A round up from the first half of the season
Schwarz sees the positives from the season so far: “We feel that we could have got more points.”
Last season, the Zerofivers suffered defeats to Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB Pokal and TSG Hoffenheim in the league within a few days. Ten months later, Mainz played the two teams again within a week and were able to draw 2-2 with high-flying Frankfurt and 1-1 with Hoffenheim with the overall atmosphere at the club now being very different. “I think we have developed well to be where we are at the moment. You can see how much we have improved this year,” said Sandro Schwarz after the draw with Hoffenheim.
“Back then we had reached a low point,” said the head coach. “No one would have thought it was possible where we are going now, to reach the level we are at today. After the memorable 4-2 victory in Hoffenheim in February, the Zerofivers went on and claimed 16 points as they mastered a brutal relegation battle, finishing with 36 points in 14th place. Currently, Mainz 05 have 21 points, four more than last season and sit in twelfth place. They are seven points above relegation and are mid table in the league.
Things to improve
The sporting situation isn't the only thing that has changed in Mainz. The relationship with the fans has too. In the last home game at the Opel Arena, the players and the fans were able to celebrate together after a good performance, even though the Derby ended in a draw. Similarly in Hoffenheim, where over 2000 fans travelled to the game and sang their club proud, the relationship between the fans and the club has improved. The players spontaneously gave away their shirts as a thank you and the club provided the fans with mulled wine and bratwurst.
Julian Nagelsmann stressed after the game,that his team have nine points more in the bank, "with a little less humility, it should be twelve or 13," said the Hoffenheim coach. Schwarz, on the other hand, did not want to relieve his own point yield with numbers. "We also have the feeling that there could definitely have been more points," said the 40-year-old. “We have concluded with the knowledge that we know we can make things even better, but with the way we act, with the behaviour on the pitch, with our style of play, we can be very satisfied with our quality.”
It is remarkable how the team is performing in the meantime. "We got together in the summer and made the right conclusions from the first year and we had to make changes in terms of footballing quality." The Zerofivers have found a mixture of experienced Bundesliga players and hungry up-and-coming talents. Players from their own academy and young newcomers, all of whom have united to fulfil their great potential, which have improved the team's quality. Five of the new signings have become regulars and have performed well right from the start. "It's outstanding to get together as a group so quickly," said the coach. "We had some difficult periods; five games without a goal, but at that time the team still played well.”
The diamond formation
“The team is on a very good path as far as the defence is concerned - we can withstand difficult phases of play and stay upright in terms of body language. “We've had a lot of special moments in the home games, which has been a spectacle many times, and the guys have shown in many games the quality they put in. Passing under pressure, the precision has improved, the whole play,” said the head coach.
An important step in the development has been the fact that the team switched from a 4-3-3 to a 4-4-2 formation but can fluidly adapt to either during a game. “We discussed as a team how we can become more threatening going forward,” explained Schwarz. In order to ensure that they don't lose a strong midfielder, Mainz opted for the diamond formation in the 4-4-2. “When we drew 0-0 with Hertha, we noticed straight away that we had a good structure. You need good footballers in the centre who can defend and attack. They need to make the right decisions in tight areas. We have two strikers up top who can always hold up the ball and move you forward. That’s how our puzzle has been put together bit by bit.”
Schwarz will build from this basis in the new year. “We have clear principles in our game. Our anchor must be the person who notices when his teammates are tired and can cover from them. Added to this, we need to improve our transition play from defence to attack, crossing, back passing and to defend better against the opposition wingers. These are things we will tackle in the short preparation for the second half of the season.” The work begins on the 3rd January.