- Hertha on course for European qualification.
- Sole defeat came against table-toppers Bayern.
- Vedad Ibisevic has rediscovered goalscoring touch.
Last season, they were long involved in the race for UEFA Champions League places – and one game away from a first DFB Cup final appearance in their own backyard. But when Hertha Berlin ran out of steam down the all-deciding home straight, eventually having to make do with a seventh-place finish, there was a real sense of an opportunity missed.
By the time they were unexpectedly dispatched from the third qualifying round of the Europa League by Denmark's Brøndby IF, the blue-and-white flags in the capital were metaphorically flying at half-mast, the pundits queuing up to predict a difficult year ahead for the venerable alte Dame. It now seems they were somewhat premature.
Pal Dardai's troops opened the new Bundesliga campaign with three wins on the spin against SC Freiburg, FC Ingolstadt 04 and FC Schalke 04. Matchday 4's trip to FC Bayern München proved a bridge too far but it was not until the final quarter that the record champions managed to kill the game off as a contest against their obdurate visitors. After being denied by an added-time equaliser against Eintracht Frankfurt, the capital club returned to winning ways on Matchday 6 with a 2-0 victory over struggling Hamburger SV.
“Obviously it's a shame about Frankfurt but all-in-all, we're in a very good place right now,” said Dardai, who himself made a record 286 Bundesliga appearances for the club. In fact, Hertha are enjoying their best start to a top-flight season in 46 years and have the chance to add to their current 13-point tally at third-placed Borussia Dortmund on Matchday 7.
The situation is all the more satisfying for the coach in the wake of an indifferent pre-season invoking medial murmurings of a looming crisis. “In Berlin you get so much talk, I don't understand it,” Dardai laconically remarked. “But I've always just got on with the training.”
One improvement on last term already manifesting itself - aside from the scintillating early-season form of striker Vedad Ibisevic, now the highest-scoring Bosnian in Bundesliga history with 97 goals - is in the impact value of players coming off the bench, where even Salomon Kalou has had to take his seat of late. Julian Schieber came on as a sub and scored in each of the opening two games, Valentin Stocker did the same against Schalke on Matchday 3 and at Frankfurt, it was Alexander Esswein's turn to fill the role of supersub, firing his side 3-2 in front.
“The players coming on later are really getting in there and making a difference,” said Dardai, who will not object in the slightest if the trend continues at the SIGNAL IDUNA PARK after the forthcoming international break.