Hertha Berlin look to build on solid foundations | Sports| German football and major international sports news | DW | 17.08.2016
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Hertha Berlin look to build on solid foundations

After over-achieving last term, a surprise Europa League exit has already put Hertha Berlin's credentials under the spotlight. Can Pal Dardai's organizational skills overcome a lack of expenditure once again?

Despite tailing off towards the end of a campaign in which they flirted with Champions League qualification, the capital city club finished seventh last time out, their best league placing since 2009.

With only 42 goals scored in their 34 games, Hertha's success was built on disciplined defending, the counter-attacking pace of Salomon Kalou and the hold-up play of Vedad Ibisevic. Between them, the attacking pair scored 24 (57 percent) of their team's league goals. With Ibsevic's loan move from Stuttgart made permanent, it's likely the attacking duo will be crucial again.

If there's a silver lining to the club's European exit at the hands of Danish side Brondby, it's that a small squad may not have been well equipped to cope with the demands of playing on Thursdays and Sundays anyway.

Transfers: Nucleus remains after quiet summer

It's been a quiet close season for the Berlin club in the transfer market, with the 4 million euros ($4.5 million) spent on Slovakian attacking midfielder Ondrej Duda Hertha's only outlay. The former Legia Warsaw man impressed for his country at Euro 2016, finding the back of the net in their 1-1 draw with Wales, and Dardai will be hoping he can add spark to a side that often looks more than a little prosaic. Duda's creative burden may be eased somewhat by Brazilian playmaker Allan's arrival from Liverpool on loan.

But Hertha's most important signing hasn't cost them a cent. Ibisevic has joined on a free after the end of his successful loan spell. Otherwise, the nucleus of last year's side remains, with only fringe players Tolga Cigerci (Galatasaray), Roy Beerens (Reading), Hajime Hosogai (Stuttgart) and Johannes van den Bergh (Getafe) departing.

Head coach: Pal Dardai

Hertha's record-appearance maker as a player and the builder of a solid Bundesliga side in less than 18 months, Pal Dardai can do little wrong in the eyes of the club's fans. His team mirrors his playing style, with teamwork, tactics and pragmatism taking priority over individualism and flair.

Deutschland Fussball Pal Dardai

Dardai will hope to consolidate on a solid season, while injecting a little flair into Hertha's midfield

The Hungarian head coach's signings this summer suggest he sees a little more creative license as critical to his team's development. After a strong start last season, Hertha's form fell off a cliff as they failed to win any of their last eight games and looked all out of ideas. Dardai will need to ensure his team now have a genuine plan B for when things aren't going their way. If he manages to marry effective attack to already-solid foundations, he might be on the receiving end of admiring glances from elsewhere.

Key man: John Brooks

Kalou and Ibisevic may have stolen the headlines last season but center-back John Brooks was the key cog in Hertha's defensive machinery. Although the side will look to improve going forward, there's little doubt a tight defense will remain a priority. The American international is strong in the air and in the tackle and comfortable enough on the ball to start his side's attacks.

After impressing at the Copa America, there were rumors the 23-year-old might be lured away to the Premier League. He recently signed a contract until 2019 and it seems imperative that Hertha resist any temptation to cash in.

What to expect: A top half finish

More of the same. Hertha aren't the league's most exciting team but they know their strengths and they play to them. If either Duda or Allan can make an impact they may be able to pull off the odd shock but both players are young and untested at this level.

Realistically another season of consolidation is a likely - and acceptable - outcome. A top-half finish and another decent run in the German Cup (they reached the semifinal last season) would be an achievement.

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