Kovac and the crisis: 'I naturally take the blame for that as well'

VfL Wolfsburg aims to advance to the quarterfinals in the DFB-Pokal on Tuesday against Borussia Mönchengladbach and thus push aside the crisis in the Bundesliga. Coach Niko Kovac relies on relaxation in his own bed.

Kovac and the crisis: 'I naturally take the blame for that as well'
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He appears calm, not at all biting or emotional. "I'm relatively composed," says Niko Kovac two days after the disappointing 1-3 loss to VfL Bochum and one day before the cup game in Mönchengladbach. 

The Wolfsburg coach is trying to radiate calm in a phase where he himself is the focus of public criticism. In the league, VfL has slipped to 11th place after five losses in the last seven games, and there has been no noticeable footballing progress for a long time. Kovac doesn't expect it on Tuesday in Gladbach either. His motto: First the fight, then the art. "If you're good at the basics, you can also bring some artistry in the right direction."

Kovac: "I'm a realist, never a pessimist"

First and foremost, it's about results. Wolfsburg needs to turn things around in the league, and a victory in the cup could help with that. Kovac says, "I hope that tomorrow's game helps build confidence." In the league, there was an awful 0-4 defeat in Mönchengladbach just three weeks ago, which isn't the best motivator. Nevertheless, "Such games can be used as an opportunity to steer in a different direction," the coach hopes. "Every individual lives on hope and belief. If we don't believe it will get better tomorrow, we shouldn't continue living. I'm a realist, never a pessimist."

The coach's hope: "At some point, it will go in the right direction"

Realistically, the team needs to improve on many fronts to succeed in the coming weeks. Kovac blames them for too many individual mistakes, a lack of willingness to engage in duels in the first half in Bochum, and a generally absent communication on the field. However, the coach doesn't exempt himself from criticism. He acknowledges that the current situation is something he takes responsibility for, saying, "I certainly take part in this, and I won't run away from it. I'm part of the team; I put them on the field and provide instructions. We win and lose games together. We've contributed, both positively and negatively." Nevertheless, he doesn't feel any special pressure. "I've experienced too much in my life. There are always ups and downs, but eventually, things will go in the right direction, which is upward."

That "eventually" should come quite soon. Kovac still has the public backing of the sports management, although they are far from pleased with recent weeks, marked by extreme rotation, a lack of footballing development, and poor results. Kovac's recipe for a turnaround in the cup is quite simple: "We have to accept and win the duels. The guys know what they need to do; they have to bring it onto the pitch, and then we can win games."

It's not entirely clear who the players are that should secure a spot in the quarter-finals of the cup. Maximilian Arnold (back), Sebastiaan Bornauw (thigh), and Amin Saar (knee), who were absent on Saturday, only trained individually on Monday. A decision on whether they will travel to the Rhineland will be made at the last minute. There is still some time this week for that decision. Kovac has decided that VfL will only travel on Tuesday for the cup trip, allowing the players to spend the night before the crucial match in their familiar environment. "We wanted to spend more nights at home in our own beds with our own pillows." His advice to his players for Monday evening: "Relax. It's about getting a certain ease." So they can dive into the cup fight.