Hannover 96 is up next, a Bundesliga game squeezed in between two knock-out tournaments in the DFB Pokal (against Braunschweig last Wednesday) and the Champions League (against Shakhtar Donetsk this coming Wednesday). Pep Guardiola and media director Markus Hörwick sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, March 6th, 2015
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On Benatia's availability - He trained the last two sessions, and felt no pain. That's ggod news for us, because we only have Jerome Boateng for right center back, and we need a lot of players for the many games in this phase. He is healthy, but maybe not at top conditioning, but it's good news for us.
On Manuel Neuer, Thomas Müller and Jerome Boateng being critical about Bayern's game against Braunschweig - (Boateng said it most clearly, stating that the effort shown in the DFB Pokal would not be good enough against Shakhtar Donetsk) I am happy when players can analyze our game themselves. Of course, they are very intelligent, they have a lot of experience, they know what our performance was in the last game, and they don't need my opinion, and they don't need to read your [the journalists] opinions to know how we did. It wasn't easy against Braunschweig, they ran a lot, they did a good job, and their forwards covered Xabi Alonso, that made our game very narrow.
On Pep criticizing Franck Ribery's kick, and how to avoid this in the future - (Franck Ribery kicked a defender in the back of the leg, after getting fouled, and was lucky to escape without getting carded) I did not criticize Franck. At this level, the little details make the difference, and I understand it. Franck is a very emotional player, without his emotions, he can't play football. But, in the big games, it's not easy when a defender is very aggressive, and fouls you a few times, I understand the reaction in the moment. I was a football player, and I reacted similarly. Sometimes, it's hard to control, but, of course, we have to do that. We are a team that has 70% possession, when we have the ball, it's less likely that you get cards. In the last two or three important games, we ended up playing with ten men, and sometimes it's not our fault. Normally, if you have 70% possession, you end the game with 11 players. In important games, like against Braunschweig, or against Donetsk, it is very hard to play a man down. For that reason, I will talk to the team, tell them to focus on our game, attack, and control our emotions. We need 11 players for these games. Douglas Costa threw an elbow, which should have resulted in a red card, and then we ended up playing a man down for 25 minutes. If the referee makes a mistake, we have to accept that, but we don't accept our own mistakes. But I want the emotion, we need that from Franck, without it, he is not the same player. I want his aggressiveness, in the one-on-one play. In the last game, he lost the ball in two or three one-on-ones, I don't mind. Keep going at them, if you lose the ball, no big deal. Without this emotional Franck Ribery, we are not a top team.
On Pep controlling his emotions on the sidelines - It's hard, I understand that. I have to control myself, sometimes I can't. But I want my team to start with 11 players, and to end with 11 players. Because we want to compete with the opponent on the same level. We saw that in Manchester, we played one down for 70 minutes, in Donetsk we did it for 25-30 minutes, it's very hard. We don't want to go there.
On putting David Alaba on the left with Ribery, in order to balance the attack with Arjen Robben on the right - If we have the ball on one side, the opponent moves to that side, and that opens up space on the other side. In the last game, we couldn't switch sides, because Braunschweig controlled Basti and Xabi, and we couldn't use them to move the ball over.
On whether any players need a rest during the English weeks - No, no, they're fit. It's all in the head. In two and a half months, everything is over, and we're on vacation. Right now, it's all in the head, there's no tired legs. If you have passion and you have desire, you won't be tired.
On whether Pep still likes the winter break, because the team was playing very well in the Hinrunde, and had some trouble after the break - The rhythm is good. When we don't play well, I never, never think it's due to our fitness and conditioning. It's about our playing style, maybe they didn't understand exactly what I wanted for that game. These players always want to play, they train well, fight well, they're young, they eat and sleep well, they get everything they need from this club in terms of support and help. OK, maybe in Wolfsburg, you could say the rhythm was off. Maybe 5% was due to rhythm, but the opponent was better, and we were worse, that's the reason.
On what can still specifically be improved - We can attack better. It depends on the opponent's defensive tactics, but we have to attack better. On defense, we allow very few scoring chances, so we need to improve our attack.
On how you can improve an offense that scored 18 goals in the last three Bundesliga matches - We score a lot of goals because of the quality of the players. But, in my opinion, we can improve our offense, reading the space in the middle. It depends on the opponent, the space may be here or there, and you have more time on the ball. Sometimes we have a few problems with that. But we can improve that, and that's nice, very nice.
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.