Die Alte Dame
Bundesliga 2019/20 finish
The 2019-20 Bundesliga season was one where Hertha BSC again underperformed and largely underwhelmed. Finishing in tenth spot and level on points with local rivals Union Berlin in their debut Bundesliga campaign, supporters of Die Alte Dame were expecting better especially after the January transfer window where Hertha spent a staggering €70 million. In truth, the capital club never hit their stride and with no stability on the touchline thanks to three managerial changes during the campaign, Hertha were toothless up top and shaky at the back.
This season should prove to be different story though. Hertha under new boss Bruno Labbadia already look like a much more solid unit and were vastly improved during his nine matches in charge after the resumption of play in the Bundesliga following the COVID-19 outbreak. In pre-season, Hertha again looked solid with a competitive performance against a strong Ajax side but were humbled by PSV 4-0 four days later. Finding consistency in the upcoming Bundesliga campaign will be a major task for new boss Labbadia.
With a focus on investing big money in younger players in recent times, Hertha could develop into one of Europe’s most exciting young sides in the next few seasons.
Likely starting XI
Matheus Cunha – Forward
The former RB Leipzig forward has settled in fast to his new home in the west of Berlin. Brought to the club during the January transfer window last season for around €16 million, the 21-year-old forward became an instant hit amongst the Hertha faithful with his flashes of brilliance on the pitch. Through his 11 Bundesliga matches with the capital side prior to the end of the 2019/20 campaign, Cunha already has five goals and two assists to his name and regularly kept star striker Krzysztof Piątek on the sidelines. It’s likely that this season the Brazilian forward will get even better.
With the versatility to play upfront, behind the striker or on either wing, Matheus Cunha will prove to be manager Bruno Labbadia’s most important player next season in many people’s eyes. His pace, trickery and flair make him difficult to defend against and his natural agility normally see’s him take on opposition defenders with ease. With a direct approach of attacking the opposition’s central defenders, Cunha is a real handful and when one-on-one with his marker he can either sucker a defender in to give away a cheap penalty or side-step his way into space and unleash a strike at goal.
Granted the 21-year-old Brazilian U23 international is not the finished product by any stretch and can still be quite wasteful with opportunities but his tenacity and work rate make him one of the Bundesliga’s most exciting young players. It’s little wonder why French champions PSG were interested in signing him this summer and are said to be likely to come back for their man in the foreseeable future.
Signing to watch
Lucas Tousart – Midfield
Although technically signed by Hertha during the January transfer window, 23-year-old Lucas Tousart was immediately sent back to Lyon on loan for the remainder of the 2019-20 football season. This season will be his first in the blue and white of Hertha and their fans should be excited to see their new signing in action.
Signed for around €25 million in January from French side Lyon, the central midfielder spent the remainder of the season on loan with Les Gones showing fans what they’ll miss in his future absence. Capable of playing as either a centre midfielder or as a defensive midfield which he prefers, Tousart shone last season across his 39 appearances in all competitions with Lyon. Classed as an all-round midfielder, Tousart has the ability to shield his central defenders when needed and effortlessly turn defence into attack with his wide range of passing. Defensively he was strong last term with 2.3 tackles won per 90 minutes of action and 8.25 successful pressures and along side someone like Niklas Stark in the heart of midfield for Hertha, the pair could prove to be very difficult to break down for opposing sides. But his stellar defensive work doesn’t come at the cost of failing to provide an attacking angle to his side’s movement. As seen with Lyon’s winning goal in their 1-0 Champions League home victory over Juventus, Tousart is happy and comfortable with pushing up field when the situation allows, his finish on that occasion straight into the top corner after a making a late dash into the penalty area. In fact, the 23-year-old contributed three goals and three assists last season which admittedly doesn’t sound much at first but arguably is for a player who enjoys sticking on the halfway line for the majority of matches.
If manager Bruno Labbadia can get the best out of Lucas Tousart next season and even help him to improve and further develop as a player, his transfer to Hertha could become one of the best in the club’s recent history.
Outside of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund, there are few outfits in the Bundesliga that can match Hertha’s current squad depth across the pitch. With the signings of goalkeeper Alexander Schwolow from Freiburg and right-back Deyovaisio Zeefuik from FC Groningen this summer, Hertha have again strengthened areas where they were weaker on paper.
Now with 34 senior squad players at the club, Hertha should be able to recover form even when injuries and suspensions ultimately stack up. The versatility of a lot of players in their first-team squad also highlights their strength in depth. The only real area of weakness is in central defence where a few injuries could leave Hertha short but equally players like Niklas Stark could slot into the back four when needed. Central midfield is in particular an area of strength for Hertha. With Lucas Tousart, Arne Maier, Santiago Ascacibar, Vladimir Darida, and Ondrej Duda, Labbadia will not struggle to put together a Hertha midfield that is capable of battling even the best in the Bundesliga week in, week out. The sale of the impressive 18-year-old Lazar Samardzic to Leipzig for a small fee however won’t have gone down well with the Hertha faithful.
Hertha are further remarkably strong up front considering their mid-table finish during the 2019-20 Bundesliga season. With exciting youngsters Javairo Dilrosun and Dodi Lukebakio on the wings supported by the more experienced Mathew Leckie and star man Matheus Cunha alongside former AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piątek up top, Hertha could cause opposing Bundesliga sides some damage if they find their form this campaign.
A lack of collective experience
With an average age of 23.8 across their first team, Hertha have a lack of real experience running through the playing squad. Granted, there are exceptions to that statement with players such as 29-year-old former Manchester City and Celtic defender Dedryck Boyata but largely the lack of experience in the squad could be a problem next season especially if the going gets tough.
Only four of their starters in the predicted starting XI above are aged above 27 and with a new club transfer policy of investing in younger players seemingly evident after last January’s transfer window, boss Bruno Labbadia will be hoping that the few veterans in his Hertha squad will offer around their vital Bundesliga knowledge and wisdom to his sides younger stars.
A verdict is always hard to give in regard to Hertha BSC. The capital club are one of those sides in football who could completely defy expectations next season or could once again fail to flatter during the 2020-21 Bundesliga campaign.
Given their strong overall squad, the depth they possess across the field and the excitement of having some of the Bundesliga’s best young talent, don’t be surprised if Hertha make a real push towards European qualification next season. Not only have Die Alte Dame strengthened over the last half a season but the club will also benefit from other sides around them losing star quality such as Havertz at Leverkusen and McKennie at Schalke. However, equally don’t be surprised if Hertha again struggle during the early part of the season and make another managerial change before the winter break because of it.