Mainz - Famed for his heart-on-the-sleeve emotions and animated displays on the touchline, Mainz head coach Thomas Tuchel is always a compelling interviewee.
True to form, the 39-year-old strategist gave bundesliga.com a typically candid assessment of his side's prospects ahead of what will be his fifth season at the helm in Mainz, detailing the club's development and transfer policy, as well as the strength of the Bundesliga.
bundesliga.com: Herr Tuchel, once again FSV Mainz 05 have sold some important players. You've said that transfers such as Adam Szalai's to move FC Schalke 04 and Jan Kirchhoff joining FC Bayern are like winning a title. What do you mean by that?
Thomas Tuchel: It means that we measure things differently to league titles or cup triumphs. Selling people like Jan and Adam is confirmation of the extraordinary development of these players in a very supportive environment. Let’s also not forget that Nicolai Müller was called up to the Germany squad for the USA trip. That’s also a mini-title for him personally, for our team and for this club.
bundesliga.com:Sebastian Polter has said that Mainz are a good springboard for young players to move to bigger clubs. Doesn’t that frustrate you as a coach to have to give away your best players?
Tuchel: No, because I know full well what my role in Mainz is. We formulated our objective four years ago of only wanting to nurture players for the top four in the Bundesliga, and the aforementioned transfers demonstrate that. The chances of our new arrivals having had Mainz 05 bed sheets as kids is relatively low: boys dream of the national team and the Champions League, and that’s absolutely fine. We show them how they can realise their dreams, and they trust us.
bundesliga.com: You also allowed more established individuals such as Andreas Ivanschitz, Radoslav Zabavnik and Marco Caligiuri to leave. Why’s that?
Tuchel: For different reasons, but fundamentally I had the feeling that we couldn't improve with the same group of players we had. Therefore, we opted to change our squad.
bundesliga.com: You did away with the conventional training camp this pre-season and instead spent just a few ‘full-immersion’ days in Valais under the guidance of an extreme mountain climber, while playing a series of friendlies in Switzerland. Is routine a player’s enemy?
Tuchel: No, that would be putting it too broadly. In terms of reliability and trust, habits are fundamental components of performance. But in our fifth season together, we were convinced that this adjusted preparation would be right for our team. Mixing things up creatively never does any harm.
bundesliga.com: What have you learnt from 2012/13, which brought just two home wins in the second half of the season and ended with 13th place?
Tuchel: Unfortunately, last season we weren’t able to carry forward our good form in the first half of the campaign. There are many reasons for that, which we've analysed, but we’re not going to discuss them publicly.
bundesliga.com: You say that your current team has the potential to “capture the fans’ imagination”. What makes you so confident?
Tuchel: Because of the excellent togetherness our team is showing and the way they all support one another and carry our values with each other on a daily basis. In addition, there’s a tangible commttment and ambition to compete, which our fans are going to feel straight away.
bundesliga.com: When such an important player like Adam Szalai leaves, fans first of all see the risks. What's the silver lining when it comes to replacing such a key figure?
Tuchel: To begin with, there’s no question that Adam will be missed both on and off the pitch, but we helped him become the player he is today. We’re confident we can do the same again with other players, both in a sporting sense and in terms of their personality, so that they too can develop and compensate for the losses with their own unique strengths.
bundesliga.com: With that in mind, what role will new signings Shinji Okazaki, Dani Schahin and Polter have in your attack?
Tuchel: To start with, all of our new recruits desperately wanted to join us and had a very clear idea from their first talks with us what was so special about Mainz 05 and how they would like to make an active contribution. That enthusiasm is the basis for their further development and the first weeks have absolutely confirmed it.
bundesliga.com: How do you rate the league compared to last year and what are Mainz’s main challenges going to be?
Tuchel: I get the feeling that the Bundesliga is always going to get better and harder. We accept the challenges of this competition and want to pick up points all the time, while remaining faithful to our style of play - that's the biggest challenge of them all for us.
Interview Tobias Schächter