Sporting director Max Eberl talks about Borussia’s start to the season, how the Bundesliga is playing out as a whole, the VAR system and the upcoming international break.
Max, Borussia are in seventh place after seven matchdays with eleven points. What’s your take on the team’s start?
Max Eberl: We’ve won three out of our four home games to date, as well as getting two points from our three away fixtures which have included trips to Leipzig and Dortmund, who are very good teams. Seeing as five of the teams we’ve played are amongst the top eight teams in the league, that’s a good return in my opinion. But at the same time, it hasn’t been perfect, and we have lots still to improve upon. However, in light of all the injuries we’ve with sustained, I’m very satisfied with the start we’ve made.
Do you think that you’ve let some points slip?
Max Eberl: You obviously want to win every home game, and I think we could have avoided that late draw at Augsburg, but things don’t always work out the way you want them to. You can’t simply just win all your home games and get points out of every away game. With that in mind, you certainly can’t take the three points we got last weekend for granted. It wasn’t easy and we had to work hard for them. On the whole, however, we’re completely on track to achieve our goals for this season.
You predicted before the season that the table would be much closer compared to the last campaign. As a result, is it particularly important that you’ve made a good start?
Max Eberl: It’s really good that we’re in the position we wanted to be in at this stage of the season, especially seeing as we’re expecting some players to be back at full fitness again after the international break. However, the season is still young. There have already been two managerial changes throughout the league, and I stand by my prediction that this will be a very close and entertaining season. Stability will be of the utmost importance. Whoever can maintain that stability most successfully will most likely come out on top at the end.
The table seems to be settling down now and giving suggestions of what the season might entail. What have been the biggest surprises for you so far?
Max Eberl: Like I just said, the current standings in the table can’t be focused on too much, because the season is still young. In terms of the top four teams, as in the teams who qualify for the Champions League, there hasn’t been much change there since last season. However, it’s surprising to see Bayern five points behind Borussia Dortmund. Hannover and Augsburg have also made a surprisingly positive impact in the first few weeks. The fact that Cologne and Bremen are still without a win could be seen as a surprise, but for me it’s just more proof that the teams are so close to each other in terms of quality this year. Whoever has internal problems will struggle to win games, and that goes for the teams at both the top and bottom of the table.
A major talking point from the first matchdays has been VAR. What’s your opinion on its impact so far?
Max Eberl: For the most part, it’s had a positive impact. It’s important to remember that this is the biggest technological revolution that football has undergone in about 50 years. It’s clear that it’s very much still a work in progress, so it’s only fair to expect some growing pains. The technology has to function reliably, and the people responsible for it have to learn how to use it properly - and by that I mean the referees. What’s for sure though is that more correct decisions have been made this season than in previous campaigns. We’re currently in a trial period, but I’m sure it’ll be here to stay.
Another hot topic in the first few weeks of the season has been the German teams’ poor performances on the European stage. What’s your opinion on it?
Max Eberl: Ten losses from twelve games across the Champions League and Europa League is obviously a very poor result for German football. I’m hopeful that things will improve in the coming weeks. Nevertheless, the Bundesliga sides in the Europa League have far more quality than a lot of the sides that they’re playing, so it’s a shame to see them struggle. At the same time, however, it’s not particularly surprising to see the teams playing in Europe for the first time taking a bit of time to get used to European football. The games in midweek, the travelling, the squad rotation - it’s not an easy adjustment to make. Even though there is that adjustment period, it’s still nice to see new teams in Europe each year. In fact, since the Europa League was introduced, Germany have sent a total of 16 different clubs to the tournament. The fact that it’s always the same Spanish, English and Italian clubs who make it to Europe is one of the negatives of the competitions.
The Bundesliga is now on hold for a couple of weeks as the international break is upon us. Nine Borussia players have been called up for their countries. Are there any games which you’ll be paying particular attention to?
Max Eberl: I’ll definitely be watching the two Germany games with Lars [Stindl] and Matze [Ginter]. Every World Cup qualifier is important now really, because Joachim Löw has a lot of good players at his disposal, so will be looking very closely at every game ahead of next year’s tournament. There are also two very important games ahead for out Swiss trio of Yann Sommer, Nico Elvedi and Denis Zakaria. They can guarantee their spot in the World Cup in their game against Portugal, so I’ll have my fingers crossed on their behalf. In general, you always want the team to come back from the internationals in good health. We hope that after the break we’ll have a much fuller squad at our disposal, so that the internal competition levels will be high ahead of our upcoming matches.