Although they showed some winter rust, Bayern Munich dominated the game against Hamburg last Friday, and deservedly won the game. The only, but very major, negative from the game was the loss of Jerome Boateng to a muscular injury. Not surprisingly, the press wanted to know how the coach would compensate for the absence of their defensive leader. But, even more than that, everyone wanted to talk about a certain small, subterranean mammal.
Pep Guardiola sat down for the customary press conference with the sports media representatives.
FC Bayern Press Conference, January 29th, 2016
Here are the highlights of today's questions and answers (my interjections in italics):
On any concerns before the game against Hoffenheim - We're playing against Hoffenheim, one of the best teams in terms of scoring chances every game (which, if true, is surprising, as they only score an average of one goal per game). We practiced well this week, and I hope we can show a good performance, have a good game for our fans, and have a good 90 minutes.
On the news that an unnamed Bayern player told the media that Pep is unhappy with some players attitude and conditioning - (The speculations have been rampant in the press, after a kicker article quoted an anonymous player complaining about the mood of the team) Yes, I read about it. What's the problem? (Pep is not playing along).
On whether he is unhappy with the team - In my first year here, and my second year, after the winter break, it happens that some players come back with one or two kilograms too many. We were in Qatar, were able to practice perfectly. Most of the players were at an ideal weight, one or two players (rumored to be Arturo Vidal and Franck Ribery) were a little heavy. But we have a consultant, we talk about it, deal with it. All the coaches in the world try to control the weight, because we don't want players to get injured. Sometimes we control it with the team, sometimes individually. But that doesn't mean I'm unhappy with my players. You can't win titles in the last three years, having only one loss in the last three Hinrunden, if the players aren't professional about it.
Second topic, emails. (it was reported that Bayern players received an email this week, stating that they have to ask for permission to go on a vacation during their time off during the season) The decision was made, mostly by Matthias Sammer, and he discussed it with me and the captain, Philipp Lahm, that during the weeks with midweek games, it's not good to fly off to Berlin or wherever on days off. Those days are for regeneration, and that needs to be done here. And we've informed the players about this through an email. They get two or three emails a week, so my question is: What's the problem?
On having a "mole" in the team - That happened in my first year at Bayern. I know that after meetings with my players, sometimes I will read about it the next day in the media. I noticed that in the first year. I tried to stop it, but figured it was impossible, so why fight it? If the players or the staff want to talk about it, it's not a problem, I can live with it (anyone who believes that, please private message me, I have some beautiful swamp land to sell you). Everything I do, is always what's best for the players. There is no other reason. Sometimes I'm right, sometimes I make a big mistake, but the players know that. Whether it's in a team meeting, or individual, it's always what is best for my players, because I love working with them, I want them to be healthy and happy. That's my goal.
On whether it's possible that Pep is too strict and exerting too much pressure on the players - I need the pressure. That's my job, we have to win. From the first day to the last day, I am always here, to fight, to support my team, and to figure out what's best for them. After winning all the titles in four years, winning it again is very hard. We need a lot of concentration. We have an eight point lead on Dortmund, and you know what I think of them. We have a 25-point lead on Wolfsburg (actually 23), 23 points on Schalke (actually 22), 21 points on Leverkusen (he finally got one right). We did a very good job, guys. In the group phase [of the Champions League], we had the best result in Bayern history, and we're still in the [DFB] Pokal. People are expecting a good performance in the CL, but so far, so good. It's impossible to get these results in the last three years if the mood in the team isn't good. If the mood is bad, you can't win.
On how Pep would describe the relationship, coach to medical staff - Better than ever (the reporter seems surprised, thinks he didn't hear Pep correctly, asks again). Yes, better than ever. I'm the kind of person who lets the doctors and the physiotherapists do their job. They are professional in their subject, I know absolutely nothing about the medical field, and I have a lot of confidence in Dr. Müller-Wohlfahrt. He did everything he could with the players. It's the same situation with Volker (Braun, the current team doctor) and the same with the physios. I've only asked them to get the players back as soon as possible, please. They still go to Müller-Wohlfahrt, to get injections or whatever, they have confidence in him, and I want what's best for my players. Jerome Boateng, before his injury, visited Müller-Wohlfahrt a few times. Not a problem for me.
On consulting with medical staff on a player's availability - (A not very subtle reference to Franck Ribery, who was hurt in his first start after a long injury, with rumors going around that Pep ignored doctor's advice that it was too early) Of course, I talk to them, I want to get their opinion. A muscular issue is different than an ankle injury, where they might be able to play with a good taping. But a muscular injury, like Douglas Costa had before the winter break, that was a big risk. We could have played him against Hannover, but there was too much risk. We let him rest over winter break, and he came back afterwards. Of course, I talk to Braun, and the physios, about the players' situations.
On how hard it is to replace Jerome Boateng - He can be replaced. Every player has a certain level and quality. Medhi Benatia and Javier Martinez have qualities that Boateng doesn't have. Of course, we will really miss Jerome, just like we missed Arjen and Franck for a year and a half, and Holger Badstuber for two years. Sure, we'll miss him, but we did everything we could with Jerome, we will have to do it with other players.
On who will spell Badstuber and Martinez, who are coming off long injuries and won't be able to play every three days - Medhi Benatia should be able to come back in a week to ten days. We have Rafinha, we might play with a three man backline, we have David Alaba, who can play the position. We have other alternatives.
On whether the "mole" might cause problems with the team's goals, and might cause unrest among the other players - No. I was new here, when I got here. After two months, I noticed that this is normal here (well, no, it isn't really), so I didn't fight it anymore. I can deal with this situation, that's our problem. I know what our job is like. Coaches today, here, in England, Italy, Spain have the same problem.
On how it (coaches dealing with the press) is different in Germany - Here? It's much more comfortable than in Spain. You guys are very courteous. In comparison to Spain, this is nothing.
On whether the mood in the team is bad, like the "mole" said - The mood is good. We can't play three Hinrunden with only one loss if the mood was bad. If a player doesn't play, sure, he's a little sad. But all the coaches in the world have the same problem, players that normally don't play, they're a little unhappy, but they train hard, because they want to play. But the mood is good. Really, really good. But, maybe the anonymous player or staff member can explain a little more.
On whether Mario Götze and Benatia are returning to team practice next week - I don't know. I think they'll join in a week, ten days, maybe two weeks, but I don't know for sure.
On which players were overweight after the winter break - That's our issue. That's a private matter, of course.
On why there are so many muscular injuries lately - Real Madrid have 16 players, Barcelona has 15. Normally, the big teams with a lot of history, playing a thousand million games (there it is again), only two or three weeks break in the summer, and when there is a break during the season, they play on their national teams. Here at Bayern Munich, and also in my time at Barcelona, we do absolutely everything for our players, we try to talk to them about how important proper nutrition and sleep is, practice and regeneration. And the players do all that, because they're professionals. If they're not professional, we would not be able to win a thousand million titles, that's impossible. Every three days, you have a game, but for some people, we're already German champions. For that we need players who are professional, and also, of course, doctors and physios, coaches, we do everything, absolutely everything to avoid injuries, but, it's football, and things happen.
On always seeming to lose an important player in the important part of the season - For Christmas I had a wish (that everyone stays healthy), that wasn't fulfilled. We will play this season with who we have, with eleven players.
On whether we will see a new tactical approach on Sunday - Maybe. The tactics depend on the quality of the players. Last season, in the important stretch, we didn't have any outside wings, so we had to play without them. I had to adapt to the players I had. Especially when you want to attack. If you just want to defend, that's not a problem.
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.