A chance for stability and consistency
Bell: A good feeling right from the off – Onisiwo, Maxim, Barreiro and new signing Fernandes all return to pre-season training
The first week of pre-season for 1. FSV Mainz 05 was a week for the youth. “I felt really old,” Stefan Bell joked at the end of the first week of pre-season training. “The average age in training was 21 years old.” That was not disadvantageous, however, as shown in the friendly against a regional select XI, which the Zerofivers won 12-0, mainly thanks to goals from various academy players. At the start of the second week of training, two experienced players came back into the fold in Karim Onisiwo and Alex Maxim, along with new signing Edimilson Fernandes (23) and Leandro Barreiro (19).
The spotlight on the young Zerofivers, who gave an excellent account of themselves in the friendly against the regional XI, has dimmed for now. On Monday, Sandro Schwarz’s squad was still not at full strength, although bolstered by the players that had returned, whilst four youngsters - Erkan Eyibil, Cyrill Akono, Omer Hanin and Niklas Kölle - were also involved, not to mention Jonathan Burkardt, Barreiro, Ahmet Gürleyen and Finn Dahmen.
“I get the feeling that we will have a bit of a younger squad this season compared to previous years,” Bell said. “Whether that will make a big difference remains to be seen. We were already quite a young team. We have had quite a few academy players with us in pre-season. That is a big advantage, because they are familiar with everything and everyone. Therefore the group has started to gel and function well together quite quickly,” the Mainz captain explained. “We’ll have to see what the squad looks like at the end of pre-season.”
“They are all really motivated”
Bell clearly used the summer break well as he returned to pre-season after his holiday full of vigour and ready to go. He believes that the club is in a good place ahead of the upcoming season. Continuity in the managerial staff and in the leadership positions higher up in the club. “And the regulars from last season have, so far, all remained together. That is a different position to one that we have been in in previous years,” the centre-back noted.
“I think that we have the chance now, to stabilise and be more consistent in the coming year, especially with the new signings from last season who now have a year of Bundesliga experience under their belts. They are all motivated to prove themselves again and give it their all.” For that reason, he has had a good feeling from day one. This feeling is only enhanced by the addition of good, exciting players to the squad. “And because especially now the young boys are making a great impression. Ridle Baku is on top of his game. Johnny Burkardt and Leo Barreiro are fully committed to us now. I am excited, because I think so highly of them both,” the experienced defender said.
The statistics prove it
For Bell, there will also be phases in which the team will lose games. “That is the way it is, because we’re not a team challenging for the Europa League every season. Last year, there was more stability. The stats prove it too. In worse phases, when we weren’t winning games, we managed to draw most of them. You could also see that it was Sandro’s second year and that the players knew exactly what he wanted to see. That will all get even better.”
In the coming weeks the focus will be on integrating the new arrivals and creating a unit as a team. “It would be good if we managed to bring in some of the best talents from our youth academy into the first team. Last year was a good start, as the three of them made Bundesliga appearances. It is really impressive and it is often forgotten how well we are doing in this respect,” said Bell on the transition from youth setup to first team at the club.