This interview with head coach Peter Bosz, a comprehensive review of last season and the presentation of the Werkself can all be found in the new 2019/20 season guide. The 2019/20 yearbook is available at Bayer 04 shops at the price of six euros. In addition, it will be available on the home matchday against SC Paderborn from the two counters on the east side of the BayArena, the Club container and in the Premium Lounge.
Peter Bosz, let's start by talking about the new signings at Bayer 04. For example, Kerem Demirbay who was very commanding and confident both on and off the pitch in the pre-season.
Bosz: He's a good player. With great vision and excellent technique. A player like that needs the ball. And he'll get it here with us..
His quality is evident at set plays?
Bosz: His set plays are definitely a weapon. But we also have other good strikers. For example, Leon Bailey whose shooting technique works best when the ball is a bit further away from goal. In contrast, Charlie Aránguiz is best when the distance to the opposition goal is limited.
With Moussa Diaby, it's the pace that stands out above all else.
Bosz: His team-mates don't know him that well. His strength includes the ability to use his pace to get behind the back four. His team-mates have to recognise that and bring him into the game more. He can give depth to our game.
And what about Daley Sinkgraven? You have said that he has everything as a left back needed to make him world class.
Bosz: We need to give him time above all else When you haven't played for two years it's logical that everything doesn't work straightaway. It's important for him to find his rhythm. And I have the impression he’s improving minute by minute. He had his first full 90 minutes against Eibar. He will be very valuable to us.
When will that be?
Bosz: I don't know. However, we mustn't put him under pressure.
In the pre-season you kept on emphasising that it was primarily about improvement of two aspects for you, "fitness and style of play". Let's talk about stamina first. What approach do you adopt with this performance indicator?
Bosz: First, I'd like to say there isn’t just one way of doing it. Every coach has to decide themselves how we like to proceed. In my 20 years as a player and my 20 years as a coach, I've learned that it's very good to take it step-by-step when building up fitness. And you have to make sure the steps aren't too big. Recovery phases are important. Otherwise players get injured and you are unable to train any more.
In Zell am See-Kaprun, Kevin Volland admitted that when there were two sessions a day there was a tendency to take it easy with the drills in the morning. That is, "taking it slower because you have the other session in the back of your mind." Was that experience behind the decision to opt for one rather than two training sessions per day in the pre-season?
Bosz: Exactly. Once at 100 per cent is better than twice at 50 or even 60 per cent. The higher and more intensive the levels are in training, the better. And then you have to continuously build on that. We had good experience of that in the second half of the season. The players were fully fit in the closing stages of the season and they were able to put in a real boost at the end.
Games of seven-a-side on significantly smaller pitches appears to be very intensive.
Bosz: We play a very attacking game and our players are mostly in the opposition half. So we have to do lots of short sprints. That's exactly what I coach. There's no point in running a thousand metres again and again. With us, most of the sprints are five or ten metres. In those games the players have little time to rest and they have to make the right decisions despite being tired and usually they get the most out of themselves. At the end of the day, it's a game. And nobody likes losing.
When I watch your training sessions it strikes me that the focus is often on quick, short passes under pressure in a restricted space. What's the thinking behind that?
Bosz: We often have the idea of making it more difficult in training than it would be the case in a game. The less time players have, the quicker they have to react. So it's important to be able to fall back on things you've learned in situations like that and be aware. The players should know what options they have and what they will do before they get the ball..
How important are video sessions in the evening in that respect?
Bosz: Those meetings are like a second daily session. I take a principal of our style of play and illustrate it using photos and videos. The players have to be fully focused. It's important they can follow it. While we primarily provide input to the players at the start of the pre-season, we then look at them to give us feedback. So that they can fine tune their style of play and adapt as necessary.
Why do the the sessions not normally last longer than 15 minutes?
Bosz: The individual principles are very important to us. Therefore, we don't want to overload the players with information. We want to make maximum use of the attention span available.
Defending up the pitch, winning the ball and keeping the structure of the game compact are further principles of your favoured style of play. It's striking how often you are in the middle of it all instead of watching from the sidelines.
Bosz: That's probably the former defensive midfielder in me coming through. (He laughs). When I'm in the middle of it, I have a better feeling of whether the distances are right and whether the runs are sensible. We have the video recordings for watching it from another angle. That gives me valuable information and I have the opportunity to look at things again in peace and quiet.
How happy are you with the experts around you?
Bosz: I'm completely happy with the team. They are all experts. Whether that's the assistant coaches, the fitness coaches, the medical department or other members of staff. They make me feel that Bayer 04 is exactly the right place for me. I've really felt happy here from the very first moment.
How's it looking with the team? Does it suit your style of play?
Bosz: We've got a good squad. For me, there's an ideal combination of talent, experience, quality and desire. Desire is a very important characteristic for achieving common goals. In my career as a coach I've had the privilege of working with a lot of special players but too often had their egos. I don't feel that here. That's a good basis for success.
In most of the friendlies, it looked for outsiders as if the team played 4-3-3 when working against the ball and then with the ball it was 3-2-4-1. Is that your preferred formation for the new season?
Bosz: We want to play different systems in the coming season. 3-2-4-1 in possession is a possibility. As a matter of principle, I differentiate between playing philosophy and style of play. The playing philosophy is always the same: We want to play an attacking and compact game. In contrast, the style of play always depends on the players I have available. In the last second half of the season for example we started with Charles Aránguiz as the only number six and before that with Kai Havertz and Julian Brandt as number eights. Then Julian Baumgartlinger came along so that we mostly had two number sixes. Finally, first Bellarabi and then Bailey got injured so that we had to react to that.
You don't like talking about individual players but given the second half of the season we should say a word or two about Kai Havertz who has been showered with praise in the football media as well as by fellow professionals. Where can Kai continue to improve?
Bosz: That gives you the answer… (he grins). I don't like talking about individual players. Football is a team game and nobody can win a game on their own. Even if the media often put it like that. To come back to the question: Of course, Kai can still improve. That's why we put match action together and go through it with the players.
You probably don't want to divulge where Kai can continue to improve…
Does he accept advice and tweaks?
Bosz: Yes. He does that. That's definitely a reason why he's achieved this level at such a young age. Apart from that: If I were to think I know everything then I'd stop working in football. And when I meet players who give me the impression they know everything then I wouldn't want to work with them any more.
This season, Kai Havertz is fourth in line to be captain behind Lars Bender, Kevin Volland and Julian Baumgartlinger. You announced that at the training camp. Why was it so important to you that the players heard it first from you?
Bosz: Because I hated it as a player when it was announced in the newspapers first. Those sort of things, and that includes line-ups, should always be shared with the players in person.
While Lars Bender, Julian Baumgartlinger and Kai Havertz are also on the team committee, Kevin Volland is not.
Bosz: Kevin is always there. He always talks about things with the rest of the team and therefore doesn't need to be on the team committee. Here it's much more important to me that all the groups are represented. That's why we've added Wendell and Jonathan Tah this year.
Julian Brandt has left. Paulinho has recently often filled his position in left attacking midfield. And in the friendly against Ajax in the middle of March, the winger played more in the middle. Can he take over Brandt's role?
Bosz: Paulinho is not a classic winger like Karim Bellarabi or Leon Bailey. But he's incredibly quick over short distances and has a very special technique. When you play in the middle you have to be able to defend and also have good vision. He still has to learn that. But Julian had to work his way into that role and he did it better and better over the course of the second half of the season.
When asked about the main rivals for the European spots, you recently said that Bayer 04 would be the biggest rival. What did you mean by that?
Bosz: Here we are working on a style of play that will mostly always be the same. There are slight differences according to the opposition as you can never afford to underestimate them in the Bundesliga. We will definitely line-up differently against Bayern than we would, for example, against Schalke. That's why I think it's down to us. If we do it really well then it would be difficult for any team to beat us. But we'll have to continue to improve to achieve that. In the top level of football you have to always be quicker and better. The other clubs are trying that too.
A lot of your players said in the pre-season that they want to win titles with Bayer 04 and play in the Champions League again in 2020/21. Do you like those ambitious plans?
Bosz: I like players who are ambitious. But I prefer it if they speak with their feet. Confidence is okay but as I said: Players should start talking with their feet first!
The short-term objectives for the season are obvious: take it game by game. But ahead of the first full season with the Werkself: What position would Peter Bosz be satisfied with at the end of the season?I
Bosz: I'm never satisfied… (he grins). I don't think you can make a good prediction at the moment. There could still be changes in our squad. And things could also happen with our opponents. We did very well in the second half of the season with the target of taking it game by game. Anything else doesn't do much good in my opinion.
You've been at Bayer 04 for half a season? What does the club mean to you now?
Bosz: As I've said: I feel very good here. You can work in peace and quiet. There are very professional conditions here. The squad is very good. And all the staff I've worked with have quality and, beyond that, are nice people. What more could you ask for? Of course, at the end of the day it's always about winning. And the probability of achieving that is highest when you have good players. But that also makes it more fun.
The three years at Almelo (2010-13) was your longest stretch as a coach. Can you imagine breaking that record here at Bayer 04?
Bosz: Why not? I don't mind if I do… (he laughs). But you must never forget how quickly things can happen in football. One example: Who would have thought in 2015 that a coach with Leicester City would be the champion of England? And who would have thought that that coach would be sacked six months later? There are no guarantees in football. But there is trust. And I feel that here at Leverkusen. I felt that from the very first meeting.
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