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21.07.2008 11:50

Vilanova: "I am very proud of this team"

Marc Guillén

Tito Vilanova will be Pep Guardiola’s assistant for the second year running, this time with the first team. The assistant coach is grateful to Guardiola and also happy with the way the players have performed in this first week back in training.

After their first week’s training, Barça are travelling this week to Scotland to play friendlies against Hibernian FC and Dundee United FC. Before leaving, Tito Vilanova spoke to Barça TV and www.fcbarcelona.cat about his first impressions as assistant coach.

What’s the first week of training with the Barça first team been like?

"Very good. It’s our first contact with the players and they’ve been able to get used to the way we do things a bit. They are all very ready to work and we are very happy with all of them."

Have you worked more on physical or tactical issues?

" tito_1.jpgAt the start of the season you normally work on the physical side, though we’ve also dealt with tactics. A lot of ball work, moving the ball around and positional play. We’ve also worked hard to bring in tactical considerations."

Pep Guardiola has said more than once that people will be very proud of this team because the players give their all on the pitch. Although they still haven’t played a match, can we be proud of the first week?

"We are, much more than we expected. There’s been no change in the training or in the demands we put on players. They’re young and really want to play. Training has been at the same level and with the same interest and excitement. They need to come along and work hard, but they also need to have a good time as when they do, they work more, which is what we’re after."

There have been some changes, such as switching from La Masía to the Miniestadi ...

entrenomin.jpg"It would be ideal if we had 4 or 5 pitches, like you get in the Ciudad Deportiva. The Ciudad Deportiva is great but maybe lacks some things for the first team. It’s true that the team has achieved a lot of successes when it trained at La Masía. But the distances at La Masía, and especially the way we organise the training sessions, don’t allow for it. We try to ensure there is time between exercises to drink some water. You can’t do that at La Masía because there’s no room and you waste a lot time changing the cones and fences. We do get that at the Mini but not as much as we’d get at the Ciudad Deportiva, with two pitches. We try to make the time the players spend out on the pitch as intense as possible but they don’t need to be out there for two hours to do that."

What are your goals for this week in Scotland?

"In the first week we worked on defence and defensive tactics. In the second week we’ll look at the attack, when we have the ball and how to lay out the team. In the first week they have to get used to the typical soreness and niggles, so we begin the harder work and the games in the second week and that’s what players like because training morning and afternoon gets to be a bit of a pain. In the second week we make more physical demands and they feel increasingly comfortable as the soreness and niggles start to disappear and they feel better."

You’ll be playing two games in Scotland and people are anxious to see how Pep Guardiola’s Barça will play. Will we see a bit of that style or is it still too early?

QM3D4172.jpg"Things have changed over the years. Years ago people didn’t see the first team’s preseason games. The Gamper came along and we all went along very excited to see the first team for the first time. Now everything’s on TV right from the word go. Sometimes people expect to see the level you only reach in October or November, when the team has played with the new players, the new system and the new methods, and done the new training sessions. That’s impossible because some players are still missing in the first week. People need to see us over time and see how we do then."

Before you said you were looking for fun in training sessions. Is playing games in Scotland part of this new way of working to stop the players getting bored?

"Well, there’s also the question of temperatures. It’s true that we had good temperatures for the first week in Barcelona, which is not usual. I think it’s easier to play friendlies in places where the temperatures are better. So what you’re looking for is better temperatures and playing away from Barcelona."
Vilanova: “I am very proud of this team“

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The role of the assistant coach
After playing in the Barça academy, last year you became assistant coach of Barça B and a year later you are with the first team. What’s that experience been like?

"It’s a dream in the sense you can’t believe it’ll happen so quickly. I had been at Barça since I was very small and I’d been a youth coach. Since then I’ve been working elsewhere and now I’m back. It’s all been really quick, but football’s like that: you’re in one place then another, playing in the First Division and then in the Second and so on. The important thing is that Pep trusted in me and wanted me to help him. I know that there are a lot of people around Pep who would have liked to work with him, and the fact that he asked me obviously pleases me but also makes me aware of my responsibility. The fact of getting the call for the first team is even more exciting, because you just have to think about the number of people who would like to be in my shoes. I’m really happy."

There was talk that Pep Guardiola might choose someone else as an assistant but in the end it was you. Did you decide to be a long-term partnership when you came together with the reserve team?

"Nowadays you don’t know how long couples are going to last... (laughter). I’ve always told him to do what he wants. If he’d chosen someone else, that would have been fine by me. He’s the one who decides and at the end of the day you have to do things willingly and not because you’re forced to. So he had to be convinced and I’m pleased he’s picked me, though if he hadn’t there would have been no problem."

What’s your role as assistant coach?

"Sometimes people talk about good cop, bad cop with the assistant coach, but I don’t think it’s like that. You have to be straightforward with the players and respect them and that way they believe in you. Nor do I believe in those who say nothing at training and it’s the other one who gives the orders. When people are doing an exercise, both of us have to say things. As head coach he is in charge and takes final decisions, but there’s never just one person telling the players what to do as we try to split up the field. It’s a thing for two people, though he of course has the final responsibility."

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