EActually, this man is considered indispensable for the game of FSV Mainz 05: From the first to the 21st matchday of the current Bundesliga season, Karim Onisiwo was in the starting formation of the Rheinhessen, in most cases he played through, in the others he made way in the final phase for a fresh colleague.
He leads both team statistics with nine goals and four assists. When he starts on the wing, few defenders can keep up. And in a confined space he sometimes gives three opponents who are surrounding him a run for their money.
Of the last four games, however, the Austrian missed two completely, in the other two he only came on the field for the last half hour. In the 1-1 draw against SC Freiburg, he gave his team the equalizer in the sixth minute of added time. Afterwards, however, coach Bo Svensson was not very happy when the talk turned to Onisiwo. “I would have preferred to let him play less, but there was no other way,” he said, “I had to set an impulse.”
The problem: At the beginning of February, the striker overstretched a knee in training without then shortening it. “It then caught fire and I’ve been carrying the symptoms around with me ever since,” explains Onisiwo. He was still fully involved against Union Berlin, Augsburg and in Leverkusen, but at some point he got to the point where he could only train on a reduced basis or not at all. And this forced break was noticeable in his assignments. The dynamics, the intensity, the speed did not come into their own as usual.
“Karim thrives on his intensity and athleticism,” says Svensson, “if he can’t do all the forms of training, his game suffers.” , tearing up compact opponents in the back – “but without proper training it’s difficult for him too”. The player admits that he is not yet back at 100 percent of his capacity and therefore not yet a candidate for the starting XI. His hope of being fully resilient again after the international break was not fulfilled. Svensson had not said it before this league break, but from his facial expressions it was clear that he would have preferred Onisiwo not to have made a detour to the Austrian national team and instead continued to recover in Mainz.
It remains to be seen to what extent the time with the ÖFB team with a short assignment against Estonia was helpful. “We were in constant contact with the Austrian authorities and doctors,” says Svensson. “They explained to us why Karim was nominated, we explained his situation and they used him exactly as they had announced and agreed with us.” The knee is doing a little better, Onisiwo was able to train fully after his return Mainz, however, still not. “We look from day to day. He will only play 100 percent against RB Leipzig (Saturday, 3.30 p.m., in the FAZ live ticker for the Bundesliga and on Sky),” said Svensson.
Burgzorg’s talent alone is not enough
Fit, but far from meeting the demands of Mainz football, has been Delano Burgzorg in recent weeks. The Dutch striker, who switched to Rheinhessen in January last year, must have felt a resounding slap in the face not even being in the squad against SC Freiburg – although Onisiwo was injured, Jonathan Burkardt is still out and the long-injured Marlon Mustapha was not yet a man for the bank.
“He has great qualities,” Svensson refers to the pace and one-on-one situations. However, talent alone is not enough. As long as Burgzorg has these strengths only on paper, they are “hypothetical qualities”. And as long as he doesn’t adopt the Mainz style of play, it will be difficult for him to get into the matchday squad given the young, up-and-coming players like Nelson Weiper and Brajan Gruda. “The competition never sleeps.”
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