Below, find some of our takeaways from the coach’s quotes.
- Stöger is ready to unveil at least a bit more offense than we’ve seen
Because Stöger arrived from Austria having won the Austrian Bundesliga with a high-scoring side, there was some expectation that he’d build his version of the effzeh as an attacking side. Two years into his time in Germany, Stöger has a reputation among casual observers as a defense-first coach.
What he really is, though, is a guy who adapts to the talent he has.
“The system is nothing new. It comes down to the types of players; they change the game. The question is: ‘If I bring more offense into the game, does it guarantee points, or do I then lose something in organization, so that the chance increases that we can not win the game?'” philosophizes the coach. “We still need to figure it all out: as offensive as possible, as attractive as the people desire, but with the security of stabilizing the club in the Bundesliga. That’s what we’re here for.”
The confidence to expand the offense is born of knowing the foundation built over the last two years remains in place.
“If I’ve already seen that something works, I assume that it can function again – or will be better, but not worse. Last season was not a snapshot, rather things worked over longer periods of time. I do not get the feeling we have huge rebuilding needs.”
- Flexibility remains keyIf we’ve learned anything over the last two seasons, it’s that Stöger’s football philosophy relies on a solid foundation on the defensive end. Hence, it’s little surprise that, even when discussing an expansion of 1. FC Köln’s offensive game he starts from that side of the pitch.”We want to defend a bit more offensively, when possible,” says Stöger. “From our basic approach, we have instituted a 4-1-4-1. But there’s a big difference between whether I play Nagasawa and Jojic in front of a six, or use Gerhardt and Vogt in front of Lehmann, as we have already done successfully.”Added to the midfield versatility is the fact that we might see some strikers lining up behind their “natural” position.“Modeste could, depending on the opponent, certainly come from the side, but from his presence. I see him in the center,” explains Stöger. “The others could also be dangerous in other positions. If I were to restrict, for example, Bard Finne only to the foremost position, I would rob him of his possibilities he might have elsewhere.””It’s hard to say, because I do not want to make any predictions. Offensively, we will arrange ourselves flexibly. I do believe that the competition is at a higher level than in recent years.”
- The DFB Cup opening match will be used to prepare for the Bundesliga opener.The Billy Goats have their pair of Colonia Cup matches this weekend in which to prepare for the DFB Pokal match at SV Meppen, which Stöger also sees as valuable prep time for his newcomers to get comfortable in their new team.”Anyone who knows me knows that I am not arrogant,” says Stöger of the time remaining before the season begins, “but we still have the the cup game before the league start. We should survive, even if things do not work one hundred percent. We should succeed and we want to succeed, because we want to stay in this cup competition.”
- The coach keeps things competitive and has no sacred cows.Stöger does not play favorites with his players. He expects intense competition during midweek preparations and makes his squad decisions based on what he sees from his players heading into a game.”If, on the Thursday before a match, I get the feeling that Player A could fit quite well in taking advantage of possible weak points of the opponent, but showed me nothing during the week, then I would not have the trust that he could factor in the game.”The coach believes that keeping things competitive not only keeps his side sharp, but also helps build a team spirit, with all players knowing they’re being regarded equally and based on their performance.”That is just how we have always handled things; it has made us strong. It has also been what guaranteed we keep the group unified. The guys have always known: If I really impose myself, I will be in the squad or maybe even play. This keeps the quality in training high, and from that you can really build something.”
- The new-look defense is a work in progress, but will be ready.With Dominic Maroh and Mergim Mavraj both injured, Stöger is necessarily preparing to enter the season with a brand-new tandem in the central defense. Despite limited time together, much less with their new club, the coach feels they’re getting Frederik Sørensen and Dominique Heintz ready for the spotlight.”We have discussed many things: the play build-up, how we want to defend, how high we want to stand, where our ‘danger zone’ begins. This will all constantly improve,” says Stöger. “Both players are well trained, so I’m certain that we can go into the season with two new, young central defenders.””Even so, I maintain that I would like to have our two old central defenders with us. There should not be a sense that we brought the two new guys who would have played anyways. The others are missed.”
- Strikers are sensitiveProbably from his many years playing behind them as an offensive midfielder, Stöger believes he has the right insight into the mindset of a striker to enable him to properly manage the game’s most enigmatic players.
“Each of our five strikers has quality; we have already seen that. I am reassured because I know how strikers function,” explains the coach. “For them it is extremely important that they have scored during preparations. When a defender makes a positional error, you should not overemphasize it. But for the guys up front, it is really important that they connect. They’re sensitive.”