The 29-year-old right-back spoke about his teammates, the upcoming Revierderby and more in an interview with Khel Now.
Borussia Dortmund are going through a rough patch this season as they are only at the sixth position in the Bundesliga. The club has gone through a lot in recent times with the sacking of Lucien Favre, followed by the relatively inexperienced Edin Terzić taking over the reins. In addition, results have not been in their favour in recent weeks and that is a cause of concern for a club that holds aspirations to challenge for the Bundesliga title every season. One player who has been a great addition to this BVB side this season has to be the Belgium international, Thomas Meunier.
The 29-year old has been a vital cog for Terzić in his system this season. But unfortunately, he has struggled with incessant injury problems. But now with things getting back in place, Meunier feels that the team will again bring joy to the fans with their football. Khel Now caught up with the Borussia Dortmund defender on Wednesday as he shared with us the stories around the club, the upcoming Revierderby, the Champions League and much more.
Thomas Meunier started by highlighting how the club has gone through a lot of storms in recent times and how it takes time to adjust under a new system and a new coach. He also added how the club has missed the supporters who help them gain motivation in tough matches. “I think we missed consistency and the supporters are also missing. They have always been the extra motivation and the extra adrenaline in difficult games mainly against the small defending teams. Further, the situation with the coach being sacked and a new coach coming in. He has tried new things to put into the group and I think we just need time to get to our best level,” he said.
With the situation revolving around the pandemic, the stadium will not be full and therefore it is difficult to keep up the intensity especially ahead of such a historic derby. However, Meunier feels that the players must be conscious about the importance of the fixture.
“I think if you are a professional football player, you have to get the conscious about the importance of the game all around the club. So this is not only a question of football, this is a question of pride, making history and we want to show that Dortmund are still the better team in this derby,” he added.
Thomas Meunier feels that the Revierderby is a special fixture and that Schalke’s form this season does not come in context to the importance of this game. “Derby is only a single game and it is always something special for the fans and the players. So we do not have to check the result of both teams coming into this match. This is totally different, it will be on that one game and we have to win that game,” he explained.
The Belgian has had a stint with Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) with who he featured in ‘Le Classique’ against Marseille in Ligue 1. The match is considered as one of the biggest events in French football. Highlighting the differences the Revierderby and Le Classique, he added,” I think the difference is in the influence as Paris and Marseille are the two big clubs in France and so it is a game with a lot of tension and is all about the result. But in the Revierderby, it is a match between two teams from the same district and the two cities are very close and there is a lot of history in it. In Paris, ‘Le Classique’ is more of a media-made derby but here, it is a lot more about the football culture.”
He also believes that time can be the catalyst during this tough period, explaining how a win in the derby may boost their morale and spur the team to get some good results in the upcoming fixtures as well.
“I think there can be bad periods for every team. We are going through a period like that with the new season, new coach but I think we just need time to get into the new project of the new technical staff. Once we get hold of their work I really hope we will be unstoppable.
“It is true that it can be a very motivating victory for the rest of the season because Schalke maybe are in a bad situation at the moment and they may be fighting with relegation but playing in derby is totally different. Winning it will be a boost for the rest of season and we have to deal with it. It won’t be an easy game and we have to be ready for it. Also, the Champions League is coming, then we also play Bayern, the Pokal match against Monchengladbach is also coming and it is also important. We have to prove that we are in for the top four spots in the Bundesliga,” Thomas Meunier opined.
Shifting the focus to the Champions League this season, Dortmund are tipped to play the Spanish outfit, Sevilla FC in the Round of 16. The Belgian feels that the European competition is more exciting and only adds more motivation to the players to perform better.
“Champions League is always something special and I think those are the games that the players look forward to with much more interest than the Bundesliga and the Pokal. Winning the Champions League means you become the king of Europe and this way it will only add to the motivation factor in this difficult period,” he commented.
Coming to personnel in this Dortmund side, one youngster who outshines the rest has to be Erling Haaland. Sharing his thoughts on the Norwegian forward, Thomas Meunier said how he feels that Haaland is more of an old school striker. When drawing comparisons with Haaland and Kylian Mbappe, Meunier highlighted how both players are different in their ways but have the potential to be the best in the world.
“I think he (Haaland) has that in his blood. He is for me a very old school striker, mainly in his way of playing and I really like this kind of player. He is strong, fast and can use both his feet. I think he can improve on his heading but honestly, he is only 20-year old and he has time in front of him to be one of the best in the world. I believe that will be in a few coming years, he will be a kind of Lewandowski or Lukaku, scoring 25-30 goals every year. Without a doubt, he will be one of the best.
“Firstly I cannot really compare the two players because they are totally different. They both are quick but that’s where the similarities end. Kylian (Mbappe) is someone who is always looking for 1-v-1 situations and he is technically really good. He has a bit of everything in him, he has a bit about Thierry Henry for example. Erling is more sort of a killer in the box. If he gets the ball on his left you know he will protect the ball and can kill any goalkeeper in the world. In the coming years, they both will take the step needed to be among the best players in the world,” the 29-year old continued.
The right-back revealed how his compatriots Thorgan Hazard and Axel Witsel wanted him to join Dortmund but it was his personal decision to join the Black and Yellows. “Honestly they did not influence me but I did take some information from them. It was all positive of course and they wanted me to join here but I am used to taking my decision on my own. I had a few possibilities and I was looking for a football culture, nice infrastructure and get excited again with the fans and football in general. Honestly, I cannot dream about a better club than Dortmund.”
Coming to tactical side of things, Thomas Meunier started his career as a forward and therefore he is more attack-minded even as a right back. So he spoke about his adaptability and also how Jadon Sancho’s role ahead of him in the right channel decides the way he is going to feature in a match. He also touched upon the difficulty level to keep the balance between two things.
“This is quite difficult to play in an offensive role as a right-back. Most of the time we are playing against defensive teams so it means I am in the same zone as Jadon and the strikers because the team is playing really high. Sometimes it is not easy to find a solution. Some people will say that you don’t have to play that high but we are a possession-based team and we have to be dominant. So the best thing for me is when Jadon is in a free role and he is allowed to move everywhere in the offence to find the last pass. Otherwise, I have to play a lot more defensively and let him owe the space. It is a tactical decision and we do as the coach suggests.
“I don’t think it is an advantage or even a disadvantage for me. My height mattered more when I was a striker or even a no.10. But now I have to adapt but as I am pretty fast and strong and technically good. But it is not easy to play against fast players for a big guy like me but I try to compensate with my speed and intelligence,” he revealed.
Lastly, Thomas Meunier admitted that how the Euros will be one of the last chances for the ‘Golden Generation’ to achieve something as the players are getting old and the younger pack are only improving with every passing season. “I think the whole group, the Golden Generation is getting old and we have some players in Vertonghen, Vermaelen will be in their mid-thirties. So I believe the younger generation should also join in, we will be there but if the Golden generation wants to win anything then the Euros will be one of the deadlines.”