Hertha Berlin have made an early statement in the close season by signing attackers Mathew Leckie and Davie Selke. With US international John Anthony Brooks having left for Wolfsburg, bundesliga.com examines what type of side coach Pal Dardai will work with next season.
The 2017/2018 campaign is set to be a special one for Hertha, since it will mark the 125th anniversary of the founding of the club. On July 25th 1892, the Old Lady officially came into existence and plans are in place to mark the occasion with a glamour friendly at the Olympiastadion against Liverpool on July 29th.
Hertha will have plenty to look forward to when competitive action returns in August. A sixth-placed finish last season – coupled with Borussia Dortmund’s DFB Cup success – means that Dardai’s side will feature in the UEFA Europa League group stage next September.
Eight years after Hertha last qualified for the main draw of a European competition, the club will want to have a squad fit for purpose. They have been gradually improving since returning to the top flight in 2013 and sporting director Michael Preetz has already been busy in the transfer market as they target a third top-seven finish in succession.
“The coaching team are on holiday starting this week, which they all deserve,” Preetz told the Hertha website after their season drew to a close with an uncharacteristic 6-2 home defeat against Bayer Leverkusen.
“It’s now up to me to put things on the right track for the coming season... Everyone knows how the transfer market has changed over the last few years and how difficult it now is for Hertha BSC to find good options.
“We have some ideas in mind. I’m certain that we’ll need the whole transfer period to implement our plans. We want to go into next season with the core of our team still intact and also strengthen before the start of the season if possible.”
Used boots and jerseys from the final weekend barely had time to be washed and dried before the club announced Leckie as their first summer signing. The 26-year-old Australian international, who can play on both wings, joined from relegated Ingolstadt, for whom he played 30 times last season.
One of Leckie’s biggest assets is his pace and Preetz no doubt felt the new recruit could help improve Hertha’s disappointing away record. The Old Lady often looked toothless on the road after the winter break and lost nine games in a row on their travels – six without scoring. They finally got a vital win at bottom club Darmstadt on the penultimate day of the season.
Leckie has promised to work on his goalscoring record while at Hertha – he did not score in the Bundesliga last season – but he should certainly create chances for another new arrival.
Unveiled at the start of June, Germany under-21 international Selke is a promising addition to Hertha’s striking options. Perhaps his new club decided to make their move when the 22-year-old netted a quick-fire double in Leipzig’s 4-1 win at the Olympiastadion in May.
They were two of four Bundesliga goals Selke managed last term and he will be keen to force his way into Dardai’s plans next season after starting only two games last time out.
Topscorer Vedad Ibisevic (12) and Salomon Kalou (7) managed only six league goals between them after the winter break so they could do with a little help – and perhaps some extra competition. Robust frontman Julian Schieber skipped the team’s post-season celebrations in Ibiza to work on his recovery from a long-term injury and the former Dortmund player could also come into the frame.
In defence, however, Hertha have lost Brooks to Wolfsburg. Preetz said they were reluctant to let the rugged centre back go but had “found a solution which suits Hertha BSC.” Presumably that involved a hefty transfer fee, which could pave the way for further additions.
Brooks’ departure will open up more opportunities for Germany Under-21 international Niklas Stark and Under-20 international Jordan Torunarigha, who made eight appearances – and scored once – towards the end of the season.
Left-back Marvin Plattenhardt should return from a first call-up with the German senior squad with even greater confidence ahead of the new campaign, while Hertha will hope that the impressive Mitchell Weiser can enjoy an injury-free season next time.
Fringe players like Sami Allagui and Alexander Baumjohann have been allowed to move on, with Preetz promising that another academy player is “knocking on the door” of the first team - much like Torunarigha and Maximilian Mittelstädt did.
Preetz also predicted that Slovakian midfielder Ondrej Duda – who made only three league appearances last season following a bad knee injury – will be “like a new signing” this summer.
Both Leckie and Selke stressed that Hertha are a big club by Bundesliga standards and it is clear that the guarantee of six Europa League group matches is also a draw for prospective signings. In theory, that should also help Hertha’s chances of improving on the domestic front, after winning 12 of their 17 home matches but only three away games in the top flight last season.
“Teams like Wolfsburg, Schalke, Borussia Mönchengladbach – elite clubs with much bigger squads than us - have finished below us in the table,” Preetz said at the end of the campaign.
“That alone shows what a fantastic job our boys have done over the last year. The Bundesliga is incredibly tight so you need to constantly be alert. Anything can happen behind Bayern Munich and this season Leipzig and Dortmund as well.
"So from this perspective you can’t praise the performance of the team highly enough.”
The Hertha sporting director said last season was “magnificent” for the club but he will be flat out over the coming weeks in the hope of giving Dardai a new-look team that can go even further next year.