Inconsistency was the name of the game for Mainz in 2017/18, constantly flirting with relegation before a late season surge saw Die Nullfünfer finish in 14th position. Three wins from their final five matches got them out of trouble, including a 3-0 win against RB Leipzig and a 2-1 win at Borussia Dortmund.
Several players stood up to be counted including Jean-Philippe Gbamin, Danny Latza, Abdou Diallo, Alexander Hack and Stefan Bell, but top scorer Yoshinori Muto battled with injuries and missed some key games. Pablo De Blasis was crucial in the run home and will be hoping to start the new season strong.
Managerial background – Sandro Schwarz
Mainz continued with the tradition of giving their youth managers a chance at the top level with Sandro Schwarz taking over last season. The 39-year-old faced a steep learning curve and required an intervention to turn things around, but he got it together in time and will hope to build on that experience.
With a year under his belt expect some improvement despite the changes in the summer seeing some of his best players depart.
Out: Abdou Diallo was the major departure after a €28m move to Borussia Dortmund. Bought from Monaco for just €5m the previous season, the central defender represents a significant profit and an example of more schrewd signings from Mainz and sporting director Rouven Schröder.
Yoshinori Muto joined Newcastle United (€10.7m) and Suat Serdar went to Schalke (€10.5m), with free transfers seeing Leon Balogun join Brighton & Hove Albion and Nigel de Jong moving to Al Ahli.
In: More promising young talent have joined the ranks with the additions of 20-year-old striker Jean-Philippe Mateta from Olympique Lyon (€8m), 23-year old central midfielder Pierre Kunde from Atletico Madrid (€7.5m) and 22-year-old centre-back Moussa Niakhaté from Metz (€6m).
21-year-old Spanish left-back Aarón Martín comes in on loan from Espanyol and right-back Phillipp Mwene was added from 1.FC Kaiserslautern.
Mainz will be expecting to stay clear of another relegation battle and achieve mid-table security. The losses of Diallo, Serdar and Muto are significant but the new additions look promising and Schwarz has to integrate them rapidly.
Ridle Baku could represent a new signing after a spectacular Bundesliga debut against Leipzig late last season and another goal at Dortmund. If Alexandru Maxim and de Blasis show consistency there are enough playmakers, but scoring goals will be key and hopefully Mateta can rise to the challenge.
Strongest XI (4-3-3)
Müller – Donati, Bell, Niakhaté, Martín – Baku, Gbamin, Latza – Maxim, Mateta, de Blasis.
By Matthew Marshall.