A new season means a new start. And when a club makes changes to the coaching staff, then players work particularly hard in pre-season to earn a spot in the starting XI. One of the Green-and-Whites, however, was stopped in his track nearly two weeks ago. Just five minutes into the friendly against WSG Tirol, Yannick Gerhardt hurt his knee, with the injury set to keep him out of action for another few weeks. In a brief interview, the 28-year-old, who is currently working on his rehab programme in Cologne, spoke to us about this particular setback and his expectations for the new campaign.
Yannick, how are you and how’s your knee?
Yannick Gerhardt: “I’m well, thanks. Everything’s going according to plan at the moment. I can put pressure on the leg pretty well already and I’ll be back in Wolfsburg on Saturday to carry on my programme from there.”
Your team-mates are already sweating it out at training sessions in Wolfsburg. What does your day currently look like in comparison?
Yannick: “I go to the physio every day and then have training after that. People may have the impression that my options are limited but there’s enough opportunities for me to burn off energy here (laughs). I’m putting the work in here in Cologne, but obviously I want to get back onto the pitch as soon as possible because that’s a whole lot more fun.”
With the departure of Xaver Schlager, you were looking to fight it out for one of the available spots in the midfield and get your name in the starting line-up. How annoying is it to get injured in the middle of pre-season?
Yannick: “The timing is obviously very inconvenient. I’d already done half of pre-season and it means that the really tough sessions that I’d put in almost count for nothing as I have to start again from scratch. Added to that is the fact that we’re now into the phase where you have a chance to prove yourself to the new coach. These kind of things happen though, and you can’t plan for them. And looking at it another way, I’m not going to miss much of the season proper as it hasn’t started yet. That’s when I’ll be looking to win the coach over, once I’m back.”
You’ve been a Wolf since 2016 and pretty much become part of the furniture at VfL. One of your strengths is how versatile you are – is it a blessing or a curse to be a utility player?
Yannick: “It can sometimes work against you if a coach prefers other players for specific roles and then tells you: ‘Well you can also play in such and such a position.’ On the other hand, though, if someone has made a certain position their own, then you can try to fit in somewhere else. There are so many tactical options. In the past, there were plenty of games where Xaver and I played together for example. At the end of the day, I see it more as a plus to be able to play a number of different positions.”
After a rather mediocre season, you now have a new head coach in Niko Kovac – and also a fair bit of upheaval in terms of the squad, with six new players. As an experienced pro, how do you sense the 2022/23 season will go?
Yannick: “From what I’ve experienced so far and also what I can tell from a distance, it all seems very positive. We’ve strengthened the squad very well and that’s sent out a message that we mean business again. What we need to do now is translate the real quality we have in the squad out onto the pitch. Niko Kovac has proved in the past that he’s a very good coach. I like the way he sees the game, and I’m sure this will lead to good results.”
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