Augsburg - Having taken just one point from three games, it comes as no surprise that FC Augsburg are disappointed with the way they've kicked off the 2015/16 campaign.
Talking in an exclusive interview, club captain Paul Verhaegh discusses the difficult task of heading to Munich on Matchday 4, the reasons behind Augsburg’s false start and the sen national team spirit amongst the squad.
bundesliga.com: Against Hertha Berlin and Eintracht Frankfurt you deserved to win, but against FC Ingolstadt 04 there could be no arguments about the loss. Are you concerned about a downhill spiral?
Verhaegh: No, I’m not worried about that at all. It’s true that we deserved to take three points against both Hertha and Frankfurt. I’ll also concede that we’ve definitely played better than we did at home to Ingolstadt. However, even in that game we had a huge chance to make it 1-0 which we didn’t take.
‘Leave three teams behind us’
bundesliga.com: FCA have to travel to FC Bayern this coming Matchday. We can’t necessarily expect to see an improvement there…
Verhaegh: It’s clear what the roles are in this encounter. We’ll nevertheless still try and take points away from FC Bayern.
bundesliga.com: Augsburg have stabilised at a very high level over the past two sensational seasons. Have you reached the peak of your powers, causing you to plateau or even take a step backwards?
Verhaegh: The last two campaigns were exceptional cases. It’s not normal for a club with a second-tier budget to finish eighth in the Bundesliga and then fifth the following year. From that perspective it can’t be seen as a plateau or step backwards even if we weren’t to finish in the top 10 this season. Everyone remains realistic in Augsburg. That means: It will be seen as another success if we leave three teams behind us at the end of the season and secure Bundesliga football for another year. It’s just that right now we’ve got new challenges facing us as a result of competing in three competitions.
‘The Europa League isn’t putting us under pressure’
bundesliga.com: Can you and your fans look forward to the UEFA Europa League, which you deserve to take part in on account of you finishing fifth last season, despite the poor start to the season?
Verhaegh: Of course, why wouldn’t we? We did, as you said, deserve it. Now we want to really soak it up and enjoy the experiences of the Europa League together with our fans and maybe spring a few more surprises. We know that the Bundesliga has to remain our utmost priority. In that competition it’s about collecting a steady tally of points.
bundesliga.com: Are you at all concerned that the Europa League may be too heavy a load to carry in the current climate?
Verhaegh: No, I don’t believe that will be the case. The club’s first ever games in European competition are an absolute highlight. We’re going to enjoy every minute of it and not put further pressure on ourselves.
bundesliga.com: You’ve been quoted as saying that Augsburg have long been “my club”. What is it that makes FCA so attractive to you?
Verhaegh: When I came to Germany to join FCA we were still playing in the Bundesliga 2. The way in which we’ve developed is simply sensational. We’ve got a superb team who also get along really well off the pitch. Even our wives and children feel very settled here. In Augsburg the whole package just works.
'Everything is harmonious'
bundesliga.com: Your contract still has three years left on it, which would make it eight seasons in Augsburg for you. In the modern age that’s unusual for a professional footballer…
Verhaegh: That may be, but we’ve got players in our squad who have been here longer and have more long-term contracts. I’m thinking of Tobias Werner, Daniel Baier, Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker – that’s just to name a few. It’s a clear indicator that everything is harmonious at the club and amongst the team.
bundesliga.com: Do you need that sense of being at home to produce your best performances?
Verhaegh: I don’t know if it has an impact. Home for me is still Holland, because that’s where I was born and will most likely live once I’ve hung up my boots. But you’ve got to feel good on all levels to be able to produce your best. That’s a fantastic part of being here.
Interview by Andreas Kötter