelsea’s academy . The teenager impressed during pre-season with a goal in his first appearance against Fenerbahce. He will be chomping at the bit to test himself in the Bundesliga having scored 32 goals in 63 games for Chelsea’s U-23 side.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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