Müller and Zentner: “Kuhni was always the benchmark”
Both goalkeepers have both put in very stable performances over the first half of the season and are fighting for the spot now that Müller is back from injury.
The Zerofivers have been training in Estepona, Spain since Sunday, preparing for their first game after the winter break (19/01/19, vs. Stuttgart). Flo Müller and Robin Zentner have both been fully focused and are ready for the upcoming games. At the start of the season, Müller was chosen as the first choice goalkeeper, but having picked up an injury after matchday 9, Robin Zentner has been the man between the sticks for the last eight games. Now, both players are fit and fighting for the number one spot. In an interview, the two goalkeepers spoke about increased demands, goalkeeping coach Stephan Kuhnert and why they should be the number one goalkeeper.
Flo, are you completely injury-free?
Müller: Yes, everything is better. I have no problems and I'm ready to play. It feels good to be back on the pitch.
How do you rate Robin’s performances after your injury?
Müller: Robin has played very well and won us many points. He’s played his part.
Robin, how did you rate Florian’s performances before he got injured?
Zentner: I can only return the compliment. I think we have both saved points for the team. We have both played well this season.
You came into the season as the number two. Despite being disappointed, how did you continue to train at the top level and be ready for your moment?
Zentner: I think you have to include Jannik here with us. We all have to accept the head coach’s decision and not drop our standards during training. It is a three-way fight but we push each other. You have to give 100 percent. Sometime you are in front, sometime behind, that’s part of the job.
You have both fulfilled your dreams of playing in the Bundesliga. How has your view on it changed in the past few months/years?
Müller: If you come from the youth team, you are of course a bit nervous and restrain yourself. In general you always want to play. After a few games, I adapted and automatically wanted to play all the time. I came from the youth team and had to prove myself first, waited for my chance and used it to prove that I am good enough.
Zentner: Everyone wants to develop and improve and that comes from playing regularly and becoming more experienced. Like Flo said, you have to get into the squad first, then, fight for the number one spot.
We have got 21 points so far this season. How satisfied with it are you and how do you expect the rest of the season to go?
Müller: The aim has to be to perform well, continue to improve and get at the minimum, at least the same amount of points as the first half of the season. I am satisfied but we definitely could have got more points based on our performances. We’ve proved that we don’t hide from any opposition and can compete with anyone.
Zentner: I think the same. I am satisfied with the points we have but feel we could have more. There were some games where we were lucky, but also some where we deserved more. We cannot be satisfied at anytime. We know the games will only get harder so we have to keep giving 100 percent. We have a good base to start from.
Looking back, where do you see the biggest differences compared to last season? The last game in Hoffenheim showed how happy the fans were with the performances so far.
Zentner: The morale throughout the squad was already great before the Hoffenheim game. It’s great that the fans feel the same way and support us. The situation is incomparable to last season. We were never able to really enjoy it last season. This season however, we have picked up some victories and so the pressure is not as much. Although we had a lot of quality last season, you can see that everyone has developed further. In addition, Sandro has another year under his belt and we know exactly what he expects and wants to see from us. As you can see, there is a big difference; one-offs have become much rarer.
Müller: The starting situation is very different to last year. Like Robin said, at one point last season, every game was like a final. We have got points on the board earlier this season. We had a good squad last year, but this year, you can see our quality more.
What role has goalkeeping coach Stephan Kuhnert played in your development? What is special about him?
Zentner: I have trained with Kuhni for around 10 years. He’s had the biggest influence on me, there’s no question. He was always the benchmark because he coached the pros. I dreamed of being one. He has a great relationship with all of us and will always listen to us. We are definitely happy to work under him. The training takes place daily at a high level and it develops us and continues to develop itself. I think few people watch more football than he does. He scrutinizes every goal critically, as he believes the goalkeeper always has a chance to make a save. He passes on to us the vision of wanting to prevent goals and simply wants us to never be satisfied. Attitude and quality are crucial to him. In addition, Kuhni is also good with his feet, which of course only enriches the training.
Müller: I have been trained by him for around three to four years. He has helped me make the transition from youth to professional much easier. He's been there for many years and has a lot of experience and so knows what is important. He is a great teacher and always finds the right words. His knowledge expands far beyond just the goalkeeping position but he also looks at outfield players and prepares us for them perfectly, in as much detail as possible.
Loris Karius has played in a Champions League Final. Do you dream about it?
Zentner: I dream of a Champions League (laughs). But in all honesty, the most important thing is to work hard here every day and to live my life.
Müller: Everyone wants to get to the top. Of course you have dreams, whether it be win the league or the Champions League. You can only wait and see and focus on the present.
Are there things that you can both learn from each other?
Zentner: You can learn from everyone, whether it’s Flo, Jannik, Finn or René; Composure on the ball, catching technique or even positioning.
Müller: In my opinion, all the goalkeepers in the squad are quite complete. Of course, there are situations in training that will need some fine-tuning. If someone makes 20 one-on-one saves or intercepts every cross, there are usually reasons why.
One more question: Why should you be the number 1 keeper?
Müller: We both give everything and fortunately don’t have to make the decision. It’s not only the two of us; all the goalkeepers in the squad are up for inclusion. Of course, everyone wants to play and so it’s not an easy decision for the coach. We can only do our best and then wait for the decision. I think the coach has reasons for choosing me as the number one this summer though. I can only try to continue to convince him and I’m confident I can.
Zentner: At the end of the first half of the season, we did well as a team and I was able to play my part. So I see no reason to change. But who knows, maybe neither of us are right...