Halfway through the 2023-24 Bundesliga season, FSV Mainz 05 sits in serious danger of relegation. On their second manager and having managed only a single win, it would be hard to look at the table without understanding that 05ers' season has been, in a word, disappointing. The underlying statistics show more than that. Not only is Mainz underperforming, but they're doing so at a near-historic rate.
After Matchday 17, the situation is dire in the heart of the Rheinland. Mainz currently sits in 16th in the Bundesliga table, tied on points with Cologne and only being saved from immediate relegation by a minor goal difference. Its record sits at 1 win (the fewest in the Bundesliga this year) along with 8 losses and 8 ties. Problems were apparent early, as it took 11 matches before finding a victory.
What's happening? Largely, an inability to score. No member of the team has scored more than 2 goals, including any of the Forwards listed on their roster. For context, the top 2 current league leaders have outscored Mainz as a team.
Harry Kane - Bayern München - 22 Goals
Serhou Guirassy - Stuttgart - 17 Goals
Mainz 05 - 14 Goals
Defensively, things have been better, but only just. Mainz has conceded 29 goals, bottom half of the league but a far cry from Darmstadt's 44 and ahead of 8 other clubs. Possibly to counterbalance their lack of offensive efficacy, Mainz has been playing exceptionally aggressive defense. They've allowed the 4th fewest shots in the league and, to this point, they lead the Bundesliga both in duels won and (consequently) fouls committed.
Is there still room for hope?
The xGame Within The Game
Before we get into the numbers. I would like to issue a reminder that when it comes to 'expected stats' i.e., Expected Goals Scored (xG), Expected Goals Allowed (xGA), and Expected Points (xPTS) that underperforming these values does not inherently mean that a team is unlucky. While these statistics can take a lot into account, they are not perfect measures and should not be taken as such.
That being said, Mainz has underperformed to an incredible extent.
Below is a table describing the difference between actual and expected Goals For and Goals Against through the first 17 matches of Mainz's schedule.
A little more than 6 goals difference in each area. Goals that would ultimately have turned some of their 8 ties to wins, and potentially a few of their 8 losses to ties (or even wins). Neither of these are league-worst in their own right but when viewed in tandem it paints a pretty unfortunate picture for the 05ers.
Mainz has entrenched itself in the Quadrant of Problematic Outcomes, thus compounding the problems their poor form has created thus far.
When this is broken out to all Bundesliga sides of the past decade, Mainz continues to distance themselves from the large majority while joining some hapless company.
In fact, in terms of combined performance relative to the expected statistics, Mainz has the 5th worst numbers after Matchday 17 in the last decade.
The xPTS Are Made Up
The goal differentials above are indeed drastic but more problematic for Mainz is the points differential that results. They currently sit on 11 points: less than half of the 22.14 xPTS being calculated for them.
If you were to reorganize the current league table based on xPTS, Mainz would not only be out of the relegation zone, but they would be top half of the league!
Zooming out the last decade again, we can see that Mainz is on-pace for one of the worst xPTS differentials in a long time.
Of the 5 teams here who began the second half of the season in the relegation zone, 3 of them were doomed to stay there. What will happen to Mainz?
Mainz has clearly played a lot of its competition close, but time is running out.
Matchday 18 pits Mainz against Union Berlin, who currently sit 3 points above in 15th position. A loss would widen that gap instantly and be cause for extreme concern. A win could be a harbinger of a turnaround and a path out of relegation.
It's easy to look at these numbers and say that such a turnaround is due, but some credence must be given to the fact that these numbers reached this point at all. Is some of this potentially bad luck? Yes, but the quality needs to be there as well. As said before, skill manufactures luck. The opposite can be true as well.
Avoid losses, turn some of those ties into wins, or else time could run out on Mainz's run in the Bundesliga.
Thanks for reading!
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If you're interested check out my Github to see the code for this project. The entirety of it was carried out in a Jupyter Notebook with the pandas, matplotlib, and seaborn libraries for Python, along with Excel for some easy formatting.