Lahm: "We have to learn again"
Take a step back? Take it easy? Not Philipp Lahm! Even at 33 years of age, the FCB captain leads the way in every training session out in Doha. “I see that as part of my job as leader,” said the world champion to fcbayern.com. In his interview, Lahm speaks about how previous training camps compare to today, working with Carlo Ancelotti and title challengers.
Philipp, can you remember your first training camp with the Bayern first team?
Lahm: "Very well – it was under Ottmar Hitzfeld in the summer at Lake Tegernsee. I was brought along as a youth player to be with the senior squad. It was something special, a different speed, but that really is well in the past now.”
Are training camps nowadays more enjoyable than when you began your career?
Lahm: "To be honest, yes. Previously we would have a lot of long running sessions. I remember that we would sometimes go for a run straight after getting up at 7am and then have two more sessions during the day. Nowadays we work very hard but mostly with the ball, so a lot has changed there. But one thing hasn’t: I don’t like being away from home and my family.”
When you think back to the earlier years of your career, what tip would you give to any of the youth players here at the training camp now?
Lahm: "Just to give their all. Give 100 percent out on the pitch. They have a week to train with us, and that’s a nice opportunity for the young players to show off and mix it with the professionals. The days they spend here will definitely help them in the future.”
How has your work personally changed at a training camp in comparison to previous years?
Lahm: "It’s really important for me to always try my hardest, always lead the way and want to win every training match – nothing has changed on that front. I see that as part of my job as captain. What’s different nowadays are the recovery sessions – there are more of them now. When I started out, the young players didn’t like being seen by the older squad members on the massage benches. But today, being of a certain age, my body needs these nursing measures.”
You’ve all been training under Carlo Ancelotti for six months now. What’s changed on the training pitch in that time?
Lahm: “I don’t think there are any big differences in training. Just like under Pep Guardiola, training with the ball is the main focus, but I think that’s normal nowadays. However, Carlo Ancelotti has brought his own characteristics with him, just like any other coach. Every coach has his own way of addressing players – some are a bit calmer, some shot a lot more in training.”
How difficult was it to adapt to the leadership style of Carlo Ancelotti?
Lahm: "As with any change in coach, it takes a bit of time. But after a few weeks it’s not important. We were all together in the USA and were able to get to know each other well. The bigger challenge for us in the summer was that players were returning to training at different stages after the European Championship.”
You were playing in two different formations at the end of the first half of the season, sometimes with a number 10, sometimes without. What will the approach be in the future?
Lahm: "It’s good that we can play in different formations. Sometimes in the first half of the season we played with three midfielders, sometimes with two holding and one as a number 10, and sometimes in a 4-4-2. As for what works better, that depends on the opposition and the characteristics of the players out on the pitch.”
Is it not a problem for you to switch between formations?
Lahm: "Of course you have to train to play in those formations. If we were to switch to three at the back overnight, then that would be a problem. We just wouldn’t be in sync in that case.”
Before leaving for Doha, you spoke about finding the "right mix" in terms of work. What do you mean by that?
Lahm: "We’ve played a lot of possession-based football in the last three years. When the opposition had the ball, then we wanted to win it back as quickly as possible with aggressive pressing. Now under Carlo Ancelotti, we’re playing a more patient and observant game – and we have to learn how to do that again. When opposition teams have held the ball for long periods, we’ve become a bit agitated because it’s now alien to us. We now have to keep working on this mix of attacking with aggression, sometimes withdrawing and relinquishing the ball to the opposition, shutting up shop and then countering quickly.”
When you look at the Bundesliga table, it’s not Dortmund or Gladbach who are the closest challengers, but Leipzig and Hertha. Who do you see as your biggest title rivals?
Lahm: “I think Dortmund’s team possess the greatest quality but they have dropped points over the first half of the season, which has surprised me. That’s allowed Leipzig latch on at the top, but we’re still only halfway – there is a long way to go still. It may be only after the next five to ten games that we get a clearer picture of who will be at the top come May.”