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Bundesliga Review – Week 23

The biggest football podcast in Sweden labelled 1. FSV Mainz 05 as the most meaningless club in Europe. They considered the Palatine club to be one of the only clubs on the continent to not have something special about them, hence the previous statement. Why does a club need something special to be meaningful? Why can’t Mainz’ nothingness be special in itself? Add to that, Mainz famed pressing. They’ve always been a Gegenpressing team, that should count for something don’t you think? Many questions were raised but never answered. While this was mainly courtesy of the podcast’s arrogance, many couldn’t help but feel unfulfilled.

In this piece, GGFN aim to discuss Mainz’ shortcomings, looking at how they’ve played, what they’ve done wrong and why the current Mainz seem to be a mere shadow of its real self and why Sandro Schwarz is to blame.

Their result this Friday against Hertha BSC means that they are now six points clear of relegation. However, it was on the back of a few rough weeks Mainz have suffered this season. A lack of goal threat has proven problematic while their defence has conceded at least two goals every Matchday since mid-November until their clean sheet on Friday. However, their main weakness has been the non-existent tactics.

A couple of weeks ago, Mainz faced Eintracht Frankfurt in the DFB-Pokal quarterfinal. Schwarz’ side failed to turn up, while it was difficult just to pin-point the style of football they were trying to play. Eintracht bettered them in every area that night with Niko Kovac’s side putting three past their opponents, who were merely enjoying the nature in Enkheim, just a mile northeast of Frankfurt after Eintracht practically had showboated them off the pitch at the Waldstadion. A horrible performance and a tactical failure, if Mainz’ even had a tactical plan.

Mainz’ tactical nihilism had left many stranded in a world of nothingness. Fans felt dismayed and lethargic with no real meaning to anything. It’s a shame, because Mainz had always appealed to the neutral following the tenures of both Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel and so seeing Schwarz’ nihilistic point of view was perhaps dismaying at best.

Mainz has always been a pressing team with flair and speed, able to counter-attack against any foe, no matter how good their opponents were defensively. They have always been a fun team to watch with a vast array of decent attacking players and while their defence hasn’t always been on point, it hasn’t mattered. They often found a way to gain at least a point anyways.

Schwarz has dismantled all of this. He has formed this Mainz into his own tragic self and it is truly terrifying to watch. Trying to field a 4-4-2 with dynamic wing backs and a false nine isn’t revolutionary by any means, nor has it ever been that successful. Furthermore, Schwarz manages to put the wrong player in the wrong position more often than not. Daniel Brosinski has a great left foot, but plays at right back for some reason. Maybe he prefers it, we do not know. If he does and that is the reason, then Schwarz should quite simply change his mind.

The whole of Nullfünfer is like this. It’s like Schwarz hasn’t made up his mind. He doesn’t really know his approach, nor does he care for having one. He tries to manage a team that needs to be managed, by doing nihilistic tactics. This is not the way forward for him.

Fair enough, they managed to win in Berlin and God knows that isn’t easy. But it didn’t look good and they needed a stone-cold Robin Quaison to step out of his own shadow. A loss for Mainz would have been devastating in the annual rabid dogfight for survival. It’s a club that somehow belongs in Bundesliga. They’ve got no real tradition, no real history, no real rivals and nothing special to them. They’re just there. And they are who they are. But they need to step up if survival is to be on the cards.

Friday’s game was a real step forward, but as stated, it was an opportunistic game. Mainz had no real plan, no tactical awareness that could be seen. It was a case of making the most of the chances they got more than anything else, but this is what might save them.

Mainz’ tactical nihilism must be a product of a mediocre manager and a team that is out of form, nothing else. Maybe it’s just a case of them being out of form, because their opportunistic tactics remind me a lot of Hamburger SV and their tactical mishaps. Hopefully this is the case.

While they might be nothing special as a club, they’ve always had a special tactic, they’ve always been clear supporters of attacking and pressing football with goals and entertainment. They have not, however, liked opportunism. It’s controlled chaos, the perfect explanation for the German Gegenpressing. It’s chaos in a little shoebox. The German way of chaos, always controlled and contained, but unleashable at any given moment.

It’s a clear case of Maximus telling his soldiers ’On my command, unleash hell’. The German pressing has always been this way and it has always been entertaining to watch. When Mainz, one of the most prominent pressers in German football seem to have gone astray and fans are worried. Worried that Mainz’ special thing, their pressing will soon be gone. And afraid that the Swedish podcast will finally be correct.

This season is about surviving. They should hold on to Schwarz, at least until the end of the season. Then, they should try to make tactical progress again. It’s what the club deserves. The club deserves to be something, to have something, to feel special. It’s football after all.

 

1 | For the first time since May 2016, Bundesliga football was played on a Monday night. Eintracht Frankfurt hosted RB Leipzig and it’s fair to see it wasn’t well received by fans. First of all, one of Germany’s most supported clubs didn’t sell the game out, which was then followed by a peaceful protest, delayed kick-off. Fans had opened the gate, exited the stand and made their way around the pitch, opposite the broadcast cameras to display a message: “The streets take back the game – Eintracht fans against Monday games,” which was followed by chants of “Football mafia DFB.”

The football on the pitch was a different story. End to end football was expected under Niko Kovac and Ralph Hasenhüttl and that’s what fans got. Jean-Kévin Augustin gave the hosts the lead before goals from Timothy Chandler and Kevin-Prince Boateng earned Eintracht the three points, taking them to third.

Protests continued with fans delaying the kick-off to the second half. Eintracht ultras threw streamers over the goal with fans throwing thousands of tennis balls onto the pitch. If this carries on being the case, then surely the DFL needs to re-think their scheduling of Monday night football.

2 | As always, VAR seems to come into the equation on every Matchday. This week, 1. FC Köln can feel hard done by. Sitting bottom of the Bundesliga, Claudio Pizarro scored a 92nd minute winner against Hannover 96, only for it to be ruled out after Marcel Risse was found to be offside. The rules state VAR is used only when a clear decision has been incorrectly made and in this case, it hadn’t. But that wasn’t the point.

Fans in Germany are growing frustrated with VAR. It’s sucking all the emotion out of the game. It’s taking too long to come to a decision, five minutes in some cases while fans have little to no idea what’s going on. Fans spend their hard-earned money at football matches and if things don’t change, it won’t be long before they stop going. Breel Embolo had his goal ruled out for a marginal offside and while a correct decision was eventually made, it’s a fine line. Soon enough, we won’t be needing assistant referees because everything can be done from a remote location. At the end of the season, the DFL must re-asses their use of VAR.

3 | Martin Schmidt resigned as head coach of VfL Wolfsburg on Monday despite narrowly losing out to Bayern Munich. Jupp Heynckes’ side fielded a weaker team given their Champions League clash against Besiktas on Tuesday night while Wolfsburg can hold their heads high, despite leaving empty handed.

Daniel Didavi gave the hosts the lead before Sandro Wagner equalised with ten minutes remaining. Robert Lewandowski then tucked away his 90th minute penalty to give Bayern a 19 point lead at the top of the Bundesliga.

Bruno Labbadia has since been appointed as the new Wolfsburg head coach.

Axel Falk with Daniel Pinder.

 

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