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All about the next opponent: Interview with Augsburg-Fan Irina

In the last away game of the sea­son, VfB wants to start the 33rd match­day with a win in Augs­burg. We spo­ke with Iri­na Fuchs, aut­hor of the book “Aus der Rose­nau bis nach Euro­pa”, which will be released by Are­te Ver­lag in May, and blog­ger at the Rose­nau Gazet­te, about what awaits us the­re.

With the Red Stri­pe: Hel­lo Iri­na and thank you for taking the time to ans­wer our ques­ti­ons. Two match­days befo­re the end of the sea­son, FC Augs­burg has long sin­ce secu­red their league sta­tus and is eye­ing Euro­pe. Did you think that was pos­si­ble after the dis­mis­sal of Enri­co Maas­sen in autumn?

Iri­na: I actual­ly did­n’t think we could secu­re league sta­tus so ear­ly — espe­ci­al­ly after the ner­ve-wrack­ing last sea­son and the first games under Enri­co “Enno” Maa­ßen. At that time, hard­ly anyo­ne could assess the new coach Jess Thorup and esti­ma­te how quick­ly he would accli­ma­ti­ze to the Bun­des­li­ga. But as a fan, I am of cour­se very hap­py about the heart-fri­end­ly way of secu­ring league sta­tus!

Under Jess Thorup, who was once rumo­red to be with VfB, the team freed its­elf from the rele­ga­ti­on batt­le. How did he mana­ge that and what cha­rac­te­ri­zes his style of foot­ball?

First, he work­ed on the mind­set of the team and streng­the­ned the team spi­rit of each indi­vi­du­al. Con­fi­dence was natu­ral­ly blown away after the bla­tant last sea­son and the begin­ning of this sea­son, and that’s whe­re Jess inter­ven­ed. As a per­son, he stands out for being very clear and cal­ling things by their names.

Jess Thorup then adjus­ted the team’s struc­tu­re and brought back the back four; Enno Maa­ßen often expe­ri­men­ted with the back three as a for­ma­ti­on. Thorup stands for a more con­fi­dent and offen­si­ve style of play, for exam­p­le, he “revi­ved” two play­ers who eit­her bare­ly play­ed or did not shi­ne under Enno: Fred­dy Jen­sen and Phil­lip Tietz.

Recent­ly, FCA has only won one out of six games. What was the reason for this, and do you still belie­ve you can finish in 7th place?

On the one hand, Jess Thorup sud­den­ly brought back the back three from the dus­ty archi­ves, which had actual­ly been dis­card­ed sin­ce Maa­ßen. The back three has never real­ly work­ed for FCA in recent years. In addi­ti­on, the­re were occa­sio­nal per­son­nel shorta­ges, for exam­p­le, the enti­re full-back line was out at times. I can only spe­cu­la­te, but sin­ce secu­ring league sta­tus, it seems as if some play­ers are alre­a­dy men­tal­ly satis­fied and thin­king about the sum­mer break. This alre­a­dy affects per­for­mance, and per­haps they don’t go the extra mile any­mo­re. Fur­ther­mo­re, the team recent­ly quick­ly got infec­ted by the mista­kes of indi­vi­du­als, lea­ding to a kind of down­ward spi­ral.

Per­so­nal­ly, I don’t belie­ve we will jump to 7th place any­mo­re. We sim­ply have one of the toug­hest remai­ning sche­du­les with Stutt­gart now and Lever­ku­sen next week. Moreo­ver, the cur­rent form does­n’t speak for FCA eit­her.

Erme­din Demi­ro­vic is by far Augsburg’s best goal scorer. What else sets him apart, and which other play­er should we watch out for?

Erme­din, most­ly cal­led Demi, is, as cap­tain, of cour­se, an important figu­re and has a gre­at stan­ding within the team. He not only scores goals hims­elf but also sets up his team­ma­tes and puts hims­elf at the ser­vice of the team through his run­ning abili­ty and men­ta­li­ty. Due to the under­stan­ding with Tietz and also Ruben Var­gas, the FCA’s offen­se has been real­ly excel­lent this sea­son, which was rare­ly seen in pre­vious years.

With secu­ring league sta­tus, FCA can alre­a­dy plan for the new Bun­des­li­ga sea­son. Whe­re do you see poten­ti­al for impro­ve­ment in the squad, and what is finan­ci­al­ly fea­si­ble in the sum­mer?

Depen­ding on how the final posi­ti­on in the table looks, the squad will need to be adjus­ted. If par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­ti­on is achie­ved, then the con­s­truc­tion of the squad will, of cour­se, be dif­fe­rent from the cur­rent situa­ti­on. Fun­da­men­tal­ly, the ques­ti­on will have to be asked about how to pro­ceed in the goal­kee­per posi­ti­on. Tomas Kou­bek pro­ba­b­ly won’t want to remain the eter­nal num­ber two, Finn Dah­men is inju­red and has often had ups and downs in his goal­kee­per game. Jef­frey Gou­we­lee­uw is the lea­der of the defen­se and will pro­ba­b­ly lea­ve, I can also ima­gi­ne this for Pfeif­fer and Uduok­hai. Iago’s depar­tu­re to Bra­zil has been con­firm­ed for a while, so the­re is also a need for action in the full-back posi­ti­on. In the offen­si­ve depart­ment, Var­gas and Demi­ro­vic may lea­ve the club if sui­ta­ble offers come in. It could the­r­e­fo­re be a hot trans­fer sum­mer for FCA. Pos­si­ble mil­li­ons in reve­nue from Demirovic’s depar­tu­re could be used pro­fi­ta­b­ly.

Who will be miss­ing for you on Fri­day evening?

Finn Dah­men, the start­ing goal­kee­per, under­went sur­gery this week and will be out for the rest of the sea­son. In addi­ti­on, full-back Iago is doubtful; after weeks of absence, he only recent­ly retur­ned to trai­ning. Jess Thorup hopes he can at least make it into the match­day squad. Other­wi­se, the (long-term) inju­red Gum­ny, Fram­ber­ger, Oxford, Rex­be­caj, and Jen­sen will be absent.

And what’s your pre­dic­tion for the lin­e­up and result?

Lin­e­up: Kou­bek — Mba­bu, Jeff, Udo, Iago (?) — Engels, Jakic — Mai­er, Tietz, Var­gas — Demi­ro­vic

I pre­dict a 2–1 win for VfB Stutt­gart and a good, fair game!

Pic­tu­re: © ALEXANDRA BEIER/AFP via Get­ty Images

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