Bo Svensson continues to boast a better record than Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel on the Mainz bench. - © Imago
Bo Svensson continues to boast a better record than Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel on the Mainz bench. - © Imago

Bo Svensson outstripping Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel with masterful Mainz


With the 2022/23 season drawing to a close, Bo Svensson’s Mainz are firmly in the battle for European qualification, as the Danish coach continues to outshine his illustrious predecessors Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

Mainz fans are mostly a modest bunch. With a slim budget, no national titles and not even a DFB Cup final appearance in the club's history, their expectations are limited - but this season they have had a luxury of occasions to cherish.

Whether it was the 5-0 win against Cologne, the 5-2 victory over Bochum, the 4-0 outclassing of Borussia Mönchengladbach or the 3-0 statement win at RB Leipzig, Mainz have banished any doubt that they belong at the business end of the table.

A nine-match unbeaten run - currently the longest of any Bundesliga club, and the joint-longest single-season streak in their history - puts Mainz well on course to secure their second consecutive top-half finish. That's something the club have achieved only once before, under current Bayern Munich boss Tuchel. A result against the title-chasing Bavarians on Matchday 29 would top all of this season's big moments, and there's every chance of an upset.

When Svensson inherited a hopeless-looking situation in December 2020, nobody within the club - and perhaps not even the Dane himself – believed he could pull off a minor miracle by avoiding the drop. With just six points from their first 14 games, Mainz looked doomed, and history had already condemned them. Yet by picking up 33 out of a possible 60 points, Svensson managed to keep them in the Bundesliga, even beating Leipzig and Bayern for good measure.

Watch: Mainz outfoxed Leipzig again on Matchday 26 of the current campaign

After their great escape of 2020/21, the 05ers had a rather more stress-free 2021/22, never slipping below 11th place and eventually finishing comfortably in eighth. They opened the campaign with yet another win over Leipzig, and ran out 3-1 winners against Bayern on Matchday 32.

Svensson's impact goes beyond the results, though. While he initially set about steadying the ship - winning nine games by just a single goal - he slowly instilled a playing philosophy which has made Mainz one of the most exciting teams to watch in the Bundesliga and beyond. The parallels with Klopp’s Gegenpressing can be seen; Mainz play a high-intensity game which starts from the very back, with aggressive yet fair defending and a hounding mentality. Not only shalt thou not pass, thou shalt not even have time to consider it.

Klopp and Tuchel are Svensson’s best-known predecessors at Mainz, with both going on to lift countless titles - including the UEFA Champions League - with the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Liverpool, Chelsea and Paris Saint-Germain. Svensson has already acknowledged their influence, having played under both during his seven-year spell as a Mainz player. “I remember a lot, in technical and human terms: how to deal with people, lead a team,” said Svensson. “The way Mainz play, I was able to learn from both of them.”

Svensson is thriving in the spotlight, and in the hotseat at Mainz - Daniel Kopatsch/Bundesliga/Bundesliga Collection via Getty Images

After soaking up what he saw from Klopp and Tuchel, Svensson is now outstripping them in the Mainz dugout. He boasts an average of 1.48 points per game across his 82 in charge, of which 31 have been wins. Klopp averaged 1.13 while Tuchel – the club's most successful coach to date – averaged 1.41. To put it another way, Svensson has won 40 per cent of his matches as Mainz coach, and Tuchel 38 per cent.

To outperform the legends in whose shoes he has followed, Svensson has adapted their styles to his own beliefs and to the players at his disposal, helping to bring the best out of them. The powerful press is just the start. With possession regained, lightning transitions pave an efficient path to goal and suit the strengths of Karim Onisiwo, Jonathan Burkardt, Anton Stach, Leandro Barreiro, Anthony Caci and Dominik Kohr, all of whom have also taken huge strides forward under Svensson.

The tirelessly battling Onisiwo is Mainz's joint-top scorer this season with nine goals, alongside Marcus Ingvartsen. Befitting such a hard-working collective, the goals have been spread well around the squad throughout 2022/23, with Korean Jae-sung Lee netting seven and January signing Ludovic Ajorque already chipping in with five.

Ludovic Ajorque has become a fan favourite in Mainz within months of his January arrival - and his trademark goal celebration is already well-known. - Christof Koepsel/Getty Images

The big centre-forward, born on the French overseas territory Reunion Island, has taken to Mainz and the Bundesliga like a proverbial fish to water. His strike in the recent 1-1 draw in Cologne was his third in three consecutive league matches and his fifth direct goal involvement in five.

Ajorque possesses the kind of physicality and conviction in attack that Bayern may be envious of, given the injury concerns facing their former Mainz frontman Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting. The 05ers have adjusted to his presence and quickly become the Bundesliga team with the most goals from crosses hit in open play. Eight of their 10 strikes from this route have come in the second half of the season, with Ajorque netting three of them.

Svensson has no reason to fear hosting Bayern. As Mainz coach, he has a highly respectable record of two wins and two defeats against the record champions, including that 3-1 victory a year ago on Bayern's last league visit. The metrics show the extent of Mainz's mettle; they have run an average of 116.9 kilometres per match this season and contested more challenges than any other side (214), meaning Bayern must be at their best to get a result.

Watch: Mainz upset Bayern's title celebrations late last season

The Matchday 29 clash presents another test for new Bayern coach Tuchel. As for Svensson, two years after he took charge, he has already etched his name firmly into club folklore and could go on to join the list of managerial greats to have guided the side.

Whatever the result on Saturday, Mainz will be proud of another season of upsetting the odds and so many of the better-fancied Bundesliga sides along the way. As they go into the final six matches of the campaign just two points off sixth place, you wouldn't want to bet against the city of Mainz being back on the European map in 2023.