Rouwen Hennings has been an outstanding leader for Fortuna Düsseldorf this season, top-scoring with 11 goals so far. - © DFL
Rouwen Hennings has been an outstanding leader for Fortuna Düsseldorf this season, top-scoring with 11 goals so far. - © DFL
bundesliga

Fortuna Düsseldorf's Rouwen Hennings on having a better xG score than Robert Lewandowski

Rouwen Hennings scored 11 goals in the first half of the current season for Fortuna Düsseldorf to help give his side a fighting chance in the relegation battle.

Now, with the Bundesliga coming to a stop during the coronavirus pandemic, Hennings and his side have the chance to regroup. However, as bundesliga.com discovered when speaking to the Fortuna striker, he has had other focuses alongside football in recent weeks...

bundesliga.com: Looking back, how was it in your "home office"?

Rouwen Hennings: "It was an odd feeling. We were given a fitness plan, like we're used to getting during the summer break when you're gradually getting going again. It felt similar to that but we didn't know how things would continue. I also did some strength training at home, so it really was like the summer break."

bundesliga.com: Is it also slightly a battle with temptation?

Hennings: "It wasn't so intense that we had to torture ourselves, because it was the middle of the season and we were already fit. The runs weren't too intense."

bundesliga.com: What has constituted your social life in the past few weeks?

Hennings: "They live a little further away, most of them are spread around the north. We speak on the phone a lot and have video conferences at Easter, things like that. It's a chance to keep in touch, virtually at least. It's quite difficult for my children, in particular, I have three of them. It's hard for them not to go to training, not to go to school, not to see their friends. Of course, when we take the dog for a walk we see other people, but it's just a completely different time. They can't meet people to play and it's all a lot of effort."

bundesliga.com: With three children, is it fair to assume you will come out of this crisis in peak condition?

Hennings: "They definitely keep you on your feet, particularly the boys. They are six and four and play a lot of football outside. When we have a more intense session I do have to drag myself up a bit to join in again in the afternoon."

bundesliga.com: How old are your children?

Hennings: "My daughter is the eldest, and of course she does want to spend some time with me too. I can't do a cartwheel as well as her though."

bundesliga.com: Is the teacher version of Rouwen Hennings also needed at home at the moment?

Hennings: "On days when I'm free my wife and I do that together, of course. We have three children who have to do that, so when I have training it's difficult for my wife to do it all. The eldest does things pretty independently now, but the middle one is in his first year and still needs a lot of help. You have to check everything, and doing that alone isn't easy. It helps us a lot as a family when I have a day off to lend a hand. I can still do the things they're learning quite well, even though it's quite a few years since I was in my first year. You don't forget those things too easily."

bundesliga.com: What subject is your strength as a teacher?

Hennings: "Sport to be honest. No, the basics of maths went quite well for a while, but once a lot of letters got involved I started to lose interest."

Rouwen Hennings is raring to get back into normal training with the Fortuna Düsseldorf squad. - Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

bundesliga.com: Did you know that you have scored 3.68 more goals than expected, giving you a higher xG conversion rate than Robert Lewandowski?

Hennings: "You should spread that around a little more, I think."

bundesliga.com: Have you come across the xG statistic before?

Hennings: "Cool, it's a great statistic."

bundesliga.com: Can you explain your ability to score a lot of goals from relatively few chances?

Hennings: "Chance creation is quite dependent on our playing style. We played a little more defensively, particularly early in the season, and didn't create too many chances. Things went quite well in the first half of the season, because when chances came my way I was fortunately able to keep my cool and turn them into goals quite often. In terms of a reason, I don't really have one."

Watch: Hennings took his chances with his hat-trick vs. Schalke!

bundesliga.com: How did it feel to train again?

Hennings: "It was good. I think we spent three weeks doing sessions at home, just running, on a bike or in the gym. It was good to control a pass again, to play a pass and to shoot at goal. We've been training in groups for four weeks now and it's gradually getting closer to normality step-by-step."

bundesliga.com: How does only being able to train in small groups affect team spirit?

Hennings: "You do still see each other a little at a distance. We have a lot of room here at the stadium to keep our distance while changing and so on. You still see each other a little, even the ones who aren't in your group. It's still a little odd because nobody knows how things will develop, but under the circumstances, we're doing the best we can."

bundesliga.com: Have you rediscovered your left foot?

Hennings: "It took two or three days to line things up again, but now it's back to normal."

Rouwen Hennings has become one of the deadliest finishers in the Bundesliga - scoring 11 goals from just 54 shots on goal. - imago images/Eibner

bundesliga.com: Do you believe you'll get back into the sporting rhythm of things quickly?

Hennings: "I don't really think about that too much. Since the winter break, I've only scored in the cup, but I don't dwell on that. I just try to help the team. Of course, as a striker, the best way to do that is often with goals. If that isn't working in a match you have to run, work, hold the ball up and distribute, and I try to raise my game like that if things aren't working out in front of goal. I'll keep on trying when things get back underway."

bundesliga.com: Do you watch a lot of your sporting idols' games so that you might learn from them?

Hennings: "When I'm at training I focus entirely on that, also leading up to and after training. At home, we have other priorities at the moment and I don't really think about football that much. I believe that I can judge myself quite accurately, that I know what I can and can't do. You can always improve, I know that too, and the new coach has different requirements of his players, so I'm learning new things. Watching a lot of games in succession isn't something I expect myself to be doing any time soon though."

bundesliga.com: Does Uwe Rösler typify the English style of coaching?

Hennings: "The structure of training is quite similar. He has obviously worked in England for a long time, whereas I only spent one season there. I do notice things cropping up here sometimes that I first came across in England."

Üwe Rosler (l.) and Rouwen Hennings (r.) have been working together since the end of January in hope of keeping Fortuna Düsseldorf in the Bundesliga this season. - imago

bundesliga.com: Do English coaching methods add value in your opinion?

Hennings: "I do think it adds value. I think a lot of the exercises in Germany are very similar, even though individual coaches have different focusses. I haven't had as many coaches as some of my teammates who have been at clubs where the coaches were changed regularly and had differing methods, but I think the basics are pretty similar with most coaches."

bundesliga.com: What will it come down to in the relegation battle for Fortuna?

Hennings: "Firstly I think you have to construct everything such that it's safe for everyone. You can't force things to get underway again at all costs. Once that's done it all comes down to the same old game of football: 11 against 11. Motivating yourself will be an important factor because, as you said, there won't be any fans to drive you forward. That drive to run a metre further in the 85th when it hurts will make a difference."

bundesliga.com: Do you think the rhythm of games could be affected by the absence of supporters in stadiums?

Hennings: "The euphoria around you really does make a difference, particularly in close matches, I think. When you score a goal then it gives you a second wind, because they drive you forward. That will all fall away. Mentally you'll have to be very, very focussed, whether you have just scored or conceded. I think that will be a factor that grows in importance in the coming weeks."

Rouwen Hennings is one of the most passionate players in the Bundesliga, especially when he finds the back of the opposition net. - imago images/Sven Simon

bundesliga.com: Do you trust in the team to continue to surprise us, even against stronger opposition?

Hennings: "I think we were slightly out of our depth against the really big teams early on, we didn't even have a semblance of a chance. I'm completely convinced by our team now though, we're a great unit and I think we can take something from any match."