The German Bundesliga starts on August 5, and heinnews is providing extensive coverage in the buildup to the 2011-12 season with a club preview each day. Today we take a look at Europa League debutants Mainz.
Mainz were the sensation of the early 2010-11 season and held on to qualify for the Europa League in just their second season in the Bundesliga. Some of head coach Thomas Tuchel’s top players, however, have left Mainz and now they are left hoping the new replacements can live up to the club’s lofty expectations.
Tuchel actually knew just weeks into the season that forward Andre Schürrle would be leaving in the summer of 2011 for Bayer Leverkusen. And Tuchel also figured that attacking midfielder Lewis Holtby’s development into a German international would be called back to Schalke from his loan in Mainz. The defensive midfield also took a big as Christian Fuchs took his strong left-footed work on the left side to Schalke while stalwart Miroslav Karhan returned to his childhood club Spartak Trnava in Slovakia.
Tuchel did not rest on his laurels and continued the club’s concept of building with young talented players – with the help of the some 10 million euro that Mainz got from the transfer of Schürrle.
The money allowed Mainz to keep both midfielder Marcel Risse and defender Malik Fathi, who were on loan last season from Bayer Leverkusen and Spartak Moscow, respectively.
Tuchel added Czech international defender Zdenek Pospech, who comes to Mainz from FC Copenhagen with the ability to score goals.
The coach knows that the team will miss the offensive firepower of Schürrle, Holtby and Fuchs. But he feels he has adequately replaced them with Nicolai Müller, who had seven goals and seven assists last season with Greuther Fürth; and Hungarian Zoltan Stieber, who collected 10 goals and 17 assists with Alemannia Aachen.
Mainz also added 20-year-old Nigerian striker Anthony Ujah from Norwegian top-flight side Lillestroem, where he scored 27 goals in 36 games. They also brought in 23-yearold Turkish international forward Deniz Yilmaz from Bayern Munich’s second team, 23-year-old Austrian international midfielder Julian Baumgartlinger and 22-year-old Cameroon international Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, who played at the 2010 World Cup.
“We lost three key players of the top level. It will take a Hercules effort to replace them,” said Tuchel.
Luckily the coach didn’t have to replace much of his defense as Nikolce Noveski, Bo Svensson, Niko Bungert and Fathi are back along with Elkin Soto and Eugen Polanski in defensive midfield. While Mainz’s 52 goals scored were fifth best in the Bundesliga, they only conceded 39 goals – second only to Borussia Dortmund’s 22 goals.
“Everybody talked last year about Schürrle, Fuchs and Holtby. But Soto and Polanski were just as important,” said Svensson.
Tuchel is dealing with a goalkeeper issue between Heinz Müller and Christian Wetklo, both of whom feel they are worthy of starting.
“Mainz is not longer joked around as a small second division club fighting against relegation but a competitive Bundesliga team,” said Mainz manager Christian Heidel.