Schwarz: Szalai brings energy to the team
The head coach refers to the centre-forward as a clever player who knows how to be competitive: “That’s exactly what we need”
After a sobering 6-1 defeat in Munich, the one player to point out why exactly the team continues to crumble after conceding happened to be the one who had joined the club just three days before. Ádám Szalai highlighted the lack of coaching between teammates and the failures of the team’s match plan to address what to do in situations where they have fallen behind. “He’s right,” said Sandro Schwarz. “It’s absolutely the case that we need to help each other out. That makes this easier for everyone else on an individual level.”
The head coach echoed Szalai in saying that the team has been allowing certain things to slide, something which needs to change immediately. Following the match in the Allianz Arena, Szalai mentioned that he sees no reason why the team would not be able to get back on track. The quality within the squad is high, and both the coaches and the players will be able to “get things moving in the right direction, the way they should be for Mainz.”
“In the end, it’s the performance that counts”
The Hungary international, who will face Montenegro in a EURO qualification match tonight, proved during his 30-minute appearance in Munich, as well as with his post-match comments, that he’s approaching his second go-around in Mainz with a real sense of responsibility. As part of a young team, the veteran player wants to help out in as many areas as possible by taking on a leading role both on and off the pitch.
However, Schwarz stressed that it’s not just age that help make someone a leader. “Young players are just as able to conduct themselves in the same manner, to help coach their teammates and take on responsibility within the team. To become players that know what it’s like out on the pitch and don’t just tell the coach what they think he wants to hear, but instead give an honest answer about what they are seeing and experiencing. Everyone can coach, and everyone can take on responsibility,” said the 40-year-old. “Everyone also has a responsibility to fight back when faced with difficulties. In the end, it’s the performance that counts. You need to be consistent and reliable, in addition to conducting yourself in the appropriate manner. That’s how you become a leader.”
Szalai can most definitely take on this role. The Budapest-born centre-forward has 220 Bundesliga appearances under his belt, 80 of them for the Zerofivers. Most recently, Szalai featured 100 times for TSG Hoffenheim. Szalai was always a key figure under TSG head coach Julian Nagelsmann, even if he wasn’t always listed in the starting line-up. Last season, the striker made 30 Bundesliga and five Champions League appearances for Hoffenheim. “Ádám is vastly experienced: he sees a lot, thinks a lot and does his part. He brings energy to the team. It’s good to have players like that who are able to recognise certain things and don’t hesitate to bring them up, while also making the necessary changes both in the dressing room and on the pitch. That’s exactly what we need,” said the head coach.
Completing the final push
Currently, the task at hand is to analyse and correct the mistakes from the matches to date. The head coach is working on doing so on the pitch, as well as in various discussions, and is using the necessary video material to help support his efforts. “Some of the team already have the experience from last season on how to deal with setbacks, and know how it feels to be far away from the desired result. In that regard, it’s not about your formation or philosophy, but rather about your inner desire to take that final step. Whether it’s making a deep run, creating space, building-up passes or defensively, it’s about not thinking twice about delivering that final push,” said Schwarz.
For example, Szalai demonstrated during his Mainz debut in Munich that he is not one to allow his opponents to outplay him or to constantly be fishing the ball out of his own net, said Schwarz, who also highlighted the centre-forward as being a smart and clever player. “He knows how to be competitive on the pitch. He wants to give it his all to win the damned game.”