Summary: Hoffenheim - Hertha Berlin 1:3 (Sport 1)
Last Saturday, Hoffenheim won for the first time since October, a rather convincing 1:3 against Hertha Berlin, and left the last place in the Bundesliga to which it had sensationally deteriorated, but for Mons Davor it was actually a particularly frustrating day.
The Israeli striker came on as a substitute in the 69th minute, and a few seconds later he already saw the red card for a clumsy tackle on Belgian Dodi Lockbakio.
There was no malicious intent in his surfing, and the goal was mainly to convey a fighting spirit in order to prove himself to the new coach, but the result was dismal, and the referee's decision is not unreasonable at all.
A matter of bad luck - and some would say that this phenomenon has accompanied Davor in recent months.
At the beginning of the season, there was cautious optimism around Davor.
Hoffenheim appointed Andre Breitenreiter as their new coach, and one could assume that you would have a positive influence on the Israeli for a number of reasons.
First, Breitenreiter was a pioneer himself in his days on the grass, and therefore better understands the way of thinking of Davor and players of his ilk.
Secondly, this is a coach with a clear offensive outlook, which brought him a dizzying success last season when he marched Zurich to an unexpected championship in Switzerland.
He returned to the Bundesliga, where he previously worked with Paderborn, Schalke and Hannover, with a very positive momentum in order to implement his strategy at Hoffenheim.
Third, Breitenreiter in principle prefers a formation with a pair of strikers and wing players, usually 2-5-3, and it is absolutely suitable for Davor.
Finally, any change is welcome when a player feels a bit stuck - and that was Davor's situation with previous coach Sebastian Hans.
Mons Davor (Photo: GettyImages, Simon Hofmann)
Davor's relationship with Hans was good, but the boss was unable to find the right slot for him in the lineup alongside Andrej Kramaric, so the Israeli was pushed aside.
It is important to remember that the striker was brought to the club in January 2020 at the express request of the Dutch coach Alfred Sachroyder, who saw him as an integral part of the puzzle and assigned him to the role of the lone central striker in the lineup.
It is a fact that in the first months in the group, Davor Bunker was an anchor in the lineup, and even provided the goods.
However, Sakharoider's dismissal at the end of the season in question fundamentally changed the picture, and he had to deal with a coach who did not choose him in the first place.
Davor's main problem at Hoffenheim lies in the fact that Kramaric prefers to play as a central striker.
The Croatian is not a classic wide player like the Israeli, but much more diverse, and is also effective as a playmaker, winger and second striker, but his personal choice is clear.
Since this is the club's most dominant star, who has been there since 2016, his wishes are given clear priority, especially with a young coach like Hans - all the more so when they are in principle compatible with his worldview.
Hans does not necessarily adapt formations with a wide striker, and the coordination between Davor and Kramaric never worked optimally.
Ichles Bebo, the Togolese striker who really enjoys moving to the wings, was a better partner for the Croatian, and the signing of the French talent Jorginho Rotter at the beginning of 2021 also hurt Davor's chances, because it made it possible to play with a front three where he has no place.
The departure of Hans brought, therefore, a fundamental refresh - and at Breitenreiter all the candidates started with a clean slate.
Davor started on the bench, but scored as a substitute against Bochum and Mainz, and gradually managed to convince the boss to give him opportunities in the lineup, and in certain games in the fall Kramaric was hosted in the center of the field in order to clear the slot on the Israeli edge.
In October, Davor started in 4 league games, scoring against Bremen and in a 0:3 victory over Schalke that catapulted the team to fourth place in the table, and left a good impression against Bayern Munich even though the team did not score against the champions.
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Davor and the shoulder (Photo: Reuters)
From here one could expect the development of a positive momentum, but fate wanted otherwise.
A shoulder injury sidelined Davor until January.
The World Cup break did help to significantly reduce the number of games he missed due to this, but during this period, Hoffenheim entered a very deep crisis, especially in regards to defense, lost most of the games and deteriorated from the top to the burning bottom.
At the same time, Rutter was sold to Leeds for 28 million euros, and the club signed the Danish Kasper Dolberg on loan from Nice to fill his place in the squad.
In practice, this change hurt Davor a lot, because Dolberg is a central striker like him, and has a reputation as a star since he broke into the limelight at Ajax.
Since then, he has faded, among other things due to character problems, and ironically, he can exchange experiences with Davor for sitting on the bench of Sevilla, to whom he was loaned in the first half of the current season, but the bottom line is that he is competing with the Israeli for exactly the same slot.
In addition, Breitenreiter's chair began to wobble as the streak of failures lengthened, and under these conditions even Dabur's positive contribution went under the radar.
He scored his fifth goal of the season when he came on for Bebo at half-time against Bochum, but the bottom team beat Hoffenheim 5-2, so there was no praise for him after the final whistle.
Instead, everyone was concerned with Breitenreiter's future - and he was indeed fired two days later.
Statistically speaking, this is Davor's most productive full season since he arrived in Germany.
He had 4 caps in 2020/21, and only 3 last year, but this season he already has 5 even though he started in only 5 games in the lineup, and we are only in March.
However, the consciousness of the feeling is different because of the predicament the entire club is in.
Breitenreiter's departure did not go well with Davor, mainly because the coach appointed in his place, the American Pellegrino Matrazzo, was not seen as a suitable figure to save the team from a sensational decline.
His departure didn't help.
Breitenreiter (Photo: GettyImages)
The fans and commentators do not trust the abilities of the man who built a vibrant team in Stuttgart, but was criticized for a shaky defense - and this is precisely Hoffenheim's weak point today.
His decisions are accepted with skepticism, and he came under very strong fire when he chose to bench Kramaric a week and a half ago in favor of Davor in the challenging away game in Freiburg, which also ended in a 2:1 loss.
As expected, the Croatian returned to the lineup against Hertha and converted two penalties into goals, while the unfortunate streak in which the team scored only two points in 14 rounds was finally interrupted.
In these conditions it is even easier to understand Davor's motivation to come in and contribute to the achievement as much as possible in the minutes he got - but he overdid it, and it ended in a removal that would result in a suspension.
The options to get a chance in the critical cycles remaining until the end of the season have narrowed even further.
The striker's contract with Hoffenheim ends in 2024, and if there is no significant change in his status, it can be expected that Hoffenheim will aim to sell him in the summer at a low price, in order to save his salary and allow the addition of strikers who will serve the club in the long term.
The departure will be almost inevitable, of course, if the business ends in relegation - which is a very real possibility under the conditions created.
But in the meantime, as long as he is there, Davor will try to score his last goals in the Bundesliga and leave the team on a good note, with it safe in the top flight.