Pros 09.03.2023 — 17:24 Uhr

Short-term goals instead of long-term dreams

Bo Svensson spoke at the press conference on Thursday about the mindset when setting goals, Mainz’s strength from set pieces, the upcoming encounter with Sandro Schwarz and his team and the current squad situation.

Aymen Barkok during the 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture against Hertha BSC at the MEWA ARENA

When Hertha BSC and 1. FSV Mainz 05 kick off on Saturday at 15:30 CET at Berlin’s Olympiastadion, both teams will go into the match under different circumstances. While the team from the capital, who are coached by ex-Zerofiver Sandro Schwarz, will be looking to put their recent 4-1 defeat to Leverkusen behind them and create some space between themselves and the relegation zone, Mainz are aiming to extend their run and win their fifth Bundesliga game in a row. Hertha have been solid recently, especially at home, with wins against Borussia Mönchengladbach and FC Augsburg, and have “found a system in which they are comfortable and can play to their strengths,” said FSV coach Bo Svensson. It is clear that they will have to give their all on Saturday afternoon in order to bring three points back from Berlin.

Away at a Hertha side strong at home

The Zerofivers are not naive enough to think that the away game against Hertha will be an easy one because of the current standings in the Bundesliga, but rather they know how important the game is for the home side, especially after last week’s setback. “I expect a committed and motivated opponent. Everyone knows it will be a very difficult game for us. We have to be close to our top level in order to get something from it,” said Svensson, pointing out the difficulty of the task to continue their winning streak.

We have to be close to our top level to get something from the game.

This, as well as their current seventh place in the table, did not play a role in the team’s work. “I certainly don’t bring it up,” said Svensson. The FSV coach preferred to talk about what is currently going well and where there is still potential. “The fact is that as a coach I don’t like to concern myself with aims that lie far in the future,” he said in answer to the question of where the team’s current journey could take them. “For me, eleven games is a very long way,” stressed the 43-year-old, looking ahead to the tasks ahead until the end of the season. “I’m looking ahead to the next game and the next weeks, for which we set goals together within the team.” Svensson was clearly not willing to go into detail about these team goals, but explained that they needed short-term, smaller goals that they can directly achieve with their results.

“I don’t think it gives you extra motivation if, as a team, you set a target before the first matchday that you want to achieve on matchday 34.” He said that you can talk about where you want to stand at the end of the season three or four matchdays before the end. “So before this, we are happy about the current situation, especially the way we are playing, and are trying to keep this up.”

Freiburg as a role model for set pieces

One reason for the recent successes is undoubtedly set pieces, from which the Zerofivers have already been successful on 12 occasions this season. Only two Bundesliga teams have scored more goals from dead balls, and Svensson singles out SC Freiburg as a role model. SCF have scored 16 times from set pieces this season, which is the best figure in the league. “They have been doing very well for many years when it comes to set pieces,” explained the FSV head coach, “They always do the same thing, and I mean that in a good way, as it is still hard to defend it. When you have good strikers of the ball and good plays, it’s going to be hard, no matter how well you adjust to it as an opponent,” said Svensson, aware of the recipe for success. Those players who can put the ball into dangerous areas are currently available and Ludovic Ajorque, a suitable target man, joined in the winter.

Accordingly, they are trying to continue to pay a lot of attention to set pieces. “Sometimes it goes better, sometimes it doesn’t go so well,” said Svensson, who also praised the team’s good showing in defence from set pieces. “This is especially down to Patrick Kaniuth, who is responsible for it,” the Dane said, singling out the work of his assistant coach. “We know that it is an important part of the game.”

Friendship rests for 90 minutes

It is obvious that the upcoming match against Sandro Schwarz and his team on Saturday afternoon is a special one for Svensson; after all, the two coaches worked together at Mainz for several years. “But it’s not like I’m in contact with him every week,” reported Svensson, and they most recently met by chance at the airport and chatted for a bit. “I get on very well with Sandro, there is a lot of respect there,” continued the Mainz coach, “but it is also clear that we both want to win when our teams play each other.”

But it is also clear that we both want to win when our teams play each other.

Players missing and coming back in attack

Ahead of the trip east, the Zerofivers will be without Jonathan Burkardt and Brajan Gruda, and Karim Onisiwo is expected to return to team training on Thursday afternoon after recovering from knee problems. The Austrian attacker is making good progress, but after a long time out it is unlikely that he will be available for the full match in Berlin. “We are happy that he is available and we will see to what extent he can help us. Karim is an important player, but the performance level in the squad is very high right now. You have to be at 100 percent to be able to help the team,” said Svensson in assessment of the situation. Fellow striker Marcus Ingvartsen, who was absent at the start of the week due to a cold, is also expected to return to training this Thursday.

As for whether Onisiwo’s return means Nelson Weiper will travel with the U19s to Trier this weekend, where the Zerofivers are aiming to secure the A-Junioren Bundesliga South/Southwest championship, Svensson answered: “not necessarily.” He said that the youngster has done “impressively” in the Bundesliga recently following his appearances as a substitute. “I’m looking at the quality and the squad that we have at our disposal and then a decision will be made,” explained the Mainz head coach a day before they leave for the capital.