Svensson on Fulgini, team building and the captain’s armband
Mainz’s head coach gives his first impression of the Grassau camp
Bo Svensson was the picture of satisfaction after his Mainz 05 team completed their first training session at the home of ASV Grassau. There is a top hotel with all the bells and whistles, several carpet-like pitches, and lots of opportunities for players and staff to train and relax both on and off the pitch. The 42-year-old is looking to put these perfect training conditions in the south-east corner of Germany to good use.
Svensson has a total of 27 outfield players and three goalkeepers to train, including all the new signings and several players from the youth academy. Following the return of the internationals, who were given a longer holiday to recover mentally ahead of the new season, things are now fully underway in Grassau, with tough training sessions, often two in a day, and a pair of friendlies against high-class international opponents.
Fulgini’s signing a high priority
“The squad will definitely look different following the training session, but it’s good to have this mix of players right now. We have the amount that I would like, which is something we learned from our experiences last season. I know how the lads are in a physical sense, and we can do all the things we’ve planned – we’ll get down to work and make use of our time here,” said Svensson.
The head coach appeared delighted with the signing of Angelo Fulgini and the fact that the French attacking midfielder was able to get straight to work with the team. Securing the services of Fulgini, who will, among other things, close the gap left by Jean-Paul Boëtius’ departure, had high priority, said the 42-year-old. “We’ve filled an important space with him. We need both creative players like Angelo and others like Aymen Barkok for our game in midfield and attack, so that we can use different solutions for different tasks and keep our flexibility.”
Jae-sung Lee is also present in Grassau – the South Korea international was unable to play against Besiktas in Kufstein on Friday evening. “I’m delighted that he’s managed to be here and that we can put him through all the work everyone else has been doing with no issues. We know what he can do when he’s mentally and physically fresh – he’s right where we want him now.”
Team-building on a daily basis
The Zerofivers who were on international duty have worked individually for the last two weeks and are now raring to go. “It would’ve been great to have them there from the very first day, for sure, and they would have done that if they could, but there’s a risk that the lads might get fatigue injuries,” said Svensson, who is not worrying about the high quality of their two upcoming friendly opponents. “We want to play against teams of this quality, so that we can compete, but that means we need to work hard on the content in training. There will also be no player playing for the full 90 minutes; they’ll all be able to manage 45.”
A key aspect of this phase of pre-season preparations is the new squad forming closer together. The coach emphasised the importance of the team finding itself as quickly as possible. “That feeling of being a group, being together for each other – that’s what we need for the league, as much as good training sessions and top players. We’re looking after that.”
Svensson comments that things like team-building happen on a daily basis between him and the squad – these are things that happen with one another in everyday life. There are also other events off the pitch, like meeting partners and sponsors, or the BBQ evening with the fans that travelled to Grassau. There is also a special team-building event in the program soon.
I don’t concern myself every day with which options we might have in the final third or things like that. I think much more about what we can do to make the group work better together.
It’s also important to Svensson, though, that there is lots of speaking and listening within the group; that things are discussed and addressed. “We won’t have success in the Bundesliga just by training well and having the right tactics. At the start of the camp here, I told the team that given the way we want to play football and the success we want to have, our chances will be a lot better if we develop a feeling of togetherness. I don’t concern myself every day with which options we might have in the final third or things like that. I think much more about what we can do to make the group work better together. That’s the most important thing,” emphasised the Dane. “Our squad has lost several personalities. We’re now searching to find the right mixture of people so that the different personalities work together and make us stronger. Everyone brings their own qualities to us, and the acceptance of differing people is very important to us.”
Deciding on a captain not a priority
Following Moussa Niakhaté’s departure, the club has to find a new captain. Svensson is looking to appoint a player, but won’t discuss things just yet. “If I feel like it’s important for the group to know, then I’ll make my decision,” he said. “At the moment, it’s not a massively concerning issue – what’s key for me is that we have more players who are ready to take on responsibility. The man to wear the armband isn’t the main issue.” When he was asked how many candidates were up for the job of captain, Svensson laughed and said: “All 30”.