Dubai – The work continues apace for Borussia Mönchengladbach at their Dubai winter training camp, where they are also doubling as Bundesliga ambassadors over the coming days in a region across which the German top flight has been enjoying a steady growth in popularity.
In Sunday's early practice session at the state-of the-art training complex down the road from their Meydan Hotel base, head coach Lucien Favre split his 26-man squad into two groups, one of which worked through various passing moves while the other worked up more of a sweat, completing a series of strengthening and toning exercises on a circuit put together by the club physios.
"That was pretty hard going," Norwegian midfielder summarised, while Swiss international admitted that "the core training obviously isn't that popular, but it's all part of the package."
With provisional plans to play a local team scrapped, the players will instead have a late-afternoon practice match over the full length of the pitch. That will likely come a bit early for striker Mike Hanke and central defender , both of whom are still recovering from a bout of flu, but set to resume full team training on Monday.
Vice-captain Stranzl has been in outstanding form this season and the 56-time Austria international took time out to speak, among other things, about opting to play on for another year rather than hanging up his boots at the end of the season as initially intended. "The decisions I've made in life up to now have been pretty much black or white. This was the first time I found myself in a grey area for something like this, and I ended up deviating from my original plan," Stranzl explained: "It's a new experience for me. But sometimes it does you good to follow a slightly different course."
Gladbach lost defensive coordinator Dante to Bayern Munich last summer, but Stranzl does not believe that has altered his own role within the team, noting: "I shouldered just as much responsibility before, it's not something that's dependent on the departure or arrival of other players. I was expected to be an onfield leader when I joined Borussia two years ago."
As to the specifics of his leadership style, "if things aren't going well, I'll say my piece out on the pitch or in the changing room. Not by shouting and waving my arms about, that's not my style and I don't think it's appropriate these days anyway. It's better to take a player or two to the side and have a constructive conversation. That way you can get your point across much more effectively than by just banging out slogans."
The 32-year-old native of Güssing, close to Austria's border with Hungary, has formed a formidable central defensive partnership this season with , nine years his junior, signed pre-season from Atletico Madrid. "He arrived from another league, another country, but even during preparations for the league start, we were combining well in the centre of the defence and we're developing an ever-impoving understanding," said Stranzl: "I can harmonise well with him and in even measures. Despite the competition, we all get along very well, which is important. None of us puts our own interests before those of the team."