The mood at Hertha Berlin is more upbeat than you might think considering the mixed start they have had to the season. Die Alte Dame have taken just six points from their opening seven games this season and lie in 13th place (one point above Wolfsburg in 17th). Although they actually have less points than this stage last season there is a real sense of optimism at the Olympiastadion.
The impact new coach Sandro Schwarz has made is already being felt and is a large factor in the current mood of optimism. Despite losses to Borussia Mönchengladbach, Borussia Dortmund (both 1-0) and Union Berlin, and draws against Bayer Leverkusen, Mainz and Eintracht Frankfurt, Hertha have looked less fragile than last season and are playing a different style of football that is giving fans hope of better things.
They probably deserved a point against BVB, were denied a clear penalty against Leverkusen and were only denied a win at Mainz by a last-gasp equaliser, so there you have five more points they perhaps deserved. The only performance you could genuinely describe as ‘poor’ this season was the derby defeat to Union on the opening weekend.
Schwarz is trying to get Hertha pressing much higher and relying on a controlled build-up after winning the ball. Lucas Tousart, Ivan Sunjic and Suat Serdar are more combative in midfield, and they are looking to use the pace of the front three of Dodi Lukebakio, Chidera Ejuke and Wilfried Kanga.
The fact that Kanga hasn’t scored yet (or provided an assist) is not a worry to Sandro Schwarz following his summer arrival from Young Boys. The striker scored fifteen goals last season in the Swiss league and his former teammate Jordan Pefok has hit the ground running in the Bundesliga. “I feel like he works a lot for the team and that he’s very diligent” the coach explains. “It’s absolutely important for us to actively defend with the three players up front.”
The positive mood is not just emanating from the pitch, but extends to the boardroom, which has often been the source of much of Hertha’s troubles in recent years.
The club’s new President Kay Bernstein is working to unite the club, make it more attractive and bridge the gap between the fans and the leadership. As a former Ultra, he has a unique outlook, but knows that it’s results that ultimately make the fans happy and an improvement in this department is the main target. Any decline and a return to the relegation dogfight of last year will set him back in his ambitions.
Hertha’s set of fixtures following the international break could be defining. Successive home games against Hoffenheim and Freiburg are followed by RB Leipzig and Schalke (also at home) before a trip to Werder Bremen. Whether the optimism is still there after those games and whether the glass remains ‘half full’ is a question every Hertha fan would love to answer in the affirmative.
But then Hertha being Hertha the glass can very soon become ‘half empty.’