Julian Brandt is starting to feel very much at home at Borussia Dortmund, and says he can sense a special connection growing with BVB captain Marco Reus.
After starring in central midfield for Dortmund in their 5-0 drubbing of Fortuna Düsseldorf on Matchday 14, Brandt spoke to bundesliga.com about fitting into BVB's new system, building confidence, and how playing with Reus feels similar to his partnership with Kai Havertz at former club Bayer Leverkusen.
bundesliga.com: Julian Brandt, you were part of a brilliant team performance in the win over Fortuna Düsseldorf. Do you get the impression that you’re thriving in that central midfield position?
Julian Brandt: "It's a lot of fun to play there. Being able to get into the game from the centre of the pitch can really bring it to life. In central midfield you're connected to every player, and an important link between defence and attack. That was certainly the case against Fortuna, and it worked really well!"
bundesliga.com: Why do you think Dortmund have often struggled to put in strong performances this season?
Brandt: "We're not robots. We all make mistakes and there are times when things don't quite work out the way you imagined. In my opinion, we've managed to get out of this situation at a really important time, where there's been a lot of negativity surrounding us. The wins at Hertha and against Düsseldorf have created a positive atmosphere that is especially important when we look ahead to the Champions League match on Tuesday against Slavia Prague."
bundesliga.com: There have been doubts as to whether you and Marco Reus are capable of combining well together on the pitch. Was today proof that you can?
Brandt: "Sometimes you just need a bit of time to get used to each other. Now we're able to be far more effective. It's about knowing where the other player is, even if you can't see him. In the past few weeks, I've played out wide, then as a striker, and today I played centrally. It always felt like Marco was in a different position on the pitch. But I've realised that things could turn out to be the same as they were for me last season with Kai Havertz at Bayer Leverkusen. Unfortunately, these combinations don't always work overnight. Marco and I have always had patience though. We believe it's working."
bundesliga.com: Would you say that you've really arrived in Dortmund now?
Brandt: "I'm certainly aware that not everything has worked out perfectly, especially in the last weeks and months. You also can't overlook the fact that attacking players are judged on goals and assists. But when the settling-in phase is over and you play more regularly in a certain position, then you become much more consistent. For me, it was important that it worked out well against Hertha, that it worked out well against Dusseldorf. And on Tuesday against Prague, it should work out just as well."
bundesliga.com: Have you doubted yourself in the last few weeks?
Brandt: (laughs) "I never doubt myself. No, seriously, that's genuinely true. I have plenty of self-confidence. Of course, I question some aspects of my own performances, you should always do that. But I never doubt that I can do it. I believe I've got a lot to offer. I think I'm on the way to becoming the player Borussia Dortmund and many others knew last season."
bundesliga.com: There have been two moments this season where we felt that confidence was building in the Dortmund squad. Are you optimistic that it can now become consistent?
Brandt: "Basically, wins always build confidence. And winning with a strong defensive performance is the way to go about it. I think we played well in the first half in Berlin. It was more difficult after the red card, but we played with a lot of passion and defended well. Against Düsseldorf, you could see that we were having a lot of fun, we played with freedom and self-confidence. Jadon Sancho scored twice, Reus too. Two players who have been questioning their own performances in recent weeks. You have to find the flow, and if we can do that, then we can get Dortmund back to the same level as last season. Then a lot of good things will happen."
Watch: Dortmund's hard-fought win over Hertha last weekend!
bundesliga.com: Lucien Favre has now overseen back-to-back wins using a 3-4-3 formation. How are you finding the new system?
Brandt: "In attacking terms, it's a very good system. We can always find each other, we can keep the ball. We're able to tire our opponents out. It's very important for us to be able to hold on to the ball and not just counter-attack when we win it back. Defensively, we can rely on the physical machine that is Zagadou (laughs). He always clears the danger. Our two defensive midfielders also try to press hard, and the same goes for the wingers with Hakimi and Guerreiro. When balls come through to our defence we have three players at the back to mop up. So it suits us very well right now. We won a lot of second balls in the first half against Düsseldorf, and in the second half Zagadou and Akanji dealt with the long balls very well. It's all fitting together nicely so far. You don't have to go into crazy detail every week - if it works, it works!"