2015-16 Season Preview: 1. FSV Mainz 05

Nickname: Die Nullfünfer (the zero-fivers)
Founded: 16th March 1905
Ground: Coface-Arena
Colors: Red and White
Rivals: Eintracht Frankfurt, 1.FC Kaiserslautern

2014-15 Finishes:

Bundesliga: 11th
DFB Pokal: 1st round – lost to Chemnitz FC on penalties
Europa League: 3rd qualifying round – lost 3-2 on aggregate to Asteras Tripolis
Top Goalscorer: Shinji Okazaki, 14 goals in all competitions.

“60-second dossier”

number of matches won by 2 or more goals: 7
number of matches won by 1 goal: 2
number of matches drawn: 13
number of matches lost by 1 goal: 5
number of matches lost by 2 or more goals: 7
number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 3
number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 5
number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 5
number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 1

2014-15 Season Summary

It’s almost hard to remember that, for a time, Mainz 05 were stuck in a relegation scrap in 2014-15, playing dour football and struggling to really stamp their mark on a league in which under previous manager Thomas Tuchel, they’d looked quite comfortable.

Even the storylines belie it. Mainz posted both a strong start, staying unbeaten until the end of October, and a decent finish, under the guidance of Martin Schmidt.

Between the two, though, Hjulmand’s side faltered in a number of games, suffering through a winless streak of nine games which threatened to undo all the good work of establishing Mainz as a Bundesliga club in recent seasons.

By far, the club’s best player of the season was Johannes Geis. The young midfielder rose to prominence with nearly perpetual brilliance week-to-week. Strong from set plays and in dictating the play from midfield, he hauled the club through games at points. His magical performances in home games against Bayern München, Borussia Mönchengladbach, and VfL Wolfsburg were particularly eye-catching.

Though Geis was a standout, he had some support. Shinji Okazaki led the way in scoring with fourteen goals across all competitions, twelve in the Bundesliga, while the early season form was spearheaded by Borussia Dortmund loanee Jonas Hofmann, who sustained two long-term injuries after a promising start. Hofmann’s injuries could be said to have helped derail the club’s form going into winter.

All three players are now gone, but the likes of Yunus Malli and Pablo de Blasis rose to the fore in the season’s latter stages for Mainz, eventually breaking the barren mid-season run. Add to this a core of Loris Karius – the highly rated but still very young goalkeeper – Stefan Bell, Niko Bungert, Julian Baumgartlinger, and Daniel Brosinski, and the nucleus of a strong team remains at Mainz for the current season. Given a full preseason under Martin Schmidt, that talent collection should be more than adequate to make up for the losses of their stars of last term.

Realistically, Mainz’s 11th place fishing is pretty much fitting of the club’s status quo league position, considering the club’s size relative to the likes of Hamburg and Stuttgart, two huge clubs stuck near the wrong end of the league in recent years. Mainz’s lack of resources have been offset by excellent business practices of general manager Christian Heidel and a swashbuckling playing style, to help keep die Nullfünfer afloat since the club’s return to the top flight in 2009.

The most-notable exceptions to the predominance of mid-table finishes has been a pair of Europa League qualifications (in 2011 and 2014), perhaps showing that, should everything go right again, there’s still room for aspiration for the club.

A European finish, though, will be a tough ask, given that this is a somewhat transitional season for Mainz, with Schmidt still trying to embed his philosophy, alongside a whole raft of new players. The club has been active in the window and appear to have made some good signings, but the majority of the new boys haven’t bags of Bundesliga experience. Fabian Frei is coming from Switzerland, Yoshinori Muto from Japan, and Maximilian Beister off an injury-hit, bit-part role at HSV. The rest all hail from the 2. Bundesliga or below. Hence, there will certainly be some sort of bedding-in period for most of the players while getting used to the day-to-day reality of the Bundesliga.

2014-15 Trivia

Had the Bundesliga begun at the same time as Martin Schmidt’s tenure at Mainz, die Nullfünfer would have finished sixth in the table, behind only clubs who finished far ahead of everyone else in the top four (Bayern, Wolfsburg, Mönchengladbach and Leverkusen) and Borussia Dortmund, which should perhaps earn them the “best of the rest” tag.

Money Matters

According to fussball-geld.de, Mainz 05 had a relatively low playing budget of just €11.9 million for the 2014-15 season. This equates to a wage budget of roughly €229,000 per week. However, with many of the top earners leaving – the departed trio of Nikolce Noveski, Sami Allagui, and Philipp Wollscheid were the joint top earners, while other high earners such as Shinji Okazaki, Filip Djuricic, and Johannes Geis have all also left for pastures new these figures may lower still.

The club have brought in some experience. Frei will be remembered by those who watched his European runs with FC Basel in recent season, but by and large the transfer approach this year has been to net some bargains with a few lower-league players – Niederlechner, Latza and Balogun – joined by a former prodigy who never got going (Beister) and the Bundesliga’s latest import from Japan, Yoshinori Muto, who’ll hope to have a similar effect at the Carnival Club to what Okazaki had over the previous two seasons.

While these signings will obviously be on good money, it’s doubtful that the wage bill will be any higher than last year’s. Besides, the club have made a profit of around €13 Million in the summer window so far, meaning that finances will almost certainly not be a problem at the Coface-Arena in the near future.

In:

Fabian Frei, FC Basel, €3.6m
Yoshinori Muto, FC Tokyo, €2.8m
Florian Niederlechner, Heidenheim, €2m
Besar Halimi, Stuttgarter Kickers, €400,000
Danny Latza, Bochum, free
Maximilian Beister, HSV, free
Leon Balogun, Darmstadt, free

Out:

Johannes Geis, Schalke, €12m
Shinji Okazaki, Leicester, €10m
Sebastian Polter, QPR, €2.3m
Stefanos Kapino, Olympiacos, €2m
Julian Koch, Düsseldorf, €210,000
Damian Roßbach, Sandhausen, free
Nikolce Noveski, released
Junior Diaz, released
Dani Schahin, FSV Frankfurt, loan
Besar Halimi, FSV Frankfurt, loan.

The Boss

Martin Schmidt took over the reins at the Coface-Arena in mid-February with the club in a relegation race. His predecessor, Kasper Hjulmand, hadn’t particularly impressed in his first few months at the club, with an early cup exit to Chemnitz, a European journey ended before it really started, falling to Asteras Tripolis, and ever-dwindling form in the Bundesliga. Schmidt’s appointment sparked somewhat of a reversal of fortune for die Nullfünfer, pushing the club over the survival line with a few games to spare and into mid-table.

Schmidt, just like Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel before, was promoted from within the ranks at the club and has a playing style marked by quick transition play and tactical flexibility. This brought Mainz back from the dour football of Hjulmand and made them a genuinely exciting side to watch in the latter stages of last season, and one would expect this to continue into the coming season.

odds to win league500-1 (Bet365)
five-year record5th (2010-11), 13th (2011-12), 13th (2012-13), 7th (2013-14), 11th (2014-15).

Questions with a Club Fan

Riccardo Kirall (@rkirall on Twitter) is a Mainz fan and admin of the club’s German Twitter fan account @nullfuenfer. He, together with other Mainz fans, has just started the first podcast about the club, namely the Nullfuenfcast (@nullfuenfcast on Twitter). It’s a German-language podcast, but comes highly recommended to those interested in learning a bit more about Rhineland-Palatinate’s only current Bundesliga club.

Keep an eye out for . . . the whole of the team. I think it all depends on teamwork. There’ll definitely be one player or the other in the foreground, but as yet, there’s nobody clearly in that group. As Johannes Geis now plays for Schalke, I think that we’ll be especially excited by both Yunus Malli and Maximilian Beister over the course of the coming season.

Terrace favorite . . .  Last season’s fan favourites were clearly Daniel Brosinski and Pablo de Blasis, but Loris Karius is also a very popular man with us fans.

Player you’d happily see at another club . . .  Of course, I’d prefer that all of our players would stay with us. However, I can quite easily imagine seeing Loris Karius or Yunus Malli at a “better” club soon.

Advice you’d give your manager . . . I’d advise Martin Schmidt that he should continue to promote the cohesion of the team, place a lot of worth in Mainz’s transitional play, and keep the good relationships among the team strong.

Opposition player you secretly admire I admire Max Meyer of Schalke 04 most of all. He’s young and absolutely talented. I’d really like to see him in a Mainz kit one day!

Opposition player you despise . . . Despise is a strong word, but there is in fact one player who I find totally disagreeable. That’s Pierre-Michel Lasogga of HSV.

Tip you’d give away fans . . .  I’d recommend the “Hasekaste” in Mainz for away fans. It’s a small pub close to the Coface-Arena and definitely worth a visit.

Where will you finish?  I obviously hope that Mainz 05 land in the safety of mid-table, so between places 8 and 12. I think that with our current squad, we should also be able to achieve that.

Crucial Fixtures Stretch

Perhaps the club’s toughest stretch of matches comes between match days 4 and 9 (as well as, obviously, 21 and 26) as the club face Schalke, Hoffenheim, Leverkusen, Bayern, Darmstadt, and Dortmund in successive games. While Hoffenheim and Darmstadt should prove slightly easier tasks than the others, they’ll still be tough games, while the other four teams are some of the Bundesliga’s established giants, who, until last season, were part of a semi-solid top four for a handful of years.

Equally, an important run of fixtures will lead Mainz into Christmas (and the end of the season) with matches against Köln, Frankfurt (in the derby), HSV, Stuttgart, and Hertha rounding out both the Hinrunde and Rückrunde, all relatively winnable games if Mainz are in good form.

Verdict

It’s hard to look beyond a mid-table finish for a Mainz side who remain solid and strong, but require a lot of fine-tuning, thanks to the relatively new coach and raft of new signings who’ll need to acclimatize to the Bundesliga and life in Mainz. As such, they shouldn’t really be dragged too far into the relegation race – even if at one point, they’ll likely be mathematically involved – while they shouldn’t come too close to Europe either. However, given that Martin Schmidt did such a sterling job in the Rückrunde last season, it is exciting to see exactly what he can do after having a full preseason.

Bundesliga 10th

DFB-Pokal: Quarter Finals

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Conor Garratt

I am Conor Garratt, a 21-year old student from South West England. I study German and History at the University of Southampton, currently spending a year abroad in Mainz, Germany. I love football, especially German football, and am a Swindon Town & Borussia Mönchengladbach fan in my spare time.

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