Dude, the FC St Pauli wins at Heidenheim! It’s not just the first win at Heidenheim ever which leaves me particularly satisfied writing this article. It’s the way they did it which deeply impressed me. This rather wild match offers so many stories which I will all aim to write down here and celebrate them with passion.
(Cover picture: Adam Pretty/Getty Images/ via OneFootball)
As announced, the FC St Pauli starts with slight changes and begins with James Lawrence, Luca Zander and Eric Smith instead of Buballa, Dźwigała and Benatelli. The formation remained the same, however, during the course of the first half some slight changes with regards to pressing behaviour emerged which contributed to the butter on the bread of this match.
At 1. FC Heidenheim, Robert Leipertz and Tobias Mohr missed out, but the team could start with the just returned Tim Kleindienst. A good choice as the course of the match revealed.
A successful adjustment
The slight changes with regards to the attacking behaviour were that Becker and Zalazar entirely focused on the wing-backs of Heidenheim with pressing at them consistently whenever those were just about to expect to get ball possession. Additionally, the line of forwards consisting of Burgstaller – Kyereh – Marmoush blocked pretty simple but effectively the two central defending midfielders of Heidenheim and thus forced Heidenheim to pass at the half-spaces which were then attacked brutally.
By doing that, Heidenheim was never ever able to build up in a controlled manner and actually they never managed to generate longer phases of ball possession throughout the entire match.
And that’s it already with regards to the tactical analysis of the match. There’s nothing left. The match wasn’t dominated by tactical patterns, instead, the match was dominated by two teams that played vertically to the max and which allowed their offensive to do whatever they fancied. All I could do was leaning back and enjoy the rather wild ongoings on the pitch.
After one of the best attacks of the entire season, Guido Burgstaller used his shoulder to play the ball around his opponent, after Kyereh centred the ball in the third minute, to score the 1-0. A very early goal. Again. After the FCSP took the lead early in Hannover and against Bochum, the match against Heidenheim showed again that the start of a match is no longer “overslept”. For the fifth time in a row, the FCSP took the lead and thus laid the foundation and a first indication for the following madness.
And it was again Guido Burgstaller. His fourth match on the bounce in which he scored. Whoever thought that he did already pass his Zenit, whoever thought that he couldn’t be a difference player any longer and whoever thought that he is only hiding on the pitch and not taking a lead role any longer got taught better. With a little delay due to his injury, we can now certify that the transfer of Burgstaller to the FCSP was a good one, a very good one.
After twelve minutes only the FCSP did already shoot six-time at the goal. But with every further minute, Heidenheim was also able to play a little bit more to the front and so a balanced match developed which, at no point, had any time for a rest. This was due to the fact that both Heidenheim and the FCSP did press consistently and thus ball loss and transition play followed on ball loss and transition play. It was a huge similarity between the match of the second leg and the first.
In the 15th minute, a corner ball was centred into the fully packed six-yard box of the FC St. Pauli, an area which can be considered as the “goalie-zone” at corner balls. And this is how the 1-1 has to be judged: Dejan Stojanović is left rather surprised when Tim Kleindienst raises just in front of his nose for a header. He should have risen as well. However, the same is true for some of the other FCSP players who felt a little more gravity than the -admittedly- enormously raising Kleindienst. Additionally, the time to make a decision was pretty limited, because there was a huge crowd at the post. I have only little to no idea about goalie-play, however, I am pretty certain that Stojanović could have made an easier decision if there would have been fewer players at the post which could have also join him to clear the ball so that an earlier start towards the ball would have been more difficult.
(Note of Maik: After being a goalie for twenty years myself and having a horrible box control myself: There’s nothing to palliate, particularly because he first made 1 to 2 steps towards the ball but then stopped. And the header was not coming from the post but was centred from a corner ball, thus he a) has to go towards the ball and b) when he decides against it, he should then rather stay entirely on the goal-line. Thus, this conceded goal is on him.)
However, this equaliser did not cause any change to the match: Both teams kept playing taking high risks and only seldom played passes to the back or to the side. An appealing football!
In the 30th minute, another player of the FCSP raised attention: Kofi “King” Kyereh. There’s barely any other player on the pitch who made such a huge step to the fore since the change of the formation in the match against Kiel than Kyereh. In his role as a dropping forward behind the two strikers and in the brutally vertical play of the FCSP, he can contribute his playing skills perfectly to the benefit of the team. I would even claim that an injury of Kyereh would force a complete change of formation of the FCSP play, that’s how pivotal his role is in this formation. Being involved in five goals of the last five matches clearly confirm this claim.
So, the FCSP went quite deservedly with a small lead into the half-time break. But this lead shouldn’t last for very long. Because in the same way the FCSP starts focused on a match at the moment they also have their problems shortly after the break. The 2-2 of Heidenheim was somehow beautifully elicited, however, also again a result of a bad tuning in the defence: Philipp Ziereis left Christian Kühlwetter supposedly offside when Sessa passed. But he didn’t because Lawrence defended deeper against Kleindienst. Category: Been there, done that plenty of times in this season.
Nevermind, the job resumes of the FCSP’s central defenders don’t read promising in terms of defensive work anyway: With 60% won duels on the ground and only one of four won duels in the air the values of James Lawrence remained below average. However, 9 won balls are very good and very valuable is Lawrence when in ball possession (the half of his passes were towards the fore and 5 of 6 passes into the forward’s third found a teammate – a great value!).
Similar pass-rates but in total much fewer passes were on the sheet of Philipp Ziereis. That’s okay but the rest was, um, below average. Ziereis did win only one of seven defensive duels none of his four tacklings proved successful.
But before we shed a disturbing verdict based on these data: Especially in transition moments and with such a high speed, such duels are a lot more difficult to fight for defenders. However, on the other side, Oliver Hüsing and Patrick Mainka have a lot better values even though they had to fight their duels at a similar pace (and even though both also delivered weaker values that were below their average this season). So, we shouldn’t judge everything just based on these data but again they perfectly fit into the bigger picture: The FCSP has to improve and get more stable in their defense.
Subsequently, the play of both teams got a bit more scatterbrained and less aiming. And whenever I mumbled into myself that the FCSP could hardly play that pace for the entire ninety minutes and that they had played another intensive match against Bochum just 2.5 days earlier, the players on the pitch proved me wrong: Kyereh stated after the match: “It wasn’t a normal match but one of the most intensive matches I personally but also many others in the team have ever played.” – and that’s exactly how I saw it. And being totally right he concluded: “It was an awesome match.” Because the FC St. Pauli kept on defending but even more they also elicited bravely a few more chances, they invested a lot and pressed high.
When after 60 minutes the play of the FCSP appeared a little imbalanced, Afeez Aremu was substituted for Eric Smith. Especially in the first 30 minutes, Smith convinced with a top-notch timing in the duels and thus just blocked some of the Heidenheim transition moments just with his body. However, you could also see that he didn’t play a match in a long time so that he might have wondered what the hell is this rather wild second division football all about? It was a good start for him but especially offensive-wise we are allowed to expect a lot more of him.
The substitution of Aremu was roughly the best that could happen to the play of the FCSP. Subsequently, he won all of his defensive duels and thus turned the play of the FCSP back into balance, even though he can also improve in terms of playing better offensive-wise.
Nevertheless, the problem-zone “central defending midfielder” could have just turned into a real luxury situation in just a few weeks in which three players (because also Benatelli convinced recently) can play on a high level.
I would have loved to write a lot more about tactical patterns and analyse what caused an advantage for whom but it’s simply not possible. The match did not live on spaces that were created by smart moving teams. The match lived because both teams pressed high and played strictly vertically. At the end of the match, both teams had a successful pass rate of 73%. Such bad rates throughout the entire season would result in a bottom place in the table (Currently, Eintracht Braunschweig has the weakest rate of the division with 75% only). The reason for such low values in this match however was caused because both teams played more than two-thirds of their passes to the fore.
The central element also in the second half: The FCSP kept on pressing with a focus on the half-spaces or the wing-backs of Heidenheim respectively through Zalazar and Becker and whenever they gained the ball they let their newly discovered playfulness run wild. They were absolutely delightful in the offensive just look at the brilliantly outplayed goal of Becker but also again absolutely horrifying in the defence, for example, when Leart Paqarada expected Tim Kleindienst everywhere but just not behind him on the pitch which caused Heidenheim to equalise again.
And so the closing remark of the match belonged to the player who somehow unites everything which is currently a trade-mark of the FCSP: Rodrigo Zalazar did play an astonishing number of 37 duels against players of Heidenheim (and he won roughly half of them), but he was also very present in the focus-zone of the half-space when defending but also participating in many offensive actions. Zalazar stands for the unresting and difficult to anticipate offensive behaviour of the FCSP as well as for the aggressive defensive mode of play. Completely right, he’s meanwhile considered the second-best central midfielder of the division by Wyscout (the same is true for Kyereh in the offensive midfield).
Celebrate even more?
I could celebrate so much more. For example, Max Dittgen who I consider a much stronger joker than when he’s playing from the beginning. Because he can contribute his speed much better then. Again it was Dittgen who alike in the match in Hannover can open the space on the right with his pace so that even close before the match ends options on the left side arise so that the FCSP is able to shoot the winning goal. I could also celebrate that the FCSP did not lose their spirit when setbacks happen. That the team acts with courage even when setbacks happen and that they do not give up is one of the biggest changes compared to the previous years, which I particularly celebrate.
I could celebrate that the FCSP is no longer happy with a draw in away games as it was standard for the last couple of years. That they play with the courage to the fore no matter if Hannover, Heidenheim or whoever is their opponent on the pitch. This trust into the own strength, which is without any doubt existent in the offensive leaves me with pride. I could also celebrate that all these internet-sausages who just a few weeks ago blamed the director of sports, the gentlemen Kyereh, Burgstaller, Paqarada, Aremu and even Schultz as “nOn-ExcUseABle laPSe” now disappeared back into their rediculous brine. And, good grief, when did we last see such a ball-reception at the FCSP:
But I don’t do such endless celebrations now. Because first, already on Friday the SV Sandhause will visit the Millerntor and everyone knows about the importance of this duel. And second, I would have loved to do all these endless celebrations on the journey back from Heidenheim. Good grief, how the stand would have been set to lights after such a match!
So, the FC St. Pauli wins in Heidenheim in a rather wild match in which both teams did only know one direction which has become something like the mantra of the FCSP recently: Keep moving forward!
//Tim (translated by Arne)