ANTICIPATION OF THE DECISIVE SECONDS
Zerofivers meet Augsburg on Sunday - Intensity & activity in training as basis & benchmark for Bundesliga performances
Thanks to ten points from five games in the second half of the season, the Zerofivers have recently come within touching distance of the safety zone, but they "still have a long way to go", as Bo Svensson emphasised on Friday afternoon at the press conference before the match against FC Augsburg (Sunday, 3.30pm CET). No trace of euphoria, relief or even a drop in tension. Keep going, keep developing, take the 05 game to the next level is the motto: "We didn't show our best performance against Gladbach and still won. That must not become a tendency, because such performances will not be enough in the long run," warns the head coach. In his view, this does not increase the likelihood of urgently needed further successes.
I have many words for it, but somehow also none
At the beginning of the press conference, sport initially took a back seat when the head coach was asked about the public racist slur against Karim Onisiwo and then took a clear position: "I have many words for this, but somehow none," Svensson said, expressing his bewilderment. "It's 2021 and you'd think we'd be further along as a society. Unfortunately, many people are not. It's unbelievable that something like this is taking place. And not only in a racist sense. It's also about discrimination against sexual orientation or women. These things unfortunately still play a big role in our society." Discrimination in any form has "no place at Mainz 05 in particular. Everyone is respected here, everyone is treated with respect, no matter what you look like or how you live." In the Dane's view, people who act differently "should have no place in society". A clear statement that reflects the undisputed attitude of the entire club.
Performance is a duty
After this short but necessary digression, the focus was on the upcoming duel with the Bavarian Swabians, who have won the last five competitive matches against the Zerofivers. Just one reason why the head coach warns of the difficulty of the task. A compulsory victory? "No, but our performance, which is never a guarantee for the result, has to be right. We are in 17th place, Augsburg are above us. That means they have played a better season so far. It will be a very close game, decided by little things." The coaching team is trying to create the conditions for the majority of these game-deciding little things to be Mainz's nature on Sunday afternoon. The 41-year-old also explained how the detailed work looks week by week.
"Our game thrives on intensity, on activity. That's what I demand in training, with different tactical emphases. There are rarely breaks. When the game patterns are running, you always have a task: high match speed and a lot of activity, physically as well as mentally. You have to be able to think, 'What's going to happen in two, three seconds?'" The key word is anticipation, speeding up the game, maximum alertness, not sleeping a single, potentially game-changing second. "That's the theme with me." Before and after training, he says, a certain looseness is allowed. In training, however, it must always be down to business. "The boys are doing that very well so far," praised the coach.
The Stöger Factor
Svensson, meanwhile, had special praise for a player who seems to have all the answers when it comes to anticipation. The player in question is, of course, Kevin Stöger, whose two recent goals off the bench in Leverkusen and Mönchengladbach - twice he was in the right place in the final phase and finished with ice-cold precision - brought us four important points. "Kevin not only scored the goal in Gladbach, but also had a positive influence on our game. At times we had problems keeping the ball in our own ranks. With him, we had a ball-secure player who managed to shift the game into Gladbach's half at times." But Stöger's performances were not the only thing that satisfied the head coach, who also stressed that the quality of training, not least the basis for good performances every weekend, was enormously high because every player made a contribution: "The guys who don't play or are substitutes train well and really put pressure on. You don't need just ten players for a good training week. Everyone is doing well and I don't notice anyone's disappointment." The ex-player said he noticed a "top mentality and atmosphere in the group".
Quaison about to make a comeback?
It is not out of the question that the coaching team will decide to make one or two personnel changes on Sunday. Robin Quaison, however, is not yet considered for the starting eleven. He is back in team training after a "positive rehab process", as the 05 coach revealed, but would at best only be considered for a short stint.
It's all about the task in the here and now
While the starting line-up is likely to give Svensson and his colleagues pause for thought in view of the reserves who are emphatically drawing attention to themselves, the head coach is not at all concerned with the standings after the recent upswing and ahead of the clash with FCA - Mainz could reduce the gap to their opponents from 13 to two points if they are successful: "I don't worry so much about the standings. We can only influence the situation in the present, that's what I'm concerned with. We have done a lot, but we are still a long way from reaching our goal. It's all about the task in the here and now. That means now it's about the press conference, then training and then the game against Augsburg on Sunday."