The dictionary defines a leader as someone who is capable of taking on a role at the front, making decisions and commanding others. Niklas Stark certainly takes on that responsibility within the Hertha squad. The 25-year-old has been at the club since summer 2015, playing 157 matches for the club in all competitions. This season, Stark has been challenged like never before, having inherited the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Dedryck Boyata, who has been out injured since last December. Stark, who has been utilised in midfield as well as at centre-back this season, has worn the armband ever since the game between Hertha and Schalke at the turn of the year. Stark’s importance to the team can also be seen in his stats so far this season, having played 1,971 of a possible 1,980 minutes so far this season. Having missed just nine minutes of action, no Herthaner has played more football than Stark in 2020/21.
The defender, however, is not too concerned by his personal statistics and prefers instead to focus on the team as a whole. “Everyone can look at the table and see that we need points. Together, we all have the desire to get out of this situation and rise from the bottom,” said Stark at a virtual press conference on Wednesday (17/02/21) ahead of the upcoming home match against RasenBallsport Leipzig. herthabsc.de sums up what the big centre-half had to say.
Niklas Stark on...
...his individual statistics: Those statistics aren’t especially important to me, but it’s nice to hear about them. Still though, I’d prefer to have played less minutes if it meant that we had a few more points in the bank. Obviously, though, I’m happy to have featured so often.
…his development as a defensive midfielder: I’ve been back playing as a centre-back recently, and that’s where I imagine I’ll be playing in the next few games too. Then we’ll have to wait and see what the coaches’ long-term plans for me are. I play wherever the coach thinks will give us the best chance of winning. I will give it my all, regardless of whether that’s in defence or in central midfield. Playing those games in midfield was a good experience for me. It never hurts to play in a more advanced position; it gives you a new perspective regarding space and passing.
…the lack of success from set pieces: We’ve not done badly defending set pieces in recent games, even if we conceded a stupid goal from a dead ball in Stuttgart. Stuttgart fooled us with a little trick. We had to defend that better, but recently we have been much more solid at set pieces. Overall this season, though, we have conceded too many goals from set pieces. We have to work on that, clearly. Both offensively and defensively we have to attack the ball with more force and determination. As a team we all have to admit that we’ve not scored enough goals from set pieces.
…head coach Pál Dárdai: Pál is Pál. Everybody knows who he is. Pál hasn’t changed much. He is a football man through and through, he knows what’s going on with us and what we need. The coach knows what matters. He just sees us and knows exactly what is going through our heads. We work on these things every day in training.