Wolfsburg head coach Oliver Glasner has had a great start to his first season in Germany. His team are the only side unbeaten after Matchday 9, and boast the best defence to boot with only five goals conceded.
The Austrian sat down with bundesliga.com to chat about the Wolves' upcoming meeting with Borussia Dortmund, their impressive start to 2019/20, his first impressions of the German top flight, and a bleed around his brain that ended his playing career...
bundesliga.com: Congratulations on setting a new Wolfsburg record for the longest unbeaten run at the start of a season…
Oliver Glasner: "That’s the first time I’ve heard that it’s a club record. Of course it’s great. It shows that it’s not so easy to play against us. We also know that there a lot of things we can and want to do better. Perhaps there have been one or two many draws in there. But it shows that we’ve hit an approach where it’s important for us to perform as a team, where we’ve come back after going behind, like in Leipzig recently where it’s not so easy to come back from behind. That’s why it’s a good sign of the attitude of the players, the character of the players and, of course, it’s a great story after nine games."
bundesliga.com: You're one point better off than Borussia Dortmund, who you face on Matchday 10. How will you approach the game?
Glasner: "There is a lot of anticipation going to the biggest stadium in Germany in terms of capacity. I’ve been there once and of course there’s a great atmosphere. We’ll give it all we can to win, That’s what’s important to me, that the team doesn’t travel to Dortmund and say 'well, maybe we can get something, a point' but say 'we believe we can win.' Whether that’s enough, we don’t know but we’ll go into the game saying: 'we’re going home with the three points.'"
Watch: See how Wolfsburg got on against Augsburg on Matchday 9
bundesliga.com: Are you happy with Wolfsburg's place in the standings? You're fourth, and only two points off the top...
Glasner: "Everyone gets what they deserve in the end after 34 games. The one at the top deserves to become champions. Those who qualify for Europe also deserve it after 34 games. Now that we have played nine, the only thing that you could say is that we haven’t played everyone in the league, You can judge that at the halfway stage. But nevertheless, it shows the direction we’re going in. Defensively we’re fairly compact – we don’t concede many. There is a lot of room for improvement, of course, in terms of creating chances. At set pieces we have a lot of room to improve. There are a lot of things where we want to and need to start getting better. But the direction we’re going in, with almost two points per game on average, it's a good achievement."
bundesliga.com: You've got the best defensive record in the Bundesliga. Do you believe in the motto: goals win matches, clean sheets win titles?
Glasner: "Defending is very important for us. We looked at last season, which went very well for us with finishing sixth and qualifying directly for the Europa League group stage. Nevertheless, we looked at and analyzed things in more detail and saw that we had conceded too many goals for a top team, which is what we want to become in the medium term. We want to and need to reduce the number of goals we’re conceding. That’s why it was one of the main things that led to us switching to a back three to get more stability in central defence. Of course, that comes at the expense of our attacking play because from a 4-3-2-1 you take away the number ten and put them back in defence. Sometimes we’re missing something up front but you see that we’re very compact on the pitch yet are still creating goal chances. So, that’s how we want to develop and move forward step-by-step."
bundesliga.com: You seem very calm right now, but you're very animated during matches...
Glasner: "I think that’s true of a lot of coaches. I think when we’re on the touchline, then with a lot of us or with me there is a lot of adrenaline pumping and you want to support the team. You’d love to intervene but you can’t. That’s the hardest thing, you stand there on the line and you’d like to correct things that you see. On the touchline you can’t, so this powerlessness that you feel has to come out. It always strikes me when my daughter, who’s nine, often laughs at me saying 'Dad you were jumping up and down like crazy today!' But it's always well intentioned and the players know that. With me that has to come out, the adrenaline, and I’m always trying to be calmer."
bundesliga.com: Was it a big step up from the Austrian Bundesliga to the Bundesliga?
Glasner: "For me it was 680 kilometres, a fairly big step. But other than that I don’t feel it’s such a big step up. Of course, there is more attention. The surroundings and the staff are different but the work out there with the players – the problems which always come up – it’s all very similar."
bundesliga.com: What do you think of the atmosphere in German stadiums?
Glasner: "It’s great but on the other hand, I only notice it before and after the game. I have the feeling that during the 90 minutes my view or my attention is focused on the area under and around the advertising boards. I don’t really notice anything that’s happening in the stadium. I’m totally focused on the game and my team. But beforehand and afterwards it’s great how they go crazy in the stadium."
bundesliga.com: What did you learn from your time at RB Salzburg…
Glasner: "That was my first coaching job. I was the assistant coach under Roger Schmidt and the sporting director Ralf Rangnick. It was my first experience of life as a professional coach – I tried to soak up as much as possible. I gained a lot of experience working out there on the training ground, with the coaching drills, dealing with players. We had a lot of players from different continents, with different mentalities, which you had to deal with differently. The meticulousness, the preparation, the follow-up, the analysis – I gained a lot of important experience. Still today I always try to implement things, to refine them, improve them and adapt them."
bundesliga.com: You had to end your playing career early because of a subdural hematoma [bleeding around the brain]...
Glasner: "The collision happened four days before in the league. I had a slight concussion but knew everything that happened. We were in Copenhagen and had a Europa League game which we were preparing for in the morning. In those four days I didn’t head the ball and I said I’d like to try it before the game that evening. Then I noticed I had a lot of pain with every header and said something isn’t right. I was worried, not because of the headers, but about not being to play and I told the coach. Then, when we were back in the hotel, I was having a shower and I got this really bad pain in my head. The last thing I remember is laying down on the bed and telling my roommate to get the doctor. Then that was it. The next thing I know I was in the hospital for the days that followed."
bundesliga.com: What went through your mind when you woke up after the operation?
Glasner: "I didn’t have a clue what had happened. I woke up in intensive care, full of tubes, and didn’t know what was wrong. I rang the bell and then asked – I’m not sure if it was the first person there – whether I could fly home with the team. I knew that we were there for a game but I didn’t know how the game had finished. The nurse told me to stay calm. Then I suddenly had the idea to get my phone which was lying on the nightstand. I took it and – as if I was taking a selfie – I switched the camera and looked at what was wrong. I only saw then that they had cut my head open because I didn’t know that before. Then I thought 'oh, that’s pretty bad.' I fell asleep and early the next day the physiotherapist from the team came. He stayed with me over that time... bit-by-bit they explained everything that had happened."