Last Thursday, Lucien Favre suspended his right winger Patrick Ebert indefinitely. While the reason for the suspension is that Ebert was out until 3 AM celebrating his birthday, which breaks team curfew rules; there is a bigger story is that during his drunken walk home (points for walking), there is every indication that Ebert along with his Ghetto mate Kevin-Prince Boateng smashed up three autos.
The result this weekend, a 2-0 away loss to Stuttgart, would indicate that Ebert’s suspension affected the team. In fact Lucien Favre seemed to point to Babic’s role (taking the left wing from Nicu who cover Ebert’s spot) as being part of the problem Saturday. But I don’t think this is a fair assessment. Ebert’s absence didn’t really cost them the game. While Stuttgart dominated the first half on Saturday and created a bevy of chances, Hertha was able to absorb the attacks and snuff them out in the final third. It’s been one of their strengths this year. Maximilian Nicu, moving over from the left, did the work defensively on the right with Stein sitting behind him and limited play in Ebert’s area. In fact, most of the chances Stuttgart created came down the center of the pitch.
So through the first half, Hertha were playing no differently than typical and looked primed to grind out the result. However, they conceded two early goals in the second half. Neither was scored from build up. The first was a route 1 goal, that Hertha has often been accused of playing this year, where Lehmann took a goal kick and found Gomez who out-jumped Simunic and found Cacau, who slotted the ball home. The second was scored off a free kick given away by Rodnei and scored by an unmarked Khedira because Hertha was too focused on Gomez. What these both had in common, were the fact that they were aerial in nature and Arne Freidrich had to be subbed in the 25th due to injury. Had he played the full game, these may have never led to goals.
So defensively it wasn’t Babic/Ebert that cost them the game, so maybe Favre meant offensively. However, eight of his teams 12 shots came after the second goal, when he had switch from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3, which points to his tactics more than Ebert’s hatred of cars. But the argument could be made that Babic and Nicu, who were the two players at the center of Ebert’s absence, were subbed to make this 4-3-3. So perhaps Ebert might have allowed for more expansive play had he been included. No! The problem before the change was that Cicero and Dardai were out classed by Hitzelsperger and Khedira in the middle of the pitch. They saw little of the ball and weren’t able to swing it wide, which is their job. In addition, Raffael did his best disappearing act again and took away Hertha’s ability to link play. Therefore they were limited to lofting the ball to Voronin.
So rather than blaming this on a stupid, but childish incident, Hertha fans and Favre just need to accept that it was poor tactics offensively by the trainer and bad luck on an injury to their captain.
But with Pantelic seemingly ready to return, at least Hertha fans can look forward to seeing Raffael in his best posting, sitting on the bench.