Last weekend, Mainz not only came out on top against their opponents but also overcame a number of other hurdles. Constant sleet noticeably affected the game with the pitch at the Opal Arena almost unrecognisable. In spite of clear superiority in terms of territory, Sandro Schwarz's team went behind to direct rivals VfB Stuttgart conceding a comedy goal before an equaliser was ruled out by the video assistant. A situation that would have seen many teams fall apart, above all with the last victory in the Bundesliga being over two months ago. The relief was therefore even greater in the capital of the Rhineland Palatinate when Mainz finally, but deservedly, won the game against VfB 3-2. And it was an enormously important win that took FSV four points clear of the play-off position. Now on 20 points, Mainz have caught up with Stuttgart and Wolfsburg and are only in 15th position due to their inferior goal difference.
Competition is good for business. A saying that again and again proves to be right. For example, when a player rediscovers his form and his new competitor has not really found his feet. Just before Christmas, FSV Mainz announced the signing of Anthony Ujah for the second half of the season with the Nigerian tasked to end the goal drought for the team from Rhineland Hessen. That appears to be working – although Ujah has only played nine goalless minutes for Mainz to date. The new signing from China appears to have inspired Yoshinori Muto (pictured above) to rediscover his nose for goal. The Japanese striker has found the back of the net three times in the first two matches since the winter break and that equals his total for the first half of the season. His brace came in the clash with Stuttgart on a tricky playing surface and was worth its weight in gold as was the performance of Nigel de Jong as the resolute holding midfielder in front of the back four. The 81-time Dutch international was the second winter signing for Mainz alongside Ujah. He was brought in to replace Fabian Frei, who has returned to Basel, with his many years of experience across Europe providing valuable help in escaping the drop zone.
Mainz did not concede many chances against Stuttgart but goalkeeper Robin Zentner had to pick the ball out of his net twice and FSV had to worry about holding on to win in spite of dominating the game. A problem that has been present throughout the season at Mainz. The defence appears to have been stabilised by the signing of the French central defender Abdou Diallo with relatively few chances conceded. However, Mainz have already let in 33 goals – the highest number in the league along with FC Köln and SC Freiburg. The reason: In part due to carelessness in an inexperienced defence, which has invited opponents to score, and also to a significant extent due to an acute weakness at set pieces. The opening goal scored by Stuttgart's Holger Badstuber was the eighth goal conceded by FSV from a corner this term and that is more than any other side in the Bundesliga.
Mainz have just experienced an eventful weekend. Less than 24 hours after the urgently required win against Stuttgart, the club took another decisive step for the future. At an extraordinary general meeting, Stefan Hofmann was elected the new chairman of the club. The fact the 54-year-old took over from Johannes Kaluza after just six months in office was certainly a surprise. The former head of the Mainz Academy went into the election as an outsider but he won through in the first round against long-standing vice president Jürgen Doetz and member of the supervisory board Eva-Maria Federhenn. It was probably to his benefit that Hoffman was not previously involved in the club management and was therefore able to establish himself as an independent candidate. After twice playing in Europe in three seasons, Mainz are again battling against relegation for the second year in succession. There certainly appears to be a broad range of alternatives for the future. The path to be taken certainly depends on the approach Hofmann adopts in his new role at the club.
Mainz 05 can take heart from last weekend's result in the battle against relegation that will certainly last into the spring. FSV appear to lack the required consistency of performance up front and at the back. If Schwarz and his team perform in the way they did against Stuttgart in the forthcoming clashes with direct rivals then they are in with more than a decent chance of staying up. The potential and approach on the pitch are definitely there to ensure FSV will be where they are now after 34 matches – above the drop zone.
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