I almost did it and placed a soccer bet again. Sure thing: Corner KSC, headed goal by Hofmann. Could’ve sworn to it. Hofmann didn’t score. Nonetheless, a goal was scored from a corner and it was the end product of a great football match of St. Pauli, which turned sobering in the end, not only because of the result.
During the week, I had tried to adjust to what was going to happen this Saturday. The previous performances of the KSC had a strong focus on long balls, switchover situations and corners or free kicks and didn’t indicate anything about a good football match. On the contrary, we had just greeted Darmstadt at home in the league and sweetened their journey home with three points when the next heavyweight of destructive football announced their visit. I hope only a few of you did actually watch the cup match of these two… Some people may say, that this way of playing is also a part of football and that it’s all about the points and not about showing a great match. And of course, we here on St. Pauli shouldn’t grumble so loudly, as we had also given such a picture under Kauczinski. But since we have moved on from this gruesome result orientation to a possession-oriented style of play under Luhukay, I’m finally allowed to be upset about the disgrace to football that the KSC, next to other teams in the second division, offers from week to week. Of course, the second division isn’t blessed with playful delights. And that’s why many teams prefer to earn a few points with a low-risk, destructive style of play. I could fall back into a monologue again about who threatens modern football: Commercialization, corrupt officials, the evil, evil Ultras or the KSC with its style of play. I won’t do that, but the stylistic device to consistently play long balls to the strikers and the subsequent pressing on the second ball is just nothing you’d like to look at. Anyway, let’s take a look into this crap.
The FCSP starts with a complete substitution of the right wing, compared to the cup match against Frankfurt. Zander and Miyaichi started. And again, Flum started (more about him later). Himmelmann in the goal and (finally) Diamantakos as the central striker. The beginning of the match was unsurprisingly shaped by a very “wait-and-see” KSC. St. Pauli tried to create room for the central midfielders using rotations, as seen regularly in this season. In the first half, Mats Møller Dæhli consistently switched over to the right side. In the second half, he was mainly seen on the left side, the side facing the “Gegengerade”. It has to be love. These rotations lead to the desired success and St. Pauli was able to gain an advantage on the pitch. Very clear scoring chances were missing, though. KSC opposed St. Pauli’s system with a flat 4-4-2 and had their outer midfielders always attack the full-backs as soon as they got possession of the ball. On the pitch, it looked like a 4-4-3. With this formation, KSC tried to prevent passes into the centre by placing their strikers centrally.
However, the FCSP was playing quite versatile and besides a remarkable rotating in the centre, they were also able to create vertical lines on the flanks, for example, when Mats Møller Dæhli was positioning himself between Zander and Miyaichi on the flank and was thus creating a good vertical connection on this side. And some more things were different from previous performances with the same basic formation and the same match plan: With Johannes Flum, a clearly defensive midfielder was part of the squad on the pitch. And he was doing great. As earlier against Frankfurt. Jos Luhukay was pointing at the specific challenge caused by the transition play moments of the KSC before the match and with bringing Flum into the squad, he presented the perfect solution to this challenge. Innumerable times, Flum was able to solve such situations with a good positioning play and a good positioning for second balls, furthermore, he was also able to initiate new ball position phases of the FCSP. And as he’s the perfect match for such a role, Marvin Knoll had to watch a game like this from the bench. However, in some future matches, the need for a different type of player on the six will emerge and thus Knoll will join the line-up again. However, the main strengths of Knoll, his offensive attacks, were not needed in this particular match. Instead, the team focused on a good back defending.
Additionally, Flum is completely delivering the role of an ‘aggressive leader’. Oh, how I would swear against this guy if he wouldn’t play for the colours I favour. Particularly, as he is directly discussing every single foul in the centre with his opponents. If the opponent is falling too easily, he’ll have to listen to some accusations, if he’s lying too long after having been fouled, he’ll have to listen to some other accusations and if the opponent himself is tackling, he’ll have to listen to another different accusation. I really like it.
The built-up play of the KSC can greatly be witnessed by looking at the pictures below and hence, doesn’t need further elaborations. True, also the FCSP when still managed by Kauczinski did trust in long balls, especially Darmstadt coached by Schuster did then upgrade this tactic to a legit way of playing football. However, I have never witnessed such a crappy way of performing this type of play like the KSC did on Saturday. A brief comparison clearly verifies my assumption: Himmelmann did only play 39% of his passes as high and long balls, while his opponent Uphoff played 67% of all his passes in this way. And if the FCSP would not have decided to drop to the back after scoring the 2-0, I am sure that these values would be even more different.
And thus, it was only a question of time until the FCSP would force the ball into the box of the KSC. The epicentre of all great opportunities was always marked by Dimitrios Diamantakos. And despite two goals (both scored through penalties), I guess he is still angry that he didn’t score at least one of the great opportunities during the first half or shortly before the 2-1. And I wouldn’t have hindered him either to score at least in one of these chances. And if someone is already calculating the great goal-ratio of Diamantakos, let me remind you that at least for this game, he “faked” his goal-ratio to six by scoring through penalties. Nevertheless, this player is of central importance for the play of the FCSP. The speed, the technique, the intensity is not offered by anyone else in the whole squad for this position and for sure, it’s a top-notch performance for the second division. And thus, I am by no means reluctant continuing to pay a couple of Euros for every goal of Diamantakos in my betting game.
After the 2-0, the FCSP dropped to the back remarkably. From a later perspective, this wasn’t the best idea. And this was also the first time of the whole game in which the defensive formation could be detected: a 4-4-2. However, this also didn’t mean that the KSC stopped to play long balls. Instead, they now changed to play rather diagonal than vertical long balls. When in ball possession, they tried to shift the play to one side in order to create spaces of the other side to which the ball was then passed at (mostly from the full-back of the one side to the midfielder’s winger of the other side).
Let’s put it straight (which is also marking the beginning of my frustration): The FCSP catches two completely unnecessary goals at the end of a match which they deserved to win but in which they lost two points instead. (The xG ratio was 3.0 (!) to 1.2). And despite this dominance, they clearly deserved the late goals of their opponent. Of course, with the substitution of a third striker, the KSC raised the pressure against our last line of four and with a 2-0 lead, there’s usually no need for further goal attempts. However, with the substitution of Henk Veerman shortly after the 2-1, the team did not contribute to further pressing intensity. However, the problem was not that we didn’t manage to score the 3-0. The real problem was that we were no longer able to add the much needed pressing intensity. Even if the 3-0 is by no means necessary, the team should continue to fight for every inch on the pitch.
From my point of view, it’s the frequently quoted ‘comfort zone‘ to which Luhukay is pointing oftentimes and which we could witness symbolised on the pitch yesterday, namely after the 75th minute. To rely on the preliminary result is key to the problem. Even if the football offered and played by the KSC is the greatest piece of shit on the planet, it clearly demands a completely focused defense of the respective opponent up to the very end of the match. Every team of the second division demands it. And this is, what I clearly missed on the pitch yesterday. Or does anyone really claim that the KSC did elicit their goals through a brilliant way of playing? No way! But Lankford’s undecided pressing attempts marked the beginning of a chain of consecutive errors before the 2-1, which was based on a lack of focus which is by no means acceptable.
And catching another goal after a corner is simply alarming. Every one of us who did ever play football themselves does exactly know that defending set-pieces is a really crappy job, which, however, has to be done anyway. And frankly speaking, who does honestly claim that the FCSP simply missed preparing for the many successful corners of the KSC? Instead, it’s a matter of attitude, because even if you know how the set-piece will turn out, it doesn’t imply that you will also do this crappy job until you puke. Maybe, I am wrong and maybe we’re simply not having enough luck with set-pieces at the moment as these pieces are – besides all preparation – always also happening by chance. However, Saturday, I had the impression that a sort of premature confidence of victory was another reason for the two goals and first and foremost for the unnecessary resuscitation of an – until then – completely weak opponent.
And that hurts. It really hurts. If all our matches of this season would have had a length of 80 minutes only, we would have eight more points in our account by now. And everyone can calculate themselves where we would be located in the table in this case. I highly doubt that this is only caused by a lack of fitness at least until someone shows me the sprints of the players and their according lack of fitness. But this was exactly the first thing that Luhukay mentioned when he started his job in April. In a season, in which we won for example through last-minute goals against Union Berlin or Paderborn (2x). Thus, a direct connection is not necessarily evident.
Nevertheless, these late goals against us do really hurt, because we are now in a situation in the league table which will not cause relaxed sleeping patterns. And this is so unnecessary. And I get so angry about it because we are finally playing really good football again and we’re having an idea of how to play football which is working out very well against almost every single opponent. This is such a huuuuge progress. The biggest for ages! And it hurts even more if we destroy our progress through late goals against us. Because it is also true that the system of Luhukay, which I definitely see as clear progress, is only functioning sustainably if the results are matching. And it simply has to match for the upcoming matches now. Because I am no longer willing to deal with the kind of football presented by the KSC, while knowing at the same time that we didn’t even win the match. And I am sure, we are all on the same page here. Dear FCSP, could you please ensure that you’ll keep the well-fought for and deserved points until the final whistle from now on. Please!? (End of frustration)