Oliver Glasner has hailed the impact of Randal Kolo Muani and is looking forward to working with Paxten Aaronson. bundesliga.com caught up with Eintracht Frankfurt's UEFA Europa League-winning mastermind ahead of the season restart...
bundesliga.com: Looking back at 2022, how do you assess what was a historic year for you and the club?
Oliver Glasner: "It was an incredibly successful and beautiful year with a lot of highlights. In the summer, of course, there was the peak: being crowned Europa League champions. Afterwards, that dramatic conclusion in the Champions league when we managed to get through to the last 16. After so many years as on the periphery, we’re also doing well in the league. There was a lot happening but in football, that’s nothing new. We had luck on our side that things turned out positively."
bundesliga.com: What conclusions have you drawn from a first half of a campaign in which you sit fourth in the Bundesliga and are through to both the last 16 of the Champions League and the DFB Cup?
Glasner: "I think it was pretty decent! [Winning] ten points in a very evenly matched, difficult group in the Champions League [was good]. In the league, we also put in some very good performances. In the Cup, in two games, we managed a 6-0 aggregate total in terms of our two wins. I think, in all, it was okay and we are satisfied with how we have developed but [that part] is over now. We are barely talking about 2022 anymore. I am not the type of person to be talking about it privately either; it’s over. We all enjoyed it. We had time during the winter to digest it and enjoy it but now we have to continue and, as I said, our focus is on looking forward.
Glasner: "We [signed] him because we saw great potential in him. We saw instantly that he was really quick. He listens and tries things on the pitch, plus he’s a great boy. He’s not 17 anymore, he’s 23 so he’s at a good footballing age. It’s not that surprising that he is so able. That he's playing such a crucial, formative role, on the other hand, perhaps is [surprising] but he deserves that due to his performances."
Watch: All Randal Kolo Muani's Bundesliga goals and assists so far
bundesliga.com: Kolo Muani was involved in France’s recent FIFA World Cup final loss. Did you have to do any special work to do with the player after that?
Glasner: "No, not at all. We wrote to him after the final telling him he should be very proud of his year. He was a [French] Cup winner with Nantes last summer [and then] fought his way into a starting position with Eintracht. He reached the [Champions League] last-16 with us and became a World Cup finalist with France; a lot more is not really achievable in a calendar year. That’s why he can be proud of what he achieved.
bundesliga.com: Is team spirit one of the keys to Eintracht’s success?
Glasner: "It’s a fantastic group [of players here]. There are top personalities in our team; superb boys. [There are] some who are not really happy from a sporting perspective because they don’t get enough minutes or because they would like more playing time and deserve it; one or two of them definitely do. Nevertheless, they are always there for the team. That's something I value extremely highly because – as I have told the players – I forgive every mistake when it's football. When it's sport, anything can happen.
"But I do not forgive when someone causes bad vibes in the changing room because that's something avoidable and something we can influence. I don't worry about that though because we have really great lads. We're a big group: 28 players. We have staff of another 30 to 40 people. It’s about how we go about with each other, how respectful we are to one another: that's team spirit."
bundesliga.com: What is the potential of this team?
Glasner: A lot of players that were here last year are still here. We're more clear in terms of the passages of play. We have very good new players that have joined us, in terms of their quality and their character that fit superbly in the group. I think we are a step further along [compared to last year]. I can easily tell you we will shoot for the moon, but in the end, it’s up to us to prove it. We have a lot of work ahead of us, a lot of focus, a lot of sacrifice and readiness. It’s up to us."
bundesliga.com: How important is it to keep the team together?
Glasner: "It’s about the football. In the summer, we lost two of our best players in Martin Hinteregger and Filip Kostic. One finished his career and the other we sold. We got a bit of money in, which is important to be able to complete further transfers. That is the footballing business. I am not that naïve to say that we play in our own cocoon and will be playing together for the next five years. It will not be the case but we are working as best as we can to keep the core of the team here. There will be people that leave but if we make good transfers, I think we will be able to invest a couple Euros as well, which is important."
bundesliga.com: Do you see this as a unique opportunity to be in charge at a time when you can establish the club on another level?
Glasner: "We have to prove that. There are a lot of clubs that have played Champions League football. Schalke did so not too long ago and then got relegated. Cologne managed to get into another European tournament after 25 years and were also relegated not so long ago. We can talk hypotheticals, but we are measured by what we deliver. What's important for the entire club is that we stay grounded and be decisive.
bundesliga.com: What are the targets for the second half of the season?
Glasner: "It always sounds stupid but for me, but it's relatively simple: we go into every game to win. When we start against Schalke, we want to win. We want to win four days later in Freiburg and then in Munich three days after that. I don't know whether it will always work out for us, not in terms of luck but in relation to our football. I think we have solidified ourselves in terms of developing a specific type of football over the past year and a half where everyone knows what to do. That is what we want to build on.
"We want to refine a lot of things, that’s our goal. If we stay consistent, hungry and look to being 100 per cent as a group, then the season will be successful. What will we have to show for it? I don't know. There can be a lot of unforeseen stories like injuries and suspensions etc., but that's how we and I personally will be tackling the second half of the season."
bundesliga.com: Could we have a word on new American signing Paxten Aaronson?
Watch: American Paxten Aaronson on becoming an Eagle
Glasner: "It’s the first time that he has come to Europe. He wasn’t the biggest name in Major League Soccer. They have incredible talent, but [Paxten] was not a player in the starting line-up for Philadelphia. I can see now, as I have generally come to see in Americans, that he is an open guy, he has self-confidence, good attributes, fast legs; he’s a good boy. Now we want to give him time to get used to the football, to Europe, to learn our language and then we will certainly have a lot of fun with him. He should just take things calmly and get used to how everything works at Eintracht Frankfurt."
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