Christian Streich will oversee his 445th competitive match as Freiburg coach on Bundesliga Matchday 1 of 2023/24. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images
Christian Streich will oversee his 445th competitive match as Freiburg coach on Bundesliga Matchday 1 of 2023/24. - © Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

Christian Streich: Freiburg's long-serving coach in interview!


The longest-serving active coach in the Bundesliga, Christian Streich is a part of the furniture at Freiburg. caught up with Freiburg's main man, ahead of his 11th full campaign at the helm... How do you manage to switch off and recharge the batteries at the end of the season?

Christian Streich: "I think everybody needs to unwind. I ride my bike, I walk, I read and I cook." How do you manage to take your mind off things?

Streich: "I try to include every-day things in my daily routine. I cycle to work and back because I have to go there anyway. You need that time anyway and if you cycle there, then you have already cycled for an hour that day – otherwise you drive a car. Who wants to drive a car? I certainly don't, if I can ride a bike instead. So I try to build it into my day."

Watch: The best of Streich's Freiburg in 2022/23 Does the low turnover in the team mean that you have less work to do as a coach?

Streich: "It's a bit different, yes. Not easier, but a little different. We lost Kevin Schade; now Mark Flekken. Now we need to find the right balance between the posts. Flo [Florian] Müller joined us, so things have changed there. Michael Müller has been our goalkeeper coach since just last year - since corona. He's doing a great job. There haven't been many departures, but we don't have many new faces. A little change brings a bit of freshness to the table. Maybe it's a little bit less work. I don't know, it could be." How do you help newcomers settle into the team?

Streich: "There are terms that the newcomers need to communicate on the pitch, there are videos that we do together. We have shown the signings the videos already. There are individual videos. Whoever is training can look at that with me or my co-coaches. We used to do trips in the past. We would go kayaking and so forth. But then we thought, it's great but the boys like to be able to rest on their days off and do their own thing. So that's how we do it now. We were on the road today with the fitness team in the mountains. We rode bikes, walked and then the boys had some time to themselves. They wanted it like that, so that's how we do it now." What's your approach to new signings?

Streich: "I just speak to them, but I don't have any set rituals or anything. The boys here integrate the newcomers very quickly. I think the new players like to speak to the coach, but not too often. I think they prefer to talk to their teammates. I don't want to hound them. You need to be careful with that, I think. I talk to them, of course, but a lot comes from the team as well." Are you deliberately holding back to maintain a certain distance from the new players?

Streich: "I just don't want to overload them. Now with Junior [Adamu], he can't train. He has a lot going through his head already because he cannot be on the pitch. That's a lot of pressure. I will talk to him. Obviously I'm not happy when a player comers back from the summer and has problems that he already had before. They're young players, they're ambitious, but they go to the national team and come back with patella tendon problems. That's not so good. It's not good for him because he will be left behind a bit. The pressure will increase because he wants to show what he can do. We'll make sure he's back on the pitch as soon as possible, so that he can play football with the boys and train." What do you need as a new player to gain a foothold at Freiburg?

Streich: "I think for most, a certain form of transparency, but also a cool head: to orientate themselves, look at what is happening, talk to the boys. They're the ones who let the newcomers know what's what. If the coach loses his temper, they'll tell them, 'Tomorrow it will be OK,' or 'He didn't like this so much' or 'Make sure you're on time.' The new boys need to take in how things work and, of course, tactically, to pay attention to the videos and also on the training pitch. I've experienced it before when a player arrives, but can't train. He can't show the boys what he can do and can't gain experience with the players on the pitch. The games come thick and fast once the season starts, but right now it's still practice, friendly games, make mistakes, watch videos, do things well without the pressure being there. The pressure grows and if in that phase the players cannot train then it's not good for them psychologically." When you became head coach at Freiburg over 11 years ago, did you have a vision of what you wanted to achieve with the club?

Streich: "I was co-coach and we were bottom of the table. We put everything into it, we had an unbelievable energy that only lasted six months because it was unsustainable. It was unbelievably energetic back then. The only goal was to avoid relegation."

Freiburg moved into their carbon-neutral-capable Europa-Park stadium in October 2021. - Alex Grimm/Getty Images So at that time your priority was staying in the league?

Streich: "Every day in training. We called up youth players. Oliver Sorg was on holiday in the US. Forgetting it was nightime, I called him up at 3AM: 'Get yourself to training now, you're making the step up to train with the pros.' Papiss Cisse was sold. He was the one who scored the goals back then, he was important. It was non-stop. We weren't working on our vision for the club at that time. It was all about how we can stay up after getting 13 points in the first half of the season. We did amazingly well as a team in the Rückrunde. We picked up 40 points in total. Twenty-seven points after 13 in the first half of the season. It was crazy, but that was our focus." What do Freiburg stand for in 2023/24?

Streich: "I hope some somewhat proper football, but that's not for me to say. The fans should assess that."

Freiburg go to Hoffenheim on Bundesliga Matchday 1! How would you like Freiburg to be seen?

Streich: "Fans always come and watch us. We can't ask for more recognition and encouragement. When you're in Germany or in Switzerland – France not so much. France don't know us. They know of Freiburg, but the people don't know really know us. Austria, Switzerland and Germany - we can't ask for more support. It's incredible. Wherever I go I hear, 'You're so down to earth' or 'You're such a nice guy.' It's almost too much. Are you happy that Freiburg are so likeable as a club?

Streich: "I'm very happy. I'm happy that we don't come across negatively. We never do, which is incredible. There are so many people that have come and said, 'We're Schalke fans', or some other club, 'We've supported them from the beginning, but you're our second club.' I don't know - it's just remarkable. Maybe we have been a little bit on the fringes and have developed a little. We've never had the biggest mouth, we don't have 15 people that are always in front of the camera and introduce themselves as Freiburg. People sense that and like it. We've really grown as a club, there are over 60,000 members now. It's great, but it's a little scary in such a short amount of time." You certainly have a part to play in making Freiburg so popular...

Streich: "If I'm asked a question, I try to give an answer. It's going well, but we can't get carried away. We had the possibility in the last years to have quite a lot of success. Who knows if things went in the other direction? But we definitely get a lot of feedback from the fans. It's honest and not always about the results."

Watch: Christian Streich - a Freiburg fairy-tale After finishing fifth and sixth in the last two seasons, are you now considered a top-six club?

Streich: "Those were two incredible seasons. We weren't lacking in anything on the pitch. I don't want to name any names, but you know who was behind us in the table. It's no laughing matter when they're behind Freiburg and behind Union Berlin. That's why so many clubs end up changing coaches every six to eight months." Why do teams that you've overtaken in the standings change coaches so often?

Streich: "Because the pressure is so big and the expectation is completely different. They will come at us in the new season, and we need to see what happens. We need to keep a cool head and have a good mentality. You get used to it when you don't lose so many games anymore - even winning often. When things change, you need to be able to handle it and get through it. You shouldn't get all worked up because you've lost two or three games. I'm preparing myself for these things because even I'm getting used to it. Everything is working, we didn't lose a game until Juventus [in the UEFA Europa League]. We had a bit of luck a few times as well. We can also lose a game. We had luck in the Bundesliga a few times. We had 28 points in the second half of the season, which is more than we deserved - I know that. In the first half of the season, we were really good. In the second part of the season, we weren't. I'm fully aware of that, and I'm OK with it." The likes of Bayer Leverkusen and Wolfsburg will now do everything they can to get back ahead of Freiburg...

Streich: "They want to be in the European places. It is not just about catching Freiburg, but also Union Berlin. It won't happen twice, though." So are you preparing the team for the fact that it will be more difficult to reach fifth or sixth place again next season?

Streich: "I ask the boys, 'How is it that we have won so many tight games?' It's mad how many we've won like that. A lot of Bundesliga games are tight, but why are they decided in our favour? What are our qualities? What can we do better? There are so many areas where we can improve."

Watch: Freiburg knocked Bayern Munich out of last season's DFB Cup That being said, there's a lot of quality in the team - especially when it comes to set-pieces...

Streich: "We scored a lot of goals last season, but also wasted a lot of chances. We had a very good goalkeeper, but also defended well. We were really good from set-pieces - defending them and making them count in front of goal. Let's hope it stays that way. If we're not quite as effective, we should look at doing other things well. Without set-pieces, we only scored 30 goals - only four or five teams scored fewer goals from open play. That's the reality. We often managed to get away with not conceding a goal. We also created a lot of chances. We've never created as many chances as last season and we wasted a lot of them. We created a lot, which is good. Even if you don't convert enough, it's still OK. I have a lot of positives to say, but it's a different story if we remove set-pieces from the equation. We've been good at them for a number of years, but that doesn't mean we will be again in the new season. You have to defend well, defend well from corners. Some teams score a goal after 20 corner-kicks. Others score after 140 attempts. It's crazy." Are you sad that you missed out on UEFA Champions League qualification?       

Streich: "No, absolutely not. If we made it to the Champions League and I was allowed to prepare for a Champions League game, I would not complain, but we didn't make it because weren't good enough. It's a real sensation that Union managed to make it. I'm not bitter. We finished fifth, we have Europa League football to come again, while teams like Gladbach, Wolfsburg and Leverkusen finished behind us. Am I supposed to come out and say, 'That's unacceptable'? We need to talk about it. How did we get here? How did we win the tight games? Where did we have a bit of luck and so on because there were so many games that were so tight. We managed to avoid defeat to many of the teams behind us. We weren't the best, but we didn't lose. We won a lot, a few draws - but if I look at the game at Stuttgart and against other teams further down the table, that's how the games were - tight. We managed to get it over the line and if you keep managing to do so, it's not a coincidence anymore. You should never think, 'Oh, we'll win this one.' We wouldn't win a thing." Who will fill the gaps left by Nils Petersen, Jonathan Schmid and Mark Flekken?

Streich: "It's a little easier because we have a lot of players that have been at the club a long time. Vince [Vincenzo Grifo], [Philipp] Lienhart, Manuel Gulde. If you think about Manuel Gulde, seven years or something, Lienhart, six years. Some people, Luki [Lucas Höler], I don’t know, seven? Vincenzo left, but then came back. We don’t need to speak about Guni [Christian Günter], Yannik Keitel and so on. Many of us have been together for a long time. Nils is a loss for us. In training, in terms of his goals, on the pitch. The fans, 'Here comes Nils'. He can always get you a goal. Mark Flekken, great goalkeeper. Johnny [Schmidt], he has been here since his youth, good guy. The French boys always are and now new ones are coming, but they're not actually that new. Max [Maximilian Eggestein] is with us for two years now but I honestly thought it'd been over 10. It really feels as if he has been here for six or seven years. [They are] very good people, I think."

Watch: Vincenzo Grifo - Freiburg's set-piece maestro Do you miss Nils Petersen?

Streich: "Yes, of course we miss him. Nils thought about it and came to me and said, 'I'm done.' I told him that I thought he did everything right, what more do you want? That they always go in the right moment? Nils was there with his humour and his style and with his finishing. In training, he wasn't the person who went all guns blazing, but he was someone that the boys could look at how he finished with his left and right foot. It was an experience. When I look at Nils' finishing, it was unbelievable. That's why he scored so many goals. He was so good technically, his anticipation, his execution. We'll miss him, of course, he was a great reference point for the boys. If I had two of him, I would play the first until the 45th minute and the other for the second 45. We only had one, so we had to decide when to use him. He played for Germany and at the Olympics - Nils has enjoyed great success, he's a super athlete and he fought hard; it was special. It was also very difficult for him and for me it wasn't easy either. People were asking, 'Why doesn't he start?' and so on. 'He would score two goals if he was playing.' It wasn't easy." How do you see the situation in goal? Who will be the No.1?

Streich: "[Noah] Atubolu will play, and then we will see." What are his qualities?

Streich: "Speed, fire in his belly, power, depth, personality. [He is a] nice person, a cool guy." Where can he improve?

Streich: "He doesn’t always have to go long, but sometimes keep the ball. The style of play we like. We've had some good conversations. They were nice. He told me he wants to be here."