Gregor Kobel is intent on fending off welcome competition from Swiss countryman Roman Bürki and Marwin Hitz to become Borussia Dortmund's undisputed No.1 goalkeeper.
After keeping a clean sheet on his debut in the DFB Cup first-round win over Wehen Wiesbaden, the 23-year-old sat down with bundesliga.com to discuss his summer move, budding career and objectives for the season ahead...
bundesliga.com: How's it been for you at Dortmund so far?
Gregor Kobel: "It’s been good, and I’m really happy to be here. It was great to get to know everybody and to have a look around the training ground. I’m still settling in, but it’s been great so far and the training camp was also a perfect foundation for us to build on."
bundesliga.com: How important was the pre-season training camp?
Kobel: "It’s very important to be able to get settled in as quickly as possible because the season soon comes around again. It always takes a bit of time to get used to one another and to the new system, especially with a new coach. We need to learn everything and build everything back up from scratch. We need to get to grips with the situation as quickly as possible so that we are all ready for the first game of the season."
bundesliga.com: You were the youngest first-choice goalkeeper in the Bundesliga last season. Were you happy with that?
Kobel: "It was cool and it said a lot about me. However, it’s nothing that I personally measure myself against. It was nice, but the fact that I was the youngest means that I still have a lot ahead of me and a lot of opportunities to develop myself further. My aim for the coming years is to keep working hard and to keep improving, and get settled in here as quickly as possible. I want to get used to the team and the style of play and to just help the club with my performances."
bundesliga.com: You didn’t really do Dortmund any favours last year, did you? Stuttgart won 5-1 in Dortmund!
Kobel: "That’s true, but it was a great game for us back then. We didn’t really know ourselves how we managed it, but it was a fantastic performance by the team and everything went well for us on the day. It was a great win for the team at the time, but that’s definitely not going to happen again!"
Watch: Gregor Kobel's top 5 Bundesliga saves
bundesliga.com: How would you describe Dortmund?
Kobel: "Dortmund is one of the biggest clubs around, not just in Germany, but in general. It was always a special game that you looked forward to that little bit more because you wanted to show what you were capable of. You always wanted to show a bit more against teams of that calibre, so they were always great games and I always really looked forward to them. This makes it even sweeter to be a part of it now."
bundesliga.com: Does the opposition always give that little bit extra against Dortmund?
Kobel: "I think this is definitely the case because you need to be ready for these games. I think it’s normal for games like this to want to go out onto the pitch and win, although this is always the case for every player. I think you have to prepare yourself for the fact that the opposition might be a little more motivated than usual, but the most important thing for individual players is to go out onto the pitch and win, and this doesn’t really change at all."
Kobel: "It’s certainly not a normal situation, but it didn’t really play a big role in my decision. I came here to develop myself further, to take the next step, and to be able to celebrate success with Dortmund. I want to be a part of this and to play my part, but I know that I have a lot of hard work ahead of me. I need to work hard and improve every day so that we can win as many games as possible, which is what I want and what we as a team want. I think it is important that the goalkeepers have a good relationship with one another, and this is something that I was taught at a young age and that I have always experienced. Competition for places is always good and it’s part of professional sport, regardless of whether it is three Swiss players or not, but you should always have a good relationship with one another. You need to be fair with one another and compete on the pitch, but still maintain your sportsmanship and open attitude."
bundesliga.com: Do you see yourself as number one?
Kobel: "I came here to be number one, and I think that was clear to see. I absolutely came here to play."
bundesliga.com: Why did you become a goalkeeper?
Kobel: "To be honest, it kind of just happened. When I was younger, I wanted to play football because a couple of boys who I went to school with were already playing. I wanted to play with them and it was just clear from the start that I would go in goal. I just enjoyed throwing myself at the ball, which is probably not normal, but it felt normal to me. It just worked out for me from the start."
bundesliga.com: So you never played outfield?
Kobel: "Never. I went straight in goal and never left."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe the position of a goalkeeper?
Kobel: "It’s definitely a different position, which is difficult to compare to the others. You are far less actively involved in the game compared to an outfield player, who is always involved in challenges. I’m involved in very few challenges apart from maybe in the air from a corner or a cross. I have far fewer touches of the ball than an outfield player, which means I have a different approach to the game. Everybody has to work out for themselves which approach works best for them and how you prepare for a game and keep your concentration levels high. There are a lot of different aspects involved because the fans play a role and you may feel different on different days. You need to learn how to deal with these things and how you can deliver your best performance over 90 minutes. When you play for a team like Borussia Dortmund, it could be the case that you don’t have too many shots on your goal, but you always need to be ready. It’s a tricky situation when you don’t have any shots on goal for the majority of the game, but then you have to deal with the one decisive moment. You need to be ready for this situation, even when it’s not straightforward, and you need to find the best way for yourself to be able to put in your best performances."
bundesliga.com: How would you describe the new manager, Marco Rose?
Kobel: "Marco is great and things are going really well so far. He has a very open attitude and you can always talk things through with him. We all look forward to getting on the pitch and his instructions are always very clear. But he is also a great guy who you can just have a conversation with, so my first impressions of him are great."
bundesliga.com: Are you looking forward to the Supercup against Bayern Munich?
Kobel: "Definitely, and I look forward to any game where I can pull on the Dortmund shirt. It’s even more exciting when a trophy is up for grabs because this is what Dortmund is all about. It will be a fantastic game and I’m looking forward to it."
bundesliga.com: What makes Bayern so special?
Kobel: "It’s clear that they have special players, but when you are standing on the pitch you just want to win every game. You want to give everything in every game and this is the most important thing for me."
bundesliga.com: Do you get nervous before matches?
Kobel: "I think it’s normal - everybody has a few nerves before a game. It is part of professional sport in my opinion, but maybe there are others who don’t feel that way. Anticipation and nerves are all part of it, but it’s just a case of how you deal with them and how you put in your best performance."
bundesliga.com: Do you work on the mental side of your game?
Kobel: "I do some mental work now and again, especially in relation to my goalkeeping. It’s a very important aspect, especially because you are often not as involved in the game. You have a bit more time to think during the game, so the mental aspect is a very important part of being a goalkeeper."
bundesliga.com: Have you already explored Dortmund?
Kobel: "A little bit. I’ve already found a flat, which I was very happy about because I heard that it was not that easy to find a place in Dortmund. I’ve been busy with my flat, so I haven’t seen too much of the city. I’m currently furnishing my flat, so that I feel a bit more at home, but everything is going well so far."
bundesliga.com: Are you furnishing your flat yourself?
Kobel: "I’m not really doing it myself because my girlfriend is a bit more talented and willing in that area! To be honest, there are a few things that I would prefer to be doing than furnishing my flat, but she enjoys it and she’s really helping me out. It’s great that she can help me with this because, to be honest, it’s not my favourite activity. I can assemble furniture, but there are still things I’d rather be doing!"
bundesliga.com: What are Dortmund’s aims?
Kobel: "We haven’t spoken about aims at all so far. Ultimately, it is Borussia Dortmund and so the aims are pretty clear. We want to win every game and be at the very top by the end of the season."
bundesliga.com: Are you looking forward to the return of the fans?
Kobel: "Definitely. It’s been a long time without them and you could see the difference during the Euros, depending on the location. We also had some fans at our friendlies and it’s great to see the stands slowly filling up. I hope this continues because it would be great to have a full house again. It will be great to experience the Dortmund fans on my side rather than against me, and I’m really looking forward to this.”
bundesliga.com: How did you experience the Yellow Wall as an opposition player?
Kobel: "It’s always been a special experience to play in Dortmund. The whole atmosphere is impressive, so I’m really looking forward to when the time comes again."
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