Two victories in his first two games make a perfect start for Bruno Labbadia as Hertha BSC’s new coach.
Counting on a strict but straightforward strategy is allowing the struggling side to gain stability.
Six points and a 7-0 goal difference stand for a club turnaround that wore out four coaches and suffered from much turbulence. Not many expected the side from the German capital to survive the noisy farewell of Jurgen Klinsmann, followed by an infamous video posted on social media by Salomon Kalou.
The striker shared a stream of the inside life of the players’ locker room containing significant violations of newly-implemented hygiene rules introduced to counter the COVID-19 outbreak.
53-year-old Labbadia is one of the most experienced coaches in the first-tier, having coached Bayer Leverkusen, VfB Stuttgart and VfL Wolfsburg, in addition to two spells in charge of Hamburger SV.
“It was inevitable for a team to return to a clear plan after they had four coaches this season. Every one of them used different tactics within one game. You can imagine it’s difficult having to live with the changes,” the former striker commented.
Due to restricted training only allowing small groups, Labbadia used a sort of modular system. Different parts of the team practised his new system, continuously relying on a 4-3-3 formation.
As soon as full team training was possible, the former Bayern Munich attacker combined the pieces. Part of his plan is always having key points “everyone can easily follow.”
The Hertha coach has talked about closed-doors meetings with his assistant coaches Eddy Soezer and Olaf Janssen last winter in a remote skiing hut in the mountains.
The trio talked through their general coaching approach, adding little details. When Hertha called the head coach, his staff was already well prepared.
It is notable that Labbadia is relying on experienced players embedded in a back-row of four, a flexible midfield of three containing a robust interceptor, and a central striker flanked by two creative attackers.
Joining Hertha, the coach took up education sessions with sporting manager Michael Preetz, the entire team and individual performers, the under-23 juniors, and talent coaches.
Now the Berlin coach says he is happy about the short-term effects he didn’t expect to work that well.
In recent games, the team has shown unprecedented team spirit. “I had to tell them that things work well for us. It is important to count on patience and game control by possession,” he stated.
Several players report how comfortable the squad feels with the precise plan. “Everyone got their feet behind the line feeling a lot of trust in the new coaches’ work,” striker Vedad Ibisevic said.
The experienced forward increased Hertha’s efficiency upfront along with Dodi Lukebakio, Vladimir Darida, and Matheus Cunha. 20-year-old Cunha joined Hertha under Klinsmann from RB Leipzig for 18 million euros to add depth to the club’s attacking options.
The Hertha coach insists the recent victories “are only the first steps. Not to win the first games would have caused serve problems; now, there is a basis to work from,” Labbadia said adding, “we need to be focused and have respect fighting against relegation.”