Bild: imago

“We have to step up”

Niklas Stark discusses stability and consistency, versatility, and the upcoming away fixture against Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday (10.01.21, 18:00 CET). The match will be a first for the 25-year-old German.

Niklas Stark has played in all fifteen competitive matches of the campaign so far, and has only missed nine minutes of football in a blue and white shirt over the past couple of months, due to his substitution against Bremen on the first day of the season. This underlines the high regard in which the 25-year-old is held by coach Bruno Labbadia, no matter if he’s in defence or further up field in defensive-midfield as has increasingly been the case this season. “Niklas has done well in midfield and that also helps our centre-backs a lot,” praised the coach of his protégé. “He’s not afraid to take responsibility and lead the way out on the pitch.” The German is also in agreement that his ability to play in more than one position is a big advantage of his game: “My versatility certainly helps. I play where the coach puts me and I’m happy to be able to help the team,” says Stark. In an interview with herthabsc.de, the native Franconian talks about consistency, stability, and the away game at Arminia Bielefeld on Sunday (10.01.21, 18:00 CET).

herthabsc: First of all, we wish you a happy and, above all, healthy New Year. How did you spend the short winter break?

Stark: Thank you very much, and the same to you and of course, all of our fans! It was good to switch off for a few days and not think about football. Like a lot of people, I celebrated Christmas with just my close family. It was obviously a bit unusual to train and play in the days around the new year but it's a unique set of circumstances for us all. The results before Christmas were a bit frustrating for all of us, so it was good that we could get back to winning ways against Schalke.

herthabsc: Speaking of the Schalke game, the 3-0 victory there was a sort of late Christmas present for everyone at Hertha! The team showed just how good they can be, especially in the second half. What is the feeling in camp regarding the inconsistency so far this season?

Stark: It's a question that we have been asking ourselves a lot over the past few months. We have to build up consistency, both in our performance and our results. We are working hard on that but we also need to be patient because we are in the process of building a new team. There have been setbacks of course, but we can't let them throw us off course. We have some real quality in our squad which has been clearly on display again and again over the course of the past year. But it's also clear that we sometimes have problems and slip up. The game against Dortmund with two very different halves is a good example of that.

herthabsc: What are your thoughts on the game against Schalke?

Stark: I thought we got better and better as the game went on. Not only did we have more possession, but we created more chances as well. Taking the lead gave us a lot of confidence and getting the second goal after the break was a key moment; after that we played much more freely. The victory was a decisive one and a deserved one. The three points are very important but we can't rest on our laurels. We have to step up our game to keep moving up the table.

Quote...

"We have to build up consistency, both in our performance and our results. We are working hard on that."

Niklas Stark

herthabsc: Stability and consistency are definitely the key words. Last weekend, the team kept a clean sheet for the fourth time and barely allowed any chances for the opposition. Obviously as a central defender, he played a significant role in that. You must be asked this often, but do you prefer to play in defence or in midfield?

Stark: (laughs) This question has come up a lot during my career, especially in the early days. What's important to me is that we won the game, but keeping a clean sheet was the icing on the cake particularly for us defenders. I was happy with my performance during the match. My versatility certainly helps. I play where the coach puts me and I’m happy to be able to help the team.

herthabsc: You played alongside Omar Alderete for the first time. How did you find the partnership?

Stark: In the game yes, but we have trained together for a while now. Over time you get used to the person next to you more of course, but we are professionals and we have to adapt to playing with different types of players all the time. The fact that we kept a clean sheet and limited Schalke’s opportunities shows that it worked well. In the end though, that's not just thanks to me and him – it’s a team effort. It's only possible when we work together, we know that.

herthabsc: You will also have to work as a team this weekend against Bielefeld, who are a strong side. This is a first for you!

Stark: (thinks) Have I really not played against them before?

herthabsc: That’s correct! You’ve never faced them in the league or the cup before. Are you optimistic you can build on the good start to 2021?

Stark: I'm not so interested in personal statistics. We want to win the game - that's all that counts. Bielefeld are an unpleasant team to face and have a lot of desire and some good players. We've already seen that some teams have really struggled against them. We have to go into the match with self-confidence, give it our all, and show that we want to take the three points back to the capital at all costs.

Teams, 09.01.2021