Mainz coach Bo Svensson spoke to bundesliga.com ahead of the 05ers' latest meeting with Bayern Munich. With his side not winning in 12 league matches since their 3-1 victory over the champions in April, Svensson will hope to mastermind another famous success against his good friend Thomas Tuchel on Matchday 8...
Bo Svensson: "I don’t think our friendship will ever change. It’s not like we’re talking every day or writing to one another every day, but we have a special story together. I think there is great respect on both sides. It’ll be nice to see him again on Saturday. It’s a special relationship that I have with him. The focus has to be on the game and what we have to deliver as a team. On the personal side of things, it’s also going to be great to see Thomas. It doesn’t matter how the game turns out."
bundesliga.com: You must be quietly confident though of getting one over your friend again by taking another win?
Svensson: "Of course, we had a couple of positive results against Bayern of late. A lot of things have to fall into place to make that happen again, though. We have to be at our absolute best, and Bayern maybe not. We'll need the luck on our side in a couple of key situations. The game will also have to develop in the right way – that’s also what we saw in our previous victories over Bayern. So we need a lot of things that are out of our hands to fall into place. We can focus on the things that are in our hands, however. That means we have to perform not only as a group, but every player who’s on the pitch has to reach his maximum potential for us to get a result on Saturday."
Watch: Mainz made it three straight home wins over Bayern in April
bundesliga.com: Do you look forward to the challenge of facing Bayern?
Svensson: "Yes, it’s the greatest challenge that you can have in German football. You have to look forward to this game. If you go into the game thinking, ‘We'll see how we get on for the opening 10 minutes, and if that goes okay we'll only have another 80 minutes,’ it’s not going to end well for you. You have to go in thinking, 'I’m going to test myself and we’re going to test ourselves as a team against the best, and then we’re going to see how far we can go.' That’s also the feeling I sense in the group. We want to go out and perform against the best team in Germany."
bundesliga.com: The form of Harry Kane and Leroy Sané, in particular, must worry you?
Svensson: "Yes, but it’s always the same issue when we play against Bayern or any great team with great individual world-class players. We don’t have too much focus on them as individuals because, if you start focusing too much on one guy, okay… Sané and Kane might not play that well, but they still have Kingsley Coman, they have Jamal Musiala, Alphonso Davies and Leon Goretzka. So, it’s about seeing them as a whole. Those two players are in great form, but they have other world-class players who can switch on and switch off within a second and decide games."
Svensson: "I try to be the same as always, but, of course, we haven’t had the start to the season that we wanted. We had a lot of injuries, and we had some results going against us. I’m not saying we played well until now, but we had a couple of games that could’ve finished differently. Of course, this influences me as well in my job and in how I am as a person. I try to separate it, but it’s difficult. At the end of the day, the focus for me in the job as a coach is to try to give my players the things that they need to perform. They’re not there for me, I’m there for them. That is what you have to understand as a coach. That’s what I try to do. I’m not saying that I’m perfect in it, not at all, but that is the core of my job."
bundesliga.com: You did manage to inspire a remarkable turnaround in form when you joined Mainz in 2021. Are you aiming to repeat that?
Svensson: "Coming into a club as a new coach is rather different to being there for over two years, of course. What is comparable is that we had a difficult situation back then and we have a difficult situation now, and will probably have that for the rest of the season. We can draw on how we managed to recover back then, how we turned it around and how we got back to winning ways. We just have to try to stay together, work hard, look a little behind the scenes at what is going on and what can you influence. If you get dragged into the whole, 'we have to win, have to do this and that' because of the press or the fans… then you’re going to lose your logical thinking. I think that’s what we’re trying to do, trying to keep our heads cool, although we are pretty aware of the severity of the situation."
bundesliga.com: Has the emergence of Brajan Gruda been a positive of the poor start to the season?
Svensson: "I think he’s a very talented player and he's doing a good job of focusing on his own qualities. I told him, ‘Go out and be Brajan Gruda. You have a certain way of playing where your qualities come to the fore.' Sometimes with a player like that it’s not about giving him so much advice, just giving him the faith and the freedom to be the player that he is. At the moment, he’s doing it well. He’s also a young player, he will have phases where it’s not going to work that well. We believe in him, and we know that the curve of a young player is not the curve of a 30-year-old. It will go up and down."
Watch: Mainz's 19-year-old striker Brajan Gruda is one of the rising stars of 2023/24 so far
bundesliga.com: Is it important for Mainz to keep on producing top young players like Gruda?
Svensson: "We have certainly developed a lot of players over time. We have a good academy with good young players who are coming through the ranks. Our U19s were German champions last year, and Brajan was a symbol of their strength, but there are a lot of other good young players too. It’s a positive sign for Mainz and one of the things that we have built our club upon in the past and will continue to do in the future."
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