Role exchange in Berlin: Haraguchi top, Hosogai flop
By David Nienhaus (translation: Takashi Sugiyama and Francois Duchateau)
Five months ago in Sportsnavi we wrote about Hajime Hosogai, Genki Haraguchi and Hertha BSC. Five months are a very long time in the fugacious football business. The standings can change radically between weeks, coaches can come and go, players can explode in their development – or the opposite. Berlin had the whole range.
The „Old Lady“ was 14th when we had our last column. After the winter break the club went down to a relegation spot. Coach Jos Luhukay was sacked and Pal Darda, a former Hertha player and coach of the Hungarian national team, took over in Charlottenburg/Wilmersdorf, the Berlin district Hertha is located. The club is not safe so close to the end of the season.
Everybody started at zero when Dardai took over. Hajime Hosogai was a key player for Luhukay, and now doesn’t play a role anymore. Journalist Jörn Meyn from “Berlin Morgenpost” knows the reason: “The coach has decided to let Fabian Lustenberger play in defensive midfield.” Luhukay used the captain as central back. Dardai sees in him “the best midfielder”. The position right before the defence was for the Switzer. Next to Lustenberger the new coach counts on a defensive midfielder, who is more creative: Per Skjelbred was used there, also Peter Niemeyer.
Hosogai is weaker in the offence as Lustenberger, a better footballer than Niemeyer, but no one who “boosts” the offence, Andreas Hunzinger from “kicker”, says. He is a great administrator on his position, but now Hosogai is just the fourth choice.
These are the sportical reasons for his degradation. But that’s not the whole truth. Malte Achilles of “Bild” saw a “bad body language” at Hosogai, the coach did not like at all. Hosogai seemed to be overplayed already under Luhukay and was not able to tie on his superb performances in the last season.
“Maybe Hosogai couldn’t go along well with the aspiration to become a leader.” That was the impression Hunzinger had in Hertha’s winter trainings camp in Turkey. Before the match against VfB Stuttgart, six games later, Dardai and sporting director Michael Preetz asked him at the begin of February for a talk under six eyes. They wanted to analyze why Hosogai was in a crisis. “ In a roundabout way Hosogai hinted that he was thinking a lot about not being part of the national team during the World and Asian cup”, journalist Achilles said. “You felt that he was too busy with himself.” With himself – and Genki Haraguchi.
When the young Japanese cam to Germany, Hosogai took care. “He was his girl for everything – on and next to the pitch”, says Meyn. “His own concentration suffered because of this. He took care about the new player, but has forgotten himself at the same time”, Achilles adds.
Hosogai does not agree. He knows that he is in a crisis. Just when the coach said he would train better and had a better body language, the injury came, that is the reason why he is still ruled out. The Japanese has an open wound on his foot, that just hardly recovers. Club coach Dr Ulrich Schleicher tries with anti biotica to speed up the process, but “for him would not be a place in the squad even if he would be fit”, the “Bild” reporter says. He thinks that Hosogai won’t play “a role this season again.”
The movie is different fo Haraguchi. “Their roles have developed in a complete opposite way”, Achilles says. Hosogai has become from key player in midfield to one who sits on the tribune. Haraguchi went from nobody to regular starter. “After a good short start, an injury did throw him back”, Meyn remembers. Other players performed well and his self esteem suffered. Also when the new coach came, Haraguchi had a difficult time. In Dardai’s first five games Haraguchi did not play a single minute. He trained hard and was lucky that Änis Ben-Hatira god injured and Dardai put Valentin Stocker in the centre. The left wing was free for Haraguchi. He took his chance against Schalke, whe he scored his first goal for Hertha.
Dardai praised the youngster in the meantime with the highest compliments. Haraguchi would be a weapon, quick, moveable and good “for surprises”. Also his grown agressivity the coach underlines. “He deals better with the physical hard football in Germany”, Hunzinger says. No doubt, he is talented. That also means “a player has still potential to grow”.
For example the “kicker” writer sees still “problems when offensive battles become physical.” Hunzinger remembers an interview the former Urawa Red Diamonds player gave “Kicker”: “The German always wins the battle in the end”, Haraguchi said. “I must try to pass the player with speed and my moveability. If he can reach me, the ball is gone already.” In the meantime he is more resistand and tactially better educated.
Also in his private time the 23 year old has “arrived” in the German capital. His girlfriend visits him, he started to play guitar and with a dog he has a little friend. “With the puppy he goes often for a walk in the city.” That distracts him and helped him through the hard times, Achilles laughs.
For the rest of the season it’s clear: Hosogai won’t play a role and again and Haraguchi is set. Hertha has a difficult fixture in the next weeks where they fight against relegation. One top teams follows another. “It can become bitter again”, Meyn thinks. But: They really fight to stay in the Bundesliga. Dardai gave the team a new stability. Hertha is more steady, plays a bit more defensive. “Also they have the luck that individual faults did not get punished as often as in the first leg of the season.” The player run mor and are better in the battles. “The distances between the blocks are much besser”, also Hunzinger confirms. That’s something Hosogai would play in the card. But he is not able to play at the moment.
If the capital club stays in the league, Pal Dardai will get a new contract. But how will the futue of Hosogai and Haraguchi look like? The youngster does not need to worry, even if “you can really judge him next season”, Achilles says. With Hosogai things look differently. Hertha wants to buy a new player for the “six”. The Japanese carries around the burden of a bad season. Dardai is no one who does not forgive or writes off players for a long time. When he extremely improves, he will become a chance again, Hunzinger thinks. Also Meyn says: “Personally I have a high opinion on Hosogai. I think that he can be a great player on six for a club like Hertha. My feeling says they won’t give him away.”
If Hertha stays in the league, the cards for next season will be given new again. Than it can go quick again. Maybe with a strong comeback of Hosogai and a still strong Haraguchi.