Today in the coach interview: André Schubert. André Schubert coached SC Paderborn, FC St. Pauli, Eintracht Braunschweig and Borussia Mönchengladbach, among others. He took part in the Champions League twice with Borussia Mönchengladbach and played against well-known opponents such as Manchester City, FC Barcelona and Juventus Turin. He talks to us about special Champions League moments, types of players and increasing stress in the professional field.
Coach2: This year a German coach won the Champions League for the third time in a row. They too took part in the Champions League twice with Borussia Mönchengladbach and played against Manchester City, FC Barcelona and Juventus Turin, among others. How did you approach these games, how did you prepare and which of these games do you remember most?
Andre Schubert: When I was supposed to take over the professionals at short notice, we had little time to prepare. I took over the professional team on a Monday, the first game was on the following Wednesday. After that we played every three days after that, which was not uncomplicated in combination with a change of coach at that point. On the one hand we didn’t know the Champions League from our own experience, on the other hand we changed a few tactical things after the coaching change. For example, we attacked a lot higher, already pressed in the opponent’s penalty area, switched over at lightning speed when winning the ball and pulled towards the goal at great speed. These tactical changes had to be trained despite the triple load. But the process was a lot of fun. The team was incredibly receptive and very focused.
The games in the Champions League were then absolute highlights. We had strong and interesting groups for two years. In the first year we played against Manchester City, Juventus Turin and Sevilla FC. Juventus made it to the final of the season and Sevilla won the Euro League. In the first home game against Manchester City we were at the absolute top level despite the 1: 2 defeat. We even missed a penalty in the early stages.
All in all, the games were very different. The second game was a defensive battle in Turin. In the home game against Turin, Juve received a red card shortly after half-time. It was our turn, but the Chiellinis, Bonuccis and Buffons of the world did an incredible job that day. We then couldn’t get through and had to be satisfied with a 1-1 draw. The home game against Sevilla was also a real highlight. We won 4-2 and played really good football. The game in Manchester was also an absolute top game. We lost 4-2, but we were 2-1 at halftime and had 60% possession. To this day I have been asked more often about this game. It was probably one of the best games we played at this stage. Unfortunately, we ran out of grains in the 70th minute. The 2: 2 was just too little to get ahead and we couldn’t hold out in the last 10 minutes.
Coach2: In the second season there were again attractive opponents in the Champions League. How did you experience the second season in general?
Andre Schubert: In the second year it became more and more difficult due to the large number of stresses and strains. As a club, we weren’t actually geared towards a triple burden, neither in terms of breadth nor in terms of the age structure of the team. Andreas Christensen came from Chelsea with a professional game at the age of 19. Nico Elvedi played in the U23 at the beginning and then played his first game right from the start against Bayern. Mo Dahoud had already been there for a year, but until then had only played 5 appearances and 120 minutes of Bundesliga football. There were some young players who weren’t used to playing at this level.
The race to catch up in the first year, the Bundesliga and the DFB-Pokal cost us a lot of energy and then – one shouldn’t forget that – the European Championship and other trips for a number of national players were added. We also had to start earlier because we played against Bern in the Champions League qualification, almost three weeks before the start of the Bundesliga. With Granit Xhaka, we handed over a personality to Arsenal this summer that we couldn’t compensate for 1: 1.
Coach2: So Granit Xhaka was an important character for the team. What made him stand out?
Andre Schubert: Everyone is a different type. Granite is characterized by the fact that it is incredibly self-confident, but also very self-critical. He’s also incredibly positive. He didn’t deal with defeats and setbacks for long, but looked for the next goal and thought about how he could do it better again. He quickly got rid of setbacks and that’s how he acted on the pitch. Furthermore, he is a very emotional person. He had a good address to the team and he also led the way with top performances on the pitch. As a type he is special and cannot be replaced. If you lose such a player, you have to find other solutions. Then new leading players develop again and again. At this point we can name Lars Stindl, for example. Lars came to Gladbach from Hannover 96 at that time. He was already the captain in Hanover and then first had to find his role in Gladbach. At the beginning he played more offensively in midfield, then sometimes on the right. I then put him in the top or on the 10th. That was where he felt most comfortable and I think he still likes to play that best to this day.
He was a good player even back then, but when you see how he has developed as a personality on and off the pitch, how he leads a team and represents a club like Borussia Mönchengladbach, then that is extraordinary. But that was not the case from the start. It took some time and then it developed in that direction. Today it is a matter of course. Lars Stindl is a leading player – but different from Granit Xhaka. Not better or worse, just different. I would have loved to see him on the national team.
Coach2: Let’s move on to a different type of player. You played against Lionel Messi at Camp Nou. How did you prepare for FC Barcelona and Lionel Messi in particular?
Andre Schubert: It was difficult because the game took place shortly before the winter break after an intense month. As already mentioned, we had the race to catch up last season, the Champions League qualification and the European Championship and international trips in the bones. Unfortunately, this was reflected in injuries. Unfortunately, we weren’t set up well enough to be able to compensate for the stress mentioned. We did well in the home game, but in the second leg in Barcelona we were running and our heads weren’t able to push our opponents up. Barca were clearly better and we had no chance because we could hardly generate possession of the ball.
Andre Schubert coached him at Gladbach: Granit Xhaka. Kaesler Media / Shutterstock.com
Coach2: Julian Nagelsmann once said: “We play every three days. There is no training. Accordingly, there is no training taking into account intensity or no intensity, but the players simply do not train and always regenerate ”. How did you perceive the problem with the increasing exposure?
Andre Schubert: Many underestimate this burden. Playing at the limit all the time, traveling all the time, bus-plane-bus-hotel-bus-plane, etc., spending a lot of time in a hotel apart from the family, that is exhausting. The physical strain is not even the most difficult, and the psychological strain is enormous. That’s the difference between Gladbach and teams like FC Bayern, Barcelona or Manchester City. These are teams that sometimes win the league games by 80%. If they lead 2-0 after 60 minutes, then they routinely play it to the end. We never had this situation. We always had to give 100% and play at the limit every 3 days. Then it just happens that you have a weaker phase at some point, but we still had a lot of fun with it.
The boys preferred to play every 3 days than to train intensively in between. Accordingly, I can largely confirm Julian Nagelsmann’s statement. We also exchanged ideas with experts and other clubs about stress control, e.g. we also took a close look at Barca. It was the case there that regeneration training – as we know it from everyday Bundesliga life – does not take place at all. Some of them stay at home, have individual measures, have their physiotherapist or their own care there. Of course we weren’t set up like that. But we too have tailored measures individually to the players and in preparation for the games, for example, we often set an 11:11 to simulate the opponent in order to recognize free spaces or to condense dangerous areas. These were purely tactical units with the least amount of stress.
Coach2: How do you think the problem can be solved. Do the squads inevitably have to get bigger or are there other possible solutions?
Andre Schubert: I think bigger squads are an option for teams that will foreseeably have to struggle with this burden year after year. But we can’t ignore the financial side and we have to be aware that no team can have two Lewandowskis. Then you have a Lewandowski and a player who can replace him to some extent. I think Markus Krösche’s solution approach at RB Leipzig (now Eintracht Frankfurt) is very good. He repeatedly provides his coach with players who are not only of good quality, but can also be used in different positions. For example, he has central defenders who can also play on the 6, full-backs who also play on the 7 or 11 and offensive players who can play centrally as well as left and right. With a large squad, we have to take into account that top players always want to play.
After all, with these loads you also need players with a certain robustness and load tolerance.
Coach2: Variability and robustness are therefore important talent criteria. If you were active in the youth sector, what other criteria do you think should be promoted?
Andre Schubert: That cannot be answered in a few sentences, talent criteria are diverse and mutually dependent. But in general I think that we in Germany orientate ourselves too much towards the deficits of the players. We sign players because they are particularly good at something and when they are there, the weaknesses come more and more to the fore. We then lose sight of the actual talents of the players, their very individual strengths.
The players need a good level of self-confidence so that they can look ahead again after setbacks and see the next game as a new opportunity as quickly as possible. Players who ultimately turned professional were mostly players who had a certain amount of self-reflection, accepted tips and sometimes asked questions. Talent also means overcoming resistance and obstacles. Frustration tolerance is an important term in this context. You have to focus on the things that you can influence and accept what is not in your own hands.
Coach2: Frustration tolerance is also an issue for us coaches. How do you manage to make good decisions as a coach when several thousand spectators are for or against you?
Andre Schubert: It is not only important for players to concentrate on the things that can be influenced and to accept what cannot be changed. Framework conditions can hardly be influenced. However, we can positively influence audience emotions through passion and our performance. As a trainer, however, you have to make decisions that you are convinced of and that will lead to success, regardless of external influences.
This also includes a certain calmness and patience, these are also very important topics for me that I deal with intensively.
Coach2: Last but not least: You once said yourself, “Basically, I always do my job in the best possible way. Regardless of whether the Bundesliga or the regional league “. Where do you want to go on your next trip?
Andre Schubert: Personally, I never had a specific career plan or goal. I just find it incredibly exciting to work in football and I’m always happy when I’m allowed to do this job. In this context, I also cannot understand it when trainers are asked: “Why are you doing this to yourself?” Anyone who works in football does nothing to themselves. Anyone who is allowed to work as a football coach simply has one of the nicest jobs there is.
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