Öhm… what was that?! The FCSP is finally winning a game again. As if that wasn’t worth mentioning enough, I have to add that it did it with some of the basic virtues, I thought had been completely unknown to the team for quite some time. Here’s a short match report which tries to arrange the chaos in the pitch
I left the stadium in the 60. minute. I didn’t leave because I didn’t like how the game was going. Not at all. No, there are only two persons who can make me leave a game of the FCSP willingly: My daughters. While I checked in the younger one safely at relatives, the older of the two (3 years) accompanied me in the stadium. Yes, visiting the stadium at the age of three is early, too early. Don’t tell me, I didn’t know. I tried it anyway and went through it until my daughter made clear, It’s time to go now. “I’d like to get out of here” („Ich möchte hier weg“) she said at the end of the first half, and at that time I could agree with her and said, “Me too” (“Ich auch”). In the second half, just after the equalizer, the mixture was, of course, a different one. I tried to bribe her with chocolate, which bought me about 5 minutes and cost a whole package of hankies for cleaning up the mess, unfortunately, the supplies didn’t last until the final whistle.
So I completed the game only in the Re-Live. And to be honest, I’ve never had such a hard time breaking down a match tactically. However, the breakdown itself isn’t the problem. It is more problematic to write some words about any kind of ordered build-up. I love to think about how one team is trying to open rooms in the other team’s formation, which routes are used to pull apart chains and how a player tries to force his opponent into difficult situations.
Now there was a match yesterday, in which exactly these factors played a subordinate role. The FC St. Pauli and Jahn Regensburg both, didn’t have an increased interest to lead the ball through their own rows for a particularly long time. Rather, the motto was “maximum vertical”. The result was a match that couldn’t have been more chaotic, but in the end, the FCSP won the game completely deserved.
I could now mumble about some formations and explain how they acted against each other. But this time I find it hard to tie down any kind of basic order for both teams. Clearly, the FCSP returned to a 4-2-3-1, however, this basic order wasn’t recognizable on the pitch since neither St. Pauli nor Regensburg tried to circulate the ball in their own third. Both teams rather played many vertical passes. Feel free to question the term “pass” here, since both teams were focusing on the 2nd balls, which was then used to develop goal scoring chances. The FCSP did this extremely consistently. In itself, this focus isn’t new. But this time, the intensity with which this type of play was enforced was new. Correspondingly, the play was mostly initiated with a long ball. While doing that, the fullbacks moved towards the centre behind the midfielders. They aimed for especially having better access for the second ball in the centre. And with positioning additional fielders in the centre, in case of a loss of ball, which is always likely if you choose a coin toss such as the long ball, the opponent is also hindered to easily initiate their transition play. Technically, this would be a 3-3-3-1 formation, which however always disappeared rather quickly, so that I wouldn’t name it the basic order.
When Regensburg was in ball possession, the FCSP was simply marking every fielder man-to-man. For example, this is why mostly Johannes Flum was attacking the fielder of Regensburg in the centre, as he was supposed to mark his opponent Greipl, who was frequently trying to fetch the pall deeply from the back. This man-to-man marking was so intense that the FCSP was sometimes partly even acting with a back line of three only when Dudziak followed his opponent George who wasn’t always high positioned. This type of marking every single player is for sure not riskless, thus the duels become of significant importance. Yesterday, the FCSP managed to win the decisive duels (aside from the duels against Adamyan, who was able to enter the penalty area through man-to-man situations twice and thus initiating the first two goals of Regensburg). When the usual 4-4-2 formation with a deep pressing was performed, which is usually the mean of choice of the FCSP, the wingers could mostly be successfully attacked by the fullbacks and then the midfielders could help out.
The advantage of this mirroring of Regensburg’s line-up is for sure, that there is simply no option for passes. This is why the long ball is forced in this situation, too. Correspondingly during the first half, a lively ping-pong between headers and clarification attempts developed, which was however responded by further clarification attempts. In short: there was total chaos on the pitch. To dominate such chaos, the right positioning for the second balls is essential as well as the right procedure of duels, which is mainly a matter of attitude. And as this was exactly the core issue of the last matches, one can at least state that there was some progress visible in this regard.
As an example of how to perform the play with the second ball just take the in-between equalizer to the 1-1. Regensburg was attempting to clarify for exactly three times already, while the FCSP was keeping up its pressure against these unsuccessful clarification attempts until the ball eventually pinballed to Diamantakos. By the way: I am sure that with an entirely fit Diamantakos throughout the whole second leg of the season, the FCSP wouldn’t only fight for the golden piece of shit now.
Do you wonder how such a match with barely any focus to an orderly built-up play looks like statistic wise? Well, yesterday, the FCSP did have 37 full losses of balls, while there were only 20 of such losses against Bielefeld and 22 against Duisburg (WhoScored-Data). The losses of balls were however planned with as the team mostly focused on second balls. Another gaze into the pass statistics does also show clear differences compared to the last home matches: While against Duisburg, there were still 522 passes played by the FCSP, there were only 441 passes played against Bielefeld and against Regensburg now there were only 385 remaining. And only 68% of these 385 passes reached their goal. (vs. Bielefeld 81%; vs. Duisburg 82%). A little bit more order of the chaos could then be witnesses during the second half, as the FCSP put more focus to its left side. For example, Knoll positioned himself mainly on this flank. Another reason for this new order was for sure the fact, that with Buchtmann, a left-footed player was also moving from the centre towards the left flank. When offering himself in the centre, Buchtmann usually has the first contact with the ball in positions located slightly sided away to the goal, so that he is more difficult to defend by his opponents as a left-footed player positioned on the left side, as his left foot is further away from the opponent goal (and correspondingly also further away from the opponent’s defender). It might sound rather trivial, but this is exactly the main reason why e.g. Arjen Robben is so difficult to defend when he is moving as a left-footed player from the right side towards the centre.
Taken together, it’s difficult for me, if not impossible, to define what eventually contributed to the fact that the FCSP acted clearly more dominant during the second half compared to the first half. Maybe there were further re-positionings or some further changes that I didn’t get. But to be honest, I don’t care at all. The most important thing was for sure that the players on the pitch acted with some basic aggressiveness that is essential for the second division. This basic tone was quickly catching the stands again, who were thus willing to support more again. It’s a pity that it took us almost the complete second leg of the season to realise this.
Well, my daughter rather quickly realised that the Millerntor is smelling like “sweets”. And I had to tell her, that it hopefully takes some more years until she can have one of those “sweets” and I added “But the chocolate you’re having is tasting even much better.” What followed was an unbelieving gaze on the one side and a thought to the freezer at home on the other side.