After a season in which they dropped from the giddy heights of the top six to the mediocrity of mid-table, bundesliga.com explores the Old Lady's chances of attaining normality in 2014/15...
Hertha’s Japanese schemer Hajime Hosogai is catalytic for his team’s fortunes. The holding midfielder dictates the pace of a game, and directs his team’s attacking movements. It was no surprise that as Hertha rose to the giddy heights of the European positions in the early part of 2013/14, Hosogai was at his influential finest. If he can turn in a consistently good season, it won’t be a surprise to see his team follow suit.
John Anthony Brooks was one of the faces of the FIFA World Cup 2014. His celebration personified the USA's joy after he headed a late winner against Ghana in the group stages. At six foot three and only 21, he has all the tools to become one of the Bundesliga’s dominant centre-halves. Indeed, with two goals last season, he is a danger at both ends of the pitch, but with competition in John Heitinga, Fabien Lustenberger, and Sebastian Langkamp, he’ll have to fight to make his name in Berlin.
A coaching career which began in 1998 in his native Netherlands brought Jos Luhukay to Germany in 2002 as an assistant at 1. FC Köln. He had one-season spells at SC Paderborn 07 and Borussia Mönchengladbach in the mid-2000s, before a three-year reign at FC Augsburg. In 2012, he was appointed at Hertha with a brief to lead the club out of the Bundesliga 2, which was duly achieved and followed by an up-and-down 2013/14 campaign.
Finishing in mid-table seemed about fair for Hertha, who were sitting in sixth place during the winter break of the 2013/14 season, having beaten Borussia Dortmund at the Signal Iduna Park and run FC Bayern München and FC Schalke 04 close. The second half of the season, however, saw a gradual slide down the table, as a sequence of nine games without a win between February and April meant they claimed 11th place.
The arrivals of Roy Beerens, Valentin Stocker, John Heitinga, Jens Hegeler, Julian Schieber, Genki Haraguchi, Marvin Plattenhardt and Tolga Cigerci should comfortably mitigate the loss of last season’s top scorer Adrian Ramos and Hamburg-bound Pierre-Michel Lasogga. The shrewd, experienced Jos Luhukay has targeted "stability and consolidation" and "trying to go one place better than last season: we’ll aim to finish higher than 11th".
Luhukay has stated his belief that squad depth is absolutely vital. It is difficult to predict his starting line-up, but it seems probable that the spine of Thomas Kraft in goal, Fabien Lustenberger in the centre of defence and Hajime Hosogai in the defensive midfield will remain untouched. Ronny will be hoping to pin down the attacking midfield role, while Schieber and Beerens will battle for the lone striker spot in a 4-2-3-1 system ahead of the season-opener against SV Werder Bremen.
With 34 goals and seven wins from ten games, at first glance, Hertha have enjoyed a prolific pre-season. Indeed, Luhukay has been bullish about fitting in his new players and both Beerens and Schieber hit the net recently in a 5-0 win against Austria Salzburg. However, Hertha struggled in losing 2-0 to Sevilla FC and drawing 1-1 with PSV Eindhoven. Their DFB Cup opener saw normal service resumed as they ran out 4-2 victors against FC Viktoria Köln.