It is safe to say that the new season hasn’t exactly gone according to plan for ambitious Hertha Berlin so far. With millions spent on squad additions and aspirations of qualifying for Europe, Bruno Labbadia’s side have suffered four successive defeats following their opening weekend success against Werder Bremen.
But is it all doom and gloom in the German capital?
Summer signing Jhon Cordoba is at least one player, who is bringing a modicum of optimism amongst the many false starts and dropped points. Signed from Köln in the summer for €15 million primarily as a back-up/ compliment to Krzysztof Piatek, the 27-year-old Colombian has outscored the bigger money Polish striker and pushed himself into the first-choice striking role.
After coming off the bench on matchday 1 to add the fourth goal in the Alte Dame’s 4-1 victory at the Weser Stadion, he was back on the bench for the home defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt. He was however given a start in place of Piatek for the trip to Bayern Munich and repaid the faith with a headed goal on the hour mark to bring the score back to 2-1 and give Hertha a little hope. His towering header from a right-wing free kick delivery from Matheus Cunha saw him outjump both Corentin Tolisso and Leon Goretzka to power his effort past Manuel Neuer. Ultimately Hertha were denied a deserved point by a late injury time penalty.
Bruno Labbadia kept faith with Cordoba for the following match against VfB Stuttgart (a 2-0 home defeat) and although he failed to shine, he was once again preferred to Piatek for the trip to Leipzig on matchday 5. He once again scored a goal than ultimately didn’t lead to any points, but he again showed that he hasn’t moved to the German capital just to play second fiddle to Piatek.
Breaking the Leipzig press in the opening ten minutes, Cordoba kept his cool to calmly fire past Peter Gulacsi after having his bursting forward run spotted by Vladimir Darida. He did however blot his copybook somewhat with a forward’s challenge to concede the penalty that allowed Leipzig to take all three points.
Bruno Labbadia has so far favoured a lone striker in either a 4-4-1-1 or a 4-2-3-1 formation and the choice between Piatek and Cordoba comes down to a question of pace over directness. The Pole has the advantage if Hertha want to play with a big target man, but as has been evident in recent games, Cordoba brings something extra when Hertha are looking to add pace to their attacking game.
Cordoba now has the added advantage of having scored in three of his five appearances, whereas Piatek has thus far failed to find the back of the net in his 148 minutes of action. Hertha face VfL Wolfsburg at home on matchday 6 and it will be interesting to see whether Labbadia keeps faith with the in-form Cordoba, or whether he opts to bring back the big money signing from last January Piatek.