Finishing as Hertha Berlin’s joint top scorer in his debut season may at first glance indicate a successful first season the German capital for forward Dodi Lukebakio, but there is a feeling that the 22-year-old Belgian underperformed and the pressure is going to mount on him next season to raise his game at the Olympiastadion.
With Hertha having ambitions of European qualification, trainer Bruno Labbadia is going to have to get more out of his squad while also spending the transfer funds investor Lars Windhorst is making available to him. Lukebakio is one player the coach has already earmarked for an increase in contribution.
Lukebakio was the club’s record signing last summer when die Alte Dame spent €20 million to bring him in from Watford after he’d impressed during a season-long loan at Fortuna Düsseldorf. During his spell in Nordrhein Westfalen he scored 10 goals and provided 3 assists, but it was his hat trick against Bayern at the Allianz Arena that really thrust him into the limelight.
Hertha moved to sign him hoping that he could take his game to the next level with them, but he is still very much waiting to fulfil his full potential. This past season he scored 7 goals to finish as joint top scorer with Vedad Ibisevic (although his final goal of the season against Leverkusen was ‘stolen’ from the boot of Krzysztof Piatek from off the goal line).
Hertha will look at the likes of Köln’s Jhon Cordoba and Robin Quaison of Mainz, who both scored 13 goals and expect Lukebakio to be doubling his tally to match them. “Dodi needs to put the skills he has to more use” explained trainer Bruno Labbadia recently. “More speed, he needs to look for the 1 on 1 more, and not to stop and wait for the opponent to come. He needs to be more stable.”
After an impressive display in a recent internal test match, Labbadia stressed the need for more of the same. “We need to bring him to the level that he can do that for 90 minutes and also possibly three times a week.”
Lukebakio arrived with a €20 million price tag and a huge amount of expectation. In his defence the season didn’t exactly run smoothly for Hertha with four different coaches employed over the season and with the player played in numerous positions across the forward line. Labbadia however plans on playing him in his favoured right-sided position in his 4-3-3 system. More will be demanded next season and it is now up to the player to deliver on those demands.
Last season was good, but Hertha now want very good from their pacey Belgian attacker. The club are (hopefully) moving to a new level and Dodi Lukebakio needs to move to his next level too.