Cologne - 1. FSV Mainz 05 coach Martin Schmidt will be reunited with his former mentor Thomas Tuchel when his side entertain Borussia Dortmund on Friday.
In the run-up to what will be an emotional affair at the Coface Arena, Schmidt spoke exclusively to bundesliga.com about his own coaching style, adapting to life as a Bundesliga tactician and the lessons he learned from the man in the opposite dugout this week.
bundesliga.com: Martin Schmidt, Mainz have taken 12 points after eight games. How do you assess the season so far?
Martin Schmidt: We had nine points after five games, and then after seven games we still had nine points. Things can change quickly at the beginning of a season. Sometimes only one or two games make the difference between a good and a bad start.
bundesliga.com: But surely it's a positive that your team can pick up important points when necessary, as they did in Darmstadt?
Schmidt: It's always about winning the right games. A hard-earned, glorious draw against Bayern would have been useless if we'd then lost to Darmstadt a week later. That's a notion that we tried to internalise in the second half of last season.
bundesliga.com: Did you have a role model as a coach?
Schmidt: In the last few years, it's always been Tuchel. He mentored me for my UEFA coaching badge, and I was lucky to be his assistant at Mainz; he was always coaching me at the highest level. My focus is on fitness, mentality and speed. I learned a lot about tactics, and became a more rounded coach under him.
bundesliga.com: Broadly speaking, there are two philosophies in modern football: the possession game of Pep Guardiola and the high-pressing game favoured by the likes of Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel...
Schmidt: The two philosophies are now beginning to be fused together. There's a lot of talk about balancing the two of them, and I think a modern team has to do both: possession in the style of Guardiola but also transitional football like Klopp's Dortmund three years ago.
bundesliga.com: When you took over as Mainz head coach from Kasper Hjulmand in March, you had a relegation fight on your hands...
Schmidt: That was why it was important to just play in the typical Mainz style: pressing and counter-attacking. We won five games out of 13 and stayed up. Now we have to develop further. You can't go a whole season playing only counter-attacking football.
bundesliga.com: The intensity of that style tiring is certainly tiring for the players...
Schmidt: Yes, but as a coach, I focus very much on athleticism. That's fundamental for me. There are coaches who lead through motivation, those who lead through tactics, and those like me who focus on fitness and running. These things don't guarantee victory, but they allow you to stay in the game right until the end.
bundesliga.com: Is the most important thing for a coach that the players trust and follow you?
Schmidt: I don't want to be a Moses figure, leading people through parting waves. But I do think that a coach has to be engaging and has to be good with words. I can't make a passionate speech before every game. Sometimes I have to say to them: "It's your turn now, go and do something special in this game". I think you can only lead people when you love people. It's important to be human.
bundesliga.com: What has surprised you most in your first six months as a Bundesliga coach?
Schmidt: It's definitely surprising to see how my status has changed. I was recently changing trains in Basel, for example, and the conductor came up to me and asked if I would have my picture taken with the driver. That was quite amazing. After all, I'm still the same person I was six months ago.
Interview by Tobias Schächter