The first half of the 2015/16 Bundesliga campaign did not exactly go according to plan for relegation-threatened SV Werder Bremen, but Nigeria international striker Anthony Ujah is confident improvement is afoot going into the Rückrunde.
Speaking from the club's winter training camp in Belek, Turkey, the 25-year-old discussed his objectives for the second half of the season and revealed what it is like working alongside the Bundesliga's all-time leading foreign goalscorer Claudio Pizarro.
bundesliga.com: Anthony Ujah, are you satisfied with Bremen’s winter training camp so far?
Anthony Ujah: Yes, we’ve worked really hard the last few days and we’ve played two games since we’ve been here. We want to work hard and I think everyone has given their best. We’ve had the best kind of training we could get to help us in the second half of the season. So far I’m satisfied with everyone’s work rate.
bundesliga.com: What are your goals for the second half of the season?
Ujah: My aim is to be better than in the first half of the season – not just in front of goal; there’s a lot I can give to the team. I hope I can help the side stay in the league. Our position at the moment is not very good. We have the potential and we have the quality in the team. My personal goal is to always be competitive and to stay injury-free, because then I can help the team a lot.
bundesliga.com: Given that Bremen are in a relegation battle, what do you think they can achieve?
Ujah: I think if we can make fewer mistakes than we did in the first half of the season, stay cool and take our time then we can achieve something. There were some games that we didn’t deserve to lose. We're working on everything here in the training camp. We’ve watched a lot of videos and seen the mistakes we’ve made. We’re trying to correct those and hopefully we'll do it better in the second half of the season.
bundesliga.com: In what way do you help the team?
Ujah: As a striker what I expect is goals, so I try to always be in the box and to get the goals for the team because without goals you cannot win a game. Hopefully I can get some more and give a lot more to the team, with assists and a lot of fight, both defensively and offensively.
bundesliga.com: In terms of goals, assists and possession what is your personal aim this season?
Ujah: My personal goal is to try to keep the ball more up front so the team can come out because there have been many games when we’ve tried to fall back very deep. We defended very well so when we win the ball it’s very important that I keep it for the team to come out so we can get our own chances as well. So I’m trying to improve in that aspect and hopefully I can do it much better.
bundesliga.com: Where do you think Bremen will finish this season?
Ujah: Between tenth and 12th.
bundesliga.com: Who are your top five Bundesliga players?
Ujah: Oliver Kahn, Roy Makaay – he’s a striker I followed a lot when I was in Africa. Also Claudio Pizarro – thankfully he’s here too so I can learn a lot from him. Jay-Jay Okacha, the dribbler, and lastly I think Manuel Neuer.
bundesliga.com: You mentioned Claudio Pizarro. What’s it like to have him in the team?
Ujah: It’s really great to have him here with us. The first week he was here I was a little bit nervous because I followed him for a long time – I’m a big Chelsea fan. I watched the Premier League a lot in Nigeria before I came to Europe so I already knew about him. So I was a little bit nervous being alongside him in the same dressing room because we had to sit next to each other and also in the bus travelling to the games we sit next to each other. It’s been really great but I’m really relaxed now. We all get along together as one team. He’s had a positive impact for us, for me as a striker too – to be able to see his movement, how he scores goals and how he moves is an inspiration for me and hopefully I have more to learn from him.
bundesliga.com: After 1. FSV Mainz 05 and 1. FC Köln, you are at your third Bundesliga club. Why are things working out so well for you at Bremen right now?
Ujah: I think it’s down to our style of play, which is attacking. Strikers like to play like in games where the goals are flowing. I’m very pleased to be here and I’ve been developing since my first week here last summer. I knew what I was coming for and I was excited about it. Unfortunately I haven’t scored a lot to be able to help the team but hopefully in the second half of the season I can do better.
bundesliga.com: What ability do you have that other Bundesliga players don’t?
Ujah: I always try to win every ball in the air and in German football that's very important. You get the ball from your goalkeeper very up and it’s very important that you win the ball because the second is very important too because a lot can happen from it. I’m always trying to improve in this area, so I try to put a lot of pressure on the defenders as well. Another big part of German football is pressing. When you press a lot the defenders get confused so I hope I can also work on this more and become a problem for the opposition.
bundesliga.com: What has coach Viktor Skripnik’s role been in the team since he came in?
Ujah: He’s a big part of the team. We’ve gone through a lot of difficulties this season, but he’s always been there and has always said the right words. For example, it’s not fun to lose 6-0 in the Bundesliga and after that result [against VfL Wolfsburg] we were really devastated, but he kept us mentally strong. We kept going and we had some good results, some ups and downs, but in general he’s had a positive impact on the team.