By Oliver Trust
BERLIN, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Bayern Munich star striker Arjen Robben said in a recent interview with Xinhua that times are over when teams play 4-4-2 or another system for the whole 90 minutes. Teams with great tactical flexibility will be the ones winning titles in the future.
In the interview, he also talked about his ups and downs, as well as his ambition ahead of the new season.
XINHUA: Mr. Robben, are we seeing the best ever Arjen Robben?
Robben: "I feel good, that's all I can say. And I think everybody can see it on the pitch too. One important thing is my fitness. I feel as if I've got my body under control. Of course you never know, but having such a long period without an injury is a great thing. It makes you strong."
XINHUA: What's the difference between the Arjen Robben that joined Bayern Munich five years ago and the one now?
Robben: "Well it maybe sounds weird, but I went through a certain development. I have made important steps since I've been here. I improved at Real and Chelsea too but the important improvement has come at Bayern."
XINHUA: Do you feel at the peak?
Robben: "Well, somehow yes. For the past two and a half years I have been playing regularly which gives you a rhythm. I feel I get more respect for my performances and that I am at the top of my game. That's the biggest praise for me. To be nominated on the shortlist for the European Player of the Year is something that makes me proud. But it doesn't mean I am done with. I hope there is a lot more to come. Maybe from now on the steps will be little steps."
XINHUA: The new Champions League season is about to start. What are your first memories as regards the Champions League?
Robben: "It was Ajax Amsterdam winning the Cup in 1995 because it was a Dutch club."
XINHUA: And you decided to make it into the Champions League as well?
Robben: "I was far from it. I was around 11 years old. My dream at the time was to get into my club FC Groningen's first team."
XINHUA: And what is your greatest Champions League moment and your worst one?
Robben (smiling): "That's an easy answer, you know that."
XINHUA: Let's try: You lost the final with Bayern in Munich against Chelsea with you missing a penalty?
Robben: "One point!"
XINHUA: And the game at Wembley against Borussia Dortmund, you won and you scored the decisive goal?
Robben (smiling): "Your second point."
XINHUA: That game seems to be a turning-point in your career?
Robben: "Maybe that is one reason for my good feeling about football. I wouldn't call it pressure but a weight fell off me. As Pep Guardiola came to Bayern he said to me: "You have proven your class, now enjoy, and don't forget to enjoy your self-confidence."
XINHUA: You did, but you don't seem to be satisfied?
Robben: "Don't get me wrong. I played Champions League for the first time when I was 18 years old, now I'm 30. Well, let put it straight: I'm still hungry. This year's Champions League is of course somehow special, the final will take place in Berlin. And: As Bayern Munich it must be our aim to win it."
XINHUA: Before we got around to seeing the best Robben ever, you had a hard time. Today, you are a people's hero for a good reason, namely your outstanding performances in the recent past. But there were times when Arjen Robben had to fight for acceptance.
Robben: "Right. We lost the final 2012, I missed a penalty and we had this game with the Dutch national team against Bayern in preparation of Euro 2012. I was booed by some spectators. That was hard to take."
XINHUA: Can you be more precise? What are the hard times like exactly?
Robben: "Well, losing is never funny. But if you don't feel the acceptance you need and deserve, it's a hard job to stay tuned. We had a rather poor European Championship with the Dutch team as well. I didn't lose confidence in my skills and I remained confident in general. It was wearying: You know it's there somewhere in your body and mind, but you've got to get it back to the surface, which is not easy in such moments. By the way: Maybe that's another reason for my good mood and shape, I feel I' m accepted today. You can say I fought myself back to the top."
XINHUA: It seems the experienced Arjen Robben has a new role in Bayern' s team as well as in the Dutch team. Today you seem to be more a leader, helping younger players to develop and keeping the team spirit up.
Robben: "I wouldn't call myself a leader. That would mean playing a certain role on purpose. What I can say is that it comes naturally. Maybe it's like you get older and slip into a new role in your team and a new status in the pecking order. What I can say is that I try to be of more value to the team. But the word "leader" is too much for my taste, I am happy to be an inspiring teammate. By the way, I feel pretty much the same way in the Dutch national team too."
XINHUA: You spoke about dark moments in the Champions League. One for sure was the semifinal defeat to Real Madrid in 2014. Is there now a thought of revenge brewing in you and your teammates?
Robben: "You can't atone for being knocked-out in a semifinal. So revenge is the wrong word. We could have done better, and we know why we didn't. We won the German Championship very early that year, and maybe there was too much concentration on winning the title. But one thing is for sure: I would love to play Real in this year's Champions League."
XINHUA: Is the current Bayern squad the strongest you have played in so far?
Robben: "Yes, I would say so. I have never before played in such a strong team, when that is all the guys are fit. Only Toni Kroos and Mario Mandzukic have left us, meaning the understanding within the team is still very much as it was. On top of everything, we don't have to get used to a new coach, it is more of a continuous process that we benefit from."
XINHUA: How does the team deal with its many World Cup winners?
Robben: "First of all, it's great they won the World Cup. I'm happy for them. Now we can profit from their self-confidence. There is only one problem ..."
XINHUA: Tell us?
Robben (laughing): "Well I had to take all the jokes that I finished third with the Dutch team, which was a great success for Oranje."
XINHUA: You never thought about retiring from international football?
Robben: "Hey I'm 30 and I'm feeling pretty good. Why should I? The 2016 European Championship will take place in France, a good reason to go on I think. By that time the young Dutch team will have some more experience."
XINHUA: Real are the big opponents in this year's Champions League campaign?
Robben: "Well I read that somewhere. Real, they wrote, is the only one that can stop Bayern. Hey, don't forget clubs like Barcelona, Atletico, Chelsea, and all the others. You can't say hey guys, it is going to come down to either Bayern or Real."
XINHUA: What role does your coach Pep Guardiola play in your current status?
Robben: "Oh, a big one. I've made a big improvement since he's been here. Maybe others make similar improvements when they are younger. I have made them in the last 18 months. Now I feel, I have reached a very high level. It feels good. Talking about improvements, let's not forget Louis van Gaal, whose great work helped me a lot too."
XINHUA: What can we expect in the new season from Bayern?
Robben: "That the team acts more flexibly as far as tactics are concerned. That's something very important for Pep Guardiola in the first place. He is always good for a big surprise. It shows that he lives football 24/7. You can call him at three in the morning and talk about tactics with him. (Robben laughs) I am sure he would love that. In the German Cup final I once played as a central striker, it worked. I hadn't done it too often before as I was on the wing most of the time. To be flexible every moment in the match will be part of our game this year. You can count on one thing ..."
XINHUA: And that is?
Robben: "We still want to be the dominant team whenever we are on the pitch. It's not all about efficiency either. One thing though, we want to make sure we perform well against fast counter-attacking teams. The important thing is that we find a balance. That's what we are working on."
XINHUA: Flexibility for some was a keyword at the 2014 World Cup. Did the games to you reveal some new trends in world football?
Robben: "The back row of three defenders, with two full backs in front of them and two along the flanks, comes immediately to mind. We sometimes played like that with the Netherlands. Even Costa Rica did and they played some great football. Who expected them to survive the group. Everybody thought they would end up fourth. You see how important it is, to be, let's say, "modern" in your tactics. But there is one even more important thing ..."
Robben: "The most important thing was total tactical flexibility. To be able, as a team, to find an answer to every new situation or opponent was something that will influence football around the world for the next years. Times are over when teams played 4-4-2 or another system for the whole 90 minutes. Teams with great tactical flexibility will be the ones winning titles in the future."