Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown. That’s never been more true for G2 Esports than this year. The perennial victors of the LEC went into a meltdown — losing in the Spring Semifinals and having a 0-4 start in the Summer Split. From there, the team struggled with inconsistency. Though the community pointed fingers at many different people to blame.
Almost every time though, Fabian "GrabbZ" Lohmann was unafraid to point at himself. Through their problems, G2’s longtime coach has been open about them. Inven Global had the chance to sit down with GrabbZ and discuss the team’s recent uptick in performance, Europe’s chances at Worlds, and proper coaching procedures.
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What is currently your thinking on the state of the team? Obviously, there have been many struggles this split, but I’d say overall the team seems to be rising a bit. Do you guys feel that way? What is your mentality?
We felt a surge of confidence again after the 0-4. We had long talks again, as a team, about what we want to actually do, and who has any complaints he wants to get off his chest. And we had really good scrim results in the end. And I think we can be happy going 3-1. The game against Fnatic could have been won — they're probably the best team in the league so losing to them is no shame. [...] We are confident that we're gonna end the season strong.
From your perspective, what do you think that the biggest problems for why things like the 0-4 start happened, and why there was so much inconsistency at the beginning of this split?
It's really hard to say. Ultimately, though, I would say that we had a bad balance between what we wanted to improve on — especially bringing in Nelson — and what made us strong in the past. We kind of stopped working on our strengths, and became one-dimensional and forming the kind of positions in the game where we couldn't follow the script, let's say. We struggled. So now we had talks about this, and as a coaching staff, we gave players responsibility back in a way — in drafting and gameplay. So we encouraged them to not be so one-dimensional, so structured, and to let loose once again. And that's just a scenario they feel more comfortable, as you can see clearly.
When I spoke with Jankos he said that G2 had misjudgments in how the champions are played and how the meta was at through the Spring Split and beginning of Summer. How did you guys tackle this issue? Do you think the team has a stronger sense of the meta now?
It's basically just enforcing more talk about the game itself, because it is very easy to talk about champions and black and white and say, "This champ is OP", without actually addressing what it wants to accomplish in the game. In the past as well in G2, we basically just tried to pick strong champions but didn't think too much about what we wanted to achieve in the game. So we had different ideas. And I think that's what he meant by that as well, that we just couldn't play the champions to their full potential because we try to be more individualistic instead of having a unified idea of how we want to approach the game.
Nelson has helped with your champion pools, something the team previously blamed for the team’s poor drafting last split. So far, that still seems to be one of the main issues with the team. Do the champion pools still need work? Or is there another issue?
I kind of disagree with the champion pool being an issue. I think we play quite a bit of unique champions. The reason why the last two weeks we were a bit more cookie cutter is just because we had a 0-4 period. It's very easy to just go back to play the basics and try to get wins that way. But I would never say that champions pools are a big issue. And I think people have the impression that Rekkles is very limited, but he has shown that he can play more champs — the Kalista now came out as well, as an example, something he hadn't played in a long while.
You were someone that was very pessimistic last split about G2 and Europe as a whole’s chances at Worlds. With relatively young teams like Rogue, Fnatic, and MAD Lions all atop the standings — how does Europe fare now compared to last year?
It's the same story for three years. European teams do well, after getting absolutely smacked in scrims against Asian teams. And every single time fans have the impression that this is the new providence. Whereas the teams that have shown that progress like Fnatic 2018, G2 2019 — we go through pain against them in the boot camps. The regional strength is very different because China and Korea have the option to scrim each other. Let's say we have four good teams in Europe: they have 10 they can scrim. That's just the reality of it. And this will not suddenly change. It didn't change last year, it didn't change the year before, it won't change this year.
It will always be the fact that European teams come to the tournament, have strong individual players, and then we have to suddenly play against players who might be better than ours. [For example] Upset-Hylissang are very dominant in Europe right now. They can play whatever matchup they want, and they win the game doing this and this happens in scrims as well. But then suddenly, they go play against EDG's bot lane — they will get smashed in matchups they were confident in. And that's just the reality, and the same will apply this year. So I'm pessimistic in a way to not be delusional to say that we have good chances.
The only thing I see changing is that Korea seems weaker than last year and the years before. So I'm terrified of the top floor of LPL. But I would not think that the top spot in Europe is weaker than the top spot in Korea currently, the way DWG especially is playing. Gen.G is a team that did impress me last year, and they're leading the table right now in Korea. So I wouldn't even say Asia, I would say China's just really hard to beat.
G2 has always been praised for its macro. What team in the LEC currently most impresses you from a macro gameplay perspective. Can they compete with LPL teams?
Macro in itself is really hard because macro is more than one thing. It is very complex in terms of early game macro, mid-game macro, objective macro. So what macro are we speaking about? If we talk about the team that's very consistent in every scenario, that's Rogue. Rogue will always be very stable. Sure, the criticism that I've always had about them that they don't surprise you is the same, but they are very stable. They understand how pressure works on the map in almost every scenario.
Fnatic is really strong in that. I think Fnatic is stronger than MAD in that scenario. Currently, Fnatic and Rogue are the standouts, of course, including us. But every team in the top four, I'd say, including us again, has different aspects of the better than the others. So there's no one team when I say these are the macro leaders in Europe, that just not the case, currently.
You were someone that was very vocal about CLG’s handling of their roster situation. Hypothetically if CLG were to hire Grabbz, how would you have handled the situation of dealing with that unsuccessful of a roster, and bringing it to a position where they could be contending again?
I don't have enough inside information to make any guess, right? I can only talk generally about what coaching staffs should do, or whatever the case would be. First of all, it seemed like they could not transition the confidence they got from their Vi and Galio comps into playing normally. Which is something I think could've certainly been built upon. I think the transitive knowledge may not be there.
And I think, since this video came out, that the coaching staff might not push back against the org as much as they need to. Because this is unacceptable that players get put into this position where a private meeting is leaked. I'm not blaming the coaches for it coming out, but it shows they don't have the final say of what comms get released. Which I think could be really toxic.
You spoke a lot last year about the problems with Fnatic, that the team was very talented but lacked cohesion. So something I’ve heard a lot of people say is that G2 lacks cohesion at the moment. You guys have a lot of excellent players, but when you hear about how there has been an added emphasis on teambuilding, it definitely seems to be a factor. Does G2’s teambuilding need to be strengthened?
Cohesion is the first point for any team to improve, honestly. And it goes back to the question you had before where we lacked understanding of how our champions actually wanted to be played out. We were confident and happy just saying they're strong, and we picked them and the player will have an impact. And in the same context, the addition of Nelson brought in some problems, because suddenly there was this mix between the structure that he gave us, which was really good in isolation.
But then also, how much do we want to change our own style? Maybe the way certain players want to play, for example, sidelane. Let's say Wunder or Caps want to play sidelane. The equation was not there. And not from a gameplay standpoint — from even before the game starts. Because we have different ideas going in about champion selection and how we want to play the game out. So this is something that we worked on fixing the last weeks. And I think the impact is very clearly visible. The games we won were overall dominant in the way we won them. I don't think any of the wins were in danger.
You recently also stated that this season G2 has put a lot of emphasis on team building, which was explained as one of your downfalls last split. What about looking at the last few years? Although the team was very successful, was there still no emphasis on teambuilding?
It's not about team building itself, it was just more about structured approaches and scale. We also had a very loose approach and that's also the reason the memes about Wunder World of Warcraft could even appear because we didn't mind him playing other stuff after scrims. Whereas after losing, G2 as an org wants to see some change. And we overshot a bit in how we structured things, which was something that we changed going into week five. We went from being very loose to having a more structured approach.
We tried that out. Most of the team didn't like it, because we go back to the mood and individual freedom, right? If they're forced to do more as a team — which in itself can be good — but to the extent that they sit together for 12 hours a day, without individual freedom, then this will impact the mood negatively. And this is what happened. This is something that we discussed as a team and changed. I think currently everybody's really happy with the approach we're doing which basically is just a mixture of both. We still have structure, we still have certain activities that we expect players to do together. But overall, they still have enough time to just go about their hobbies or live life the way they want to.
All images via: Riot Games
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