A season finale with self-belief
Part two of our 2018/19 season in review
We’re taking a look at the second leg of the season in Part Two of our look back at the 2018/19 Bundesliga season. We have two phases left to analyze of the four that head coach Sandro Schwarz divided this past season into. The coach has termed these phases as ‘the time of complacency,’ followed by the ‘the complete package.’ In the words of the head coach, we would have liked to “forgo that third phase entirely.”
The expectations were good and got even better. The team came into the second leg of the season with 21 points, safely in the middle of the table. In January, the squad took part in an intense training camp, which included two difficult matches against SC Freiburg and Standard Lüttich in which the Zerofivers took the lead but were unable to see it through to the end. This appeared to repeat itself when the season started up again. The Zerofivers were up 3-0 against Stuttgart, but served for suspense towards the end in a game that would finish 3-2. “Our first 80 minutes were very strong. We defended well, dominated play, and delivered beautifully-created goals,” said the head coach. The subsequent victory at home against 1. FC Nürnberg (2-1) took the team into tenth place, with 27 points. Everything seemed in order as Mainz were 13 points clear of the relegation zone.
“That really troubled us”
Or so it seemed. The Zerofivers then took a turn in the wrong direction. Free of the pressure of the relegation battle, Mainz lacked just enough intensity, aggressiveness, and effort so that the results failed to come. A series of eight losses followed, with just one win at home against FC Schalke 04. “That really troubled us,” said Schwarz, who criticised the team’s complacency. “It was a learning curve for our young team on how to deal with it when things go well. You need to keep at it, go that extra mile, and be even more professional when things are going well for you.” During this phase, Mainz were making too many mistakes on the field.
But, the head coach was able to turn things around. What followed was a spectacular 5-0 win against SC Freiburg, and a 2-1 loss in Dortmund where the Zerofivers dominated the title contenders, but were unable to put the ball in the net in order to bring home a well-deserved point. With a 3-1 win at home against Fortuna Düsseldorf, the club ensured they would be staying up well before the end of the season. “The fact that we were able to put this phase to bed after reaching our goal of staying up was a decisive step in our development,” said Schwarz. “After the match against Düsseldorf, it was extremely important for us to focus on our next goal, to avoid falling back into the same hole.”
The complete package
Even though there followed an unnecessary loss away against Hannover 96 (where Mainz were clearly the better team), the season ended strongly—with emotional, spectacular home games against Leipzig and Hoffenheim, as well as the derby win against Frankfurt. All done in a way guaranteed to stay in your memory, as the Zerofivers showed their self-belief. All that through high-intensity football, a willingness to overcome obstacles, an exciting offence, and beautifully created goals.
‘The complete package’ is the title for this fourth phase of the season. “In terms of football, our mentality, and our emotions, from the atmosphere to the quality of our game. Towards the end we combined elements from all three previous phases.” Mainz managed to win sympathy and support from their fans with their approach to the end of the season, which saw them not let off and continue to play as if there was everything left to play for. Schwarz and his side are taking this atmosphere with them into the new season. “It’s not that we’re saying that the way this season ended is the ideal. You can always do better,” said Schwarz. “But, we’re seeing progress. That’s important and is a good foundation for the new season.”