Feifel: Be ‘more consistent and tenacious’ in new season


Mr Feifel, it was a season of highs and lows. Your team made a promising start, ended up in a relegation battle and it went right down to the wire. What’s your assessment of last season?
Achim Feifel: 
At the end of the day, I’m not satisfied. It was a rollercoaster of a season. It started well with two wins from three games and then we just dropped too many points against rivals where we had the chances to get a result. We had to recover from a dip in form of fives defeats on the bounce. It picked up again before the second half of the season and then we had another run of defeats. But there were highs too – such as the 2-1 win in Munich and the games in the DFB Cup. You could see what the team was capable of in those games. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to repeat those performances week in, week out. There was too much of a difference in quality in certain matches. In the new season, we’ll have to make more of our potential.

The FLYERALARM Women’s Bundesliga ended with a tenth-place finish on 17 points. What’s your assessment of that position?
We didn’t achieve our main target of finishing mid-table. Instead, we had to battle right to the end. It didn’t turn out as we all expected. That’s why we’re not happy with the number of points. SC Sand, in the targeted position of eighth, were eleven points ahead of us – it wasn’t even close and we fell well short. But that will be an incentive for us to finally make progress next season.

Your team made it to the DFB Cup semi-finals and had the chance to qualify for a final for the first time in the club’s history. With a couple of weeks gone by: Is the disappointment at the failed dream bigger than the pride at being a surprise package that went so far in the competition?
They both apply... We are proud we managed to beat such high quality opponents as Frankfurt, who hadn’t lost a single game at home up to that point, and Hoffenheim and go so far. Of course, we were disappointed after being knocked out by Essen. Above all, because we had chances to turn the game round in the closing stages of the second half. Reaching the semi-finals was a good result looking back.

It felt like the team team was happier with knockout games...?
We tried to get to the bottom of that several times last term. In crucial matches we were definitely capable of producing great performances – in all respects: in terms of commitment, tackling and quality. They showed that against Köln where it was all about staying up and in the cup ties. Basically, we only picked up seven points out of a possible 24 against teams we were capable of beating. We played with more freedom in knockout games and against top teams. Perhaps the team just felt more at home in the role as underdogs.

The coronavirus pandemic brought the season to a halt in March – an unusual situation for all clubs. How did you see the situation?
It was difficult for everybody to train in ‘no-man’s land’ without having a specific target and to know if, when and if at all that it will carry on. At some point, it’s difficult to motivate yourself, stick at it, not ease off but still set yourself targets. When approval came, we had to get back up to speed very quickly. It was very extreme and we had to give our all. Hats off to my team for playing eight games in such a short space of time with three double-fixture weeks at the start and extra time in the cup game against Hoffenheim with temperatures of over 30 degrees.

Achim Feifel with assistant coach Jacqueline Dünker

Let’s look at the new season: Seven players have gone including the captain Merle Barth and another regular starter in Lena Uebach. And there are eleven newcomers including four from our youth teams. How do you see the state of your squad coming season?
We lost two important players in Merle and Lena. We’re going through a small period of change. Nevertheless, I think freshening the squad up a bit does the team good. We’ve brought in players who have potential and experience like Nina Brüggemann for example, but also younger players who we want to bring up to the Bundesliga level quickly and we hope they will develop well. I’m confident we have put together a good squad that will take us forward and bring success.

The pre-season starts this week – what exactly does that look like?
We’ve already started this week with the ‘early start group’ of our new signings and the players from the youth section to help them get to know each other a bit better. The whole squad starts with performance tests on 3 and 4 August. Then we plan to start preparations with the whole squad. We gave the players a few more days off because we had a somewhat more intensive end to the season with the DFB Cup games. We want the players to be able to deal with last season and be fully motivated and get going again with new strength. We have five weeks left to the opening match. Before that, we want to have a one-week training camp in the middle of August – but we don’t know where it will be yet.

What will be the focus of preparations with your team in the pre-season?
The new players obviously have to be integrated and that’s an important point. Otherwise, fitness will be very important as ever. We took a first step last year and the next has to come now. Without maximum fitness and condition you can’t produce the technical and tactical performances required on the pitch. That’s another key area. We want to be more flexible and more constructive in our build-up play and have more control of the ball when we are in possession and also be ready to play on the break. In general, we want to do things a bit differently in the new season – be more consistent and tenacious. That begins with us coaches and our style of leadership.

What are the targets for the 2020/21 season?
We’ll work out the targets with the players in the coming weeks as we did last year.

You’ve been head coach with the Bayer 04 Women’s team for year now. Can you sum up last season again...
My assessment is completely positive. I really feel at home here – in my area, with the team, with my support team. Even if it wasn’t an easy season, we all stuck together in the end and succeeded in staying up – experiences like that bring you closer together. I’m looking forward to the new season.

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