Mönchengladbach - After an 18-game unbeaten run at the start of the season, Borussia Mönchengladbach went off the boil somewhat towards the end of the calendar year by winning just two of their last seven games in 2014.
'I had goosebumps'
One player that continually performed to a high standard, however, was goalkeeper Yann Sommer, a summer arrival from FC Basel 1893. Back in Germany after an eight-day winter training camp in Belek, Turkey, the Swiss international looks back on his first half-season in Germany and outlines his ambitions for the rest of the campaign.
Question: Yann Sommer, the fans named you their player of the Hinrunde. What does that award mean to you?
Yann Sommer: To get that kind of praise from the fans after only being here for six months is a great honour. I was really pleased by it and I’d like to say a massive thank you to the supporters. But credit has to go to the defenders in front of me. They have made things very easy for me so far.
Question: You just touched on the team’s performances. How important was it that you got off to such a good start at the beginning of the season?
Sommer: "That was really important. If you’re new at a club, it’s even more important to get off to a good start. Obviously there were a few friendlies where the communication between me and my defenders wasn’t that great, but that’s to be expected. That understanding came after a short while and we had a lot of games where we defended really well and had good results. That enhanced the mood at the club and among the supporters, which made it very easy for me to find my feet here at Gladbach.
Question: You said that the game against FK Sarajevo in the Europa League was one of your best moments in the first half of the season. Why was that?
Sommer: There was just an unbelievable atmosphere at the Borussia Park that evening. I remember standing in front of the goal in the first half with the Nordkurve behind me and feeling goosebumps when the fans started singing. It was just an indescribable feeling. I’d been convinced from day one that coming here was the right decision, but that confirmed it for me. We ended up winning the game 7-0 and qualified for the group stages as well, so obviously I like looking back on that game.
'Happy to have settled in so well'
Question: You had to adapt not only to your new club but also to the Bundesliga as well. What have been the positive - or negative - surprises that you have encountered?
Sommer: Beforehand I honestly didn’t give that much thought to what I would be up against. I obviously knew that the games are a bigger deal, that the attendances are higher here than they are in Switzerland and that a huge challenge was awaiting me in the Bundesliga. But I wanted to make sure that all these changes and new things didn’t have too much of an effect on me. Looking back, I’m happy that I managed to settle in so well. The club, my team-mates and the fans greeted me with open arms so that I’ve felt at home here right from the start.
Question: The first six months could hardly have gone any better for you.
Sommer: That’s right. I think we had a really good first half to the season overall and we can be really pleased with what we achieved. We’re doing well in all three competitions, we've accumulated a lot of points in the league and played well in most of our games. The most important thing for us now is to get off to a good start in the second half of the season and then build on it.
'Bundesliga is our bread and butter'
Question: What goals have the team set themselves for the rest of the season?
Sommer: I think it’s a privilege that the club are still involved on three fronts. The Bundesliga is obviously our priority and our bread and butter and we can’t let ourselves drop off if we’re in a good position. But we’ll still be ambitious in the two cups. The games in the Europa League are memorable occasions for us players. We want to put Borussia on the map internationally and obviously get as far as possible. I’m confident we’ll have a part to play in all three competitions.
Question: And what are your personal ambitions?
Sommer: I want to try and be as consistent as I can for the rest of the season and show the team that they can depend on me. I want to better myself in every area of my game, and I think in terms of playing out from the back, we as a team still have room for improvement. I work hard every day to make myself better and that’s not going to change.