FFT chats to Borussia Dortmund's Japanese playmaker about Thomas Tuchel, BVB's season and why Old Trafford just came too soon...
Hi Shinji, thanks for joining us. Let’s start by looking at the 2015/16 campaign from a team perspective. What are your thoughts on the season?
We had both good and not so good experiences, but generally things were fairly stable throughout the year. It’s not good to compare to last year and while things weren’t great then, this year we could regain some confidence with some good results. Of course, after a tough season the year before it’s often difficult to recover, but we started well and we kept going from there.
How disappointing was it to have to spend the summer going through qualifying for the Europa League, rather than being involved in the Champions League?
Of course, the level is higher in the Champions League. But for this year we had a new manager and new experiences, so even having to go through qualification and the group stage of the Europa League... the more we won, the more confidence that gave the team. It was a long season, but because we had an early start, those matches over the summer allowed us to create a good mood within the team and that really helped us to get off to a good start.
Borussia Dortmund finished second in the league, with a record number of points for a runner-up. Towards the end of the year, did you feel you had a chance of catching Bayern Munich?
I didn’t really focus on that. It wasn’t really a case of us not being able to catch them, but moreso that they didn’t really give us much of a chance.
We managed to keep within five points of them for much of the season, but then we drew with Schalke [2-2 in April] and that made things difficult. We thought we still had a chance as they had a tough schedule in the Champions League, but it’s no use talking about what ifs. Ultimately they won when they needed to and we couldn’t get close enough.
Is it possible to close the gap on them next season?
Absolutely it is, but of course we’ll have to raise our own level and maintain a good standard throughout the season. The team is trying to adjust the way we play depending on the opposition, and the manager is also trying to adapt formations and tactics depending on the situation.
When I look back on things as a whole, the season was a positive one
As he likes to vary things, the players have to make sure they can adapt. Especially during the second half of the season there were a lot of changes in formation and players, but we kept winning regardless and things are becoming stable.
What was the highlight of the year for you?
There’s really not anything that stands out specifically, but throughout the year I made sure that I was always well prepared for training and matches, so when I look back on things as a whole the season was a positive one.
Continued on page two with Shinji's thoughts on his own season and Thomas Tuchel...