At 1. FC Union Berlin Taiwo Awoniyi has made himself indispensable this season, while at Hertha BSC no one has yet taken up the legacy of the exiled Jhon Cordoba in attack. The capital derby on Saturday evening is also the duel of two forward lines that currently have a very different penetrating power.
It wasn’t so long ago that not only coach Urs Fischer missed Taiwo Awoniyi’s “calmness in such actions, knowing what to do “ A few months ago, the Nigerian attacker of 1. FC Union was sometimes hectic and inconsistent in front of the opponent’s goal. In this season, his second with the Eisernen, the centre-forward has shown himself to be much more determined.
With seven goals, Awoniyi is the Köpenicker’s most successful scorer. Especially at the beginning of the season, he shone together with his strong forward partner Max Kruse. The different duo, who can complement each other well, set up each other’s goals in the three competitions. “With Max we have a creative player who can play the last pass and with Taiwo a player who always looks for depth,” Fischer explained.
Awoniyi, who with 26 fired almost half of all Union strikers’ shots on goal (58), and Kruse, who returned to team training just in time for the capital derby against Hertha BSC after overcoming thigh lice, are not the only things Union has to offer in attack, however. Fischer has a total of eight options and various variations at his disposal. The Swiss coach can play different formations, whether with a striker, a one-two or a three-man attack. With Kruse or Cedric Teuchert he has strong attackers in his squad, with Awoniyi, Kevin Behrens or Andreas Voglsammer powerful strikers. In addition, there is a lot of speed with Awoniyi and Voglsammer, but especially with Sheraldo Becker.
Behrens is missing for Union – will Voglsammer step in?
Becker, one of the fastest professionals in the league, can act as an outside attacker, but also as a second top, for example alongside Awoniyi. If Fischer relies on this nimble attacking duo, Union will look for more depth. Behrens, on the other hand, who was signed on a free transfer from second-division club SV Sandhausen in the summer, stands for physicality and commitment. The 30-year-old Bundesliga newcomer is one of the winners of the season so far in Köpenick, usually gets regular playing time as a wild card and has been convincing so far as a backup for Awoniyi. Behrens is Union’s strongest attacker in two fights (57.9 per cent) and, like Kruse, contributed four scorer points in the league.
However, he will be absent for the derby against Hertha due to a corona illness. That is “bitter”, says team-mate Grischa Prömel. But the good news for Union is: In Voglsammer, the Eisernen have another option. The former Bielefeld player can play both in the centre of attack and on the outside, but so far has had to rank behind Behrens.
City rivals Hertha also have a numerically large selection in attack. However, the attacking department of the Blue-Whites is currently far removed from the penetrating power of the Union storm. After the return to the Bundesliga in 1997, Hertha strikers repeatedly posted outstanding goal totals. Michael Preetz (1998/99 Bundesliga top scorer with 23 goals), Marko Pantelic, Christian Gimenez, Andrey Voronin, Adrian Ramos, Vedad Ibisevic, Salomon Kalou – all of them provided double-digit seasonal goals and carried their respective teams.
Cordoba’s gap could not be filled by anyone at Hertha
In the current crop, such success stories in the forward line have so far failed to materialise. The gap left by Jhon Cordoba, who was sold to FK Krasnodar in Russia in the summer after just one season in Berlin for a fee of 20 million euros, has still not been filled. The Colombian was, beyond the sheer yield (seven goals in 21 BL games for Hertha), a one-man clearing squad with his force, pace and fearlessness predestined to keep several opponents’ defenders busy – and remarkably strong at securing and forwarding balls.
Those who have been allowed to try out on the nine since Cordoba’s departure have a very different profile. No one has really established himself in the position that is so important in Pal Dardai’s 4-2-3-1. The slippery, intelligent Stevan Jovetic, the hard-working Davie Selke, who is valuable in the attack, the tall yet strong Ishak Belfodil, the Krzysztof Piatek, who is regarded as the strongest finisher in the squad and a classic penalty area striker, the quick Myziane Maolida – a mix of the different qualities of the quintet would be good.
The numbers are comparatively sobering: Jovetic, tested free after his Corona infection and returned from Montenegro , stands at two league goals for the season, Piatek and Maolida at one. Selke, who returned to Berlin before the season after a disappointing year and a half in Bremen, and new signing Belfodil are still waiting for their first taste of success in the league. Belfodil, who came from Hoffenheim in August for a fee of 500,000 euros has so far mostly lacked commitment and the final touch. Selke often doesn’t seem clear and calm enough in his finishing or on penultimate balls. Piatek does not assert the balls decisively enough and does not participate enough in the game according to Dardai’s taste.
The Pole, with his build as a striker who relies on passes and whose natural territory is the opponent’s penalty area, does not fit in with Hertha’s style of play based on compactness and switching moments, even almost two years after his arrival. Newcomer Maolida, who often played in the centre of the attack at OGC Nice, seems more at home on the wing than on the nine and needs to improve considerably in terms of tactical discipline.
Remarkable: Of all the Hertha attackers, only Piatek has a goal assist to his name so far. While Union’s strikers have already scored a total of 20 points in the Bundesliga this season (11 goals/9 assists), Hertha’s attackers have five points (4/1). When coach Dardai spoke about the situation in the attack two days before the derby, it sounded superficially positive. Of course, Hertha’s offence is better with Jovetic (“He will decide for himself whether he plays from the start, comes on as a substitute or is not there at all.”), but the others also got warm words. “Ishak has trained very well this week,” said the Hungarian. “Davie starts well, is motivated, sometimes you almost have to slow him down. Krzysztof wasn’t here , but he can score goals. “