Jonas Hofmann has told bundesliga.com he has designs on playing for Germany after following Granit Xhaka's example by taking his time to make his mark at Borussia Mönchengladbach.
The former Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who moved to Borussia-Park in January 2016, has underpinned the Foals' galloping start to the 2018/19 campaign, producing arguably the best football of his career.
He sat down with bundesliga.com to discuss the secrets to Gladbach's success, why Alassane Plea is worth his weight in gold, and how no-one should count Bayern Munich out of the title race reckoning...
bundesliga.com: Jonas Hofmann, Gladbach are second after 11 games and you've got five goals — one fewer than you have scored in the last six years. Could you have imagined the season would start like this?
Jonas Hofmann: Of course, before every new season, you have some small personal goals, you want to improve. But I never would have expected to have five goals after 11 games. Sometimes you have to have a little bit of luck, like in the season opener against Leverkusen. There was a little bit of pressure for my penalty because we had already missed one. But you just have to take the ball and make your own luck. And when things are going well for the team, everyone benefits.
Watch: Hofmann netted his first Bundesliga hat-trick in Gladbach's 4-0 win over Mainz
bundesliga.com: It's been said that a complete overhaul of the playing system is the reason for the good performances, but is it really that simple?
Hofmann: I think the change has played a role, though it's a bit surprising that everything worked right from the first day. Often, you need a certain amount of time for a change like that to bear fruit. But we clearly have exactly the right players to fit into the new 4-3-3 formation and make it work perfectly. We also have a really cool squad with a very good team spirit and atmosphere. And it's helped that recently we've had hardly any players out with injury.
bundesliga.com: That's in contrast to last season when, at one stage, there were 12 in the treatment room…
Hofmann: Exactly. At the time, there was hardly enough space on the wall to write the names of all the players out injured! Now, there are far fewer names. And that doesn't do us good just in games, but also in training, because the level is constantly high.
bundesliga.com: Alassane Plea is also at a very high level. What do you make of him?
Hofmann: Alassane is a very quiet, humble guy. On the pitch, however, he's one of those players who knows exactly where the goal is. Cold-blooded strikers like him are worth their weight in gold. When I think about his goal in Munich or the one against Eintracht Frankfurt, when he put the ball right in the top corner - that was top class.
bundesliga.com: You've also been top class this season, whereas in the previous two-and-a-half years you were never in the thick of things, some would say. Do you agree, or is that unfair?
Hofmann: I think that the public opinion about me was as you describe, though whether that's fair is open to debate. During that period, there were several occasions when I was ready to fight for a first-team place, only for injury to knock me back again. You then have to work your way back again and also accept that there are others who are performing well. Why should the coach change anything? It's been like a rollercoaster for me, which makes me all the happier about how things are going now.
bundesliga.com: Have you finally truly arrived at Borussia?
Hofmann: I don't know if you can put it like that. I remember that I said after a few weeks at Borussia how good I felt here. Of course, feeling good and what happens on the pitch don't necessarily go together, but sometimes things come in their own time. Granit Xhaka, who's playing for Arsenal now, took some time to be able to produce his best for Borussia. When it comes down to it, what counts is the here and now, and I'm very happy with that.
bundesliga.com: The key phrase is "here and now". You and your teammates speak a lot about taking things game by game. It sounds like a cliche, but there seems to be something in it…
Hofmann: It's true that you often hear it as a cliche, but what can you say after, for example, the 5-0 DFB Cup defeat to Leverkusen?! In those situations, the only thing that counts is the next game, which was the one against Düsseldorf. At that point, you can either lose momentum and go on a bad run or turn things round immediately. We're doing a good job of not talking about any bigger ambitions we might have, instead we're focusing 100 percent on our next challenge.
bundesliga.com: What gives you hope that Borussia's progress in recent months is sustainable?
Hofmann: I think that particularly in our reaction to the defeat against Leverkusen, you can see the team has really developed in comparison to previous years. The match against Düsseldorf showed we have class and quality now, that we didn't fall into a slump after a setback, but reacted brilliantly when we needed to. Unfortunately, in the game against Leverkusen and perhaps in the second half against Freiburg, we weren't able to do that.
bundesliga.com: How can something like the Leverkusen defeat happen?
Hofmann: Good question. Next question! [laughs] Of course, we talked about the mistakes that we made during the debrief. But frankly, it's hard to explain it. In the 13 competitive games we've played so far, there was always going to be one where things simply didn't come off.
bundesliga.com: Is football sometimes really so difficult to explain?
Hofmann: I think so. Leverkusen won 6-2 in Bremen and 5-0 against us and then lost 4-1 at home to Hoffenheim. How do you explain that logically? But I don't think it's a bad thing. On the contrary, you see how evenly matched and tight the Bundesliga is and how exciting it will hopefully stay until the end of the season. Perhaps this time, there will be a battle between three, four, maybe even five teams for the title. That's something we're all hoping for.
bundesliga.com: Bayern seem to be struggling. What was your impression from the 3-0 win in Munich? Did you get a sense that your opponents perhaps had bigger problems?
Watch: Gladbach were at their clinical best at the Allianz Arena on Matchday 7
Hofmann: Yes. During the 90 minutes, I got the feeling that Bayern were beatable, at least on that evening and in that one game. But despite that, Bayern will remain Bayern in the long run. And I'm convinced they will still be in the title race this season, even if they're currently seven points behind Dortmund.
bundesliga.com: Borussia's next game after the international break is against Hannover. How do you approach a match against an opponent who is struggling?
Hofmann: Of course everyone expects us to take all three points in Gladbach, but I can only point out once again how tight the Bundesliga is, and that not a single game can be taken lightly. We'll have to be patient, just as we were against Düsseldorf. We had to wait until the second half to get the first goal. We won't get anything handed to us. And if we drop off just five per cent, Hannover can punish us.
bundesliga.com: Let's talk about a possible reward instead… About a year-and-a-half ago, after a string of good performances, you said, "It would be too much to expect a call from Jogi Löw now. For that, I still have to do a bit more." You've kept your word. Are you now hoping for a call from the national team coach?
Hofmann: I think you first have to show a certain consistency over a number of weeks and months to get that call or earn a call-up to the squad. It's a big dream to one day play for the national team, there's no doubt about that. But I'm also employing the "I only think from game to game" philosophy in this regard and don't put myself under any pressure. I'm now at the optimal age for a footballer, so perhaps my childhood dream will come true.
Jonas Hofmann was speaking to Andreas Kötter