Wolfsburg midfielder Daniel Didavi does not need reminding how quickly things can go belly-up at the foot of the Bundesliga standings.
The 27-year-old was part of the Stuttgart side that nosedived through the trapdoor late last season, but is determined to avoid a similar fate with the ever-improving Wolves at the business end of 2016/17.
bundesliga.com: Daniel Didavi, you missed your team’s most recent game - the 1-0 home win against Darmstadt. Have you since recovered?
Daniel Didavi: Yes, I'm over my flu and will return to training in the coming days.
bundesliga.com: You’ve been absent quite a lot this season and have featured in just 11 games. How do you cope with the various setbacks?
Didavi: I have, unfortunately, had a long history of suffering [with injuries etc.], but at some point I changed my mindset and so now I always return in a positive frame of mind, which helps me in these situations.
Watch: Wolfsburg gain a crucial three points with victory against Darmstadt on MD25
bundesliga.com: It almost seems that you don't need any time to readjust after a lay-off. How do you manage that?
Didavi: That’s right; but I’m not sure why it's the case. I'm a person who loves the game and who tries to think positively, whether it be competing in the Bundesliga or just having a kick about. It’s not a nice feeling when you can’t play for a long time, and I'm always eager to return. Yet I don’t think things like, 'hopefully nothing bad will happen [now that I’m back].' As soon as I'm without pain, I just pick up where I left off. I learned by playing on the streets and don’t need much time to get used to the feel of the ball – or the rhythm – again.
bundesliga.com: How do you assess your summer switch to Wolfsburg from Stuttgart?
Didavi: When I came here, I had other goals. We're not in the best situation right now, but that can be a good thing because it makes you want to change things for the better. You can see that with the team and in the entire club. There has been a change: we have a new coach. [During the 1-0 win against Darmstadt] we saw a euphoria in Wolfsburg which hadn’t been here for a long time. It shows we’re heading back in the right direction. It’s up to the team now; we must gain momentum. We don’t need to talk about the team’s potential, we know what we're capable of.
bundesliga.com: You yourself are already battle-hardened in terms of your experience with relegation fights. How important is it for a team to hold its nerve in such situations?
Didavi: Very important. I experienced a lot in terms of relegation, surviving one season and going down the next [with Stuttgart]. In this sort of battle the pressure is completely different to say, playing for a place in the UEFA Europa League or the Champions League. When it’s a fight to stay up, you are talking about keeping your job at a club. But you have to hide this feeling of pressure and somehow try to have fun, approaching tasks in an almost relaxed manner. Otherwise you’ll choke, and that's counterproductive.
bundesliga.com: How do you rate new coach Andries Jonker?
Didavi: He does a few things differently. In a relegation battle, you have to fight and to hold on. Yet Andries Jonker also reminds us of our great potential. He makes it clear what he expects from us and he's given us confidence in our own strengths. You've seen how we’ve developed, step by step, game by game. The approach was there for all to see against Mainz, and in the matches with Leipzig and Darmstadt, things were also good. We've found a way of playing that fits very well with us and we want to gain as many points as possible. If we continue to play the way we are, we might not win every game but we have a greater chance of picking up more points.
Watch: Wolfsburg stunned Leipzig on Matchday 24
bundesliga.com: Wolfsburg have taken seven points from their last three games, but the teams around you are also picking up points. Does this make things more nerve-racking?
Didavi: For years the Bundesliga has been getting tighter. You have Bayern Munich and then the rest - and the rest are becoming closer and closer, especially this year. The middle ground has practically fallen away. We have the top two and then the bottom two teams and then there’s the rest, with a gap of only around six points. If you examine the battle to qualify for the Europa League, for example, you see clubs that have to look in both directions [in terms of European qualification and relegation].
bundesliga.com: How do Wolfsburg approach their next game, an encounter against a Bayer Leverkusen side two points ahead of you?
Didavi: The current situation isn't easy. I remember last year, with Stuttgart, we had a sequence of positive results when things started to look up, but then we lost seven in a row. That’s always possible in the Bundesliga. We've accepted we're in a relegation battle and have finally begun to get the important results, but we must continue. We have the possibility to overtake Leverkusen but for that we need to win. We'll work hard in order to achieve [that result].
bundesliga.com: What advantage do Wolfsburg have in this relegation battle? Is it their individual star quality?
Didavi: From my experience of recent years, that's not something we can rely on. At Stuttgart we also had more quality than other teams, and although that worked out for us on a few occasions the last time it didn’t. Individual quality doesn’t matter in any given game in the Bundesliga because, whether you are playing Darmstadt, Borussia Dortmund or Bayer Leverkusen, each games begins 0-0.
Interview by Tobias Gonscherowski