It’s been over three months since Bruno Labbadia took over as Hertha Berlin head coach, yet Tuesday’s press conference following the official start of pre-season training provided him with a first – actually answering questions from the media in person. Berlin journalists were in attendance at Schenckendorffplatz, of course observing social distancing and wearing masks. “It’s nice to finally be able to look one another in the eye,” said the smiling coach at the start of the 40-minute media session, adding: “We hope that we will only provide positive headlines in these extraordinary times.” We gathered the key statements from the Hertha boss.
Bruno Labaddia on…
…training levels: Given that a lot of other leagues that are still playing and will have a very quick turnaround before the new season, we can’t and won’t complain about the short break. We’ve come up with a clear plan as a coaching team and have presented it to the players, as we want them to be on board from the off. We’ve got two or three very intense weeks ahead of us. We’ll scale things back a little after that and the lads will get some homework instead. Then, finally, it’s about things like speed, small details and of course playing football.
…international fixtures ahead of the new season: It’s a very unusual situation having players missing for the final ten or twelve days of pre-season. For example, we would normally play our strongest friendly opponents during that time, but this makes that difficult. We have to reassess and move things around if necessary.
"I want proactive players in it who can back and influence decisions."
…holding a training camp and the new on-site sleeping facilities: “This time we decided to do a training camp here at our own complex with some intense training sessions. It’s a lot of work logistically with the coronavirus precautions, but we have fantastic conditions to work with and have also arranged for on-site sleeping facilities so that the players can spend a long day here, where they are able to eat together and take a nap. That way, the lads don’t have to spend 14 days in a hotel, but can simply go home at the end of the day, which is much nicer for them.
…the structure and spine of the team: We have lost a spine of the team that has been part of Hertha’s stability in recent years. Now it’s our job to build a new structure that can be part of the club’s backbone in the next years. That isn’t easy and requires time, as we have to make the right decisions. We have a demanding and long development ahead of us, during which we also can’t forget about the present.
…captaincy and the team council: I always prefer selecting the team council as it serves a crucial purpose. I want proactive players in it who can back and influence decisions. I haven’t decided if I will pick the new captain myself or whether I let the team council decide. There’s a good chance that these decisions will have to wait though, as we could make some new signings. What’s clear, though, is that we want players that take responsibility, both for themselves and for the team. That’s what will help us grow together as a group.
"You can tell that he identifies with Hertha" - Labbadia with his new signing Lucas Tousart
…the squad and potential transfers: I think we must have been linked with about 40 players already, which is funny to see. With Thomas Kraft having left, we’ll be looking to bring in a goalkeeper who can fuel the fight for places and also has the quality to be first choice. We’re looking for someone who fits in well with our team and is also good with the ball at his feet, which is important for our playing style. We want to improve every position though and we need to increase competition to do that. In times like these, we of course can’t forget that quality costs money and I would rather we signed fewer players, but that they are players who really take us forward and fit in with the current squad. That route also leaves the door open for youngsters that train with the first team and deserve game time.
…new signing Lucas Tousart: Lucas hasn’t trained properly for almost four months, which is remarkable really, almost like having had a very serious injury. You can see how happy he is to be back on the pitch. It’s good that he’s been able to complete the full workload already; we gave him a programme to follow and he has obviously been working hard. Our strength and conditioning coaches have also worked with him remotely via video, so physically he’s capable of doing a full session. That is very important and we’re very happy to have him here as we fully believe in him and his quality. He fits into the team personality-wise and you can tell that he identifies with Hertha. Lucas can play football well on a strategic level; he has a knack for reading space. He also wins a lot of balls and is good at moving it forward quickly. He plays good vertical passes and can score goals – he is a particular threat from set pieces. Now he needs to settle into the team, but we will be patient with him and support him as much as we can.
…goals for 2020/21: We want to improve on last season and continue our positive development as a team. We will need a short- and mid-term plan for that and have to use the means available to us intelligently and with considered deliberation. It won’t be an easy journey, but I hope that the team continue to take this path with us like they have so far and that we will continue working well together. Now the goal is to have a good pre-season and bring in players who can complete our team as soon as possible.