Given that 1.FSV Mainz 05 find themselves sitting in 10th place during, you could say that the their season has been very up and down. Competing in the Europa League group stage this fall, the club faced a new challenge of fighting on two separate fronts. Bumps were to be expected, but to compare the club at the midway point from last season to this one, there are a few similarities. Last season, they found themselves in 8th, with just 4 points more. When it came to their chances in Europe, the club had high hopes after being handed what seemed to be a relatively straight forward group. However, it turned out not to be as the side failed to reach the knockout stages.
One big difference between this Hinrunde and last season’s is that Mainz are conceding more goals. Last season the defense allowed 23 goals, whereas this season the 05ers have conceded 30, despite playing one fewer game. Last season Mainz had conceded three or more goals in just five games, they’re already matched that for this season. Mainz’s problems seem to be away from the comforts of the Opel Arena. Through nine away matches the side has earned just seven points, and all of those were earned in their first three matches. Even with a small improvement in the side’s away form Mainz can get moving back up the table.
With the club reaching the group stages of European Competition for the first time in their history, the 05ers had to be confident that they could make some noise in a group that included French outfit St. Etienne, Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht, and unfancied Qabala of Azerbaijan. That confidence grew after getting four points from their first two matches including a 1-1 away draw with St. Etienne, the match that figured to be the toughest match of the group. However, that momentum ran out and the side did not qualify for the knockout stages. The next game was a disappointing 1-1 draw at home to Anderlecht, but the next match was the return leg in Brussels, where Anderlecht demolished the 05ers 6-1. Making matters worse was the fact that Mainz conceded three goals within the dying minutes of that match. With their goal differential in shambles, Mainz couldn’t make up the difference and finished two points behind the Belgians in third.
With Mainz also having been knocked out of the DFB Pokal by Greuther Fürth in the second round, the club can focus solely on the Bundesliga which could help a side that has done nothing yet to improve the squad. With the transfer window more than half over, Mainz has seen two players move on to direct competitors. Christian Clemens has left the 05ers and headed to Köln. Considering the right midfielder has made just six appearances in all competitions, and has yet to contribute a goal or assist, some might see the sale for €2.75 million as decent business.
The much bigger loss for the club is seeing Yunus Malli head north to Wolfsburg for €12.5 million. Malli has been the catalyst this season for Mainz, scoring eight goals and assisting another eight, meaning that the 24-year-old midfielder from Turkey has been part of more that 40% of all the clubs goals this season. It will be a challenge for the club to replace that kind of production in the January window, so it seems likely that players already with the side will be asked to elevate their game. Pablo de Blasis, who has been a revelation so far, and Levin Öztunali seem to be the players who are going to have to carry this extra weight. Danny Latza, who has scored three goals despite making just five appearances, is one who could see more time for Martin Schmidt. While he’ll need to keep scoring goals, expecting him to continue scoring at his current pace seems nothing more than wishful thinking. Yoshinori Muto, who was limited to only three substitute appearances in the Hinrunde, scored twice in limited duty and will start against Koln with Jhon Cordoba suspended. Muto has proven that he can score goals in the Bundesliga, but injuries have prevented him from being a bigger presence for Mainz.
With the Ruckrunde starting this next weekend, Mainz faces Köln at home. Seeing the squad come out and continue their success at home will be a positive first step after the squad losses so far this month. Despite being just seven points of the relegation playoff place right now, there is still too much quality in the side for the club to be relegated, but until they find an adequate replacement for Malli, it is hard to envision Mainz challenging for one of the European places this season.
Header photo courtesy of the Mainz Facebook page
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