With three goals and three assists, Breel Embolo is on course to make 2020/21 the best season of his career, thanks to Marco Rose and his Borussia Mönchengladbach teammates.
Gladbach's in-form forward sat down with bundesliga.com to discuss his recent form, last weekend's victory over Bayern Munich, and why he wears the number 36 shirt...
bundesliga.com: The 3-2 win against Bayern Munich was an unbelievable comeback. What does that say about your team?
Breel Embolo: "We clearly have fortune back on our side. We knew that Bayern would put a lot of pressure on us and that they are dangerous. They did exactly that for the first 20 minutes, but even then I didn't feel like they were much better than us and had clear chances, they just had a lot of the ball. We were a little too passive and had hoped to make it harder for them in the first 20 minutes, but they played well and we weren't able to do that. 2-0 was a wake-up call for us, telling us that we could hold our own. 2-0 was unfair, perhaps 1-0 was reasonable, but to be 2-0 behind was unlucky. Then we started to create chances and Jonas Hoffmann did fantastically well twice. Lars Stindl too.
"We looked at it at half-time and told ourselves something was possible. We have beaten Bayern before, so it's not like it was the first time. We went back out there to play brave football and we were able to do that. In the end we scored a third and after that we continued to play active, aggressive football and defended well. As I mentioned at the start we also had that little bit of luck that you need. We have been missing that in recent weeks and even though we haven't been bad we have, for example, conceded in the final minutes, or something has happened to stop us from winning. This time we worked hard on and off the ball in the final 15 or 20 minutes and deserved the win."
Watch: Gladbach come from two down to beat Bayern
bundesliga.com: After scoring in the 1-0 win against Arminia Bielefeld, you jumped on head coach Marco Rose. Were you worried for a second that you would knock him over?
Embolo: "No, no, not at all. As you said, I was perhaps the biggest factor against Bielefeld, because I had a lot of chances and shots. We had a great game. To come back like that after the shortened break and to play so well for 60 or 70 minutes isn’t easy. We saw this weekend that Bielefeld beat Hertha, so it was no foregone conclusion. We really worked hard for 60 or 70 minutes and what was missing was the goal, of course. You take games like that in your stride and try to just get the three points and reward yourselves. We did that as a team, which was the most important thing. It was also important to know that we were back at it both on and off the ball, and for the defence and the goalkeeper to get a clean sheet."
bundesliga.com: How important is it that Marco Rose has faith in you?
Embolo: "It's going really well with the coach. We all have a really good relationship with him and he helps our confidence a lot. In that game I didn't do too badly, I felt good and had created some chances for myself. We did, of course have Alassane [Plea] on the bench, who can also play my position, but fundamentally I want to deliver my best performance whenever I’m on the pitch. As I said before, you want to leave the pitch as a winner. I have had a great relationship with the coach since day one, and I have to say that I have had a great year and a half here. Not only the coach, but all the players and staff integrated me really well and I could have hugged any of them in that moment. I was just swept up in the emotion and the relief of it. The important thing was just to get the three points, because we gifted our opponents too much in the previous games."
bundesliga.com: You are a striker who is strong in the duels. Does Marco Rose's pressing-focused style suit you well?
Embolo: "Of course it does. I knew what to expect when I signed the contract here. Of course there is a process to it, but we haven't done so badly in the year and a half I have been here. A lot of the players have developed really well, and we have grown as a team. We take it game by game, depending on where we're going, or who's coming to us, but we have our own style. We want to be brave in attack and with the ball, and to defend aggressively out of possession. If you look at it, we scored three transition goals against Bayern, where we won the ball back and scored. That's nice for an attacker, of course, because if you win the ball 30 metres from goal you don't have so far to go. I didn't have any doubts when I spoke to the coach, he just made me aware of my strengths and weaknesses and we made it a goal to emphasise my strengths when I came here."
bundesliga.com: How much respect do you need to show VfB Stuttgart in the next game? They are not your typical promoted side, are they?
Embolo: "Stuttgart are doing incredibly well. Anyone who knows about Stuttgart knows they are a big club and a good side in Germany. They have a really young team, very good individuals and a lot of pace. The way they play impresses me, they are good in build-up and create plenty of chances. They don't fear big opponents, so we have to deliver against them. It won't be easy, no matter how much we hope it'll be, so we have to give our all or it'll be difficult."
bundesliga.com: Do you still keep in touch with your previous club, FC Schalke 04?
Embolo: "Yes, a lot. Week on week I communicate with some of the players and staff. Their situation isn't funny for me as an ex-player. I was bought back then to help take the club forward and you always keep in touch with the club and feel for them. I was very happy that they won on Saturday and I celebrated for them and congratulated the boys right away. That is part of it. I spent three years with them and had some great times, so I don't just forget that when I leave. I made some great friends there."
bundesliga.com: How tough was it for you in your final months at Schalke?
Embolo: "Of course, because I know the boys and they are not a bad group of players, I stand by that. The mental aspect plays a part in the Bundesliga and it's difficult when every team believes they can beat you. They'll have felt that for a long time. The mental aspect is very important in our sport and that has been missing for some time with them. In terms of quality they're a very strong team and I believe in every single one of their players. They have a lot of potential. As I said, you have to deliver on Saturday though, and if you don’t do that you can get into a negative spiral. It took them a long time to get out of that, unfortunately, but I hope the win put some wind in their sails and that they can kick on and do themselves justice in the league this campaign. Apart from against us, of course!"
bundesliga.com: There are a lot of Swiss players at Borussia. Are the 2021 Euros already a topic of conversation among you?
Embolo: "Not at all. We have learned this year, with the virus, that you can't plan too far ahead. I am not a guy to plan too far ahead anyway, because we have a lot of hard work to do here. The Swiss players, the German players, and all of the others. The club is always our focus, and we want to do well here so that we can go to the national team with confidence. It's all about the results on a Saturday and the feeling in the team. Everything else is a bonus. We hope that things will be going better with regards to the virus by then and that we can play that tournament. That's the focus of our thoughts and we don’t really speak about it much because we can't even be sure it will take place."
bundesliga.com What can we expect from you and from Switzerland in that tournament?
Embolo: "The same as ever, of course. We all have to stay fit and keep doing well up until then. We have shown multiple times that we have a good unit of young and quality players. It comes down to showing our best side in the tournament. That's always the case, because it is never easy in tournaments. Other countries know that we have no reason to hide, which makes things more difficult. We have a very young team with a lot of experience. Here alone, with Denis [Zakaria], Yann [Sommer], who isn't too young any more, Nico [Elvedi] and Michi [Lang] we have players who have been in the Bundesliga for years. I could keep going, and these days you seem to meet a Swiss player every week and that make sus proud. It shows that we are doing really good work in Switzerland. We know that we have a deep and high-quality squad and we want to get the most out of that. We have been knocked out at the round of sixteen in recent tournaments and we want to set that as a target and perhaps even get a round further. Then we will see what is possible."
bundesliga.com: You were born in Cameroon and spent your early childhood there. What do you remember about it?
Embolo: "I have some small memories. I can remember a few people because I'm still in touch with them; family and friends. When I go there it all comes back quite quickly, but it isn't as if I know where everything is. It takes some time. My father still lives there and I have other family there too, so I'm still very closely connected to my homeland."
bundesliga.com: You wear number 36, which was the bus line you took to training as a youngster in Switzerland. Others went by car. Did you realise that other children had more than you did?
Embolo: "Yes, but there were a lot of boys who took the bus. It was a very good time, very special. When you arrive in a completely different country as a boy it takes time to learn the language and to understand the mentality. That was the biggest challenge: adopting the mentality. I feel like I did that quite well, I think I'm probably 60 percent or 70 percent Swiss now, even more so than I'm African. I felt very welcome and made a lot of friends. I had a very happy childhood. In the end, I made a lot of friends through football so I wanted to make that connection a bit. Football made integrating easier, so that is the connection to the number."
bundesliga.com: You have a charity. When was it founded and what do you hope it will achieve?
Embolo: "It was 2016 or 2017, something like that. 2016 or 2017. My mother used to always have one of those UNICEF children things, where you would get a letter in the winter saying 'I got the money, thank you'. We wanted to do a little more and my lawyer at the time had the idea to do something together because she donated as well. That's how the idea came to be and then we did it. We wanted to give something back and there are a lot of building sites so you can’t help everyone, but we chose these three countries. Peru, because she is from there and Cameroon and Switzerland because that is where I grew up. We do various things, such as supporting kids in school and supporting teenagers in Peru who get pregnant at a young age and don’t know what to do. We do a lot of different things and I am very grateful to have had the idea and the support to be able to do this."