ACT 3: MENTALITY AND GROUP DYNAMICS
The Season in 05 Acts - A Review
When the new (old) sporting management team consisting of Christian Heidel, Martin Schmidt and Bo Svensson took office, the clocks at Mainz were turned back to zero shortly after the New Year. Little by little, the team under the leadership of the Danish head coach underwent a real change in mentality. After the successes at the beginning of the second half of the season, the club and the Mainz supporters became cautiously optimistic.
Already in the first weeks under the new coaching team, it became clear that Mainz's path towards staying in the league would only be possible through enormous willpower and willingness to fight. Against runners-up Borussia Dortmund, "the unity to perform as a team until the last second" (Svensson) was rewarded with a point. The performance was good for long stretches, but the Zerofivers waited in vain for a win in the last three first-round matches, all against top-class opponents, mind you. That was to change at the start of the second half.
Second half of the season off to a good start
With only seven points after 17 games, Mainz's starting position in the standings before the 18th matchday was anything but hopeful. Never before had a Bundesliga team managed to stay in the league with this number of points. Moreover, the change of course initiated under Svensson would take time. The head coach was also aware of this: "My vision is to bring Mainz 05 back to where I would like to see the club in terms of football. That can't be done in ten days. Development through games and results paired with hard daily training work - that was the focus now."
"Of course, we also need three or four wins in a row at some point. And we are capable of doing that," said Svensson, convinced of his mission right from the start. A conviction that was transferred to the entire group at the latest with the surprise coup against RB Leipzig: The Zerofivers had trailed twice against the top team from Saxony, equalised twice and finally, thanks to Leandro Barreiro's first goal and a strong debut of Danny Da Costa in the 05 kit, claimed the first home victory of the season and the first three-point win under Svensson. Three goals against the best defence in the league made for a broader chest.
Fightback against Bayer, victories against Union and Gladbach
"The team makes a really cool impression," said flanker Da Costa after the game, representing Mainz, who exuded unity, will, intensity and passion on this afternoon and hinted at where the journey can lead with the new sporting management trio against the house favourites one week after the point against BVB. A next big exclamation mark in the relegation battle.
Although the Rheinhessen side suffered a 2-0 defeat against promoted VfB Stuttgart in the following match, the 1-0 win over Union Berlin, the 2-2 draw against Bayer 04 Leverkusen, which was so important for their own morale, and the 2-1 away win against Borussia Mönchengladbach proved that the Zerofivers were no longer thrown off course by minor setbacks. Little by little, Svensson and his coaching team had brought the Mainz side very close to shore.
"...still a long way to go"
"In terms of content, we remain true to the path we started on a month ago. The important thing for me is that this team is a team and they proved that today. Of course, this is a positive step, but we still have a long way to go," Svensson said after the draw against Leverkusen. Mainz's upswing included not only a willingness to fight, running strength, tenacity and mentality on the pitch, but also dealing realistically with setbacks, reflecting on their own play and a large portion of self-criticism. To clearly point out mistakes and weaknesses and at the same time not to lose ground in case of success - with this attitude the Zerofivers found back to undreamt-of strength in the second half of the season, as the fourth part of our review will show.