Following Bayer 04 Leverkusen‘s scoreless draw with Augsburg during Bundesliga Matchday 4, Jack Grimse spoke to 20-year-old Werkself and Nationalmannschaft central defender Jonathan Tah.
A talented young defender, Tah was an unused substitute for the German national team at every one of their Euro 2016 games. Fellow Bayer 04 centre half Aleksandar Dragović was also in France this summer with Austria, playing in two matches for his country. The two played as a defensive pairing for the first time against Augsburg the other week, and after the match I asked Tah about his new teammate.
“So Aleksandar Dragović made his debut tonight, what’s it like to play with a new person in defence?” I asked.
“Yeah at first I want to say he’s also a cool guy, very integrated into the team, and it was good with him. He’s a strong guy, it was good to finally play alongside him in a real match,” Tah said.
With Kyriakos Papadopoulos having been loaned to RB Leipzig, Dragović should see significant playing time this season in manager Roger Schmidt’s team. Leverkusen only made a few tweaks to the squad that had the youngest average age in the 2015-16 Bundesliga, but it isn’t always easy to find chemistry early in the season.
“You have a young team, does it take some time to gel?”
“Yeah, I think we have a bigger team now, we can change more, as I said it’s really hard playing games every three days, so that’s good for us,” Tah said.
The Autumn version of the Bundesliga’s Englische Woche, which features three games for every team in about eight days, just concluded this past Sunday, but there was no respite for teams playing in European competition. Bayer drew at Monaco on Tuesday, and already have another game tomorrow against Borussia Dortmund.
“Your manager has played a number of central defenders this season, do you think you and Dragović might be the first choice pairing? Has he said anything to you about that?
“No, nothing about that. I think every player gives his best when he plays,” Tah said.
All these games certainly give tinkering bosses like Schmidt plenty of opportunities to test out new systems. The emergence of Benjamin Henrichs at right back allows for Leverkusen to play with a very high backline.
“You have Wendell on the left, Henrichs on the right, you have a lot of pace to defend that high defensive line. Do you think that may be the coach’s reasoning behind playing the four of you?
“Yeah, maybe that’s why. But I think also on the bench today we had fast defenders, and everyone could play. For us we play forward, and then I’m staying back at the centre, so it can work. As I said everyone gives his best,” Tah said.