Hinrunde Reviews: Mainz 05

The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how Main 05 fared in the Hinrunde.

The story so far

At the halfway stage of the season, there is still all to play for at Mainz. Die Nullfünfer picked up just 17 points from their 17 games and although they sit in 15th, the situation at the bottom of the table is so tight that everybody at the Opel-Arena will be fully aware of the fight they have on their hands going into the Rückrunde to avoid the bottom three places.

It is safe to say that Sandro Schwarz’s team did not get off to the best of starts. Not only did they lose their opening two games of the season, they lost to both of the newly promoted sides with Hannover and VfB Stuttgart securing 1-0 wins. Was the decision to promote Schwarz from within as a successor to Martin Schmidt a wise one?

They responded well with an impressive 3-1 home win over Bayer Leverkusen, but then suffered consecutive defeats to Bayern Munich and Hoffenheim. Home wins came along with regularity against the likes of Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and Köln.

However, away from home the points were a lot harder to come by. They did pick up impressive away draws at Wolfsburg, Borussia Mönchengladbach and RB Leipzig and against last season’s runners-up Mainz showed good character as they twice came from behind at the Red Bull Arena.

Mainz were as high as 10th in the table following their win over Hamburg on matchday 8, but since then it has been a slow movement towards an area of the table they do not want to be in.

The DFB has provided a nice boost for Mainz with progression to the quarter-finals. A 3-1 home win over Stuttgart secured their place after they had struggled somewhat against lower league sides Lüneberger SK Hansa and Holstein Kiel in the earlier rounds.

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Stat central

P17 W4 D5 L8 F19 A28 Pt17 (15th)

  • Mainz lead the league (jointly with RB Leipzig) in ball recoveries in the opposition half with 60.
  • Danny Latza has hit the post/ crossbar three times this season. The midfielder also leads the Bundesliga with tackles made (99).
  • Mainz failed to win a single away game in the Hinrunde picking up just four points away from the Opel Arena.

Top Performer: Jean-Philippe Gbamin

The versatile Frenchman has been deployed in a few positions both in defence and midfield, but wherever he has played, he’s impressed with a growing level of performance. He’s been Mainz’s stand-out player so much so that sporting director Rouven Schröder recently moved to extend his contract at the club by another year to 2022. The sceptic would see this as a way of securing an even higher transfer fee should they sell him.

He may not have scored this season, but that hasn’t been from want of trying and he has been a regular source of shots from distance. Indeed a shot from 50 meters against Freiburg hit the bar and would have even eclipsed Serge Gnabry’s goal against RB Leipzig. The 22-year-old has averaged 42 passes per game with an 84% success rate, and completes an average of 18 challenges per game.

According to the Kicker ratings, only Lars Bender, Kingsley Coman and Leon Bailey rate above him for midfielders.

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The summer signings

Defender Abdou Diallo, a €5 million summer arrival Monaco, has settled instantly into life in the Mainz backline playing in all but two of the Nullfünfer’s matches in the Hinrunde. The Frenchman scored against both Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Rene Adler began the season as the club’s first-choice keeper, but a thigh muscle injury suffered in the DFB Pokal win over Kiel saw his season cut short and he operated on.  The sale of Jhon Cordoba to Köln was supposed to be compensated by the arrivals of Viktor Fischer and Kenan Kodro, but neither have scored so far this season.

Midfielder Alexandru Maxim came in from VfB Stuttgart and has made 14 appearances scoring in the win against Hamburg and providing one assist.

Hinrunde highlight

After losing to promoted Hannover and Stuttgart in their openers, there was a much-needed first three points on matchday 3 when Mainz notched up an impressive 3-1 victory over Bayer Leverkusen.

It looked like perhaps a third straight defeat was on the cards when Dominik Kohr gave Leverkusen the lead midway through the first half, but a goal on the stroke of half-time from Yoshinori Muto levelled things.

The second 45 minutes saw a much better showing from Mainz and buoyed by the equaliser, they took the upper hand. Abdou Diallo headed in a Levin Öztunali free-kick just before the hour mark before Suat Serdar scored a third (again from an Öztunali assist) on 71 minutes.

The 3-1 scoreline didn’t flatter the hosts and had made up somewhat from the disappointing start to the season.

Hinrunde lowlight

Mainz probably looked at their opening two fixtures with more than a little optimism. Opening their campaign against both promoted clubs gave them a good chance of a positive start and an opportunity for some early points.

It all however went wrong for Sandro Schwarz on his debut in die Nullfünfer dugout with a 1-0 home loss to Hannover. Stats-wise Mainz hand the upper hand in all the important categories except the one that really counts- goals scored.

After wasting a number of opportunities, they were punished when Martin Harnik converted one of only two chances he had all game in the 73rd minute.

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The forecast

The big ‘R-word’ will not be mentioned at the Opel Arena until the final weeks of the season, but it is looking as if the Zerofivers are going to be one of about seven or eight teams who are going to be facing a fight against relegation throughout the Rückrunde.

Their home form has been okay, but along with Stuttgart and Köln, they failed to win a single match away from the Opel Arena. Rectifying that situation could be key to their chances of survival. So too will scoring goals. Mainz have created chances this season, but have been too wasteful in their conversion rate. The signing of Anthony Ujah looks a wise move in that respect.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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