Preview: FSV Mainz 05 – FC Bayern

Justin Separator December 1, 2016

Mainz 05 haven’t been a surprise for a while now, which is a compliment to the club. We’ve talked to Lattenkreuz editor Lars Pricken about FSV Mainz, long-term goals and the game against the record champion.

(Graphic: Michael Böck)
(Graphic: Michael Böck)

Hello Lars, we’re starting with our traditional introduction. Who are you and what connects you with Mainz 05?

Hello Justin. My name is Lars, I was born in Krefeld, I’m turning 20 next year, I’m studying journalism in Cologne and for a few months now I’m an editor for Lattenkreuz. My focus lies on the clubs RB Leipzig, and to stick the point, Mainz 05.

I’m very happy, that FSV were still available. I’ve always liked Mainz and their sympathetic nature, I already visited them twice and was always treated kindly. Since working for Lattenkreuz I’m dealing with the club and its surroundings on a daily basis and that’s how the Reds became my second favourite club.

Five wins, five losses, two draws, 22 goals scored, 22 goals conceded, 9th in the table. Is that a regular Bundesliga season for Mainz now or have the aspirations increased?

When you’ve already played in the Europa League with this team, you obviously want to do it again. However, those responsible and the club’s fans are always considerate and go into the season with realistic goals. Over the years the team had to deal with substantial departures and is still playing a solid season. I think you’re always eyeing a spot in the upper deck of the table, although I’m certain a one-digit table position would be pleasant. More isn’t off the cards though.

Which long-term goals does the club have?

Currently the club is stagnating more or less. After a good season the club had to continuously let go important people and had to regroup, which took away the hard-earned advantage they had over the other Europa League aspirants. Mainz have always only been a stepping stone for talented players. In the long run the goal will be to become established in Europe and be more appealing to gifted players.

This season the eleven of Martin Schmidt is guaranteeing a spectacle.(Photo: John Macdougall / AFP / Getty Images)
This season the team of Martin Schmidt is guaranteeing a spectacle.
(Photo: John Macdougall / AFP / Getty Images)

Mainz also have to battle with double fixtures this season. How is the team coping with it?

The manager is rotating a lot and doesn’t have any problems with exhausted players. Even the small injury crisis of the last couple of weeks has settled down and hasn’t been a big problem either way. After all, the 1-6 loss in Anderlecht and the lack of coolness from Mainz are responsible for the exit from Europe before the winter break. Despite going out in the group stages, I think, that the internationally unexperienced team is still happy to have gained first impressions of Europe and isn’t too disappointed and will achieve even more with the sole focus now being on the Bundesliga.

How has the squad dealt with the departure of Baumgartlinger and how do they compensate?

As mentioned before, losing key players has always been a problem for FSV. In the last five years the club lost players such as Schürrle, Fuchs, Polanski, Szalai, Ujah, Müller, Choupo-Moting, Geis, Okazaki and recently Karius and Baumgartlinger to bigger clubs. About some of these players fans are still shedding crocodile tears now.

However, the club is proficient at not letting these departures ruin a season. With the generated fees new players such as Córdoba or Gbamin were acquired, who are doing a good job. Besides the new players, there are also other players getting back into the rotation such as Fabian Frei, who was injured for nearly the whole of last season or Pablo de Blasis and the youth development works superbly, too. Personally, I find that impressive.

In what else does the team of Martin Schmidt excel?

The width of the squad is definitely an advantage most other clubs with a similar budget don’t have. The manager has the opportunity to rotate and still field a very good eleven even through bad luck with injuries.

Despite big offers from Dortmund, Mainz decided to keep Yunus Malli. A hugely important and right move if you look at the style of play from Schmidt. The German Turk is pulling the strings and even if the build-up isn’t working, his set pieces are always dangerous. I can definitely see Malli at a club like Gladbach or Schalke, yet I’m happy, that he’s staying this year. One of the biggest weapons the manager has at his disposal.

Bayern have struggled this season, especially in away games and Mainz have traditionally been a tricky opponent. What game plan are you expecting from Mainz and how big are the chances to grab a point?

The bad form of Munich could be an advantage as well as a disadvantage. Eventually Bayern will explode and get the full potential out of their squad and there’s going to be no stopping. After being dethroned by Leipzig, the lapse against Rostov and the re-election of Uli Hoeneß this will soon be the case. I can only hope this isn’t going to happen this Friday. Martin Schmidt will instruct the team to sit tight at the back and especially with Bell and Brosinski being rested after yellow card suspensions, he’ll demand a lot of running without going into hiding.

This season Bayern frequently looked staggered, when the opponent went all out in the first 15 to 20 minutes and revealed some flaws. Scoring a goal or not, usually the challengers had to gear down after that to not get overrun in the second half. Quick counters through de Blasis and Onisiwo as well as set pieces could be key. With the right mix getting a point will still be rather difficult, but certainly not impossible.

What’s going to be the final score?

If things go well for Mainz, it’s going to be a contested 1-1.

If you could transfer one player from Bayern to FSV, who would it be and why?

In principle you could close your eyes, randomly point at someone on the team photo and it’d definitely be a gain for the team, which fans would gladly take. If I had free choice I’d take Joshua Kimmich, provided he’d stay for a few years. To be this versatile at such a young age shows, that he possess enormous game intelligence which would help any team. If you have this much technical ability and goal threat, unlike a fighting spirit allrounder such as Kevin Großkreutz, you have met most requirements to become a global star. Even in Mainz.

Mainz are playing a decent Bundesliga season and are probably providing more spectacle than they like.

If you exclude the 0-0 on the 6th game day against VfL Wolfsburg, a minimum of two goals were scored, when Mainz were on the pitch. That is also down to the defence being more unstable than the previous years.

Both teams compared in the Bundesliga.(Graphic: Lukas)
Both teams compared in the Bundesliga.
(Graphic: Lukas)

With 42 goals they conceded the fourth lowest amount last season. The year before it was 47 (9th place) and in the 2013/2014 season with 54 goals conceded they were also in 9th place. The positive trend is yet to be confirmed this season. Only Freiburg, Darmstadt (both 24), Hamburg (27) and Bremen (31) have conceded more goals than Mainz (22) after 12 games played.

The reasons aren’t exclusively found in the behaviour against the ball, though. In a 4-4-2 formation the team is still defending as disciplined as their options allow them to and only offer tight spaces. The hectic possession periods are a problem.

The team lacks composure in the centre. Baumgartlinger’s departure wasn’t coped with well and the injury of Danny Latza makes this issue even more difficult. The eleven of Martin Schmidt has a hard time getting out of their own half with short passing.

Huge space has to be by-passed often, which increases the risk of losing the ball. Mainz are turning the ball over twice as much as last season.

The graphic is showing the origin of a turnover. In case of a misplaced pass the position of the player attempting it. The graphic is revealing the massive problems in Mainz's defensive midfield space.(Graphic: Lukas)
The graphic is showing the origin of a turnover. In case of a misplaced pass the position of the player attempting it. It visualises the massive problems in Mainz’s defensive midfield space.
(Analytics: Lukas)

Nonetheless, Mainz aren’t losing their offensive penetration. They’re immensely dangerous in transition and don’t need a lot of chances to score a goal. From 113 attempts 22 have resulted in a goal, marking the fourth best rate in the league.

On Friday Mainz can sit back and utilize their strengths in transition. FC Bayern can look forward to a real challenge.

For the record champions it’ll come down to pressuring Mainz’s defensive midfielders space. Munich would help themselves, if they control the game and keep FSV away from their own third.

It’s not down to stopping Yunus Malli (10 scorer points) and Pablo de Blasis (7 scorer points) alone. Jhon Córdoba as well, given he’s going to play, because he can score any time, too.

Primarily, Bayern have to find new solutions with the ball. Focusing on the wing this much makes them predictable. Especially the left side is lacking support. Alaba and Costa are crossing the ball 5 times per 90 minutes, while Bernat is still averaging 2.5. Overall delivering 104 crosses from the left and 84 from the right.

During the week we’ve defined five important tasks for Ancelotti. Including better positional play and with this better solutions through the centre. It would certainly be beneficial, if Ancelotti and the team would start with it this Friday.

Five bold predictions

  1. Bayern will be top of the league, at least for one night.
  2. Mainz will score.
  3. The game will be level at half-time.
  4. The record champion will score twice in the second half.
  5. Müller will be directly involved in at least one goal.

In the Leverkusen preview four out of five predications were once again correct. 43/85 in total.

»Eier, wir brauchen Eier!«

— Oliver Kahn

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