The Borussia Dortmund U23s have been preparing for the resumption of their Regionalliga West campaign since last Thursday. Before their opening fixture against Alemannia Aachen on Sunday, coach Enrico Maaßen told us about his experiences over the past seven months and why the best attack in the league can still improve.
The short winter break is over. How did you spend the time off?
"I spent a lot of time with my family. We recharged our batteries, which we needed after the intense weeks towards the end of the year. That allowed us to switch off for a few days and we had a restful and relaxing time."
The players have kept themselves fit in different ways, by doing strength training exercises or going for runs. Does a coach need to keep fit too?
"Yes, I actually went running once or twice. First and foremost, the lads needed to recuperate. They were given little homework as the break was short. Before we resumed training, they did two or three runs. That was about right."
The first training sessions of the New Year are done and dusted. What's your take on your team?
"The lads look fresh again; you can see that. They're raring to go, they're really up for it in training. I think that's a good sign for the tasks that lie ahead."
Let's cast our minds back: you've been in Dortmund for almost seven months. What has been the biggest change and what surprised you the most?
"For me, there was no major change. BVB is obviously a much bigger club compared to my previous employers. There's little difference in terms of the work with the lads. There are obviously a lot of young players involved. It's generally all turned out the way I'd envisaged."
The first half of the season was very good, and there's still a game to be carried over as well. How satisfied are you with your team's development?
"Very satisfied. This should not be taken for granted when a team is changed so much. Even we, the coaching staff, are mostly new. Hence why it's even more remarkable that we're performing so consistently and with such solidarity. We've played very, very intense and dominant football in all of our matches. We have the best attack, which is no coincidence when you consider how many shooting opportunities we create. We want to try to take them more consistently going forward. Otherwise, we're very satisfied with the development."
What role do results play in this development?
"Results are always important. They help to build self-belief and then the football looks even better. That's why I think it's very important to instil the lads with a winning mentality and to provide them with psychological support too. We've managed to play to our limit in every match. That's very important. We're very loud, very intense. We always say that we're an extraordinary U23 side. Extraordinary because we're ready to defend ourselves, because we are direct. That's important if you want to reach the top. The majority of our players have these ambitions. In addition to the football tactics side of things, you also need to develop a certain resilience. We've done that very well to date."
You've said that you want to become more efficient. How does that fit in with the fact that BVB already have the best attacking record in the division?
"That shows that we create a lot of goalscoring opportunities and are absolutely on the right track. The whole thing is a process which you cannot change overnight. We have a lot of young players. This composure in front of goal mostly only comes when the players have amassed slightly more experience, when they're slightly older. But it's important to me that we continue to create as many scoring opportunities as we did in the first half-season."
Building on that: would you prefer to win 2-0 or 5-3?
"I like to be very structured in defence. We are very difficult to beat from open play, we've only conceded one or two such goals in the first half of the season. The defence is just as important as the attack. But it's clear that we all play football to score goals."
Alemannia Aachen will be the visitors to Dortmund on Sunday. What kind of game are you expecting?
"That's a tough one to begin with. It's always intense against Aachen. We saw in the first half-season how difficult the game was there. We need to prepare ourselves for it to be similar on Sunday. But we're looking forward to it."
Interview: Timo Lammert