Pros 18.08.2022 — 12:14 Uhr

Schmidt: “It’s almost like a derby”

Sporting director Martin Schmidt has been the head coach of both FSV and FC Augsburg. The Swiss looks back at his positive record against Saturday’s opponents and the rivalry between the two clubs.

Mainz's last win in Augsburg came on 18th September 2016. Schmidt was head coach.

When it comes to an away trip to FC Augsburg, no one has more knowledge than the current sporting director. Not only did Martin Schmidt defeat Mainz as Augsburg’s head coach back in 2019, the Swiss is the only man to have led the Zerofivers to two away wins at the WWK-Arena. The first of these two wins came in March 2015, when FSV eased to a 2-0 win and the second came a year later, when Schmidt’s side ran away 3-1 winners. Since then, Mainz have had a tough time in Augsburg and have lost six times in the Bundesliga and once in the DFB-Pokal.

An important three points in the fight for survival

“I had a good record against Augsburg as Mainz head coach,” said Schmidt, who replaced Kasper Hjulmand (now manager of the Denmark national team) as FSV boss back in February 2015. Schmidt’s fourth game as head coach was against Augsburg and he travelled to the WWK-Arena with a certain Bo Svensson as his assistant. “We were in the midst of a relegation battle and we got a big win,” recalls Schmidt. “Those sorts of moments are very important in a relegation battle because they relieve some of the pressure and send a clear message to the fellow strugglers.”

We were in the midst of a relegation battle and we got a big win

The significance of the win can be seen from an excerpt from the match report after the game: “Martin Schmidt’s side celebrated a huge 2-0 away win on Matchday 25 against FC Augsburg to take their tally to 29 points. It was an outstanding team performance against a side who are notoriously tough to beat at home. Shinji Okazaki and Ja-Cheol Koo were the goal-scorers. Schmidt was very happy, not just because of the success on the pitch, but also because the pragmatic game plan came together so well.”

The values haven’t changed

The way Mainz approach games against Augsburg has changed very little. “I had some very positive experiences there as Mainz head coach and I know that it is always an explosive game that requires a pragmatic approach and sometimes tactics can play second fiddle. You have to draw upon the values of Mainz 05 because you are coming up against a side that fight in a similar way,” explains Schmidt.

Schmidt is now sporting director of Mainz 05 (IMAGO/HJS).

This Saturday, it’s Bo Svensson who is travelling to Augsburg as the Mainz head coach for his side’s second away game of the season on Matchday 3. Hopefully 3 can be the magic number once again, as Mainz last win at the WWK-Arena came in a 3-1 victory on Matchday 3 of the 2016/17 season. “It was an Augsburg team with top players. Their system with three forwards made them very difficult to play against. They had Finnbogason through the middle, Dong-Wong Ji on the left and Bobadilla on the right. They also had Baier, Ja-Cheol koo and Dominik Kohr in the middle of the park. They were a team of real quality. We got off to a good start and our approach was clear. We had to defend well. We were compact in midfield and we wanted to counter attack quickly. We scored early on through Jhon Cordoba and we went on to out play them.”

It was an Augsburg team with top players

Yunus Malli and Yoshinori Muto scored the decisive goals late on in the game. The key to success that afternoon was Mainz’s game plan out of possession. For long periods of the game, the Zerofivers kept their opponents away from their goal, forcing them to often take speculative efforts from range. Stefan Bell and Leon Balogun were defending aggressively with a lot of vigour. Fabian Frei and Jean-Philippe Gbamin, who covered lots of ground and fought hard, also helped to create a defensive wall that FCA rarely broke through.

A reunion at the weekend

“It’s nice that we are going there at the weekend with Kohr and it’s also nice that Koo and Ji were both with us. Julian Baumgartlinger is now also at Augsburg. It will be a day of reunion,” said Schmidt, who is fully aware of the tough test that awaits Mainz on the pitch. “They got off to a strong start with a win against Leverkusen and we are going to be coming up against a team full of courage and full of strength. It could be a decisive game in terms of the early parts of the season.” Mainz have, however, been too open against Augsburg in recent years. “You can’t go there all guns blazing and be too open. You need a different approach and we did that in the two aforementioned victories,” he added.

A certain rivalry has also opened up between the two clubs in recent years and Schmidt believes there is an explanation for this. “Both clubs are on a similar path. They both spent many years in the second division and have grown steadily. Both are small in terms of finances, but huge in terms of heart. They have both established themselves in the Bundesliga but not because of money. Both clubs have worked hard to get where they are. Both clubs have similar histories and have had to hold their own against the bigger teams through spirit. And both have stayed in the Bundesliga for many years. It’s almost like a derby game when we face each other. I lived in the middle of the city just a stone’s throw from the cathedral, so I know both places inside out. I believe the competition between the two clubs comes from the fact that neither back down and always want to push on with their sleeves rolled up,” explained Schmidt.

It’s almost like a derby game when we face each other

The 55-year-old is now the sporting director and he believes there are some fundamental differences between the two roles. “Being a coach is a lot more emotional and the daily pressures are a lot bigger. My job is more about planning, organising and is more strategic. As a coach, the next game is always the most important thing. I have put my heart and soul into both roles. For me now, it’s less about the next match and more about looking to the future. That also fits in with my character. I’m a sporting director with lots of heart and I am always looking to improve. There is nowhere better in the world to do that than at Mainz. I experienced it as a coach and now as a sporting director and for that reason, I still have big goals.”