Arminia Bielefeld 1-3 Hertha BSC

The first-half formations.

Hertha Berlin comfortably beat Arminia Bieleffeld to notch up their 13th win of what so far has been a very professionally conducted 2. Bundesliga campaign. The home side created a nervy last few minutes for their guests when Josip Tadić scored in the 85th minute after their first incisive through-ball of the match ( courtesy of Christian Müller). But the away side fully deserved the win, and now go into next week’s derby against Union statistically on top of the league, and metaphorically on top of the world.

In February 2009, Hertha had the chance to top the Bundesliga if they won away at bottom-placed Arminia. But the visitors were held to a draw by the plucky hosts, and their title challenge disintegrated not long after. In a form of déjà vu, the sides met again nearly two years to the day, placed at polar opposite ends of the table – Ewald Lienen’s side cut adrift, bottom of the table with a mere eight points, and Markus Babbel’s Hertha top of the table. The only difference being this time, the teams are competing in the second tier of German football.

Hertha took control of proceedings immediately in this game by pressing the ball higher up the pitch, and taking the sting out of early Arminia energy by patiently giving everyone a touch of the ball, and keeping the home side at bay. Going forward, Babbel’s side – playing with a midfield diamond – had the hustle and bustle of the Colombian Andy Carroll, Adrián Ramos, the left-wing-veering playmaker Raffael, and interchanging wide-midfielders and full-backs. 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