Seemingly every year there are two surprise-teams in the Bundesliga. Usually one of the big teams finds itself in the relegation zone, last year Stuttgart got caught in an inexplicable downward spiral that led them right to the second division of German football. Hertha Berlin wrote an entirely different story during the 2015/16 Bundesliga season, one that led them to a 7th place finish and straight into the Europa League....well kind of.
Hertha played a fantastic first half of the season, sitting at third during the winter-break only behind Bayern and Dortmund and ahead of teams like Leverkusen, Gladbach and Schalke. The fans of the "Alte Dame" (translation: "Old Lady" which is a nickname for the club) were dreaming of Champions League football and of reaching the DFB-Pokal final at home.
A truly disastrous "Rückrunde" put a crushing end to all of those dreams. During the second half of the season they only managed the 16th best record, collecting only 18 points which saw them drop from 3rd to 7th by the end of the season. They fared a bit better in the German Cup but Dortmund proved to be too steep a challenge in the semi-finals, losing 0:3 at home.
The start of this season continued to be a disappointing one. In the Europa League qualifying round they managed to lose against Bröndby IF, thus ending their European adventure abruptly and sooner than expected. So will this start to the season be a sign of things to come or just an unfortunate gaffe?
Because of Hertha's ongoing financial problems and their early exit in the Europa League, their transfer activity was a bit limited this off-season.
Transfers in: (fees per transfermarkt)
Ondrej Duda - Legia Warsaw ( €4.2 Million)
Vedad Ibisevic - VFB Stuttgart (Free Transfer)
Allan - Liverpool (loan)
Thoughts: Not exactly a great off-season for a team that had a terrible year so far. Duda is a good pick-up who could develop into a great player for Berlin. He's a 21-year old talent who had a very good season for Legia Warsaw in the Polish Ekstrklasa last year but it remains to be seen how he transitions from playing in Poland to playing in one of the top leagues in the world.
Ibisevic is now a full-time member after revitalizing his career last season in Berlin on a loan. Allan is a project that provides a bit of depth for Hertha but it is hard to imagine a 19-year-old from Liverpool’s reserve team having much of an impact this year.
Other Notes: They are linked to a few more players like Alexander Esswein from Augsburg and Papakouli Diop from Espanyol, but they are facing some tough negotiations without the Europa League.
Tolga Cigerci - Galatasaray Istanbul (€3 Million)
Roy Beerens - FC Reading ( €1 Million)
Hajime Hosogai - VFB Stuttgart ( €0.7 Million)
Sasha Burchert - Greuther Fürth (Free Transfer)
Johannes van den Bergh - FC Getafe (Free Transfer)
Marius Gersbeck - VFL Osnabrück (Loan)
Thoughts: It is somewhat surprising to see Cigerci leave, he was a talented young player who was still developing and provided some depth to the squad. Last year he had 21 appearances for the club, which is quite substantial considering that they didn't participate in an international tournament and that he missed several games due to injuries. There isn't really anything special to say about the other transfers, none of the players that left were going to be part of the starting eleven and most of them weren't even rotational players.
Other Notes: There are no rumors about any other players leaving the club. Considering their already shaky depth it would be surprising to see anyone leave at this point.
It will be a tough season for Hertha, even though they don't have the additional pressure of the mid-week games in Europe. They have to seriously step-up their game if they don't want last seasons 7th place to be considered a fluke. Ultimately Hertha should be happy with a solid mid-table finish, some "surprise teams" have fared a lot worse in recent years after their fairy-tale seasons.