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Danny Röhl exclusive: ‘Bold decisions are important to me’

  • April 17, 2023

DW: Danny Röhl, congratulations on completing your German Pro Licence. There isn’t really much stopping you from becoming a head coach now, is there?

Danny Röhl: The Pro Licence is the highest qualification in German football, so of course I gained a lot of input. But I’m still collecting experience as Germany’s assistant coach that helps my development.

In my previous roles at RB Leipzig, Southampton, Bayern Munich and now for Germany, I’ve experienced four different tasks: club development, successfully fighting off relegation, winning titles and then experience at international tournaments. But leading a team as a whole is something else.

As an assistant coach you’re able to do plenty of tasks, but the final decision is always with the head coach. Completing the course is an important step for my goals and at some point I want to make decisions, too. But at the moment, that would like leaping into cold water. Not quite freezing anymore, because I have experience, but not yet warm.

I’m currently learning a lot working with Hansi Flick ahead of the European Championship in Germany [in 2024]. That’s where my full focus is. We want to have a successful home Euros. A tournament in your own country is something really special.

With 700 sessions over 13 months, the Pro Licence sounds like a lot of hard work. How was it?

It was really varied. We didn’t just focus on theory; there was always a lot of focus on the practical side of things.

We were given challenges that could happen to us in every-day training and had to deliver sessions with a team on the four phases of play: with the ball, against the ball as well as transitions after losing possession and after winning possession.

One of tasks was to play the role of taking over a team in a difficult spot. I had to give a presentation to the “board” and convince them I was the right coach for the job. I had to deliver my first talk with the staff and prepare and deliver the first team talk.

Going through all the facets of the job and experiencing those situations yourself was extremely interesting.

Fußball Deutschland Nationalmannschaft | Hansi Flick und Danny Röhl
Image: Laci Perenyi/IMAGO

There have been quite a few changes to coaching education in Germany in recent years, such as the introduction of an aptitude test to even get on the Pro Licence. How did that go for you?

As applicants, we had to solve a variety of tasks in one day.

Amongst other things, we had to analyze game situations and conduct a training session off the back of that analysis, as well as develop our own principles and matchplan.

There were also interviews in front of the camera, and we had to deal with a psychological task, where a specific situation occured in the team and we had to use our leadership skills to find solutions.

The final task was to deliver a session under purposely difficult conditions. We only had a handful of minutes to prepare and deliver on the topic. For me, it was ‘How to improve interplay in the middle of the field.’ I was told the number of players shortly beforehand and in little time I had to create an exercise.

And what did you make of the Pro Licence as a whole?

I learned a lot and developed myself enormously.

All in all, in my opinion, it was a lot more about developing the individual coach and person than everyone learning the same thing. The aim is not to develop 16 standardized coaches, but rather to develop, encourage and improve each person in the area in which they see themselves.

Speaking of improving, Germany are trying to do just that after a disappointing run in major tournaments. What do Germany have to do to be a contender again?

It’s definitely a question we’ve discussed as staff.

On the one hand it’s about doing the basics better, such as the fierce, collective defending that Hansi [Flick] demands. On the other hand, there’s also a need for some humility when looking at other nations, such as France for example. Compare the current market value of France’s U21s with Germany’s and there’s a huge difference between the two. That’s a fact you can’t ignore.

Nevertheless, you saw at the World Cup how Morocco, for example, were successful with the resources they had. The enthusiasm Morocco kindled as an underdog was fascinating. It’s a little easier to kindle that euphoria as an underdog than it is as a favorite. Germany is mostly seen as a favourite and expected to make the semifinals.

I think we would do well to focus on each game, deliver good, committed performances and return to success by taking small steps.

At the World Cup, the first game was decisive. Yet we could have beaten Japan, especially when you look at the xG [expected goals]. Statistically speaking, out of 100 World Cups, we would have only been knocked out four times with the xG we had and we’d have advanced the other 96 times.

Danny Röhl portrait
“At the World Cup, the first game was decisive”: But Germany lost to Japan, and the rest is history. Now Danny Röhl is aiming to restore Germany’s fortunes.Image: Markus Gilliar/GES/picture alliance

You could say Germany were unlucky, but could you also admit that the players in certain positions are perhaps not as good as you hoped?

We have numerous players who are the best in the world in their position or have huge potential. However, we are not yet able to ensure that each individual consistently fulfils that potential, so we have too many fluctuations in performance.

Our task is to create the best possible conditions so that we as a team can consistently perform and take the next steps in our development.

And what about club football? How do you see the way coaching is developing there?

The topic of players and people is coming more to the fore again than perhaps was the case in the past. Alongside the playing philosophy of a coach, it’s now more about players making decisions on the field themselves. We should also take this into account in player development and give players freedom and space to develop individually.

In recent years, creativity and decision-making on the pitch have been neglected. Too early on, formations and basic structure have been the focus and playing ‘simple’ football lost importance. We coaches can deliver a framework but the decisions have to be made by the players on the field.

So that’s how we should imagine head coach Danny Röhl on the touchline in future?

(laughs) For us as a staff, it’s important to give players the feeling they can make bold decisions. I think it’s much worse when you don’t make a decision and leave everything open so as not to make any mistakes, than when a mistake happens.

For example, I want a fullback to defend higher up the field once in a while rather than wait passively in his position for the whole match and never get into the game. Consistency and bold decisions are important to me.

Edited by Matt Ford.

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