DORTMUND — Peter Stöger talked to the Yellow Wall after Monday’s training about injuries, Marco Reus’ comeback, and current form.
Raphael Guerreiro and Shinji Kagawa were missing in training today. What’s their status?
“Raphael Guerreiro has problems with his foot. And it looks like it’ll take a while. He is certainly out for the week. We’re waiting for the final diagnosis for Kagawa. It didn’t look too good, but it’s still too soon to say whether he is out for Thursday. He is also battling a cold.”
Marcel Schmelzer is back in team training. When will he return?
“We will talk on Wednesday whether he can already play on Thursday. He trained with full intensity today but we need to be careful. On the other hand, we want to give him as much playing time as possible.”
How did Marco Reus fare in his comeback?
“He mastered the 71 minutes well. But when you make your comeback in your home stadium and everyone is happy, then you may forget the amount of lactate in your muscles. He had fun, he’s feeling well and he doesn’t have any problems. That’s the most important part. Now we’ll see how we’ll approach the next games.”
Are you a coach that likes to rotate a lot when there are two games per week?
“I like winning a lot. If it’s possible to give several players minutes without a drop-off in quality, then I’m all for it. Despite having a core of fixed starters, we made several changes every game now, even though we didn’t have to play twice a week. It will be similar during these weeks.”
You said that you will have to work on the team’s general set-up beyond the winter break. How do you manage to do that with less time on the training ground?
“We tried to implement an improved combination play. Obviously, it did not work seamlessly. Some guys picked up injuries while others returned to the team. It’s a constant process. We have to do less when we play twice a week but nevertheless, we hope to have set a good foundation and that we can evolve tactically from there going forward.”
Do you already have a good idea about UEFA Europa League opponents Atalanta?
“Our focus was completely on Atalanta right after the game on the weekend. They are a very well-organised team that are uncomfortable to play against. They are within the same region of AC Milan in the table. If it were Milan, everyone would anticipate a cracker but Atalanta are to be viewed in that same category. We have already identified some weak spots, however, it’s possible that they have also understood where our problems lie. It will be an open fight over two games but we are confident to make it past them.”
Hans-Joachim Watzke praised the collaboration with you and presented the prospect that this could continue beyond the summer. How did you receive that?
“The good thing is that our collaboration and the way we work is seen positively by [Watzke]. On the other hand, nothing really changed. We have to make sure that we are successful in playing every three days. We came to an agreement that our arrangement lasts until the summer. Until then we have to hope that we meet the club’s ambitions. Then we’ll see what’s next. For me, it was important in December that we set the clear terms to do this until the summer. And it doesn’t matter whether there are talks in February, March or April. The season ends in May, our contract will end in June and then we’ll see how we continue from there. If we win a lot, chances [to continue] will be good, if we don’t win a lot, chances will be worse.”
Is a tactical constellation with all of Marco Reus, Mario Gotze and Andre Schurrle a possibility for you?
“Well, it’s certainly not a horror scenario. In the end, it’ll be up to them if we can implement it. We are very far from ruling it out. They are extraordinary footballers. As we already said, we are trying to help every player to reach the level he had already achieved previously. If we manage that, then it’s no question that they can all play together.”
Can you imagine to play Reus and Gotze together in the “double 10” positions?
“It can only work if we quickly get back into an organised structure in our backwards transition. Both are being awarded a lot of freedoms on the field. In general, when you play with five attacking players, one in a central position and a back four, the attacking players enjoy a lot of freedom. It’s important, however, that you do not allow too many counter attacks. If you have 70 per cent ball possession and manage to create scoring opportunities while avoiding turnovers, then nothing speaks against it. Then I like to have five creative, attacking minds in my ranks. If the two full-backs chime in and counter-attacks are prevented and you permanently create scoring opportunities, then everyone who is technically gifted can be unleashed.”
Recently, there was a lot of criticism because the football is lacking attractiveness. Do you have an understanding for that?
“We are at a football club where the demands for results and football that is easy on the eye are equally high. But this is also a region where everything is fine as long as you just work hard. I have the impression that our lads are doing everything to get out of the bad form. We obviously still see room for improvement playing wise. I don’t want to whitewash anything, but it’s permanently talked about how many top players left the club within the last two, three years. So you can’t assume that after losing the best players to the best clubs you can make up for that immediately with players that haven’t had the same success and everything would just continue on the same level.
“You can work here, you can develop something but you can’t perform magic tricks. There was a phase at the beginning of the season where we played more attractive football and scored more points, then we lacked persistence and hardly scored points. Now, we are somewhere in between, where you can feel that the team has the persistence and the will to win those games. I always hope that eventually all passes, plays and shots will come off as we see it in training. All I can say is that we will continue to work hard. To die in beauty is still dying.”