Dortmund – Having spent last season on loan at 1. FSV Mainz 05, Borussia Dortmund’s Matchday 9 encounter against 1. FSV Mainz 05 will be an extra special one for BVB midfielder Jonas Hofmann.
In an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, the 23-year-old speaks about the upcoming clash and his feelings at returning to the Coface Arena, and gives his thoughts on Dortmund coach Thomas Tuchel.
bundesliga.com: Jonas Hofmann, with Dortmund travelling to Mainz this weekend, what emotions does that stir up in you?
Jonas Hofmann: It feels a little bit like a training match because I know most of the players on the opposite side. I’m really looking forward to seeing the boys again – after all, we only see each other twice a year. But despite all that, if the coach picks me to play I’ll be fully focused.
bundesliga.com: Former Dortmund coach Jürgen Klopp and your current boss Thomas Tuchel both played important roles in establishing Mainz in the Bundesliga. What do you make of the club?
Hofmann: I only have good things to say about Mainz - I really enjoyed playing for them. Everything actually is the way it appears to be from the outside looking in: very open and full of life. If you ever have something on your mind you can go and see the president or sporting director any time. There are some great characters in the squad, and the team behind the team is also fantastic. I felt at home there really quickly.
bundesliga.com: The club’s fans are also known for being special…
Hofmann: That’s true. The Mainz fans are superb. The atmosphere at the Coface Arena is always excellent and if I hadn’t got injured we’d have had even more fun with each other than we did.
bundesliga.com: You were sent on loan to gain experience but due to that serious knee injury you only played around 12 games. Do you feel like you lost a year?
Hofmann: I still think it was a good year despite the injury, even if I would obviously have liked to play more games. However, you can make the most of a disappointing injury like that to learn more about yourself and your body. I certainly don’t want to put it down to luck that I got injured when I’m still young, but I think my body heals relatively quickly at the moment and that’s why I got over the injury so well. You could say that the injury – if it had to happen – came at the right time.
bundesliga.com: Were you happy not to have been part of Dortmund’s decline in the first half of last season?
Hofmann: No. I’ve never thought about what could have happened if I’d been in Dortmund instead of Mainz. Even though coaches often only tinker with little things in order to change something, it’d be wide of the mark to claim that things would have gone differently for BVB if I’d been in the squad at the time and maybe had more game time. That’s why it doesn’t make sense to speak about that period anymore, it’s history. We’ve started the new season well and our only focus is on looking forward.
bundesliga.com: You never worked under Thomas Tuchel at Mainz. What is your impression of him at Dortmund?
Hofmann: He’s an extremely clever person who knows exactly what he’s doing. He always has a clear vision and precise plan of how he wants to play and the footballing philosophy he wants to follow.
bundesliga.com: What were your expectations of him going into the new season?
Hofmann: I was really looking forward to working with him. We spoke on the phone before the season started, and so far my expectations have been fulfilled. I think the coach and the team are a good fit.
bundesliga.com: Is it true that training is now more complex than it was under Klopp?
Hofmann: It’s like anything in life when you have to learn something new. Once it’s been explained to you and you try it out yourself a couple of times then it’s okay. Maybe it’s just that things look a bit unusual to people on the outside who used to watch training under Jürgen Klopp for years and often saw the same routines. Obviously Thomas Tuchel sets high standards for the team. We train very well under him and we’re usually able to execute his plans.
bundesliga.com: You turned 23 a couple of weeks ago and your Dortmund team-mates congratulated you with the words “Happy birthday, you’re no longer an up-and-coming talent”. Do you view yourself as an established Bundesliga player now?
Hofmann: To be honest I don’t see myself as an established Bundesliga player yet. Things are going well for me so far this season and I’ve played a few games already. I also picked up a lot of experience in last few years and played in the Champions League a few times. Nevertheless, I think the term ‘established Bundesliga player’ means you have to play 20 to 25 games in a season. Given the amount of games I’ve played so far I wouldn’t claim to be an established player – I’m too ambitious for that.
bundesliga.com: You’ve done very well this season: you’ve played in every competition and scored in the league and in Europe…
Hofmann: We’ve got so much quality in our squad, but this is Borussia Dortmund so it’s completely normal for there to be competition for places. That makes it all the more important not to shy away from the challenge but to take it on and show what you can do. Only once you’ve done that and are playing regularly in the starting XI can you say you’re an established Bundesliga player.
bundesliga.com: Were you happy to be on the bench for the entire 90 minutes of the 5-1 defeat away to FC Bayern München?
Hofmann: I don’t think you could call it happy. I think the coach made the right decision by bringing on two attacking players after Bayern went 3-1 up. Obviously it’s up to him who he brings on. Sometimes it’s one player, sometimes it’s another and it’s not a big deal if you’re not chosen. But no, I wasn’t happy and would have loved to have played. We’ll never know whether or not I’d have been able to help.
bundesliga.com: After starting the season so strongly, why do you think things have not gone so well for Dortmund in the last three games?
Hofmann: If we hadn’t thrown away the wins against Darmstadt and Hoffenheim we’d have four more points on the board right now. That’d mean we’d only be three points off the top and the situation would be completely different. Nevertheless, we’re in second place and already have a little cushion ahead of the other top teams we’re competing against. We’re into the next round of the DFB Cup and are top of our group in the Europa League. We can be very satisfied with that. Those two draws [against Darmstadt and Hoffenheim] are the only things that spoil the panorama a bit. We had chances to win both games but couldn’t make the most of them. That’s what we need to work on.
Jonas Hofmann was speaking to Andreas Kötter