Preview: FC Bayern Munich – Hertha BSC

Justin Separator September 20, 2016

Berlin’s last season was remarkable and they followed it up with a good start in this year’s campaign. We talked to Marc Schwitzky, chief editor at Hertha BASE 1892 about Hertha’s recent success, their current situation and their expectations for the new season.

Hi Marc, could you please introduce yourself to our readers. How did you become a Hertha supporter and what connections do you have to the club.?

Hi Justin! My name is Marc Schwitzky, I’m 20 years old and I live and go to a college in Berlin. I also run the blog Hertha BASE 1892 together with six comrades to report about the current affairs at “the old lady”.

I became a supporter by a very classical move, my dad has always been a fan and when I was 6 he took me to a game at the Olympiastadion. I still remember that we played against TSV 1860 Munich and that we sealed their relegation. Ever since then I was hooked. Great players and icons like Niko Kovac, Marcelinho, Arne Friedrich and Josip Simunic were also a factor.

Hertha had a great run last season. What would you say were the most important puzzle pieces for that success?

First of all you have to name the coaching team: Pal Dardai and Rainer Widmayer have done a fantastic job since Jos Luhukay left. It may sound a bit strange, but they taught the team to play football again. We learned to use possession, to be compact in defence and to use our counter-attacks.

Furthermore Michael Preetz the sporting director deserves credit! He signed Darida, Weiser, Ibisevic and Stark who eventually became the centre pieces of the success and he was able to keep important players like Skjelbred and Brooks.

But of course the team’s performance in the end was the decisive factor and the played a hell of a season. There was hunger and playfulness. Kalou and Ibisevic were weapons in attack. Darida controlled the midfield and Skjelbred played an astonishing season defensively. The whole back four was very stable and so the foundation for success. Last but not least the change on the goalkeeper position from Thomas Kraft to Rune Jarstein was a benefit for the team.

Hertha looked like an overperformer from the outside, securing results that looked better than their games. Would you agree on that and do you think that is repeatable?

The start was promising, but cannot speak for the whole season. I think we could last year’s performance, because the team stayed together, not having lost a single starter. Additionally young players like Weiser, Brooks or Stark have gained experience. Hertha has built a wonderful foundation last season. Can Hertha get 50 points again? Absolutely! Will the other top teams have a collective break down like in 2015/2016? Very unlikely. Wolfsburg, Schalke & Co. won’t struggle as much this season, making it harder for Hertha to move as high again in the final table.

Sinan Kurt came to Bayern as a big talent and later on was sold to Berlin. How do you rate his development and do you believe he could have his breakthrough at Hertha?

Kurt has really had some complicated years. In a very short time span he went from talent of his generation to an unteachable prig – In Berlin he has the quiet surroundings to completely focus on football again. Pal Dardai is a good coach for young talents and should help him get used to football on senior’s level. Kurt has used the preseason and has worked on his body. Currently he doesn’t make the cut for the 18 player squad, but he is close. In the winter break we will have a better picture of him. If he stays patient, Dardai will give him a chance to prove himself.

Sinan Kurt wants to have his breakthrough at Hertha BSC.(Photo: Alex Grimm / Bongarts / Getty Images)
Sinan Kurt wants to have his breakthrough at Hertha BSC.
(Photo: Alex Grimm / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Let’s talk about the upcoming game in Munich. Which tactical approach do you expect from your team?

Dardai has a different match plan for every game, so I’m very eager to see how he will take on this challenge.

Hertha could play with a back five. With Brooks and Langkamp we have a very strong central defence that could be complemented with Lustenberger as a sweeper, which has worked well once against the BVB. Pekarik on the right and Plattenhardt on the left. Stark/Skjelbred/Darida in front of them, Haraguchi and Weiser as fast wingers and poacher Ibisevic in attack.

Is an approach with high pressing not an option?

I would not be shocked, if we would stick to the back four, in a common 4-2-3-1. Dardai often tries to act and not only react against strong opponents. He wants to see football, also against the big teams! We’ll see!

What’s the final result on Wednesday and which goals does your club try to achieve in the short and long term?

If we can take home a point, I would be very happy. You cannot expect much more coming up against this Bayern team. As long as we don’t get blown out of the stadium, we can be content.

Dardai and Preetz want to develop the team and the club step by step. Each year a new component is added, to the playing style and to the roster. In the long-term Hertha wants to be among the Top 8 Bundesliga teams, at least not losing touch to these eight and to also improve the popularity of the club. Hertha BSC has to get and wants to have a stronger presence in the city and beyond. The club is working on a clear philosophy and is experimenting a lot in that direction (current slogan: “We try. We fail. We win.”).

Hertha has become a success story under Michael Preetz and coach Pal Dardai after getting some stick in the beginning. How dangerous can Dardai’s team be on Wednesday?

Hertha’s strengths

Hertha’s biggest quality lies in their efficiency. With 9.7 shots per game they had the fewest of all 18 Bundesliga teams last season. Nevertheless they scored 42 goals with their third-best in league conversion rate of 19.1%. Only Gladbach (20.8%) and Borussia Dortmund (21.9%) were better. After three games in the new season the conversion rate is already up to 25%. Their 10 shots per game are again well below average. Against Schalke two shots on goal were enough to score two goals.

This quality of Hertha’s attack has many names. Vedad Ibisevic (14) and Solomon Kalou (10) scored a joint 24 goals last season. Even Julian Schieber seems to be a valid option again. He secured the last minute victory against Freiburg.

But how does Dardai’s team score their goals? Evenly distributed in fact. Last season they scored eight goals after standards, three penalties, one own goal and 30 goals from open play. With seven goals after counter-attacks they are above average in the Bundesliga in this category. Especially the defensive wings are very well equipped.

Last season Weiser and Plattenhardt have predominantly featured there, but also Peter Pekarik is especially in defence a strong full-back. All three players do have a good balance between offense and defence. Weiser impressed with five assists, two goals and as a good build-up player. It has been very hard to isolate him, due to his good understanding of the game. Last Sunday he was the man of the match with one assist and one goals to his name.

Marvin Plattenhardt (2 goals and 5 assists last season) is also a very clever player, but taking less risk going forward. Pekarik is the more defensive option, thus being a good fit for the game against Bayern. Weiser would move forward into midfield then. The upcoming Bayern opponent also has good offensive wingers. Haraguchi is in very good form. He had a foot in two goals in the last three games.

Usually Hertha’s game does not move though the centre a lot, but when it does Darida is the main playmaker between the wings. The 26 year old also has been a threat from distance repeatedly. Sadly he tore his LCL in the game against Schalke, missing not only the game against Bayern. Valentin Stocker is the most likely replacement.

Hertha’s weaknesses

The biggest weakness is the structure when in possession. Hertha is able to control the game against most Bundesliga teams, but they lack verticality. No other team in the league utilizes the dreaded “U-shape” as much as the team from Berlin. Oftentimes the connections to the attacking midfield zones are missing. There the ball recycling stutters and Hertha is prone to losing the ball. Usually the centre-backs pass the ball to the full-backs and then forward along the side-line. Dardai’s team heavily depends on their wing play.

Brooks, likely to be unavailable on Wednesday, and Langkamp usually are the playmakers in the centre. They do have their strongest connections to the full-backs. This leads to a certain predictability of the attacks and a dependence on dribblings and crosses. That’s one of the reasons for the low number of shots per game for Hertha. But if Hertha can take the lead, the opponent is in trouble. Hertha’s structure does not create a lot of penetrating power, but makes it hard for the opponent to recover the ball.

Bayern’s challenge

First of all the own structure of the game is important. Bayern has to find their coordinated movements as Hertha will defend fiercely. A top priority should be to create solutions in the middle or more flexibility on the wings. The game against Ingolstadt, as well as the other games in this season, have demonstrated problems with and against the ball. The half-spaces are not occupied and thus the wingers are lacking support. Furthermore it doesn’t help when all three central midfielders are positioned deep and the positions between the opponent’s lines are vacant.

The graphic depicts the connections in the Bayern game against FC Ingolstadt. The problem is clearly visible. Ribery moved into the centre, because the three midfielders stayed deep. So connections in attack were scarce, leading to a dependency on 1v1 or 1v2 situations and less shots. In the final third a clear structure and a defined idea is not visible, currently. Carlo Ancelotti has to work on these aspects in the coming weeks and months. A reliance on individual quality cannot be the permanent solution.

Bayern Munich should not underestimate Hertha BSC. Berlin haven’t dropped a point this season for no reason. At least since the home win against Schalke last Sunday it’s clear that this team has a high quality and is able to switch between a possession-based approach to counter-attacks. Due to their stellar conversion rate, each open shot in front of Manuel Neuer is expected to go in. With Bayern’s current structural weaknesses and because Hertha is playing some good football, this game is the highlight of the match-day.


Last five games against

  • Hertha BSC 0-2 FC Bayern Munich (Bundesliga, 31. matchday 2015/16)
  • FC Bayern Munich 2-0 Hertha BSC (Bundesliga, 14. matchday 2015/16)
  • FC Bayern Munich 1-0 Hertha BSC (Bundesliga, 30. matchday 2014/15)
  • Hertha BSC 0-1 FC Bayern Munich (Bundesliga, 13. matchday 2014/15)
  • Hertha BSC 1-3 FC Bayern Munich (Bundesliga, 27. matchday 2013/14)

All-time record

  • 68 games, 40 Bayern wins, 11 Hertha wins, 17 draws
  • 239 goals, 160 for FCB, 79 for BSC
  • Current streak: 10 wins in a row for Bayern
Jérôme Boateng's professional career started in Berlin. (Photo: Andreas Rentz / Bongarts / Getty Images)
Jérôme Boateng’s professional career started in Berlin.
(Photo: Andreas Rentz / Bongarts / Getty Images)

Fun Facts

  • Bayern had 27 shots in the season opener against Bremen. Against Schalke they had 18 and against Ingolstadt only 10.
  • Except for the Supercup, Robert Lewandowski has scored in every match of the season.
  • Hertha hasn’t scored against Bayern in their last four matches.
  • The last Hertha win against the record champion dates back to February 14th 2009, a 2-1 win in the Olympiastadion. Hertha lead the table, but the Bundesliga title was won by a team that was seven points behind at that time, VfL Wolfsburg.
  • This time Hertha again has the chance to lead the league. Both teams have to far won each of their 3 games.
  • Bayern have won their last nine home games against Hertha and haven’t lost at home against Hertha in the last 21 games. Hertha’s last win in Munich dates back to October 29th 1977, a 0-2.
  • With Bayern (29.7% conversion rate) and Hertha (25%) the two most efficient teams face each other.
  • Jérôme Boateng was raised in in Berlin and had his breakthrough at Hertha. Against Ingolstadt he had his comeback and is an option for the game on Wednesday.
  • Pal Dardai has lost all three games against Bayern as a coach, but he was on the pitch as a player when Hertha last won against the record champion.

Five bold predictions

  1. Hertha scores at least one goal.
  2. Bayern will at best score two goals.
  3. 9, 4, 4, 8, 4 and 10. That’s the number of shots Hertha had in the last six Bundesliga games against Bayern. On Wednesday they will have at least shots.
  4. Lewandowski will be involved in two goals.
  5. Pal Dardai will use a back four for the first time against Bayern.

Three predictions from the Ingolstadt preview were correct. Overall standing: 14 out of 25.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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