25.08.2018 — 21:42 Uhr

Schwarz: Three main principles

Prior to the start of Mainz’s tenth consecutive Bundesliga season, head coach Sandro Schwarz took some time out to chat to the media.

Mainz will begin their 13th Bundesliga season and Schwarz will begin his second season as Mainz head coach. The 39-year-old was born in Mainz, played 168 games in the 2. Bundesliga for Mainz 05 and in his first year as manager, he kept Mainz away from relegation and has now prepared his squad well for the upcoming season. In an interview, he discusses his approach, his new and clear fundamental tactics and his requirements of the squad.

Sandro, how are you feeling about the upcoming season, as oppose to how you felt last summer?

Schwarz: “It wouldn’t be fair to compare them as they are completely different. Last year we had different expectations from the squad. At the start of last season, the club was a bit unsettled. But we aren’t going to start pointing fingers and say ‘things will automatically be better now’. There will be downs during the season that we will have to lift ourselves out from. However, we have created a fundamental basic tactic that we can always fall back on and we have improved our fitness levels and developed physically a lot during the past seven weeks. We have written on the banners around the training ground that we want to play with a high intensity. We noticed in the latter stages of last season that if we play with a high intensity we play better and therefore it will be our base tactic. Therefore, at the beginning of pre-season, we started by working really hard on our play without the ball. We want to be able to have a tactic that we can always fall back on. I have been very pleased with how we have played in our pre-season games and even more impressed by our performance against Aue in the cup.”

 “We have to prove it now”

Was the second-half against Vigo during pre-season and your game against Aue in the DFB-Pokal how you want Mainz to play?

Schwarz: “Yes, the way we played was a result of our good pre-season preparation. We have always managed to overcome difficulties. We didn’t start well at Celta Vigo and against Aue we were down to ten men after just three minutes, but we managed to win both games. The players made me very confident that we can play well as a team and that we are training well. The same feeling applies to the club, because we are settled right now. We have a team with huge potential and talent and I’m really excited to see where this team can go. Our aim is to ensure that we can fulfil our potential and develop well. All the small signs are showing me that we are creating something bigger. Nevertheless, we cannot get too ahead of ourselves and we need to prove that we can carry out our developments and become a better team every week.

What are your footballing aims this season?

Schwarz: The requirements must be that if you call us at 3am and say that the game is starting, we must be ready to implement our tactics. We need to define ourselves by our intensity during the game, as well as get forward but also defend well. Work off the ball will be very important as well. We want to be pro-active in defence and be dominant. However, I know that there will be games where we won’t be able to dominate and we will be fully prepared for them too. We need to make sure that we communicate and are organised whenever the ball turns over, from us to the opposition or from them to us. We need to be able to attack efficiently when we have the ball, like how we did against Celta Vigo. We must always work outwards from our fundamental tactics, in addition to applying everything we have trained on.

“You must always push yourself to the limit”

Are Mainz a possession based team or a counter-attacking team?

Schwarz: I wouldn’t say we were one or the other. We don’t want to put a label on the way we play. We will play a style of football where we work hard off the ball and are pro-active in defence. There will be moments during the game where we play counter-attacking football and also possession based football. Our first aim is to always work hard off the ball and to win it back quickly, that is probably the difference in our playing style compared to last year. I think that sometimes we thought too far ahead and simply forgot about the basics.”

The squad has changed and the new players must be integrated. How are they adapting to your playing style?

Schwarz: We have made it very clear what playing styles are important to us. We have explained this to the players and so they have a crystal-clear picture for what we expect. For example, how we will play when the ball is in the box, when in defence and when in attack. We have hung notes around the changing rooms so that the players can be reminded of them every day. Those who can’t speak German well have been given folders with everything important in them, in their languages so that they can understand what is required. There are now clear requirements needed from the players, which they have accepted and are one hundred percent committed to it. Our principles always apply, regardless of who you are.

“We will play four at the back”

During pre-season you played in a 4-4-2 or a 4-3-3 formation. Is that what we should expect during the season?

Schwarz: It can vary. We do not want to decide if we want to play a 4-4-2, 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1. We realised last year that we are best when playing with four at the back and therefore will continue with it this year. Although our back four will always remain, the formation of the midfield and the attack can change depending on the game situation.

We go into our tenth Bundesliga season in a row – Our dream lives on...

Schwarz: Our motto this season is definitely what we aim to do. For us, it now time to make people aware that our Bundesliga status is not guaranteed. However, this does not mean that we should stop thinking big, or undertake developments that will allow us to achieve more than just league retention. Our motto is important for us as it will help guide us through difficult times. We cannot forget where we came from. I myself have lived here as a player, which was a completely different period for Mainz compared to now. It is amazing where Mainz have come since then. We have seen what has happened to other clubs in the last ten years so we have to ensure that we do not follow them out of the Bundesliga. We’ve stayed up for ten years so we will make sure we do it again this year. This awareness gives us motivation.”