Borussia Dortmund centre-back Mats Hummels has showered praise on his attacking teammates, saying their pace and movement makes it simple for him to pick them out with long balls from deep.
It was from one of the 31-year-old's delightful balls over the top that Marco Reus made it 2-0 at home to Cologne on Friday, as Lucien Favre's side eventually romped to a 5-1 win.
Speaking to bundesliga.com after the game, Hummels also touched on the remarkable impact of new striker Erling Haaland, and the importance of staying focused for 90 minutes…
bundesliga.com: Mats Hummels, what can you say about Erling Haaland? First a hat-trick in Augsburg, now a brace against Cologne – and all within the space of 56 minutes!
Mats Hummels: He's had a great start. He's been delivering for Salzburg throughout the season, and he's a brilliant young player, a really good striker. He's going to make a lot of people happy here, and score a lot of goals. The best thing about him is how hard he works every day. When you see that, you realise his performances are no accident. And that there's a very good chance he'll keep it up.
bundesliga.com: What's it like to play against him in training?
Hummels: (laughs) Tough, but good fun! That's how it should be. You have the most fun going up against top young players like him, it ends up being a proper battle. He's one of these guys who always goes full throttle in training, throwing himself into every challenge. That's what I like to see, whether it's as a teammate or an opponent in training. I'm really impressed with his work ethic, considering his age. That's why he doesn't let himself be affected by all the hype surrounding him, he just keeps doing his thing. I think he's really good.
Watch: Haaland kicked off his Bundesliga career with a hat-trick in Augsburg
bundesliga.com: Was Haaland's second goal against Cologne, from a very tight angle, proof that he's playing with a huge amount of confidence? It wasn't an easy finish by any means…
Hummels: If he knew that he was going to score, then it's absolutely fine by me that he had a go from that angle. And it worked out perfectly.
bundesliga.com: You also had a hand in another goal, getting your fourth assist of the season with an inch-perfect long ball for Marco Reus. Is it just us, or are you attempting long passes more often these days?
Hummels: It's a question of supply and demand! (laughs) I always keep my eyes open for long balls. We have brilliant movement up front, with our three or four attacking players. That's what makes it possible. It worked well this time, because Cologne were pushing high up the pitch and pressing us. It certainly won't work in every game. But when it makes sense, and when the boys up front are making their runs, I'll try to pick them out.
bundesliga.com: Is this a new tactical option for BVB, instead of playing out from the back?
Hummels: It always depends on what's possible. The most important thing is to have options – and a few different players to give you options, otherwise it's too easy for the opposition. It's also important for us to link up well, and we certainly did that against Cologne, with a lot of good movement up front. In that way, even against well-organised opponents who press the ball high, you can still find solutions.
bundesliga.com: After starting the second half of the season by shipping three goals in Augsburg, you only conceded one against Cologne. Do you think there was an improvement at the back?
Hummels: It wasn't all bad last week. But whereas we made life a bit too easy for Augsburg, we managed to keep things tight for almost 90 minutes against Cologne. We didn't give the ball away cheaply, except perhaps for a short period before they made it 3-1. Otherwise we were very focused and determined, and our attacking players did a good job of getting back to defend. There were a lot of positives to take away from the game.
bundesliga.com: That short period you mentioned clearly annoys you, in spite of a comfortable victory…
Hummels: First of all, we won't always be leading 3-0. Secondly, we've had situations like that in other games, when we weren't 3-0 up. And above all, with all due respect to Cologne, we're going to come up against opponents with even more individual quality this season. And they can really punish you in those bad patches. Perhaps the scoreline played a part against Cologne. Once we had the three-goal cushion, it felt a bit like game over. That's why we shouldn't be too hard on ourselves. But in a best-case scenario, you don't have those bad periods at all.
Dietmar Nolte was speaking to Mats Hummels in Dortmund