In preparation for Saturday's Bundesliga matchday 6 contest against the league defensive leaders 1. FC Köln, Matthias Sammer (giving Pep a break) and media director Markus Hörwick sat down with the sports journalists to answer questions.
FC Bayern Press Conference, September 26th, 2014
Pep kept everyone on their toes after surprising the journalists by arriving early last Friday and showing up late on Monday. Pep threw everyone a curve Friday, and didn't show up at all for today's press conference. Instead, Matthias Sammer accompanied Markus Hörwick, who explained that they were giving the coach a break.
Hörwick greeted the reporters with a smirk, asking them "Are you fit? Not too many sunglasses today." Apparently, FC Bayern hosted a media day at the Oktoberfest for the journalists the night before, and the media director wanted to see who was feeling the effects of the night out. According to him, they scheduled the press conference an hour earlier than usual, in order to separate the men from the boys.
So, let's get to it, here are the interesting parts of Sammer's responses (my interjections in italics):
On the next opponent, 1. FC Köln - You have to give Köln a compliment, only one goal allowed, and even that goal (against Hannover) was avoidable with a little it of luck. Köln controlled the second half of that game. It will be a tough task. A normal performance will not be enough, we need a top performance, they have a very aggressive defense, and the crowd will get the team going.
On FC Bayern's form so far - Considering all the factors (injuries, WC, short preparation) it's a pretty good performance so far, we haven't lost a game, Bayern is at the top of the table. I wish we had four more points, which would have been possible, considering the chances in the games against Schalke and Hamburg.
On the state of the roster - We need every player (this is a recurring theme today). Sammer specifically points out the case of Xherdan Shaqiri, who was seen warming up and getting ready to be brought into the Paderborn game, when Pep changed his mind, and went a different way. Of course, Shaqiri wasn't happy, but it's important for every player to think of the team first. The Swiss international might play on Saturday, and might score the decisive goal, but if he continues being sad, he won't be able to give 100%.
With 10 players, you're not going to be German champion. And if, at the end of the year, we find a guy who didn't get a lot of playing time, and was a grouch ("Stinkstiefel, literally translated, "stinky boot"), then we also won't win the BL title (he seems to single out Shaqiri, I don't know if it was intentional to pile on him that much, but the message is clear).
On the CL game in Moscow the following Tuesday - We can't make the mistake of thinking about the Moscow game. Having only 2 days between games is murderous (literally translated from "mörderisch"). However, we have to take everything step by step.
On the state of the players - There have been some indications of fatigue among the players, which is why Pep gave them off on Wednesday (just riding bikes) and Thursday (completely off). Jérôme Boateng and Mehdi Benatia have some minor muscular issues, but we have to wait until after today's final practice to make a call on their availability.
On Dortmund showing some weaknesses, will that make the BL easier? - It's only the 5th game, it's too early to draw conclusions, I like to wait until after matchday 10 to do a first review.
On being in 1st place in the Bundesliga - Psychologically it's better to be in first, as long as you handle it correctly. You can't take a breather, just because you're there now, but, knowing this team and these players, that's not an issue. We're comfortable being on top, we are on top, and we don't want to leave.
On whether Bayern should play with the same top 11 for a few games, to stay in a rhythm - Not rotating is just short of madness, it's not sustainable. You have to look at the big picture, you have to look at the last calendar year, including the WC, or even the last couple of years to evaluate what the players have been through and what they have accomplished.
You can't treat players like a lemon, where you keep squeezing it, and all of a sudden, you notice that there's nothing left. You can't let it get to the point where players get injured or are exhausted due to a high workload. This situation needs to be handled with finesse.
On Thomas Müller calling the next two games "nasty" - I think I understand what Thomas is trying to say, we're playing against a promoted side, and a team that allowed 5 goals against Roma. We need to be ready to play.
On Sammer's extension - We're talking, it's not in the bag yet, but everything is good. However, it's still early in the season, so we have plenty of time.
On heading straight to Moscow after tomorrow's game - The team is staying overnight in Köln, having a training session the next morning, and then flying straight to Moscow, instead of coming back to Munich. This is being done in order to allow the players to regenerate, get some attention from the training staff, and save on the exertions of unnecessary travel.