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Møller Dæhli: "It was fun even if the results weren't what we were hoping for"

Mats Møller Dæhli was an integral part of the team last season, as his appearance stats show – the Norwegian missed just two games. Though the versatile midfielder couldn't be happy with his return (two goals, four assists), it was still a positive campaign for him personally because he remained injury-free throughout. The performances in the last few games leave him optimistic for the new season.

Møller Dæhli made 32 appearances last season, with only Robin Himmelmann and Marvin Knoll seeing more playing time. The foundations were laid during the pre- and mid-season preparations. "Unlike in previous seasons, I trained throughout the summer and winter breaks," said the midfielder, who missed 13 games through injury in the 2017-18 season. "After my last injury in March 2018, I changed a few things. I did more strength training and stretching exercises and changed my diet and since then I've been getting more sleep. Not a lot, but a bit."

A string of fine performances from a more rested and fitter Møller Dæhli kept the Boys in Brown in contention at the top for two-thirds of the season. The midfielder looks back particularly fondly at the phase going into Christmas, with wins over Bochum, Fürth and Magdeburg. "It meant we went into the winter break on a positive note," he said. "Unfortunately, we then lost two key players to injury in Henk Veerman and Philipp Ziereis."

The injury list did get longer after the turn of the year, but Møller Dæhli was reluctant to blame that for a mediocre second half of the season. "That can't be an excuse for our performances, we should have done better as a team," he said. "We can't be happy with ninth place but you always get what you deserve in the end. Other teams were better than us after Christmas, simple as that."

The "worst phase" of the season for the Norwegian came in mid-March, starting with the home defeat in the derby, a game he missed due to a stomach bug, having been an ever-present until then. "It was such a disappointment," he said, looking back. "I got it really bad and there was absolutely no chance of me being involved. The atmosphere in the run-up to the game and on the day was exceptional. I would have loved to have played."

Møller Dæhli spent most of the campaign on the wing but was handed a new role by Jos Luhukay for the last two games of the season against Bochum and Fürth. "I really enjoyed playing in holding midfield," he said. "It took me 20 minutes to settle against Bochum but then it went really well. I was the deepest player with the ball a couple of times, which was unusual, but you get used to it after two or three games. I feel comfortable playing in the middle but have had some good games out wide as well. No matter where the coach puts me, be it defensive midfield or on the wing, I always give 100 per cent."

The Norwegian enjoyed the last two games in the holding role and the run-in as a whole: "You can never be satisfied when you don't win or when you lose, like we did at Dresden and Fürth, but despite all the changes and the new system our performances were really good. The results didn't go our way, but I wasn't the only one who enjoyed it." And that is why the 24-year-old goes into the new season feeling positive. "I'm very hopeful we can go a long way with the team," he said.

For the new campaign Møller Dæhli has set himself the target of staying injury-free again and improving on his record of two goals and four assists from last term. "I can't be happy with that. It should have been five goals and five assists, so I aim to do better next season. But even if I don't play a part in any goals, if I can help us be successful, I don't care about the statistics."

Looking ahead to next term, the Norwegian said: "There are a lot of good teams in the league again and I'm looking forward to lots of exciting games. Like last season, every game will be tough, whether we're up against VfB Stuttgart or VfL Osnabrück. You can win every game, and you can lose every game. You can have to keep your level and your focus high at all times if you're going to be successful." And with that in mind, Møller Dæhli goes into the new season with the old cliché on his mind: "We have to take each game as it comes, and we will."


Photos: Witters