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Bornemann: "No one is satisfied"

The 4-4 draw at Karlsruhe saw the Boys in Brown end the first half of the season on 17 points and enter the winter break in 15th place. On Tuesday, director of sport Andreas Bornemann and head coach Timo Schultz spoke to the media at length about the developments of the last few months and the forthcoming analysis of the on-pitch situation.

Bornemann and Schultz on…

...the season so far:

Andreas Bornemann: "None of us, neither Timo nor I, is satisfied with the first half of the season. No one at the club is naïve enough to underestimate the situation. Three wins in the first 17 games and eight in the calendar year as a whole does not even come close to meeting our own standards. Though we were reluctant to set a target in terms of the league table before the season started, as in previous years, we do want to establish ourselves in the top third of the table, not the bottom third, over the next few years. But after an insane year in 2021, we've clearly gone in a different direction this year. Everyone will understand that we won’t form a black-and-white view of the situation, nor will it be reduced to the question of whether we succeeded in replacing strikers Guido Burgstaller and Daniel-Kofi Kyereh or not. It was clear to us before the season started that they would be difficult to replace. The evaluation will obviously go beyond the last two days since the Karlsruhe game. I attach great importance to us sitting down together to review the last few months, the season so far, and the year as a whole, and together we’ll find the right tools and solutions to get us out of this situation. It's not about Timo and it's not about me, it's about giving the team the right support, whether it's in terms of personnel or substance. And beyond that, of course, it's about going into the new year with good momentum."

Timo Schultz: We made a good start to the season and underlined that in points terms in the games against Nürnberg, Hannover and Magdeburg. We've had a lot of draws, in fact we're the draw specialists so far, and as Andreas has said before we haven't been able to win those games that were on a knife edge, and that's one of the main reasons why we're where we are. We don't need to talk about persistent bad luck either; when you only have three wins after 17 games, it's definitely not enough. That's our main area of responsibility as a coaching team, as part of the overall football management, to look at what adjustments have to be made to ensure things go in the right direction. We conceded a lot of goals on the counterattack early in the season. The games against Paderborn or Rostock were good examples of that, but we were able to find effective answers. When we then lost our entire central defence, we switched to a back three, which worked well straightaway in the derby. That was followed by too many games that didn't end in our favour. On top of that, there were a few crunch moments, such as the poor performance at Rostock, which annoyed us most of all. We had a great derby at home, and a few days later a cup game where we led until the 93rd minute and then, on top of the atrocious luck we had there, we had players who had run 18, 19 kilometres and three days later had to go again at Bielefeld. There were so many crunch moments where we didn't perform well enough as a team for 90 or 95 minutes to win games, which normally would have been the case in those games. These crucial moments, which you get in the first half of a season, are something we have to take the blame for, we didn't deal with them as a group. We also have to address our poor away form more specifically, we can't explain that away. How do we get a grip on it? If you don't win away, you're always under pressure at home. We need a run of three or four wins to climb the table. Greuther Fürth have shown how quickly that can happen recently. We also have to make sure the results come, and they will come if we train well and draw the right conclusions. Not only in terms of the squad, that's part of the job, but also in the way we demand more from the lads and involve them more. There are various approaches. To reiterate from my perspective as a coach, the desire, the power and the commitment shown by the team and the way they put our plan into action is good. The task for the coaching team now is to work on the missing five to ten percent to turn the draws into wins to ensure we're more successful on the pitch in the second half of the season. We aren't kidding ourselves. We need more wins and more points."

...the long winter break:

Andreas Bornemann: "We have to use the time during the World Cup to go over the year and the first half of this season, analyse things in detail and then do better in the second half by drawing the right conclusions and making the right decisions."

Timo Schultz: "We have much longer to prepare than we do in summer, which is good. We're on the limit in fitness terms and have a long time for anything we want to change or adapt. We have some warm-up games and will start them all together. We'll have to see as far as Jackson Irvine is concerned. He's the only one I expect to hook up with us later."

...the development of the team:

Andreas Bornemann: We think about how we want to develop the team and the club before, during and after the season. Maybe we've never really managed to become a club that can always expect to be challenging for promotion, even though we have ambitions in that regard. That's always what you want, and it's justified if you're a fan or a partner to want to see your club win and not be at the bottom end of the table. That said, in the context of how the club is set up, where we come from and the possibilities we have, we'll keep trying to get the wheels turning again. And that's hard work, a process of weighing up how much development potential you can add to a team that then, in a few years' time, could possibly be in a situation like the one we had last season. That sounds banal, but it's not so simple, because this league is very unforgiving if you make mistakes; there are lots of opportunities, but also huge risks. In summer, we had two scenarios where we had to think about how we would set ourselves up if we made it to the Bundesliga, and the same for the second division. The advantage the year before was that by February or March we knew we wouldn't go down and wouldn't go up either. This was a big advantage for our planning. We then managed to take the momentum from a strong second half of the season with us. Now it's the other way round. A second half of the season with us in 13th place and lots of negative vibes that we took into this season. We're not trying to sugarcoat anything or explain ourselves, but these are the issues we have surrounding the team, how you progress it and what the expectations are, and they're ones we strung together ourselves after the year we had in 2021. We don't fight success, but you have to know that when you have rogue results, there's a big danger of sinking lower, of course. And the biggest difficulty when things are going downhill is always stabilising the situation and turning it round."

...the defence:

Timo Schultz: "We're stable at the back but are making too many individual errors. That's something I have to think about as coach. We were actually more stable with a back three and yet still we conceded four at Karlsruhe. You have to differentiate between patterns of play that don't work and individual errors. Our approach is good, but again, we obviously need to improve our risk management. We have lots of players who look for footballing solutions in the penalty area and we have to weigh up when that's called for and when it isn't, but I see a clear trend that we've become more stable over the course of the season. Apart from Karlsruhe."

...the personnel situation in defence:

Andreas Bornemann: "Betim is the clearest case. He'll only miss one game (eds: suspension). The forecast for Jakov (eds: shoulder operation) is very good, so he'll probably be able to resume training in January, provided there are no setbacks. So far, however, everything's going according to plan. With Jakov you have to put the brakes on. Once the shoulder is fine, he'll be in good shape. It remains to be seen whether he'll be back in time for Nürnberg, but it isn't out of the question. The "black box", it has to be said, is the injury to David Nemeth. Pubis injuries are very difficult to predict. The medical department drew up a timetable with best- and worst-case scenarios. Ideally, he could go through a rehab programme in January to get him available again soon. We've also had cases where the rehab department has had to take one step back due to a setback, however, which also influences our planning, of course."

...the coach question:

Andreas Bornemann: "My style of working has always been to try to sit down with the coach and the coaching team to draw the right conclusions and make decisions on that basis. That's the process we're in. I hope our collective thinking will go in the right direction and we can find good solutions to achieve the turnaround. We have to turn things round. We have to take decisions that will ensure the club and the team can achieve the turnaround."

Timo Schultz: "If I had the feeling I could no longer reach the team, the point would have come where you have to ask yourself as a coach whether it still makes sense for you and the club. I don't see that at all, absolutely not. We already showed two years ago, even though I see the current situation differently, that we reached the right conclusions and launched the right measures with the team to do better. There are some tweaks we need to make. We know what they are and we're addressing them. It's not as if we're miles off the pace and six points adrift, we're in the middle of it, albeit nowhere near the position we thought we'd be in. The onus and responsibility is on me and my coaching team. The way the team are performing and playing football, the way they live the game on the pitch - not only at Karlsruhe - shows they’re functioning and implementing the plan. That's why I'm absolutely convinced we'll get out of this phase. Individual players have to come out of this phase stronger, but we'll also come out of it stronger as a team. I'm sure we'll turn things around and collect a lot more points in the second half of the season to get us where we want to be in the table."

...the inadequate finishing and lack of a prolific striker:

Andreas Bornemann: "Every club is looking for the one striker who scores 20 goals a season. I've observed that for quite a few years. Goals decide games and we too would like to be able to sign or retain players on a regular basis. The question of whether Daniel Kofi Kyereh, for example, could have been persuaded to stay, even on Bundesliga wages, is one everyone can answer for themselves. Guido Burgstaller scored 14 goals in the first half of last season, but only four in the second half. There's no guarantee of goals. The fee that guarantees you a high goal return is probably over three million euros. To a certain extent we're in a position where we won't always have to rely on loan players in the next two or three years and instead will be able to make the occasional transfer swoop or extend a deal early, as was the case with Jackson Irvine. We'd obviously be delighted if Jojo Eggestein continued the trend and the floodgates opened for Eti Amenyido and Igor Matanović, but maybe we'll have a good idea for bringing someone in that's affordable and feasible."

Timo Schultz: "I'm working with the strikers who are here and I'm still 100 per cent convinced of their ability. How is a player meant to develop if he doesn't play? We always talk about trusting the lads and wanting to make them better. We see the return from the strikers. They aren't satisfied with it either. Maybe I made the mistake of making too much of an issue it too early and the lads were constantly being reminded of it. This issue, i.e. another game without a goal from a striker and more missed chances, is a fact. Nobody's making things up. They're all young players and it preys on their mind, of course. It was too much at times and it affected their confidence and composure. As a coach, I obviously have to ask myself what I could have done better. It's up to me to get the boys back on track so they can stay relaxed and gain in confidence. We haven’t handled it well. I'm still confident in David Otto and his qualities as a target man and finisher, in Eti with his pace, and in Jojo, who's really good in the opposition box. He's one of the best players in the league there - with his head and his feet. We simply have to play him in more often, that's a job for us as a team. That'll be a key point in our review of the first half of the season for drawing the right conclusions for the second."

...potential activity on the transfer market:

Andreas Bornemann: "Part of our analysis concerns our thoughts in summer and how they worked out. That may lead us to conclusions in terms of the squad. The other part, however, is why things haven't worked out so well and why we need to tweak a few things here and there. Decisions will come in both areas and most likely affect both areas. We probe the market twelve months a year, which will come as little surprise. So in summer you're always looking towards winter and beyond. It's part of the business to be prepared for all eventualities at all times. In what will probably be the longest transfer period ever, it will be important to comb through all our deliberations and teams we've put together on paper in recent years with a view to possibly finding the right personalities and players."

...his optimism for the second half of the season:

Andreas Bornemann: "With a few exceptions, we've lacked that little bit of something in lots of games. The good performances we couldn't turn into wins are coming home to roost a bit now. We have an intact, functioning team and no players who are drifting away. New players have emerged who want to lead from the front to ensure we have a better second half of the season."

...the lack of consistency and development of individual players:

Timo Schultz: We have 17 points after the first half of the season and that's not enough. Everyone has played their part in that, football is a team game. No player can come out and say he really has performed in every game and is satisfied with the first half of the season. Marcel Hartel has been consistent. He's already scored three goals; in his career to date he has five. He's a goal threat in every game - be it with his own attempts or with assists. That's what he set out to do this season and he's delivered. He also gives the team assurance with the way he plays football. Eric Smith has improved and stabilised over the course of the first half. We already saw what he's capable of last season, though it was always up and down because of his availability. He's held things together incredibly well, especially in the last few games when we switched to a back three, and scored three goals. He's also much better in the air now and his set pieces are a great asset for us. With Nikola Vasilj and Jackson Irvine, I see a spine of players who can deliver above-average performances on a sustained basis and lead the team. Unfortunately, the performances of lots of other players have been too erratic. I'd rather have one game where everyone is bad and then everyone is good in the next. We'd have lost two more games then but won three more. The many draws stem from the lack of consistency not just in individual performances but also from the team as a whole."

Photos: Witters