It could have been working again… After soothsaying working titles, this time we failed miserably. How could it go down so fast? (Title picture: Peter Boehmer)
Neutralization at its best
The first half of the match wasn’t more than a classical coin flip. I believe only a few will argue when I say the score could’ve easily been 1-0 for us and that nobody really would have considered this extremely undeserved. It was not a good football match. Many imperfections with a focus on failure prevention, which lead to a Neutralisation of both teams. And if there is a specific thing that St. Pauli missed, it was a clear occupation of the central midfield (Fürth’s trainer Stefan Leitl agreed in the press conference). At this position, Fürth could’ve managed to create huge pressure if they were able to outplay the midfield line organized. That would’ve been possible because Fürth surprised us with a second striker, which allowed them to bind our fullbacks on their positions, preventing offensive actions. By the way, it is the unoccupied defensive center that Hrgota used to score the first goal. If you ask me, defending this position would’ve solved many issues in our game. But the position wasn’t clearly occupied by either Buchtmann, Sobota or Becker (Sobota was often found on the defensive position). These three players are to be seen on the attacking half of the pitch anyways.
Furthermore, a defensive central midfielder would’ve been very helpful for our buildup game because we were missing a connection between offense and defense. I’d like to add that Fürth indeed tried to tighten up the center to prevent us from establishing these connections. However, none of these three players took the responsibility to work on the issue. And what we were missing was control over the game, longer phases of possession of the ball and a secure counter prevention strategy (Buballa and Himmelmann also criticized this after the game). And yet again, a designated defensive center midfielder would’ve been helpful.
A shed of light
We only managed to achieve this with the substitution of Benatelli. That guy will certainly not win any sprinting- or air duels, become a classical center back (though that doesn’t mean he won’t win any duels. Yesterday he won 8 out of 11 duels), a goal-getter or -provider. However, with his secure passing, he managed to create connections between the offense, defense, and both wings. The fancy name for a player like him is “box-to-box player”. And a player like him was missing before, someone who could calmly balance the game. You might have noticed that I’ve been convinced within 30 minutes that this exact player type will help to improve our game. If you like some statistics (Source: Sofascore App): Rico Benatelli played 36 successful passes (97% accuracy, 49 ball touches). On the contrary, Finn Ole Becker and Christopher Buchtmann (both players statistics added) managed only managed to pass successfully 27 times (47 ball touches, 20 by Buchtmann, 27 by Becker)). Sobota had a few more ball touches (64 in 90 minutes and he shockingly lost the ball 17 times). Fürth likely played more defensive in the last 30 minutes. Nonetheless, you were easily able to notice that he made a difference. And on the other hand, you could see that especially Buchtmann didn’t manage to establish control of the game. It wasn’t necessarily due to his playstyle but because he didn’t receive any good passes playing on the offensive center.
It’s a shame that we didn’t manage to score a goal in our best phase (after Benatelli entered the pitch), where we managed to get the ball in the attacking third. We deserved it. Instead, we ended up conceding two fairly unnecessary goals and thus the final score looks like a bankruptcy. Although what was presented could partially be seen as a revelation. I’m speaking about the lack of aggressiveness, it was missing throughout the whole game. The first 15 minutes of the second half it was blatant since we didn’t manage to achieve anything at all while the ominous momentum was clearly on Fürth’s Side. Did anybody really believe that thanks to good preparation, less aggressive play would lead to success? I thought we were smarter than that by now.
Now there is a lot of frustration in my lines. Basically, a team can’t act aggressively if it has no access to the opponent. Then, it’s some sort of a chicken or egg discussion. In conclusion: Missing aggressiveness (& Willingness to run) and a less than ideal formation equals a 0-3 loss in Fürth. Shit.
// Tim (Translation: Flo)