After Mattias Sammer gave Pep Guardiola a break at the last press conference, the Bayern coach was back in front of the journalists, answering their questions, in preparation for hosting FC Schalke 04. This may come as a shock to some of you, but the Wolfsburg game may have been mentioned.
FC Bayern Press Conference, February 2nd, 2015
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On what the team needs to do better against Schalke, compared to the performance against Wolfsburg - Four days later, we have a chance to win the next game. It's a completely different opponent, and one of the best teams in Germany. Super defensive organization, but we will play better, of course (way to get real specific, Pep).
On how strong Schalke 04 is without Klaas-Jan Huntelaar - (Huntelaar received a red card for an intentional lunging trip from behind against Hannover 96 this past weekend, and was slapped with a 6-match ban today) Huntelaar is just one player, big teams have a lot of players, and 11 will play, maybe [Kevin Prince] Boateng. We will focus on our game, and on our opponent. They will play with 11 players.
On what Pep's team will show the newly expanded Allianz Arena crowd - (Tuesday will be the first time that the AA will officially be expanded to 75,000 spectators) This place is always full, now the capacity at Allianz Arena is bigger, congratulations. As always, they will support us, I am sure of that.
On how Pep handles losses -Of course, the players are disappointed, the coach is too. Nobody likes to lose, but we have to lose in order to improve our game (did he lose on purpose, that wily Spaniard?) The perception of our team was wrong. Before the Wolfsburg game, we had already won the Bundesliga, our training was harder than games against BL opponents, our B team could win the championship. They're all wrong. I value Jürgen Klopp, I value BVB [Dortmund]. They have great players, they have a top team. But, today, they are last in the standings, and that can happen to us as well. We need to understand that as quickly as possible. Two years ago, nobody could have imagined that would have happened to a big team, and that can happen to us. Before, everything was easy, everything was great, but, no, we have a good team, great players, but every game, it can happen again. We hear how great we are, but that is wrong, it's a lack of respect towards our opponents. The other clubs are good, we have to understand this as soon as possible, not just the journalists, but all the employees at Säbener Strasse, our directors, the coaches, the players have to understand, it is hard to win every game, it's impossible to win every game for 11 months. Of course, the reason we lost is a tactical subject, it's clear to me, and I talked to my players after the game. It's hard. For two years, Bayern won almost everything. When we understand all that, we will defend the title, if we don't, what happened in Wolfsburg will happen again.
On whether the loss came at a good time - A loss is never good. But, sometimes we deserve to lose. I can talk to my players or the journalists about needing to improve, but if you keep winning, nobody trusts or believes what I'm saying. Only when you lose. We are on the right path, tomorrow, if we understand that we can lose, we are on the right path (Pep snaps his fingers to make his point).
On what mistakes Pep would not make anymore - In my first Bundesliga game, I learned this lesson: If you let your opponent run, we are kaputt. Kaputt. With our style of game, we are kaputt. If we allow counterattacks, we will lose, not just in the Bundesliga, but in the second division as well. I'm positive. We have to control that. It's not the players' fault, it's my mistake. Maybe I did a poor job of interpreting [the opponent], or I didn't convince my players of what they were supposed to do, the first blame falls on the coach. So far, we've done a good job, with our style of play, we controlled the opponents. If we do that, we are a good team. This doesn't just apply to Europe, or the Bundesliga, or a friendly. In Saudi Arabia we allowed one or two counterattacks, in Bochum we allowed two or three counters in the first minute. The quality of Wolfsburg is bigger than the other teams. We are not a counterattacking team. When we lose the ball, at that moment, we have to control that.
On whether there is too much risk at playing a high line with the defense - When you play a high line, and you allow 1v1 or 2v1, that's a stupid risk. Even after the Wolfsburg game, when your team is close to Manuel Neuer, it is more dangerous, than if you are 40 meters away. Having man to man coverage on their forwards is very dangerous. Normally, we always have one more player back.
On whether Pep was surprised by the nature of the loss to Wolfsburg (not just losing, but giving up 4 goals) - All the goals we allowed, even the second goal, were counterattacks. We have to be able to control that. We've been able to control that for 2 years, except for two or three or four games, when we didn't control it, we lost. And that can happen tomorrow as well, and will happen tomorrow, if we don't control it. And that was my mistake, we left Dante and Jerome [Boateng] alone with [Bas] Dost and [Kevin] De Bruyne, and that can't happen. Sure, maybe the players weren't in top form after 6 weeks of winter break, maybe they need a little fear at the right moment, and fight for every ball, but they know the reasons for when we are a good team, and when we aren't a good team. It's a matter of big and small details for our tactics.
On how important Bastian Schweinsteiger and Xabi Alonso are for helping Dante and Boateng - No, it depends on the team, not just Basti and Xabi. Forget it! For example, if the ball is lost over here, and Basti and Alonso are here, and the counter is here (he's gesticulating), Bastia and Xabi Alonso don't have the legs to control the counterattack, it's impossible. Even Javi Martinez, who is great at coming back to help out, he can't control it either. It depends on 11 players. If we lose the ball here, here, or here, we have to have great organization, that's our goal.
On Franz Beckenbauer's comment that Schweinsteiger and Alonso are a little too defensive and a little too slow - Never forget, the ball is always faster than the fastest players in the world. Always. With two touches, you can switch the ball across the field, faster than the fastest player. The reason we allowed four goals in 17 games, and then allowed four goals in one game is the same. In the 17 games, we did a good job, in the one game we didn't, that's the reason, not Schweinsteiger or Xabi. It would be very easy for me to say that Xabi and Basti can't run back fast enough, and I switch them both out, or put them on motorcycles, and maybe we'll be able to control the counterattacks.
On the importance of winning against Schalke 04, otherwise the lead could be down to five points - If we win, we will be happy, and especially the coach, if we played well. If we draw, we'll have seven points, if we lose, five points, ok, we have to continue forward. I know which club I am in, I know. If we win, we are the best in the world, if we lose, we are a catastrophe. But that happens at all the big clubs in the world, so it's not a big surprise for me. The most important thing for me is to try to get the players to understand why we won, and why we lost. That's the most important thing for a coach. I have to convince them about the idea of the game. I can't tell them that they need to win against Schalke, they've already won everything before. I have to convince them what is best for the team.
On the fitness level of Mario Götze, who had some recent issues - No, he's fit, he doesn't have any problems with his legs. He's a great, great professional, he't fit and he's on the roster. He has no problems.
On how much Schalke has changed since Roberto Di Matteo has taken over - I don't want to compare the old coach [Jens Keller] with Roberto Di Matteo. I watched their last game, they have very good defensive organization, it won't be easy to attack them, because they play 8 or 9 players in their box (gee, that sounds like the familiar Di Matteo approach, doesn't it?). We have to be patient, and control play.
On the fitness level of Mehdi Benatia, who missed most of winter training camp with an injury - He doesn't have any problems now in his back. We were in Qatar for two weeks, and he didn't practice even once. But he is fit, he is available. I don't know [if he can go 90 minutes].
On the recent insults from Mino Raiola, Zlatan Ibrahimovic's agent - (There's a history here, with Zlatan's agent butted heads with Pep in the past, mainly over their relationship while at Barcelona. The most recent one has the agent calling Pep a piece of shit, contrary to what the linked article said, but he also admits that Pep is a great coach in the same sentence) - He said I am a great coach, so, good, thank you (have I mentioned before that this dude is classy?).
Disclaimer - Due to the nature of having a coach whose native language is not German, the translation of the quotes is not exactly word for word, but includes some interpretation on the part of the author of this article, in order to more accurately portray what the coach is intending to say. There is some necessary guesswork involved.