Two games, two defeats – Markus Weinzierl imagined his start in Stuttgart differently. Photo: Baumann
In an interview, new coach Markus Weinzierl talks about his credo, the physical condition of the team of Bundesliga soccer club VfB Stuttgart – and he reveals how he used his time off before joining Stuttgart.
Stuttgart – While the foreign professionals of struggling Bundesliga club VfB Stuttgart have German lessons on the agenda at the same time, their new coach Markus Weinzierl talks about the soccer content he wants to impart to them in the room next door at the office. "You have to see the aggressiveness and intensity already in training, that’s my OBVIOUS," says the 43-year-old before the home match this Friday night (20.30 o’clock) against Eintracht Franktfurt.
Mr. Weinzierl, jokes are once again circulating in Stuttgart about how difficult it is for a new VfB coach to find an apartment. How is your search going, have you found anything yet??
No, I’m still in the hotel. But I also experienced that in Schalke, even in Augsburg there was this saying in the beginning. This is now normal in the coaching business at many clubs.
You know Stuttgart from your time with the Kickers from 1999 to 2001. What changes have you noticed in the city??
There are many construction sites. Otherwise, the city is very beautiful and pleasant. There are a lot of nice people and a nice downtown area. My memories were positive, and that has been confirmed.
0:4 against Borussia Dortmund, 0:4 at 1899 Hoffenheim – in sporting terms, you certainly imagined your start in Stuttgart to be different.
Of course, as a coach, you want a better debut. But the situation at the start of the season wasn’t exactly coach-friendly: bottom of the table, lots of injuries, and Dortmund and Hoffenheim as the next opponents. We knew how difficult the task would be, and unfortunately that has been confirmed. But the score will be settled at the end. It has to get better – and it will get better.
At Schalke, you started with five defeats, and at FC Augsburg, you had just nine points after the first half of the season. Both times you got your act together. You should be an expert in such a situation.
I have been through many such phases positively. But I can’t hear the comparison with the start at Schalke any more. Because then you have to tell the story in full: that in Schalke we have subsequently not lost 13 games in a row and at the end were tenth in the table and shortly before the semifinals in the European Cup. In the same way, you could argue that I didn’t win the first few games at Augsburg either and that after nine points at Christmas in the first year we stayed straight in the league and three years later Liverpool knocked us out in the Europa League intermediate round. These are statistics that can be twisted and turned. That is forgotten and over for me. It is VfB Stuttgart that interests me. We now have to correct the start in the next few weeks.
The only thing that matters is staying in the league
How big is the discrepancy between what you experience here in your day-to-day work with the players and what you saw of the team beforehand – does that match your expectations??
You can see from the standings alone that the team has problems. This has also been confirmed in the first games. We are in the process of working things out. It’s all about cohesion, about fighting, about running, about mentality – for me, that’s the clear way to get out of it and achieve a sense of achievement. Then the playful element will come back as well. The team has to go to the limit to win games. That has now also been confirmed, we were not at our limit, individually we did not always play 100 percent well. That’s what we are working on, that’s where we started.
What are the key points for you?
First of all, to create awareness of the situation VfB is in. That many points were lost and that this did not happen by chance. It is a difficult actual state. We certainly can’t combine from the bottom, we have to work our way out – that’s the starting point. I also don’t think that the guys think that they played all opponents to the wall in the last second half of the season. At that time, I saw several games in the stadium, too, after which I went home and thought: Well, that could have ended differently now. I have also addressed this.
What is your goal until the winter break – to reach 20 points by then will probably be difficult?
There’s no point in setting targets at this stage. It is not settled at Christmas, but in May. We need a sense of achievement as soon as possible, preferably a win against Frankfurt. It’s also clear to me how to approach a season in a very fundamental way. There are always three phases. The first phase is the start to get into a season well. The second is always for me: I need 40 points to stay in the league. And then, if I still have games available, I can say: I want more. If I mess up the start like we did, I don’t have to worry about anything else. Then it’s all about staying in the class as quickly as possible. We are in this situation.
High intensity in training for more power in the game
Do you have the impression that the team is physically in shape to play aggressively and with steam for 90 minutes?
That must be the goal. Every Bundesliga team has to be able to do that, otherwise it’s going to be tight.
Sometimes it seems as if VfB is lacking something in terms of intensity?
If you have watched the last few days in training, the team is working with a lot of intensity.
But in the games it looked different.
Of course the team has room for improvement. But I saw VfB’s best first half this season in Hoffenheim. We need this performance over 90 minutes and with eleven players!
In other words, that’s also a focus of your training work, to get more out of things in terms of stamina and fitness?
I believe that you play the way you train. You have to see the aggressiveness and intensity in training, that’s my conviction.
Reflecting on your own actions during the time out
Your colleague Manuel Baum from Augsburg recently said that he has a 100-hour week as a Bundesliga coach. Is your workload in Stuttgart also that high, how does your week look like?
I don’t have time to count my hours in the week (grins). In the end, you invest everything every day in order to win the game at the weekend.
You’re coming off a one-and-a-half-year sabbatical, how did you use the break for yourself personally??
I think that this phase was very valuable for me, just to reflect and to question my work. It was nine years in a row before that, where I was in my environment every day and got little input from the outside, because it was not possible in terms of time. When you’re in your wheel every day – that was the case for four years in Regensburg, four years in Augsburg and then one year in Schalke – you don’t have time to look at what others are doing or how others are doing it. In the last few months I have done that intensively and thought about what was good and what was bad. That’s why this was very valuable for me and my training work. Privately anyway. And recharging the battery after such a long time and having the fire for a task again was elementary for me.
Can you tell us some of the lessons you have learned??
I don’t think your paper has that many pages free (smiles).
It’s a wide-ranging interview, so go ahead. Where did you find mistakes?
I didn’t say I ever made a mistake – you’re never allowed to admit to mistakes in public (laughs). But one thing is clear: If you’re in the thick of things for nine years in a row and always under stress, then you only develop through what you experience. Talking to other coaches or sitting in on other clubs always teaches you something, even if you realize you don’t like something and don’t want it that way.