Despite the crushing 5-0 loss at Bayer 04 Leverkusen on Matchday 16 that brought the unbeaten league start to his reign to a grinding halt, Borussia Mönchengladbach coach Andre Schubert told bundesliga.com he has relaxation, not revolution, in mind for the winter break.
bundesliga.com: Andre Schubert, it's been quite a few months since you've taken over as Gladbach coach. How has your life changed?
Schubert: My life hasn't changed all that much. I worked for Borussia Mönchengladbach before. The work has obviously changed insofar as that I find myself on a different, a higher level. The backroom staff is bigger than with the Under-23s, and in the Bundesliga and the Champions League, you meet opponents of a very different quality. And of course the job brings with it a different scale of publicity.
bundesliga.com: In the space of a few weeks, you have seen yourself transformed from 'normal' football coach to 'Interim Coach of the Century' and, after beating FC Bayern München, 'Pep's Kryptonite'. Did this worry you at all?
Schubert: Why should I be worried? I worked for FC St. Pauli in Hamburg, where you have relatively big media coverage, perhaps even bigger than in Mönchengladbach. When you're a Bundesliga coach, you know what to expect. I do my job and focus on the football, even if I now do more interviews.
bundesliga.com: In your 11th game in charge, Gladbach’s attacking spark eluded you in the 5-0 defeat at Leverkusen. Why was that?
Schubert: We played into their hands and didn't do much right. We were on a great run but you could see that we were gradually losing energy. Now we have to pick ourselves up again.
bundesliga.com: Against Hannover, Hoffenheim and Bayern recently, your opponents have had a lot of chances…
Schubert: That's right. We conceded goals from set-pieces, but that's less to do with our brand of football and much more to do with the fact that we could no longer compensate for the players we’ve had out. The way we play now is no different to how we played in the first eight or nine games - you simply lose quality as a consequence of players being missing. Up front, we have still been able to manage quite well, but not so well at the back.
bundesliga.com: So far your attack has not suffered too much with all the injuries, but will you be bringing any players in during the January transfer window?
Schubert: If the opportunity arises to strengthen our squad, within our limits and sensibly, we will do so. However, we certainly won’t bring in new arrivals just to keep people happy. Martin Stranzl has been out for a long time already and Alvaro Dominguez, who was very important for us in the first six or seven games, has been out for weeks. We’ve had to improvise a lot and recently Andreas Christensen and Nico Elvedi, two 19-year-olds, have been playing in our three-man defence. If we were a world-class team, we’d have coped with that without a problem. If we were FC Bayern, we could manage. But we’re not.
bundesliga.com: Nevertheless, you beat FC Bayern….
Schubert: Indeed, but I should highlight that my approach is absolutely not to willingly play gung-ho football and win every game 4-3. We’d like to score a lot of goals, but we don't want to concede either. Kamikaze football isn't our thing. The basis of our success up until now has been very good defending: to play our game and quickly turn defence into attack, we need to win the ball back and - if possible - in our opponents' half.
bundesliga.com: How did you manage to make players who had lost five games in a row puff out their chests and start playing such great football?
Schubert: It’s true that the team didn't start the season well under Lucien Favre, but there were reasons for this. Important players were injured or had left the club, like Max Kruse or Christoph Kramer. A lot of things had to be done from scratch, which - because of the injuries, particularly that of Stranzl – made things difficult. Sometimes you get into a bad run which it is difficult to get out of. Lucien decided that the team needed fresh impetus, and we tried to give it to them.
bundesliga.com: It sounds so simple…
Schubert: It's not like you just pat the players on the shoulder and everything's all right again. Things aren't as simple as that. The mental aspect is important. You have a lot one-on-one talks and you show the players their strengths, either through videos or in training sessions in which you constantly emphasise these strengths. Added to that, we altered things tactically. Sometimes, those are called 'small details', but Pep Guardiola has said that we now have a completely different style.
bundesliga.com: And what do you say?
Schubert: We're definitely playing differently to how we were under Lucien. We're pressing much higher up the pitch - you could call that 'a small difference'. But I think that it makes a big difference. You get different reactions when you lose the ball and also when you win it back. Everything can go right, as it did against Augsburg where we played great, and the boys say: 'It works'. Then you have more belief in your own abilities. Then the next victory comes along. That's how you build confidence. Before the Augsburg game, I said to the boys, “With every tackle won, with every blocked shot, with every chance created, your self-belief will grow.” And that's what happened.
Schubert: The players know that we counter-attack much quicker now. Fabian Johnson, Ibrahima Traore and Julian Korb, even though he's a full-back, have a real desire to get forward, and they can now express that a bit more now. The players like this way of playing. They were already one of the teams that ran the most last season, but now there's a lot more emotion to it, so that allows individual qualities to come through a little better. But, once again, that is in no way a criticism of what came before. The team played successful football under Lucien for four years and finished third last season to qualify for the Champions League. That was an exceptional achievement.
bundesliga.com: You’ve made Granit Xhaka your captain and he looks to have taken another step forward…
Schubert: Granit wears the captain's armband with pride. It's fantastic that someone comes to Germany from abroad and identifies so strongly with his new club and its image.
bundesliga.com: Will you now use the winter break to analyse all the games you’ve played so far?
Schubert: I certainly won't be doing that. I’ve learned from past experience that I have to completely switch off. It's not good to mull things over 24/7. When I have a day off, it stays that way. It used to be that I didn’t take that type of down time for myself. Now, things are a bit calmer and I can go and drink a coffee with friends or read a book at home. Then it's easy to be fully motivated to go to work again the next day and - if necessary - work 15 or 16 hours. I'll use the Christmas holidays to get myself in better shape - it's certainly needed!
Interview by Andreas Kötter