Mönchengladbach – After Borussia Mönchengladbach’s terrible start to the season, caretaker head coach Andre Schubert has brought the Foals back on track thanks to three successive Bundesliga victories.
In part one of an exclusive interview with bundesliga.com, Schubert speaks openly about the reasons behind the club’s early-season troubles, how he went about implementing much-needed changes and his reasons for choosing Granit Xhaka as his new captain.
bundesliga.com: Andre Schubert, can you explain why a team that was so successful in 2014/15 began the new campaign so poorly?
Andre Schubert: Football’s quite a simple game. After losing to Dortmund on Matchday 1 we should have beaten Mainz at home in the next game given the number of chances we had. But we lost that one and that’s how you start going down a path it’s suddenly difficult to get off.
bundesliga.com: Which makes it even more incredible that the same team could win their next game just 72 hours after Lucien Favre stepped down as head coach…
Schubert: We immediately analysed the problems in the team’s play. We’d been lining up more defensively and our transitional play wasn’t good either. After winning possession, instead of trying to get forward as quickly as possible, we were playing a possession-based game. That worked very well in previous years, but unfortunately it wasn’t working anymore this season. And without doubt, the backbone of the team had gone, with Max Kruse joining Wolfsburg, Christoph Kramer going to Leverkusen and Martin Stranzl out injured. That in itself may not have been pivotal, but combined with everything else – especially a lack of good results – it led to increasing levels of insecurity within the side.
bundesliga.com: After taking over first-team duties, what were the first steps you took to help the team, bearing in mind there were only 48 hours until the next game?
Schubert: In a situation like that all you can do is gather as much information as possible as quickly as possible. That’s why the first thing I did was to call our video analyst on the Monday afternoon, and he soon provided me with analysis of all our players and our previous four matches. Then I called together the senior members of the squad - the players had the day off on Monday – and asked everyone to come in for a chat later that afternoon. Immediately before that meeting I also spoke to the coaching staff, sporting director Max Eberl and general manager Steffen Korell.
bundesliga.com: That must have taken up at least half a day...
Schubert: Exactly. So on Monday evening I began thinking about the problems we could solve in a day and a half without completely confusing the players. It’s a fine line to tread. On the one hand you have to change certain things but on the other hand you can’t alter a playing style in such a short space of time. In fact, my philosophy didn’t play a role at all initially.
bundesliga.com: So what did you change?
Schubert: The key question was how to help the team recover their confidence in such a short timespan. We knew we needed to play more aggressively - that was the first point. The second thing was our transitional play after winning the ball back. The players’ quality means they can recognise if there’s a good chance of being able to score, and we organised training so that they’d have to play in a really enclosed space, so you need to be very good on the ball. The third thing we did was work with them psychologically, using video analysis.
bundesliga.com: You've also made Granit Xhaka captain, a move he has repaid by scoring in two consecutive games. Was that a spur of the moment decision?
Schubert: I don’t want to read too much into that. Martin Stranzl was missing as captain and Tony Jantschke as vice-captain, and there wasn’t anyone else in line after that. For me it was clear that Granit would be a good candidate in the situation we were in. He’s a player who can shoulder responsibility and is a typically aggressive leader. He doesn’t always do everything right but he doesn’t shy away from anything and doesn’t cave in when he makes a mistake. Those are good qualities to have in a captain. I told him: “You’ve got great talent but now you need to take the next step in your career. You have to understand that responsibility also means staying in control, not getting too emotional and leading your team-mates.” He was happy to take that on and has done so with a lot of pride.
bundesliga.com: After quickly going 4-0 up inside 25 minutes in your first game against FC Augsburg, did you think you were dreaming?
Schubert: No. We worked very hard for probably 40 of the 48 hours we had available leading up to that game. That helped us go into the match with belief. Obviously I was really happy that we set the tone from the first minute onwards, put them under pressure and created a lot of chances. The early goal [Fabian Johnson’s fifth-minute strike] helped us a lot.
Andre Schubert was speaking to Andreas Kötter