Hamburg 4-0 Werder Bremen

The general formations used in the first half, which Hamburg won 1-0.

Armin Veh’s Hamburg tore woeful Werder Bremen apart in the north German derby. The hosts had a point to prove after a humiliating midweek defeat to city rivals St Pauli, and couldn’t have wished for better opponents than confidence-deprived, injury-hit Bremen. Hamburg, who left Ruud van Nistelrooy on the bench throughout, came into this game knowing they could move up to sixth spot with a win. Bremen, however, knew a loss could see them end the weekend in the relegation zone.

Thus, Bremen adopted the role of the stereotypical struggling away side from the off – content to let their hosts have the ball, and more concerned with keeping their formation tight (pushing high in a compact 4-1-4-1). Faced with an extremely flat rearguard, Mladen Petrić lingered on the last shoulder, making teasing runs designed to pull someone out of the shape. His side were patient in possession, showing only occasional flashes of penetration through Gojko Kačar’s long and searching balls from the back, or Heung-Min Son’s slipping in of some canny passes. Continue reading

Things looking up for Hertha BSC

Andriy Voronin, 2008/09

Andriy Voronin, 2008/09

Christopher Towers wrote a piece on the Berliners for When Saturday Comes recently. In it, he refers to the team’s relegation in May as “remarkable”. In reality, it was anything but.

Die Alte Dame may have mounted a quasi-title challenge in 2008/09, but the foundations were hollow, the bid a bit of an anomaly.

Lucien Favre’s gameplan was built on a sit/suck/surge/shoot (repeat) style that made for 1-0 wins and frustrated football fans.

As Rangers, Greece, Fulham, Schalke and so on have shown in recent seasons, short-term spurts of success are easy to attain via these kind of tactics.

Inevitably, such flavours are played by *smaller* clubs, or, in the case of Schalke, Rangers, and Hertha, those with finances preventing extravagance. In the case of the latter, the capital-city side’s cobweb-ridden vaults meant that their personnel-crown jewels were sold over the summer – occasionally talismanic heroes such as Marko Pantelic, Andriy Voronin and Josip Šimunić. In spite of this, the club were still €35m in debt, and thus had no way of plugging the gaps.

Things got worse on and off the pitch as the season went on – perhaps worst of all, yobs rioting in the stadium after another home defeat. The relegation was prolonged until the penultimate weekend, but nigh-on certain from about September. Continue reading