Oliver Glasner’s VfL Wolfsburg currently sit in third place in the Bundesliga and are aiming for success in the DFB-Pokal alongside this. They take on FC Schalke 04 in the round of 16 on Wednesday in Wolfsburg (18:30 CET). Glasner took time out of the preparations for the cup clash to sit down with DFB.de and discussed VfL’s season so far, the crisis at Schalke, and Wout Weghorst's future.
DFB.de: Oliver, you won the league and the cup in Austria with FC Red Bull Salzburg, so how much would it mean to win a title in Germany as well, for example the DFB-Pokal?
Glasner: It’s a great feeling to win every title and that’s always the aim in football, but it’s not an easy thing to achieve. First of all, it’s about clearing the hurdle of FC Schalke 04, playing good football, and reaching the quarter-finals. I always think about these things step by step. If it were to lead to us winning the cup, that would be a great success though.
DFB.de: You beat Schalke 2-0 at the end of November in the Bundesliga. What are your memories of that game?
Glasner: They’re positive memories of course because we won the game. Schalke have changed since then though, and not only because of the new coach. Overall, 2020 was a tough year for them but I get the feeling that they’ve rallied around and improved since then, even if that might not be reflected in the results so far.
DFB.de: What kind of performance are you expecting from them, considering they’re in a fight against relegation?
Glasner: They have the chance to make up for their league form in the cup, so I’m expecting a difficult game.
DFB.de: In your opinion, how have they ended up in difficult circumstances such as these with a squad like theirs?
Glasner: It’s a mystery to me. After the first half of the 2019/2020 season, they were in fifth place in the table with 30 points, and then they also won the first game of the second half of the season against Gladbach as well. Then suddenly they don't win a single match in more than 30 games. As an outsider, there is no rational explanation I can see for that.
DFB.de: You recently loaned out Brazilian right-back William to Schalke, who hasn’t had the opportunity to make many appearances for Wolfsburg due to a cruciate ligament rupture. Do you think he’ll be able to give Schalke valuable tips on how you will set up tomorrow evening?
Glasner: Of course he knows how we set up and how we play, but there’s so much other analysis that goes on these days that it’s almost impossible to surprise an opponent. Maybe he’ll give them a hint or two, but I can’t see it being decisive in terms of the game.
DFB.de: Since FC Bayern were knocked out, does that give every other club an advantage this year?
Glasner: Yes I think so since they almost always reach the final and usually win it. They are the Champions League winners after all! But first we have to beat Schalke.
DFB.de: In terms of your team, Wout Weghorst has been in fine form this campaign. What makes him so good?
Glasner: It’s important that we don’t just reduce him to his goals. He’s not just important to us in terms of his finishing ability, but also for his all-round play. He’s our first line of defence and is always willing to contribute with his running, which is very important for the way we play. He’s also an incredibly driven striker of course and you can see that in training. He's happy about every goal and angry about every missed chance. If he misses two headers in training, he goes to practice headers afterwards. Wout demonstrates my philosophy with players perfectly.
DFB.de: And how would you sum that up?
Glasner: If you are willing to invest a lot into a player, you will get a lot back.
DFB.de: Do you worry that he might leave Wolfsburg at some point in the foreseeable future?
Glasner: As of right now, I’m optimistic that he will stay with us here. I see him every day and we’ve discussed this topic, but he hasn’t indicated that he’s looking for a new club or wants a change. He feels very much at home at Wolfsburg and plays in the top half of one of the best leagues in Europe. So I don’t have any concerns at the moment.
DFB.de: Your team have only lost to FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga so far and currently sit in a Champions League place. Does that mean VfL Wolfsburg are now one of the elite clubs in Germany?
Glasner: I would say that we’re developing into a very consistent Bundesliga side. We’ve had some difficult periods in the season so far in terms of injuries, all of the midweek games, and the corona cases before Christmas, but we’ve still kept up that consistency. That’s because we work well as a team and the players are playing well. We’re making good progress, but we just talked about what happened at Schalke 04 so it's important that we maintain this spirit, this drive, and this hunger. There’s still a lot of room for improvement.
DFB.de: In an interview with Sport Bild, Maximilian Arnold said that he is regretful about the early exit in the Europa League qualifying stages but that it has helped the team to have a full week of training ahead of games. Would you agree with that?
Glasner: Yes, absolutely. The opportunity to train all week is something we almost never had last season. We had a packed schedule due to the Europa League and then the international games came along. After the coronavirus break the fixture list was packed. Now we are mentally and physically fresh and we have been able to work on things even more in training.
DFB.de: Do you feel that your good performances as a team have been undervalued by the general public?
Glasner: I’m not constantly reading what is said about us. But I do feel like our performances have been recognised. The more successful we are, the more attention we get.
DFB.de: In November there was an open discussion between you and business director Jörg Schmadtke regarding transfers. How would you describe your relationship now?
Glasner: I would say that our relationship is really professional. We both try to do our jobs with the aim of helping VfL Wolfsburg as best we can so that we can maximise our success.