Zentner: “It’s something we never want to experience again”
Celebrating his comeback from injury, Robin Zentner will be Mainz’s number 1 for the upcoming trip to Leipzig
The start of the new Bundesliga campaign sees 1. FSV Mainz 05 travel to Leipzig, where the Zerofivers fell to a painful 8-0 defeat last season. “It was a humiliating result for everyone out on the pitch,” says Robin Zentner, remembering the loss. “We have to learn from our mistakes. It’s something we never want to experience again. That should be enough motivation to drive us to play much better this weekend.”
The Bundesliga gets going again on Sunday at 15:30 CEST for Mainz and for the goalkeeper who was between the sticks that fateful day. On Thursday, Zentner said that he is looking forward to the game regardless, not least because the 25-year-old is fit to make his comeback after six months sidelined with injury. In addition to this, Achim Beierlorzer and goalkeeping coach Stephan Kuhnert have made Zentner Mainz’s number 1 for the upcoming season, with Florian Müller departing to SC Freiburg on a season-long loan.
Going into every game with confidence
“I’m just really pleased that Florian Müller and I both have the opportunity to play regular football now. It’s something that we’ve both earned,” Zentner says. Second-choice goalkeeper Finn Dahmen will now be the man putting pressure on Zentner for the spot in the starting XI. “I have a very good relationship with Finn and we’ve already been training together for a few years. He’s a very good, up-and-coming goalkeeper.”
Zentner, however, says that he will carry on playing and training in the same way as before. He has always stressed that the most important thing for him is to make sure that he is performing at his best, because that is the only thing he can influence. This is why he is starting the season with his chest confidently puffed out. "When I play, I give everything to win the game. That is my attitude. That's why I always go into every game full of confidence.”
Last Thursday in the team hotel, the 05 goalkeepers were given a clear announcement about the order for the upcoming season. "I was hoping to be first choice of course, and I went into pre-season with the feeling of becoming number one again, because I was first-choice until my injury," says Zentner. "I tried to get 100 per cent fit, to work my way in after the long break on the sidelines and the holiday period. It had been a long time since I could train at a consistent level". How would he have reacted if the goalkeeper question had had a different answer, with him not being first choice? "Honestly, I don't know," he says. The idea simply hadn't occurred to him because of his belief in his ability to perform.
Not only is Zentner number 1, but he’s also a new member of the team council. Born in the Rheingau, he is considered an integral part of the squad, someone who can express himself and who doesn't mince his words when the going gets tough. Zentner is also someone who does a lot to help team chemistry with his natural social skills. Mainz sporting director Rouven Schröder recently declared team spirit as the key theme for this season. Zentner believes that the team has made progress in this regard as they became much closer after surviving a relegation scrap last season. “I’ve already got the feeling that something big has happened here, that we know each other a lot better and that we all understand each other’s point of view and aims much more. We’re all pulling in the same direction and know that it only works if we work together.” But the 25-year-old’s influence on the group has not changed. "I think I had a good standing in the team before, which is key to having influence with the other players. In the end, it’s all about everyone getting involved and everyone promoting this team spirit." It’s also important that this team spirit is reflected out on the pitch come Sunday.
Showing quality out on the pitch
"We all know the size of the task that we’re facing in Leipzig. A top team is waiting for us. If they’re on form, then we really can’t afford to have a bad day. The opposition are fast and play really good football, they are physically strong and show great desire,” says the 25-year-old. “We have to be careful not to make any silly mistakes in defence. As a team, we have to perform better than we did back then.”
Mainz conceded a total of 13 goals in two matches against RB Leipzig last season. But Timo Werner, who contributed six of those goals by himself, is no longer around. That should serve as extra motivation to the team. “We possess a lot of the same qualities as Leipzig, we just need to show it more often out on the pitch. We have seen what we are capable of. We have to recognise what we can do and give everything to achieve it, like we did towards the end of last season,” says the goalkeeper. Looking forward to his comeback, but with last season’s match still in mind, Zentner adds: “We want to take something from the game this time, rather than gifting it to them like last year.”