Grunwald: We’ve Proven How Strong This Squad Is
With the tipico Bundesliga now on its winter break once more, the 12 teams will be looking to the January transfer window to bolster their squad as they prepare for the second half of the campaign and the push for the title/Europe or to avoid relegation. At the Generali Arena, Austria Wien have enjoyed another very strong first half of the campaign, having won 13, drawn 4 and lost just one of their opening 18 games with club captain Alexander Grunwald helping to lead the way as Die Vielchen look to push for the Bundesliga title when the league returns in February. Grunwald has scored 7 goals in the Bundesliga as he enjoys another fine season under the stewardship of Christopher Steegmann and speaking to bundesliga.at, Grunwald spoke about his teams performances this season, his own form and Die Vielchen’s title prospects.
Alexander, thank you for joining us! You’re enjoying another very successful season, both personally and as a team, are you confident that this season you and this Die Vielchen side can go on to enjoy some sort of success?
Thanks for having me. Yeah absolutely, everything is going very well right now. When we lost to Salzburg people were criticising us and expecting us to fall away but I think we’ve regrouped and come back stronger and a lot better than we were before the Salzburg defeat and we are looking very strong as a team now which is brilliant. I’m definitely confident we can win some sort of silverware this season, I know we’re out of the OFB-Cup but we’re definitely still challenging for the Bundesliga crown and we’d like to go deep into the Europa League and really do feel that we are capable of doing that. On a personal level, I just want to keep playing well, scoring goals and helping the team win games of football. If I didn’t score another goal all season but we went on to win the Bundesliga then I’d be a very happy man.
You’ve scored seven goals in just 15 games for Austria Wien this season, having scored 9 in the Bundesliga all season last season so do you feel confident that you can go on to have what would probably be the best season you’ve ever had in your career?
I would really like to. I think if I did it would be testament to the hard work I feel like I’ve put in on the training ground and the amount of trust the manager and the coaching team have in me because we’ve worked really closely together to make sure I can contribute as effectively as I feel I have been doing. 7 goals in 15 is a good record for me, and I would love to go on to best my record season. Again though, if the team is performing well I would rather we picked up silverware and were successful as a team than achieve personal accolades.
It has been noticeable that when you have started alongside Lucas Venuto, Dominik Prokop and Bright Edomwonyi, Austria Wien have played some very attractive attacking football that causes opposition defences a lot of problems. What is it about that attacking quartet that makes you so lethal?
Yeah there is a real chemistry amongst me and the other three and I think we’ve all got a really good idea of how everyone in that unit plays and the moves they’ll make. It makes playing so much easier when you can say that about your team mates, and they are some very talented players that are brilliant going forward. We’ve got a really strong squad to be honest and anybody that the manager picks are a real pleasure to play with going forward and there is a real good understanding between every player at the club but the stats suggest we’re forming a potent quartet.
Christopher Steegmann has rotated the side a lot this year, because of the increase in fixtures you have had as a result of your participation in the Europa League. Do you feel that has hindered the team or have you coped well with the regular rotation?
We’ve rotated a lot but I really don’t think it’s hindered the team and really it’s not my place to comment because I’m not in charge of running the team. We may not have had a consistent starting XI because of the amount of games we’ve been playing but we’re still getting results and we’re still second in the Bundesliga. The results we’ve picked up this year, have proven how strong this squad is because we’re still grinding out results even when a heavily rotated side has been selected and as far as I’m concerned, Christopher has got everything right on the pitch with his team selections so things look really good for us moving forward.
There is a lot of talk of some big money moves in January for some of your key players with the likes of Southampton reportedly chasing Lucas Venuto, West Brom chasing Dominik Prokop and Patrick Pentz once again being heavily linked with clubs in Germany, England and Italy. Do you fear that this squad may be dismantled just as it’s really getting going?
I don’t think there’s any real fear amongst the squad. The fans might fear it but to any fans that are reading this, I can tell you, everyone seems very happy and content to be at this club right now and we’re a real team unit right now so I wouldn’t expect anyone to leave, certainly not in January anyway. Southampton, West Brom and any club may be interested but I don’t think anyone will want to leave here. We’re in with a real shot at silverware this season so I’m confident that this squad isn’t about to be dismantled.
You’ve made it through to the Round of 32 in the Europa League, how big of an achievement is that for this Austria Wien side given that it is only the second year of Steegmann’s project?
It is a huge achievement for us from my point of view. We were gutted to have missed out on a place in the Play Offs for the Champions League, especially having beaten Zenit in the first leg in Russia and we knew that the Europa League was going to be a very difficult campaign. Olympiakos and Basel are two established sides on the European circuit and play in the Champions League regularly so beating them to the qualification places in our group is a huge achievement and we’re thrilled that we’ve managed to get through. It shows how far this team has come under Christopher and hopefully we can continue to impress moving forward this season.
How far do you feel you can progress in the Europa League? You’ve got a tie against Zorya in the next round, one that you must feel is winnable?
It’s certainly winnable yes. However I think we could have been drawn against most of the teams left in the hat for the Round of 32 and we would have felt confident that we could go and give them a run for their money at the very least and push for a place in the Round of 16. Zorya though, like ourselves will be one of the least favoured teams in the draw right now and they’ll fancy their chances coming up against us so hopefully we can play two very good games of football and pick them off because we like playing teams that think they can beat us and hopefully we’ll be celebrating a place in the last 16 of the competition come the end of February.
What about in the Bundesliga? Obviously, you’re second in the league and doing very well, do you think it is possible to catch Salzburg this year or do you think another season of building and summer of recruitment is necessary to really make you title challengers?
I think it’s definitely within the realms of possibility. Salzburg have looked incredible this season and they are devastating going forward and almost impenetrable at the back, but impenetrable is the key word. They are capable of being caught. We’re playing some really good football this season and we’re going to run them close that is for sure, even if we narrowly miss out. We’ve closed the gap on them to just four points with 14 games to go so there will be a real opportunity to close the game and overtake them I am sure of it, especially if we carry on performing the way we have done and hit the ground running once the winter break is over.
It’s been noted how much time Steegmann has given to young players this season with the likes of Alexander Borkovic and Michael Blauensteiner particularly impressing, what are your thoughts as captain on the performances of the younger players at the club?
The younger players in this squad have been terrific this season, This is a young squad with a lot of talent and potential for the future. Alexander Borkovic, Michael Blauensteiner, Patrick Pentz, Dominik Fitz are all very gifted players that have big futures ahead of them and they’ve been doing really well this season. They’re helping fire this team towards success and they’re only going to get better the more they play so it really is an exciting time to be both a player at this club and a fan of this club because there is a very bright future ahead of us.
Well Alexander that concludes this interview, enjoy your mid-season break and good luck for the rest of the season!
Thank you very much, I will try my best, and thank you!
CommentsJustice: We can definitely beat Zorya and progress in the Europa League, whilst we’re breathing down the necks of Salzburg and I’m more than confident we can catch them!
Jack: Sturm Graz are a side we seem to struggle against and they seem to know how to get the better of us so we need to work that one out. It’s frustrating that we are as far behind as we are when we could have closed the gap by beating them though. We’ll go into the winter break though and hopefully come away on the other side with a solid run of form.
ScottT: There will be more chances to close the gap, believe!
Griffo: Thanks man, we’re gonna be breathing right down their necks, mark my words!
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