A setback to the front

(Translation by @parneq)

Of course, we would have needed to win. On the one hand, to keep the close distance to the promotion positions (this is why yesterday can be seen as a setback), on the other hand because we dominated the whole match and were able to witness almost forgotten ball possession football of the FCSP (this is why yesterday’s match was a step to the front). And with the insight that the progress was somehow also a setback at the same time due to a lack of goals, let’s start to analyse the match.

The MSV Duisburg isn’t in such a bad state at the moment. And with this statement I’d also like to steal thunder of those prattling that the fourth of the table has to defeat the 17th by all means. I may repeat myself but the second league is just too close to each other to be able to draw a clear conclusion from the league’s table or even more, to demand such results (especially after losing the last two matches by 0-8 in total). Including the match against the FCSP, the MSV did only catch one goal within the last four matches. However, they did not play a vastly superior attacking football either (they scored only two goals) but collected six points and did not get beaten within their last four matches. In the match at the Millerntor stadium, the MSV Duisburg did also only show a huge interest to score a goal during some 15 minutes of the first half. For the rest of the game, the FCSP dominated the match.

52% of ball possession. At first sight, this does not appear as a particular high value. However, before this match the FCSP had the lowest value of all competitors of the second division in this regard with 43.7% on average only. Of course, ball possession on its own is only a parameter with very little significance (Thus, I will show some more parameters during the cause of this article to illustrate the overall picture). However, contrary to previous matches, the FCSP wasn’t too prone for long shots to the front and to wait for second shots in this match.

The MSV permanently defended in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Fröde as a central defensive midfielder and with Verhoek as a slight disturbing factor to FCSP’s build-up play. During FCSP’s build-up, both fullbacks Carstens and Buballa moved way to the front, particularly during the second half when they moved almost up to MSV’s back four. Whereas the wingers Miyaichi and Møller-Dæhli mostly acted towards the centre and thus created more space for the fullbacks. During the first half, it was often Marvin Knoll who dropped between the central defenders. Due to only very little attacking from Verhoek, this line of three could build up almost undisturbed. Their aim was to pass the ball to the forward moving fullbacks, however, this was often impossible due to the wide positioning of the MSV’s midfielders line. Thus, the own midfielders had to position themselves a little bit further behind, which resulted in vertical pressure against the MSV’s midfielders line of four, which were then not entirely able to keep their distances. If the plan worked out, after a short detour through the centre, the ball could be passed to the flanks. This worked quite well due to a rather flexible play of the midfielders: Buchtmann and Møller-Dæhli, as well as Knoll (if Zehir dropped between the central defenders) were offering themselves to initiate attacks from deep positionings. Especially during the second half, various attacks could be initiated doing just that whereas during the first half this tactic was not yet well set into play because of too many early passes to the centre.

Simple as fuck. The moving of Møller-Dæhli towards the central defenders creates the chance to pass the ball to the high positioned Buballa.

Alike FCSP, the MSV tried to initiate their build-up play with a line of three in the back. Thereby, the central defensive midfielder Fröde dropped between the central defenders. Usually, the FCSP defends with a 4-4-2 formation. Against Duisburg however, Miyaichi and Møller-Dæhli often also moved towards the first line, where both were able to create a high pressure against the build-up line of Duisburg. This worked out pretty well. Especially, when Knoll and Zehir played man-to-man against Schnellhardt and Albutat respectively and thus made it impossible for them to make themselves available for a pass while positioned deeply. If they didn’t, the MSV was quite able to quickly pass the ball through the centre. It was mostly Schnellhardt (the name says it all; ‘schnell’ = ‘quick’), who was able to get rid of Knoll by a quick sprint and thus, while quickly attacking, integrate Souza or Nielsen into the play. Whereas Albutat remained rather pale throughout the entire game.

It’s completely logical that a line of three is best pressed at by a line of three. Why didn’t the FCSP already do this during earlier matches? Well, to match the number of defendants with the same number of players pressing against them also means that this numerically equal situation has also to be positioned in all other parts of the pitch. The opponent’s system is technically mirrored and thus man-to-man situations become likely at every other position on the pitch. This might be risky. However, if a team is building up as deeply positioned as the MSV did, there is still enough time to get behind the ball with as many fielders as possible to avoid precarious situations, even if the first pressing line of three is outplayed. This is a clear change to the basic formation of the FCSP. Until Friday, the FCSP rather chose a safety-first option when the wingers were following the fullbacks in order to act rather focused on man-to-man situations. If the fullbacks moved towards the front (see also Santos during the derby), the same was true for FCSP’s wingers who then dropped into the last line of defence. These movements could also be witnessed against the MSV, however, mostly during situations when the system switched into its defence formation. As soon as every fielder found its position in the formation, the wingers moved back to the front and were thus acting space oriented.

This is how to act against a back line of three! FCSP’s fielders do only attack the defenders after they received a pass. Until then, this pass option is ‘offered’ only. This however only works, if both central defensive midfielders act man-to-man oriented.

This type of pressing worked out pretty well against MSV Duisburg. Especially during the second half, an ordered build-up play of the visitors could nearly not be witnessed. During the first half, the deep positioning of Schnellhardt however still resulted sometimes in the failing of the high pressing of FCSP.

And this is why there was a match developing on Friday in which the FCSP was able to initiate a flat build-up play. This build-up play was appealing. To me at least. However, I more and more witnessed people complaining about the fact that the ball was passed to the defence over and over again in order to initiate a shift of the positionings. Guys, if Duisburg isn’t offering any spaces, there’s no other option than to let the ball circulate between the own defenders. I really liked the variable movements in the centre. And compared to other matches, there was a clear focus to this ball possession type of play recognizable (played passes vs. Duisburg 514, vs. Sandhausen: 469, vs. Paderborn: 305, vs. Ingolstadt: 326). Do you really prefer all these long shots to the front again as soon as there’s no one to pass to straight away? Well, for sure I don’t. I prefer to stay in ball possession even if this means to stop a whole action and to build-up entirely new. Okay, the MSV did not intend to interrupt the FCSP during their state of build-up play. However, the FCSP was more and more capable to move the ball controlled to the last third. A further proof is the number of passes played in the last third (FCSP: 176, MSV: 88). Were they forced to use second shots? Not at all. Furthermore, they didn’t lose the ball that often (against Ingolstadt they lost 46 balls after such situations, against the MSV this number was only half as big). The only thing missing in this match were goals, although there were quite a few chances to score (expected goals value 1.3 to 0.4).

And thus, the FCSP did not win another game in which they clearly deserved to earn the three points. Long time no see. In total, this was however a great presentation. I absolutely do not understand why the own team was booed by their own supporters after the match (I never understand why the own team gets booed at all). No, the FCSP did present itself with a clear sense of what they wanted their play to look like, with a well prepared Zehir, who especially initiated some great attacks during the second half. And Alex Meier, who defended great against Verhoek and won most of the aerial duels if Verhoek was searched for with long shots. Sadly, Miyaichi seems to have lost the feel for the ball. And Flum lost his position to Zehir, who better fits into the new system. And sadly also Allagui missed out, who better fits into a system with two strikers.

On the stands, a lot of work was put into the relationships with the South Stand. A lot of love was send from the Gegengerade and the North Stand towards the South Stand, which flushed due to all this love when the match started. Furthermore, a great coalition emerged throughout all stands against the club’s collective punishment against the South Stand. Already a lot has been written and published in this regard with even more to come. This is why I simply and briefly demand now: All You Need Is Love!


– Zaphod Beebleblox: Alles schon gesehen, nur mit Toren isses schöner
– Magischer FC: Titel sind überbewertet
– Bilder: Stefan Groenveld: „Sankt Pauli hat die Bombe