Hertha Berlin will return to the top flight after just one season in the lower league wilderness but it is likely a long battle against relegation awaits them.
Their last top flight campaign ended not just in relegation but humiliation – an embarrassingly poor hinrunde effectively condemned them by Christmas and after winning at home on the opening day, they failed to triumph again in front of their own fans in the whole campaign.
Last season was a relatively straightforward march to promotion but there is a world of difference between the two top German leagues.
While the gap between the first and 18th club in the country is bridgeable on any given Saturday, the difference in resources to those in spots 19, 20 and 21, challenging for promotion to the top flight, and those in positions 34, 35 and 36, trying to survive in the second level, is massive.
And even with this considerable advantage, Hertha slipped up on a number of occasions in the Second Division against clubs they should have been beating comfortably.
The previous first choice goalkeeper Aerts and his defence, while often secure, were prone to bad lapses in concentration and this is something which will be severely punished in the months ahead.
While Thomas Kraft, recruited from Bayern Munich, is a better ‘keeper, there are big question marks over the back four. Hubnik may have impressed last season but Mijatovic and Kobiashvili will not look nearly so solid at the higher level.
Maik Franz will at least provide a considerable physical force but relying on his brutish presence is an acknowledgement by the manager of the struggle which lies ahead.
The midfield focal point is Raffael but while he was frequently brilliant in the Second Division, he was just as frequently posted missing in the First Division the year before. Whether or not he has matured into a more reliable performer could be the key question which decides Hertha’s fate.
The forward line will rely almost exclusively on Adrian Ramos for goals although the capture of Tunay Torun could prove to be an inspired piece of business. The young talent could not crack the first team at HSV but certainly has potential.
However, he, like all the other newcomers, has made a move which is either downward or sideways at best to come Hertha – not one signing has been made of a player whose career is clearly on an upward trajectory.
That can work one of two ways as a team nursing resentment at their previous failures and rejections elsewhere may well be determined to prove the critics wrong and flourish in the top flight. But confidence will also be fragile – unless a strong start is made, old demons may well return haunt the Olympiastadion once more.
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