Remember the Bruchweg Boys? – Mainz are facing Bayern. Again

Thomas Tuchel tries once again to upset the Bavarians.
One can’t help, but think about that marvellous match from three years ago between Bayern and Mainz whenever this particular fixture appears on the schedule. Most Mainz fans probably remember their team’s 2-1 away win against Bayern München in 2010 like it was yesterday: Sami Allagui’s delicate back heel, Szalai’s exquisite volley and the celebration next to the corner flag after the first goal are now part of Mainz’s Bundesliga folklore.

The away win of the Bruchweg Boys against Bayern illustrated in an impressive fashion that the team from the carnival city was here to entertain – and win. Tuchel’s tendency to focus on his opponents big weaknesses suited the team around the creative force of Lewis Holtby and Andre Schürrle rather well. Austrian left back Christian Fuchs also had a breakthrough season, bombing relentlessly up and down the left channel for Mainz, scoring some of the finest goals on offer that season from free kicks.

Mainz managed in the end to hold onto 5th in the table, qualifying for the Europa League mainly due to their brilliant start, which saw the team winning all of their first seven matches.

Lewis Holtby, Adam Szalai and Andre Schürrle were interviewed by Das Aktuelle Sportstudio after their team’s 2-1 win against Bayern München.

What about the Coface Grown Ups?

The days of the Bruchweg Boys were numbered, and whilst Lewis Holtby, Andre Schürrle and Adam Szalai all have moved on to other clubs, Mainz have continued their policy of looking for cheap players with a massive upside. The M05ers have still the oldest squad in the Bundesliga, despite letting some of their more experienced players leave during the summer. Zdeněk Pospěch, Heinz Müller, Elkin Soto and Christian Wetklo are still at the club and well into their 30s.

Christian Heidel has, however, tried to rejuvenate the team somewhat by bringing in the likes of Johannes Geis, Sebastian Polter, Christop Moritz and Julian Koch. Especially Moritz and Geis have made an impact so far this season. The holding midfielder Moritz was even used as a false striker in Mainz’s this season.

This positional adjustment might sound like insanity to the average football fan, but Tuchel’s specialty is knowing what type of player he needs in a particular position and he trusts his players to play to the best of their abilities even if they are played out of position. Jan Kirchhoff was for instance moved back and forth between defence and midfield depending on Tuchel’s gameplan. Furthermore, Marco Caligiuri popped up all over the pitch for Mainz last season. Predicted how Tuchel is going to approach a game is very much difficult due to these constant changes in his line ups. Mainz have in fact not started with the same line up in two consectuvie Bundesliga so far this season.

Finding one’s flaws

Mainz manager Christian Heidel backed Thomas Tuchel in the German press despite the team’s five losses and one draw in their last six matches. This string of bad results might come as a surprise to some, however, if one takes a closer a look at Mainz, it isn’t surprising at all. The 5th place finish from the 2010/11 season was more or less a one off for the team from the carnival city, given their small budget. It’s often times forgotten, but one has to keep in mind that Christian Heidel developed Mainz’s strategy for gaining promotion to the Bundesliga in a hotel room whilst the team was occupying a relegation spot in the Bundesliga 2.

11 Freunde journalist Christoph Biermann noticed – during an interview with Thomas Tuchel – that Mainz’s coach isn’t all that interested in his own strengths as a coach. Tuchel and the rest of the coaching staff had their strengths and weaknesses evaluated a few months ago. Whilst showing Biermann the report on him Tuchel blew right past the three pages analysing his strong points, and skipped right ahead to the 1 and a half pages which featured his biggest flaws. According to the report, Tuchel’s weaknesses were going into the wrong direction, whilst avoiding to listen to the advice given by others. Furthermore, Tuchel has a tendency to be far too convinced of his own views, whilst being too controlling and authoritarian.

This scene clearly displays Tuchel’s constant desire to improve as a football coach. And this is why one should believe Christian Heidel when he says that Mainz aren’t going to fire their coach any time soon despite a few bad results – it has been Tuchel’s determination to improve as a coach and to improve his team which have kept Mainz in the Bundesliga for so long, and Heidel is well aware of that fact.

Pep’s Bayern kick into gear

Thomas Tuchel has his work cut out for him on Saturday. Bayern have been getting stronger and stronger over the last few weeks. The Bavarians top-notch display against Manchester City in the Champions League might even serve as proof that Pep Guardiola is starting to find his way at the Säbener Strasse.

Bayern’s biggest problem so far this season has been converting their many chances into goals. The Reds need currently 10 shots to score one goal, last season the team only needed 6 shots to do just that after 8 match days. Last week’s 1-1 draw against Leverkusen saw Bayern create 25 shots, whilst Die Werkself managed to compile a measly total of 7 shots.

Mainz on the other hand side have been a bit sloppy of late in defence. The team has allowed their last five opponents in the Bundesliga to create 62 shots in total, conceding 17 goals from those shots(=1 goal for every 3.65 shots). Furthermore, Mainz’s keeper Heinz Müller may have proven to be a threat on headers in the opponent’s box, but his shot stopping rate of 60% is amongst the lowest in the league.

Bayern are strong favourites to win the upcoming match between them and Mainz. The numbers would suggest that Heinz Müller and his defence are going to be in some serious trouble, however, knowing Thomas Tuchel, he just might have hatched out a plan which might ask some serious questions of Pep Guardiola and Bayern München.

Header image courtesy of dpa.

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Niklas Wildhagen

Niklas is a 33-year-old football writer and podcaster who has been following the Bundesliga and German football since the early 90s. You can follow him on Twitter, @normusings, and listen to his opinions on @TalkingFussball.

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