Lukas Nmecha made his professional debut with Premier League champions Manchester City. Since then, Nmecha has joined VfL Wolfsburg on loan and is now looking forward to his side’s upcoming DFB-Pokal match against RB Leipzig on Wednesday (18:30 CET). In an interview with DFB.de, the 20-year-old attacker spoke with Oliver Jensen about the match, Pep Guardiola and the Germany U21s.
DFB.de: Mr. Nmecha, Wolfsburg are the only undefeated team left in the Bundesliga. Why are Wolfsburg so strong right now?
Lukas Nmecha: I would say that it’s down to the fact that we are strong defensively, we work well together as a team, we follow our coach’s instructions and work hard to improve.
DFB.de: Given their current form, are Wolfsburg a contender to win the Bundesliga, the DFB-Pokal, or even the Europa League this season?
Nmecha: Of course, you always want to win titles. But we’re taking it game by game.
DFB.de: You’re facing RB Leipzig in the DFB-Pokal, against whom you just drew 1-1 in the league last weekend. What are some things that you will have to look out for?
Nmecha: Leipzig are quick on the counter-attack and don’t take a lot of touches. They are able to move quickly into their opponent’s half. However, we already put on a strong performance against Leipzig in the Bundesliga and have proven that we can compete with a team that’s challenging for the title. We defended well, didn’t allow many chances and could have won the game.
DFB.de: You made the switch to Germany this past summer in order to pick up more match practice. Since then, you’ve mainly made appearances off the bench. Are you happy with this role or were you hoping for more playing time?
Nmecha: Naturally, you want to play as much as possible. But, our striker Wout Weghorst is playing incredibly well at the moment. I need to wait for my chance to arise and then give it my all.
DFB.de: Let’s talk about your career so far: along with your brother Felix, you joined Manchester City’s academy as a child. Can you describe what it’s like to balance school and football in England?
Nmecha: Manchester City have their own private school, which is also attended by the players in their academy. The first half of the day consists of school, and the latter half of the day is training. As youth players, we also had the option to be ball boys for first team matches at home. I did that for nearly every match. I was at the stadium on the final day of the 2011/12 season when Sergio Agüero scored the winning goal in added time against Queens Park Rangers to win City their first Premier League title. That was an incredible experience.
DFB.de: You then also became part of the first team. What was it like to take part in your first training session with the senior squad?
Nmecha: I was either 16 or 17 years old at the time. First team training sessions are a big opportunity for young players to show both the manager and the other players what they can do. At the same time, it’s a huge difference to go from training with the academy to joining the first team. Everything is a lot quicker, you have to remain highly focused and process a lot of information at once while keeping the ball moving quickly.
DFB.de: Manchester City have a lot of superstars in their squad. Were there any players who took the time to approach a young academy player like you?
Nmecha: It varies. Some players will start a conversation with you. For example, Vincent Kompany spoke with me often and gave me advice. I also had a good relationship with Fabian Delph. With some of the other players, you have to prove yourself before they come over and talk with you (grins).
DFB.de: Which City players were you especially impressed with?
Nmecha: Definitely Sergio Agüero. He has been one of the top strikers in the Premier League for several years now and always scores. Gabriel Jesus is also in good form. He knows exactly where to be on the pitch in order to score those easy goals.
DFB.de: As a young academy player, what was your experience with Pep Guardiola?
Nmecha: Two years ago, I took part in my first preseason with the first team in the United States. I played in every match, because Sergio Agüero and Gabriel Jesus were off on international duty. We played against Bayern München, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool. Pep Guardiola spoke with me often at the time, and I was able to learn a lot. Guardiola treats the younger players the same way he does the more experienced members of the team. He loves to let his team play effectively. Anyone who doesn’t follow his instructions has their mistakes pointed out immediately.
DFB.de: You played your first competitive match for the senior squad in the Carabao Cup against Leicester City in December 2017. You then made two further cameos in April and May 2018 in the Premier League. At the time, were you hoping to carve out a place for yourself within the first team?
Nmecha: Of course I was hoping for that. But, any young player who plays for a top-level team like that will have to wait for their chance to come. In any case, those three matches were an incredible experience. In the Carabao Cup, I was a bit lucky that it went to extra time so that I could play a bit longer and even score a goal during the penalty shootout.
DFB.de: How likely do you think your chances are of one day breaking through at Man City?
Nmecha: At the moment, I’m mentally and physically 100 per cent here at Wolfsburg. I hope to be able to score my first goal for the club soon. That’s an important moment to help build your confidence as a striker. The thought of whether or not I’ll be able to break through at Manchester City is not something I’m concerned about right now.
DFB.de: On a different note, let’s talk about how you were able to work your way up through all of the England youth sides from the U16s onwards. In the run up to the U21 European Championship, you decided to play for the Germany U21s instead. Why did you pick Germany, whereas your brother Felix chose England?
Nmecha: I always played for England because all my friends from Manchester City were on the team and we were able to travel to join the team together. In the end, I chose Germany because I was born in Hamburg and feel at home in Germany.
DFB.de: Looking back on the U21 EUROs last summer, can you tell us what it was like to be part of the team as Germany advanced to the final and subsequently lost to Spain?
Nmecha: Despite the loss in the final, it was an extremely positive experience. Although I was one of the youngest players on the team and had joined late, I still made some appearances. Of course, I was up against Luca Waldschmidt for a spot in the starting line up. He’s a great player, and scored seven goals at the tournament.
DFB.de: The Germany U21s will face Belgium in their next European qualifier on 17th November. The squad has undergone a drastic change since the European Championship this past summer due to players ageing out. How would you rate the development of this newly-formed team?
Nmecha: We’re a new team, and therefore aren’t as good yet as we were at the EUROs. We are still at the beginning of our journey. However, we haven’t lost a single match so far. I hope that we will be able to deliver a strong game against Belgium and pick up another win.