After finishing today’s training-Team Manager Finke  

Comment from Team Manager Volker Finke after finishing the afternoon training on 3 March
(Visitors welcomed you enthusiastically at the “Talk on Together 2009” event held yesterday.)
It was such a fun evening. I was very happy to receive a warm response from fans and supporters. I was also able to feel their positive support for what we are trying to achieve just like my team members do. I certainly felt their expectations for this season. However, what I felt was not over the top expectations. I think that the expectations I felt from them were positive ones. They seem to have seen our past record in a realistic manner and take what we do now into consideration. As such, I believe that we can move forward along our path with our fans and supporters together as one in the future.

(It seems as though Tulio had another separate conditioning program yesterday and today.)
He felt something was not quite right with a muscle after the training match against Omiya Ardija. After our club had a discussion we decided that he needed to have a separate training program. However, he is training himself really well as usual. I am sure he will have another good training session tomorrow and therefore should be able to join the team training again on Thursday. Horinouchi’s situation is the same and I believe that he should be able to join the team training on Thursday as well.

(What part of the body exactly did Tulio hurt?)
I would like to take the same approach as I did in Germany. Basically, I do not intend to reveal anything about my players’ injuries in public. Doctors have the duty of not revealing any information about their patients’ medical conditions. As for players, as far as I am aware, they have the right to talk about their medical conditions such as injuries only after they have the permissions from their team manager and the medical section.
In Germany, no one can talk about the medical condition of players to external people without having such permission. I also think that revealing information as to which part of the body a player injured will interfere with his privacy. Players’ physical conditions are very sensitive matters and players should be protected in this regard. For this reason, I do not intend to comment further on Tulio’s case except for the fact that he had a sense of discomfort in a muscle. I would inform you if he had ruptured a muscle or ligament. However, it is not anything like that this time. It is a muscle injury common among professional sports players.
However, the situation surrounding Tulio this time is quite different. He was injured towards the end of last season and had an operation. As soon as he made a recovery after going through rehabilitation, he had to join the Japanese national team. The team had to play in the match against the Australian national team. All the training the team did focused on the match against Australia and how well the Japanese team would play in the match. As this was the case, he did not have a long preparation period to establish a sold foundation for this season. Therefore, it is, in a way, not surprising that he had a sense of muscular discomfort after he went through the process of rejoining the team after he played in the match against Australia, participating in team training and played in the real match style training against Omiya Ardija. I must assess his case not just based on the fact that he had discomfort in a muscle but also by taking the entire process he went through until now into my consideration. Anyway, all I can say here at this moment is that he has a sense of discomfort in a muscle but he can come back to the team training again during this week.

(What do you think is important for the preparation leading up to the opening match of the J-League?)
It is important for me to be brave enough not to place too much burden on the players in the final week leading up to the opening match as well as not to give too much information to players. I think these points are very important.
Obviously, we must prepare ourselves well as the opening of the J-League is drawing near. However, it may be counterproductive if the players are given too much information. Based on my past experience, I think it is important for players to have a good rest period in many regards so that they recover well and will be feeling great with a sense of well preparedness when they play in the opening match of the J-League.
It is important for me to have a lot of information as a team manger before a match like this. However, when I give information to my team, I must filter through it before the information reaches them. It is possible to obtain a massive amount of information in many different ways. However, what I can pass on to players may only be about 0.5 percent of the entire information I ascertain. This is because I do not think it will be beneficial for players to be given too much information. I think the information players can actually utilize out of the information they ascertain during meetings will be very limited. Taking the approach of giving the information that players truly need will be important when preparing for this type of match.

(It seems as though the training sessions are not necessarily intended for playing against the Kashima Antlers.)
What is most important would be the play style of the team. Considering the potential of our team players, I do not think that the team requires making a special reaction based on the team they play against every time. The Urawa Reds is not the type of team that has to change their tactics and the way they start a game base on the team they play against. How we play in a game is important and this stance is the same even when we play an away match.
Of course, it is important to have a certain amount of information about the opponent team such as their system and play styles that form the foundation of the team. We do have information in this regard. We know that the Antlers play with the Brazilian 4-4-2 or in another word 4-2-2-2 system. Just like many team managers around the world do, it is possible for our team to play a few matches with the formation that is the same as our opponent team in the final week of our training. It will certainly be in our options to play a match using the system the Antlers uses.
However, it is important for us to have a strong will that we will play our own soccer when we start playing in a match rather than always try to react against whatever moves they make.
What I was able to find out was that the Antlers has always used the same system until now without changing the system much since Zico was playing for the team. I regard this as one of their strengths. When a team has a style and if the team has upheld the style over a long period of time, I think it will become their strength. In this regard, I regard the Antlers as a team with strength backed by a long history and tradition.
I worked for a team for a long, long time. It is important for young players going through training to have a strong desire to play like top team players when they see professional matches played by top players. When young players play in the same style as top team players do, they can make a smooth transition when they join a top team. When such stances are repeatedly taken, it will bring big benefit to the club as well.

(The J-League opening is drawing near. What kind of impression do you have about the J-League?)
It is difficult to make detailed comment until I experience matches. The reason why I am making some comments at the moment is because I ascertained much information about the J-League. I check many DVDs and watch lots of J-League matches almost everyday. As I watch many DVDs for a long time to get as much information as possible, I recently work such long hours (lol). However, though I have lots of information about the J-League, I do not have any experience yet. I think I can make detailed comments about my impression or what I think about the J-League after our team plays about eight to ten matches.
My impression of the J-League so far after watching several recorded matches is that there are many teams that have excellent organizational ability. Our team will play against a strong team called the Antlers this time. I think the team has great capability and is of a good level. But, I cannot make any further comment right here. I think I can comment on the rest after I gain much experience through the J-League.

(The team had a long meeting that lasted about thirty minutes before today’s training.)
The meeting held today had a significant meaning. We watched recorded footage during our meeting today. It was not recorded footage of our opponent playing in a match. We were watching matches we played recently. As you know, there are several options when we play soccer. Many things could happen on the pitch and there are several options to take for one situation. For this reason, I had a small meeting today to check with the players who played in the matches if we should have played differently or if we have anything that we can improve. What was important for us today was not to do with our opponents but rather how we can establish our own play style and how we can improve ourselves. I think players had great interest when they attended the meeting today. There are various ways to improve the style of the team. One of them is to watch recorded footage of the matches the team played over the past few days and have some discussion about what different options the team could have taken.
Another way is when the team is having a match style training on the pitch, stop the activity many times by saying “stop” aloud and then explain the movement every time so that players understand what to do again and again. We had a meeting watching recorded footage of our play this time as a means of establishing our own style as a team. However, it does not mean we will have this type of meeting regularly. After having several meetings continuously, we may have no meetings for about three weeks or so. This will all depend on the condition of the team. What is important is that we have several methodologies and we can use them accordingly depending on the situation of the team in order to establish the style of the team. When players start to make comments such as they understand what I think and the play style I want or how I want to play a match, then it means that the team has a common understanding quite well.
When I cannot communicate with my team players in my mother tongue like now, using a variety of recorded footage to help improve mutual understanding is one of the best ways. By showing recorded images, I can build a bridge across to the images inside the players.
Of course, this is not only the case in Japan. Many foreign players play for the Bundesliga in Germany and the situation is the same for other European leagues. It is not uncommon to see five to eight foreign players as starting line-up members. There are many cases where several languages like five different languages or sometimes even eight different languages are used within a team as I have experienced myself in the past. Building a bridge of image with recorded footage is routinely used not only in Japan but also in Europe.
I think the situation is similar even with the English Premier League, which ranks the highest in the world at the moment. For example, take a look at Arsenal, the team lead by Team Manager Arsène Wenger. It is often the case that no English players playing for a game are starting line-up members. Players who joined the team from overseas often take a long time to master English. In these types of international teams, watching recorded footage is one of the commonly used methods to improve the level of mutual understanding. For this reason, I take a similar approach in our club as well. I spent sometime to explain. But, this is because I wanted to explain that the type of meeting we had today was not anything special. From an international perspective, it was quite common.

(It seems as though the team has a day off tomorrow, three days before the match.)
Looking around the world, more and more physiology knowledge is being used in the professional sports sphere. It is proven in the study of physiology that the period required to recover changes depending on the amount of burden. Various studies about football have been conducted over the past ten to fifteen years. It is necessary to recover fully from the daily training we had to best perform in the match. There will be another match one week after the coming match. Several studies have been conducted on how and when to give complete time off that will be best for the players’ physical conditions.
It has been proven that giving a complete day off three days prior to a match would be the most physiologically correct and effective way to prepare for the next match. For this reason, I take that approach at this time. Recently, out of the best five European nations so called “brand nations” such as England, France, Italy, Germany and Spain, about sixty to seventy percent of clubs work out their one-week schedule by giving a complete day off three days prior to a match for several years now. Of course, the schedule based on this pattern is set up based on the premise that there will be only one match a week. The research also was based on the idea that there is one match a week. However, when playing within a top level sport business sphere, there are cases where a team has to play two matches in a week. Incidentally, when there are two matches in one week, the week is called “English week” in Germany. The history of professional football in England is longer than that of Germany. In Germany, people were hoping to play soccer like they play in England for a long time. There are two cup leagues on top of the usual league matches in England. There is no winter break and they have soccer matches even on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day. There are several international matches on top of usual matches. Therefore English football players play in more matches than German players. As a result, English players have much denser daily schedules.
Knowing the fact that they play in so many matches, we started to say when we play in two matches a week, we call the week “English week”. Checking the Japanese schedule by myself, I thought that there are many “English weeks” in Japan as there is the Yamazaki-Nabisco Cup and so on.
As for the case of having two matches a week, there are also separate studies being conducted to find out whether or not to have training using balls between the two matches or what kind of recovery programs should be given to players.
For this reason, when there is a match on Saturday, Wednesday will be off, a match on Sunday means a day off on Thursday and a match on Monday means a day off on Friday. However, this does not apply to the players who have injuries. Those players do not have much time off. They will work on the programs individually given to them even when the team is having time off. Their goal is to join the team in their best condition and they will not have complete day offs in order to achieve this goal.

(You were timing the sprint times again during today’s training.)
I timed the ten meter and twenty meter sprints once each. Compared to the sprint tests we had in the past, there were fewer burdens inflicted upon players. We conduct this test constantly. We have had four tests, which were held two, four, six and seven weeks ago. Results of the test were listed. This is because I wanted to show my players their results.
I am sure players want to know what kind of condition they currently have. There is an advantage by putting those conditions in numbers. For example, by comparing the results of the sprint tests held in January, February and March, I think players can find out more about their physical condition.
What I found encouraging was that so many players had much better numbers and the best result this time compared to the past four tests. I think this will provide a big turning point for players so that players will have real enthusiasm to participate in future training sessions. I believe that this type of test, which allows performance to be descried in figures will be one of the most important tools to check players’ conditions. For instance, this sprint test will be an important test for a player who has muscular discomfort. This is because as we know each player’s best time through the tests we conducted in the past. When a player’s physical condition is at his best, he can run in similar time. However, when he is not 100 percent, his body puts on brakes unconsciously even when he tries to run with all his might. When we have this type of record, we can find out our condition easily by comparing these figures.
For this reason, conducting such tests regularly will help find out the real condition of the players and this will provide one of the indicators to check the recovery situation of the players who returned to the team after having injuries.