“If you consider the quality we have, we should be able to win a title”
The 30 year old defender joined Bayern in 2016 coming from Wolfsburg. At 222 league games and 47 international caps, she is one of the most seasoned players in Bayern’s squad. Verena Schweers has already won a lot of titles during her career: in 2013, she won the treble of Champions League, championship, and DFB-Pokal with Wolfsburg. She almost repeated that feat in 2014, missing out only on the DFB-Pokal. She made good on this, however, in 2015 and 2016, when she won the cup twice in succession.
How are you? Are you currently injured?
I’ve been having problems with my patellar ligament and Achilles tendon since pre-season preparations. But I tried to continue to train and prove my value to the new coaching team. Alas, my condition didn’t improve and in this state I couldn’t be of great help to the team either. Now I am taking a rest before I’ll try to get back to my 100%.
You did still play in the early stages of the season.
Yes, that’s when I still was able to cope with the pain. But it has become worse during the last weeks. Then I talked to the coach and we agreed that it would be better for me to take a rest and allow my injury to heal completely. I never used to be injured a lot, but I have become older and at my age now, I have to take care of proper regeneration and such things.
In the national team, you are now officially a “backup player”. Did this come as a surprise to you at all after the early exit from the World Cup?
The World Cup was a big disappointment for me. In the quarter finals in particular, I could not quite understand our coach’s substitutions. The coach and I had and open and honest talk about this at our last meeting and now my total focus is on FC Bayern and our goals here. I want to become fully fit again and then we’ll see what happens.
Bayern has played eight games so far this season. Five in the league, one in the cup, and two in the Champions League. You have won six of these games and lost two, against Leverkusen and Gothenburg. What’s your assessment of your start to the season?
We are currently undergoing a phase of transition. We have a new coaching team and we have signed a lot of new players before the start of the season. We also did not have the best of preparations because of the World Cup. And than it happens that you lose against two teams that you should normally beat considering what we have already shown what we are able to do against such high caliber opposition as Freiburg and Frankfurt. We also played well against Sand and Duisburg. That’s what should give us confidence.
You have got as many points as Hoffenheim at the moment, which is a much smaller club. What are they doing better than you?
Hoffenheim does not have the same quality in their squad as we do. But they have managed to keep their squad together over recent years, which has led to a real sense of togetherness and a blind understanding among the players there. This has enabled Hoffenheim to consistently overperform in the league, which they accomplish to do again this season. We, on the other hand, have yet to find our rhythm. But we’ll get there.
Wolfsburg is running away with it at the top and last season also proved that one small stumble is enough to lose touch to the top. Does the result against Leverkusen put you under pressure already?
The challenge for the title has become tougher, yes. But there is no reason to be overly pessimistic. The league has become much more even. If you are not physically and mentally present in every single match, you may end up losing before you know it. This has happened to Wolfsburg too in the past – and now, unfortunately, it happened to us against Leverkusen.
I had the impression in the match against Gothenburg that you lost possession too quickly and that you were too hectic going forward. Am I wrong?
Yes, the last ten minutes were quite lively, that’s true, even for me as a spectator. As a matter of fact, we didn’t manage to stay in possession for long. We tried to, of course, but our passing lacked precision and our combinational play was not accurate enough. However, in terms of who had the better game overall, we should have won. We know that we can do better. It’s up to ourselves now to become more consistent in our performances.
Your game has a lot of good moments and ideas…
…but we have to become more effective. Yes, the seeds are there, which gives us hope that our season will eventually turn out well. As I’ve said, we have to become less of a collection of individual moments and become more of a unit and we have to start to play out our situations more consistently.
What kind of a person is your new coach Jens Scheuer?
He is a very meticulous man who pays a lot of attention to detail. Consider for example our positional play: he has clear ideas where we should position ourselves, how we should move. He wants us to play offensive football, which we like a lot. He prefers a style of play with quick, short passes and he favours the creative player type. We very much look forward to all of this. Of course, we have to get to know the coaching team much better still – and the other way around. This is all still very much work in progress.
What’s the training of Scheuer like? Has he changed your system?
In training he is someone who quietly observes what we are doing and only interrupts at critical moments to explain or give us suggestions of what we might do better. Our tactics are more offensive-minded than in the past and everything still has to sink in before it becomes second nature to us.
What’s your view on your role in the team? You have a lot of competition in your position in defense, don’t you?
I was already a senior player when I arrived three years ago. The team was always nice. They made it easy for me to find my place, settle in and take responsibility. I have always regarded it my priority to help the team achieve more – on and off the pitch – and that’s what I continue to do to this day. I am part of the players’ council, for instance. There are five of us. We meet regularly, talk through what is important for the team and we also represent our team’s opinion to our coaching staff. As far as I myself am concerned, I’ve had the feeling that our new coach has put a lot of trust in me right from the start. When I’m back fit again, I will get my chance to help the team.
And you want to play when you are fit again, despite the fierce competition.
Absolutely. Every player wants that and an attitude like this is important to be successful too. Of course, younger players will overtake me some day, but that time hasn’t come yet.
Do you feel the pressure of competition?
No. I’m perfectly aware that I won’t be standing on the pitch for many more years. And so I enjoy every moment. But I do want to play. I have that drive, that desire. I have to perform in training, play well, suggest myself through my performance – just as everybody else.
Does Jens Scheuer talk to you and the players’ council regularly?
Yes, we have regular exchanges. We are from the same region and we can talk in a Baden dialect. I also always keep him abreast of my injury situation. He too has to settle in yet and he also has a lot of other duties outside of training hours. So we can’t bother him with every little detail all the time. Fortunately for us, when there is a good mood in the squad and we perform in training and during the matches, we don’t need to.
The DFB-Pokal draw has allotted Wolfsburg to you, the most difficult opponent you could have got. Is this something that bothers you or is it maybe even a good thing that you get the chance to eliminate the strongest contender from the competition so early?
That’s going to be a tough match, for sure. But we play whatever is in front of us. Incidentally, we have a double header against Wolfsburg because we will meet again in the league just one week after our clash in the cup. That’s certainly not ideal – but Wolfsburg has to deal with that as well. We want to beat them of course. And we generally prefer to play against teams that also like to have the ball and play than opposition that chooses to sit deep and wants to hit us on the counter.
What are your goals for the season? This may be your last season, so a title wouldn’t come amiss, would it?
No, certainly! FC Bayern is a synonym for winning titles. And if you look at the quality we have, we should be able to win a title. But we are a team in transition, so you cannot plan everything to a T in advance. It’s not going to be easy, but I would like to win a title, for the team – and for me.