Bo Svensson's rejuvenated Mainz are within three points of the top six at the midway stage of the season, thanks in no small part to the budding strike partnership of Jonathan Burkardt and Karim Onisiwo.
bundesliga.com casts a glance at the 05ers' first five months of an encouraging campaign…
The story so far
Svensson was hailed for his Houdini-style rescue of Mainz from relegation last term, taking over on 28 December 2020 with the club appearing destined for relegation. Never had a club survived from the situation Svensson inherited, but one year on, things are looking dramatically different. Mainz proved that remarkable recovery was no fluke with a 1-0 win over RB Leipzig on the opening day of the season, and wins over Greuther Fürth and Hoffenheim painted a distinctly different picture to the previous year. There have been ups and downs, with three straight defeats denting that excellent early progress, but the run-in included a 3-0 win over Wolfsburg and a 4-0 triumph over Hertha Berlin to put ninth-in-the-table Mainz 17 points better off than at the same stage of 2020/21.
Watch: the Svensson effect
Burkardt kicked on from winning the UEFA U21 Euros with Germany by scoring seven goals in 17 Bundesliga games for Mainz, adding a further three in the DFB Cup and striking up a fine partnership with Onisiwo. The centre forward has already received a courtesy telephone call from Germany coach Hansi Flick, and a first-ever call-up to the senior national team could be on the horizon for the current Germany U21 captain.
Best game so far
Wolfsburg had lost just one game under Florian Kohfeldt when they arrived in Mainz on Matchday 14, two points ahead of the 05ers. Within four minutes, Burkardt and Anton Stach had put Mainz two up, before Maxence Lacroix's own goal sealed the deal in the last minute as Mainz climbed above their opponents.
Watch: Mainz 3-0 Wolfsburg - highlights
One to watch
Burkardt is not the only talented youngster making waves at Mainz this season, with central defender Jeremiah St. Juste - the fastest player in Bundesliga history - holding things together at the back like super glue before a shoulder injury cut short his involvement on Matchday 7. The former Feyenoord stopper is set to return to training in January, though, and will be welcomed back into the third meanest defence in the league, with just three goals conceded across the six games he did play this season.
The view from inside the camp
"This is all the result of hard, but very good work – it cannot be a fluke when you collect 57 points in a calendar year. We're trying to put the club on a steady footing and entertain people and that's more important than any league position, and that's the principle we will continue to follow; that's the Mainz way." – sporting director Christian Heidel
Back-to-back Bochum: Mainz face the Westphalians first in the Bundesliga on Matchday 18 and then, three days later, in the last 16 of the DFB Cup. With bottom-placed Greuther Fürth next up, the 05ers will be hoping they can build up a head of steam for a challenging run of fixtures against Hoffenheim, Freiburg and Bayer Leverkusen. The final two home games of the season promise to be spectacular, too, with defending champions Bayern Munich and local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt visiting the MEWA Arena.