Orlando – Even watching it is painful; just looking at the faces of the Hertha players tells the story of how intense their training sessions are. Under the guidance of Werner Leuthard and Henrik Kuchno, the players are instructed to run from one side of the pitch to the other – all of that having already completed a 100 minute training session. However, giving up is not an option, the Blue-Whites must endure the pain and keep on going. Only once the final run is completed, can they drop to the floor in exhaustion. Lukas Klünter had to face the workload along with the rest of his teammates, despite being one of the most dynamic, quick and hard-working players in the Bundesliga. “It feels almost like a half marathon, but we have to do it because it helps us a lot, even if it hurts,” said the 23-year-old after catching his breath again. He speaks to herthabsc.de about the training camp, Jürgen Klinsmann’s ideas and approaches, and the relegation fight.
herthabsc.de: Klünti, even as an outsider it’s clear to see just how demanding the training sessions are here in Orlando, especially in terms of fitness. How are you coping with the workload?
Klünter: We’re training really intensively here, but we have to do the running. They will help us a lot, even if it hurts. If we raise our overall fitness levels then our game will improve. Fitness is the foundation of a good team.
herthabsc.de: The time in Orlando in slowly coming to an end; you fly back to Berlin on Thursday after the friendly against Eintracht Frankfurt on Wednesday evening (19:00 local time). What is your gut feeling about the work you’ve done here?
Klünter: On the pitch there is complete concentration and, as I’ve said, a really high intensity. Every player wants to show the coach what they can do. What we’re doing on the training pitch is top quality and I get the feeling that the team is already at a good level. We’re working with the new fitness techniques and I believe we’ve improved in all areas, not just athletically. I’m really positive about what we’ve done so far! But of course it’s important that we show that out on the pitch when we return to the Bundesliga.
herthabsc.de: Jürgen Klinsmann starts his training sessions in the morning, but allows you to have most of the afternoons free. He likes to gives his players their own responsibility. What do you think about this?
Klünter: It’s easy for players to get cabin fever when they’re at a training camp, but the coaching staff deal with that really well. We have quite a lot of free time where we can do our own thing. This approach is new to me, I haven’t experienced this before but it’s really enjoyable. Perhaps this free time is the key to us training with such a high intensity. We want to give something back to the coaching team and show them that their faith in us is justified and we can behave responsibly. This means that we don’t storm out of the hotel directly after training. But, instead, we make sure we allow for the necessary amount of time to let our bodies recover, and look after them so that our legs and muscles benefit from the training.
herthabsc.de: After a difficult start to the season, the way you ended the year has made Hertha fans optimistic for the games ahead. On a personal note, the Hinrunde went quite well for you with 15 appearances, but as a team it was a rollercoaster with lots of ups and downs. What lessons have you learnt from the past few months?
Klünter: The season started really well, both for me and for the team with the game against Bayern. It was my personal goal to build on how I finished the end of last season. For the most part I managed to do that; I had lots of game time and earned the trust of Ante Covic. But, as a team, we started to fall off a bit and we had imagined the season to go differently. Then the club decided to change coach at the end of October. It’s a shame, but that’s football. We can take positives from how we finished the year, with eight points from five matches, keeping a clean sheet in three of them.
herthabsc.de: Has the new coaching team managed to improve the mood around the dressing room?
Klünter: Of course Jürgen Klinsmann and his team play a role, as I’ve already said. We’ve made a step forward as a team. But after this period, where we had a bit of a dip, we still believed that it was up to us as players to turn it around, along with the help of the coaches. But this bad patch was also a good experience for us because we have shown that we can get out of it. Now we need to build on how we finished the first half of the season and rise up the table as quickly as possible, because we aren’t out of the relegation battle yet.
herthabsc.de: Klinsmann spoke in Orlando about being able to play more than one position, and that every player needs to bring flexibility to the team. This is also shown through his tactics. You’ve played both 3-5-2 and 4-4-2 under him already. Which do you feel more comfortable in?
Klünter: Yes, we’ve played with three (or five) at the back twice, and four at the back three times. As a wide player, in the first system I have the whole flank to myself, but with four at the back I have a player in front of me who I can control and alternate with. Sometimes I go forward, sometimes he does. Personally I like that a bit more and it has probably worked a bit better. But as the coach already said: I’m not specifically focused on one system; we always have to slightly adjust our game. And, as long as we’re picking up points, it doesn’t matter what formation we play.