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2019-20 Bundesliga Preview: FSV Mainz 05

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How many words can I write about Mainz?

1. FSV Mainz 05 v Werder Bremen - Bundesliga Photo by Alex Grimm/Bongarts/Getty Images

Last season was Mainz’s 10th consecutive season in the Bundesliga. In this time they have gradually built themselves into a stalwart of the top flight, and have had periods of relative success, partly due to beingn led by top managers like Jurgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel. They have finished in the top half of the table four times, even placing as high as 5th, and in recent years they have hovered around the lower end of mid-table. They have even managed to qualify for European competition on four different occasions. Mainz’s stability in the Bundesliga, and occasional foray into Europe, is an incredible achievement for a club that has spent most of it’s history bouncing around the lower divisions.

Last Season

Bundesliga: 12th place, 43 pts (12 W, 7 D, 15 L)

DFB Pokal: 2nd Round, lost 3-2 to Augsburg AET

To start us off, it is important to acknowledge that the best part of Mainz’s season was their limited edition carnival kit:

FSV Mainz 05 - Bayer Leverkusen Photo by Torsten Silz/picture alliance via Getty Images

The season itself was a little less colorful. Mainz did okay. They were knocked out of the Pokal early, but they had a couple of nice wins in the Bundesliga, such as thumping Freiburg 5-0, and claiming big wins against Hoffenheim and local rivals Frankfurt at the end of the season. But it was a relatively mediocre season. But Mainz are also a team where mediocrity isn’t really a negative. Being distinctly average in the top flight is something many teams could only dream of, and for most of their existence that was the same for Mainz.

The biggest positive is the good young team they are building. They had three particularly strong performers through the season, Martin, Gbamin, and Mateta. Mateta scored 14 goals last season, finishing as the club’s top goalscorer. He isn’t especially efficient, as shown by a relatively low conversion rate, but he gets plenty of shots on goal and ended up with quite a few goals too. He also lacks quality in the build up, so primarily acts only as the goalscorer, but he does a good job of this. Given that he’s also only 22 years old, he looks to be a real talent, and someone Mainz can build around in the near future, and make a profit on later down the line.

There are a couple other young players that shone last season for Mainz. The goalkeeper Muller and the center back Niakhate both had solid seasons. Quaison showed progress, having a career-best season. Overall, despite being a pretty run of the mill season, there’s plenty for Mainz fans to be excited about.

Transfers

Transfers in:

  • Jeremiah St. Juste (CB) – Feyenoord – €9m
  • Edmilson Fernandes (CM) – West Ham – €7.5m
  • Aaron Martin (LB) – Espanyol – €6m
  • Ronael Pierre-Gabriel (RB) – Monaco – €5.5m
  • Jonathan Meier (LB) – Bayern Munich – €1.2m
  • Taiwo Awoniyi (CF) –Liverpool – Loan
  • Cyril Akono (CF) – Preussen Muenster – €350k
  • Dong-Won Ji (CF) – FC Augsburg – Free
  • Omar Hanin (GK) – Hapoel Hadera – Free

Transfers out:

  • Jean-Philippe Gbamin (DM) – Everton – €25m
  • Anthony Ujah (CF) – Union Berlin – €2m
  • Gaetan Bussmann (LB) – Released
  • Emil Berggreen (CF) – FC Twente – Free
  • Giulio Donati (RB) – Released
  • Gerrit Holtmann (LW) – SC Paderborn – Loan
  • Jannik Huth (GK) – SC Paderborn – Undisclosed
  • Niko Bungert (CB) – Retired
  • Issah Abass (CF) – FC Utrecht – Loan
  • Rene Adler (GK) – Retired

The biggest loss is obviously Jean-Philippe Gbamin. Without him, they’re going to be a lot more exposed defensively, but they have made some important additions in defense that should help secure the back line. They have also brought in Edmilson Fernandes to fill the midfield role left by Gbamin, though he’s a little more attacking. Fernandes is very talented, but he struggled at Fiorentina and West Ham, so it remains to be seen whether he can fulfill the promise. Perhaps Mainz’s plan is to replace Gbamin by using Fernandes in the middle, and St. Juste will operate as a more offensively minded center back. He is comfortable on the ball, and will be able to step up the pitch when needed. In addition, they added Martin on a permanent deal, which is some of their best business. He was a key creative outlet for Mainz last season, and they’ll be relying on him to do much the same in the future.

What to expect in 2019/2020

This season has already got off to a bad start for Mainz. They were knocked out of the DFB Pokal in the first round against rivals Kaiserslautern, and Mateta suffered a meniscus injury and could be out for several months. They’ll look to Awoniyi and Quaison to fill the gap left by his absence, but they’re unlikely to totally replace his goals. Even with Mateta, Mainz are not exactly an attacking powerhouse.

The young center back partnership of Niakhate and St. Juste could be key while Mateta is out injured. They are both very talented, and look like they’re probably destined for bigger things, but Mainz could look to give them a platform to showcase their ability, and benefit from it in the meantime. If Fernandes can step into Gbamin’s spot alongside Kunde, this team could do quite well.

Schwarz tends to prefer a 4-4-2 Diamond, and has this Mainz team playing a high intensity, physical game. They press high, aiming to regain possession early, and work very hard without the ball, making them generally quite difficult to break down. The aim for this season will surely be to maintain that intensity without the ball, but to become more efficient with it.

Prediction: Mid-table mediocrity

Mainz are a solid young team, but unless they hit on all their transfers in a big way, it’s hard to see them doing a whole lot more than they did last season. Mateta’s injury is a real blow, so I think they’ll be looking to get by until he returns. Overall, I think they should be safe, but they won’t be challenging the upper echelons of the division. There is certainly a world where Mainz could end up slipping down the table and at risk of relegation, especially if Mateta misses too much time, but I think they should have enough to be a mid-table team. For a team like Mainz, that is something to celebrate. The longer they can spend in the middle of the pack the better. If they can sneak into Europe on occasion, or maybe even win the DFB Pokal? Even better!