Borussia Dortmund midfielder Julian Weigl is relishing life under Peter Stöger, and after two wins in two under the new BVB coach, he can’t wait to tackle Bayern Munich in the DFB Cup on Wednesday.
Question: Julian Weigl, has Dortmund’s luck changed with the last-minute win over Hoffenheim?
Julian Weigl: We definitely needed luck in this game! We were also working hard in recent weeks when we didn’t have luck on our side. The first 20 minutes against Hoffenheim were good. We were on the front foot but we didn’t take our chances. After that we failed to knock them out of their rhythm. They had the upper hand but failed to find a winner so I guess we had luck on our side.
Question: And enough self-confidence to turn the game around?
Weigl: It was very important for us that we didn’t collapse after going behind. We would have taken a 2-1 win to conclude the year before the game!
Question: Hoffenheim had 65 percent of possession. Was that the plan?
Weigl: It just turned out like that. Hoffenheim play a very good possession game. They move the ball around well. They have good ball-players at the back and in midfield. It was difficult for us to defend against this. It was important that they didn’t get between our lines so we sat back and ceded a bit of possession. The bottom line is that we won, and we’re all happy to have done so.
Question: This week BVB have celebrated two wins from two games under Peter Stöger. What’s changed since the new coach arrived?
Weigl: The coach couldn’t overturn everything in such a short space of time, but it’s important that we’re more stable, defensively. We’re not always pressing so high up the pitch. Of course, it’s important to put an opponent like Hoffenheim under pressure, but we’re more solid now and don’t bring the defence so high up the pitch. Not pressing forward at all costs – that’s what Peter Stöger has given us.
Watch: Stöger: "Bosz did a good job here"
Question: How does it feel out there on the pitch? Is it obvious that the team feels better playing this way?
Weigl: I think we feel a bit better. However, we shouldn’t forget that the high pressing under Peter Bosz worked very well at the beginning. It was tricky for our defenders to work out when to go forward and when to sit back before. Now the team is more sure of itself. If you don’t press so high, you can drop off and wait for support. That’s already been key for us.
Question: And what about your return to your natural position at the base of midfield?
Weigl: First of all, we’ve won two from two so my personal situation is secondary, but I definitely enjoy it. With Bosz I had a clear role, too, which wasn’t bad. I struggled a bit to develop in that position, though. Now I’m a bit freer to play my game. I should play between the lines. That’s my game. It’s important for me to be able to pick up possession from the back and to be involved in the match the whole time. If I can help the team as much as I've done in the past two years, then all will be well.
Question: Dortmund have looked a bit frantic at times. Why is this?
Weigl: That definitely has something to do with the uncertainty over the past few weeks. The win over Mainz gave us some confidence back but our recent form hadn’t completely left our minds. We were making simple mistakes that didn’t happen at the start of the season when we swept aside all comers. Our mentality will improve the more victories we get.
Watch: We met Weigl the pass-master earlier this year
Question: Is confidence in your own game the biggest key to playing successful football?
Weigl: Definitely! We have the right players. We have to get back to doing the basics right, holding onto possession. If something doesn’t work we’ll try another way, but everything will fall back into place, I’m sure of that.
Question: How quickly can that happen?
Weigl: We now have a real stand-out match in Munich [BVB face Bayern in the DFB Cup on Wednesday]. We want to get the best possible result and that would of course mean going through to the next round of the cup. We’ll have to defend better than we did against Hoffenheim. We’ll work hard over the winter break and come back for the second half of the season with renewed vigour.
Question: Is it easier to go to Bayern as an underdog?
Weigl: It's never easy in Munich, whether you're an underdog or not. But I don’t even know the last time Bayern lost. They’ll definitely be the favourites, but we’ll go there with our game plan and we saw last year that it’s possible to win there in the cup [Dortmund beat Bayern 3-1 in the semi-finals before lifting the title with a 2-1 victory over Eintracht Frankfurt]. Winning the cup was a great feeling and it's a feeling we’ll take into this game. We aren’t going there thinking that we have no chance. A lot has to come together but we have a chance. We’re up to it.
Dietmar Nolte reporting from Dortmund