Marc Janko has gone from out-and-out forward to "first defender" since Huub Stevens arrival at FC Salzburg, but results at home and in the UEFA Europa League have justified the Dutchman's approach.
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Marc Janko has gone from out-and-out forward to "first defender" since Huub Stevens arrival as FC Salzburg coach, but results have justified the Dutchman's hardline style.
Under Stevens's predecessor Co Adriaanse, Salzburg played relentless attacking football, taking last season's title with Janko racking up a terrific haul of 39 goals. However, since Stevens was appointed this summer, style has taken second place to results, with the 55-year-old saying: "If you come to Salzburg, winning the league is the first goal. The second is to play European football. I know my assignment well and will work very hard to reach those goals."
After a wobbly start, Salzburg have hit top gear, and stand top of the Austrian league as well as UEFA Europa League Group G. In that competition they are one of only three teams on a perfect nine points and a win or even a draw at PFC Levski Sofia on Thursday could ensure their round of 32 place. Having signed up until 2011, Stevens has set about making the Salzburg defence watertight, and while that initially caused his star striker problems – Janko found himself on the bench after a barren start to the campaign – the 26-year-old is now up to speed with what the former FC Schalke 04, Hamburger SV and PSV Eindhoven coach expects.
More than goals
Gone are the times when the poacher was only expected to lurk in the area awating balls from the likes of László Bodnár and Patrik Ježek. Stevens expects his Janko to track back, do more running off the ball and take more part in build-up play. "That's like asking a downhill skier to start doing a slalom straight away," said Janko. "Last season, I hardly had to do any defending at all. Now I am the first defender in my team."
The rampaging Adriaanse days may be over, but Janko has accepted his new role. "I have accepted mentally and physically that I have to work more for the team, supply more assists and not just think about scoring anymore," said the 13-times capped international, who has nonetheless scored nine goals in the first 14 league games of the season.
With his star striker in harness and newcomers Rabiu Afolabi and Nikola Pokrivač also settling well, Stevens is expecting more moral support in the months to come with Dietmar Beiersdorfer – under whom he worked at Hamburg – becoming Salzburg's sporting director on Sunday. "Having Huub Stevens there was an important factor in my decision to come to Salzburg," the 45-year old Beiersdorfer said. Stevens added: "Didi Beiersdorfer did excellent work at HSV. We had a great time there."