Which coach has the best points per game average in charge of Mainz? If you answered Jürgen Klopp or Thomas Tuchel, you'd be wrong, because current boss Bo Svensson's record tops even those of his UEFA Champions League-winning predecessors.
When Svensson was appointed in January 2021, he was the club's fourth coach of a troubled campaign. The team had just been beaten 5-2 by Bayern Munich, and were second-from-bottom of the Bundesliga table with just six points, five adrift of safety.
He added just one more to that tally in a disastrous Hinrunde and Svensson, who played over 100 competitve games for Mainz between 2007 and 2014, himself noted that "no team with just seven points in the first half of the season has ever survived." He was right, they hadn't. But they have now.
Watch: Mainz kick off 2021/22 with a win over Leipzig
A 3-2 win over RB Leipzig on Matchday 18 set the tone for the best Rückrunde in Mainz history as the Karneval club racked up 32 points — the joint-fourth-highest tally in the league along with UEFA Champions League qualifiers Wolfsburg — to finish a healthy eight points clear of the relegation places.
"I learned a lot from them that is now really helpful for me," explained Svensson from the lessons he drew as a player in one season under Klopp and six under Tuchel. "Without them, I wouldn't be a coach."
He added: "I remember a lot from both, in technical and human terms: how to deal with people, lead a team. The way Mainz play, I was able to learn from both of them. I was able to take on board things on all different levels."
Now, the student has learned his lessons so well, he has surpassed his former masters.
In 27 Bundesliga matches in charge, Svensson has picked up 12 wins and suffered just eight losses to rack up 43 points. That gives him an average of 1.59 points per game compared to Tuchel's 1.41 from 170 matches in charge between 2009 and 2014; the current Chelsea manager enjoyed a better record than now-Liverpool manager Klopp — like Svensson, a former Mainz player — who brought in 1.13 points per 90 minutes in his 102 Bundesliga matches as the 05ers coach.
Watch: The Svensson Effect
In that astonishing run in the second half of 2020/21, Svensson's side were beaten just three times as they cruised out of danger with a whopping averge of 1.88 points per game. That blows out of the water even the impressive 1.71 Tuchel averaged when he led Mainz to fifth and into the UEFA Europa League in 2010/11, and is significantly better than the 1.26 Klopp averaged in his first Bundesliga campaign with Mainz in 2004/05.
"I only saw him as a player for a year. As a guy, he was a grenade even then. As a coach, he's a great, great talent and has done an outstanding job so far," revealed Klopp, the man who brought Svensson to the club from Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2007.
"And he has a heart for Mainz 05, that's important. He brings the right mood to the club again. I'm very optimistic that things are going in the right direction with him now."
Watch: Mainz force Bayern to keep the champagne on ice
The scale of the upsurge in fortunes Svensson provoked was clear in the 2-1 defeat of champions-elect Bayern on Matchday 31 last season, a win that forced Hansi Flick's men to wait to clinch the title. It ultimately only delayed the inevitable for the Bavarians, but it was symptomatic of the displays that had staved off what had seemed inevitable for Mainz.
"Mainz did very well, defended aggressively and kept it tight," acknowledged Flick. "We hardly had a chance to score, they defended their goal outstandingly."
That benchmark rearguard action was the fruit of Svensson — a former Denmark international centre-back — knowing how the defence needed strengthening. With the astute signings of Danny da Costa and Dominik Kohr, he has managed to halve not only the amount of goals Mainz have been conceding, but also the number of chances they have been allowing.
Stefan Bell did not even get a look-in under any of Svensson's predecessors Achim Beierlorzer, Jan-Morirz Lichte and Jan Siewert on the Mainz bench this season, but since he was installed in the heart of a three-man defence, Mainz's fortunes have transformed. It was just one of the many masterstrokes Svensson has delivered over a fantastic four months.
Adam Szalai was another who enjoyed a renaissance under Svensson, who played alongside the Hungary international striker during his first spell at the club, adding his presence and know-how to a previously misfiring front line.
A fast-paced start to the 2021/22 season that built on the momentum of the previous campaign has slowed with a winless run of three matches and just a single point ahead of the Matchday 8 trip to Borussia Dortmund. But given Svensson's proven ability to right even what had appeared to be a sinking ship, everyone at Mainz is confident the storm will blow over quickly.
"We were in a very difficult situation when Bo Svensson arrived back in January. He was intelligent in the way he came into the club. He was very calm and serene. He had his way of thinking and a desire to work hard," freshly appointed club captain Moussa Niakhate told bundesliga.com recently.
"The players responded very well to what he was saying. We didn't have time to think too much, we just listened to the coach. And the results followed. Everyone is giving 100 percent. And when you give 100 percent in training and in every game, the results come."
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