Saturday sees TSG travel to Munich to face Bundesliga leaders FC Bayern, but we’re going to look back at the last two games of 2018 – the 1-1 in Bremen and the 1-4 defeat to Leverkusen. How have you rated the start to the new year?
Julian Nagelsmann: "We know we have a lot to improve upon, because our performance last year has set the bar very high. 11 points from the last 10 games, we know that’s not good enough. The other way of looking at it is that the teams in the top half of the table are all very close after matchday 19, and there are just four points between second and tenth in the table. That means the chasing pack has widened. Not least because sides like Augsburg, Hannover or Frankfurt have played so well up until now and sides who have struggled in recent years have found their form again.”
Can TSG reach the heights of last season again?
Nagelsmann: "We still have the ability to do so. But we cannot raise our expectations too much. We set the bar very high last year and now many think that should be the benchmark. But that is not the case. There are two or three clubs in this league who will expect a certain level of success. All the others have to work so hard to form their own success and pull out all the stops at every level of the club. We’ve always done all that we can to get to that level. That’s why we were able to defy expectations as a team and as a club. In order to get to the very top though, there are other things that have to come together as well. That combination is the formula for success. If you’re off colour by even a little bit in this league, that has big consequences. We just haven’t done enough this season. We’re not making any excuses. We are responsible for everything we have achieved and also for everything that we haven’t."
What needs to be done?
Nagelsmann: "The key thing is being efficient. We work hard to play the way we want to week in, week out. Every player buys into training and is focused on what they need to do. But we haven’t been rewarded on weekends for this effort, at least not with what matters - goals. We haven’t made good enough use of our chances. However, we have to be realistic here and remember that we have just experienced the two best years in the history of the club and are doing better in the league than almost any other Europa League newcomer in the history of the competition. Nevertheless, we still want to continue playing full of ambition, passion and meticulousness. And - I’m saying this to everyone, including the fans - we have to keep our confidence and stay calm. People are always looking for reasons as to why things aren’t going as well as last year - there’s always some sort of secret problem. There are no secrets, no hidden obstacles or whatever. It’s just a part of sport. One game something will work, one game it won’t. There’s no reason to make something out of nothing."
Julian Nagelsmann, the optimist?
Nagelsmann: "Absolutely, but just because you set yourself a goal, doesn’t mean you can fulfill it by being optimistic. Looking at the table without context, negative goal difference, superficial analysis - that means nothing to me. I have this feeling of desire every morning when I turn up at the training ground. I’ve always tried to bring the sense of fun and the seriousness of training together in my sessions. I look forward to the challenge that the next game brings every week. And I’m convinced that that goes for all my players too. As a club we’ve achieved a lot over the past few years. That includes helping a huge amount of youth players to make their debut for the first team - more than the majority of clubs in Europe. That’s the sort of work that Hoffenheim is all about, from the first team to the Under-23s. You always have to consider the whole picture. And to keep on doing what we’ve always done, while adding new nuances to the formula and keeping things fresh, all of that is a big challenge and responsibility which does not happen on its own."
And you’re taking that mindset with you to Munich on Saturday?
Nagelsmann: "That’s how it is. And we’re looking forward to the challenge."