So now we’re winning away games against teams that were previously winless for eleven games, after winning a derby and conceding the final goal ten minutes before the end after superior play. “This is no longer my Bauli….” Seriously, FC St. Pauli wins the away game in Osnabrück in convincing fashion, showing for the first time this season that, in addition to focusing on transition moments, they also have well-functioning concepts when in ball possession. The deserved reward is a huge step towards staying in the league before the upcoming international break. (Cover picture: Peter Böhmer)
FC St. Pauli made two changes compared to the home defeat against Paderborn: For Tore Reginiussen, Philipp Ziereis moved back to the position of right centre-back. In midfield, Finn Ole Becker could start again. He replaced Luca “The Last Unicorn” Zander on the right half position. Nothing changed in the traditional formation.
VfL Osnabrück also made two changes from the previous match: The injured Ken Reichel was replaced by captain Maurice Trapp, who returned after his yellow suspension. Striker Christian Santos had to make way for Niklas Schmidt. With the last change, the formation was also changed: Instead of the previously practised 3-4-2-1, Osnabrück now played with two forwards. This is perhaps a little exaggerated, as Schmidt and Kerk were the two attacking midfielders at the striker positions. And since Ajdini and Wolze interpreted their roles on the flank quite defensively, I would describe Osnabrück’s formation more as a 5-3-2 than a 3-5-2.
Build-up play FC St. Pauli
In the pre-match report, I had assigned FCSP the role of favourites, which was not particularly creative given the series of both teams. After just a few minutes, it was clear that the FCSP itself was also aware of this role and had fully accepted it. For the first time in the entire season, FC St. Pauli was able to dominate and ultimately win a game primarily through their possession game and not mainly through dangerous transition moments. It was great. So great, in fact, that in the following lines I can take an in-depth look at FCSP’s behaviour in possession.
VfL Osnabrück started the match quite cautiously and did not attack the FCSP defence at all. Therefore, all players were able to “warm-up” for their own possession game.
FCSP formed a 2-3-3-2 in their own possession. Paqarada and Ohlsson were on the same level as Benatelli at full-back. Becker and Zalazar moved up to Kyereh’s height.
Osnabrück countered with a 5-3-2. Kerk and Schmidt in the front row closed the space for the direct passing routes in the centre and also heckled Benatelli, who was therefore not directly playable. The back three nominally accommodated FCSP’s three remaining midfielders.
As the centre was relatively tight (but far from always tight), the easiest ball for the FCSP centre-backs was a pass to the wing-backs. As soon as FCSP played this pass, Osnabrück started their pressing by having the outside midfielders (Bapoh and Reis) aggressively run at either Paqarada or Ohlsson. This is the rather safe option, as it could also be the two wing-backs taking on the opposing fullbacks. However, Wolze and Ajdini tended to stay stuck in the chain.
Also due to this behaviour of the Osnabrück wing defenders, their midfield was overstrained with the build-up play of FC St. Pauli. Nominally, there were still two direct opponents for Reis and Bapoh in the midfield, Zalazar and Becker, who should not be given too much space.
Small advantage – big impact
From around the 20th minute of the game, when FCSP had already been able to combine happily into the final third for a good 20 minutes with almost no pressure from the opponent, Osnabrück changed their approach behaviour. From now on, it was mainly high pressing to disrupt FCSP’s build-up. But this also seemed rather half-baked. Wolze and Ajdini remained in the back and did not run upfront.
For FCSP, this already resulted in a kind of overnumbered situation in the build-up to the attacking third, as Bapoh and Reis were actually always up against two opponents. This should not sound too much like FCSP only had it easy because Osnabrück was not in an optimal formation against the ball. FCSP’s possession game also worked very well because Zalazar and especially Becker made use of the spaces that opened up in front of them and repeatedly dropped deeper into the centre from a high position. VfL Osnabrück thus offered a formation that did not quite fit and FCSP used these spaces very cleverly and thus turned a small advantage into quite a big one.
The next step in the build-up was exciting and decisive for the attacking game:
When VfL Osnabrück’s attacking and midfield line was overplayed, there was, to put it simply, a five-man chain that had to be broken. And the goal against a chain of five is basically always to get “behind the wing defenders”. This was mostly attempted by overloading the outer lanes, i.e. creating outnumbering situations on one side. For this purpose, Marmoush, but especially Kyereh, often moved to the flanks (sidenote: since Kyereh nominally played on the 10 and repeatedly moved from there to the outside or into the half-areas for the purpose of overloading the flanks, his position or style of play is also referred to as the “spreading ten” – a term for which FCN coach Robert Klauß was publicly showered with scorn and derision).
The overload on the outside ideally creates a good crossing position via pass or via 1-on-1. FCSP managed to do this quite often and was thus able to develop a massive overweight. This overweight then manifested itself even more, as VfL Osnabrück were initially unable to win any second balls or their own clearances, and as the game progressed, only rarely.
Outer lane overload – and James
But not only the overloads on the flanks were important in the build-up of the game and brought the desired success. FCSP, in the person of James Lawrence, also knew how to advance centrally or pass whenever Osnabrück allowed it (in addition to 100% in defensive duels, James also has a perfect quota of passes into the attacking third and more often got involved in direct attacking play by “dribbling” (4 “progressive runs” (simplified: made the right metres with the ball on the foot) in the game – for comparison: all the other four centre-backs on the pitch together did exactly that once).
Thus, FC St. Pauli dominated large parts of the match and due to the repeatedly good build-up phases into the attacking third, it was only a matter of time until it would go bang.
But of course, Osnabrück’s formation does not only have disadvantages compared to FCSP’s: Because the shortage upfront and in midfield, through which FCSP could combine quite safely and convincingly into the attacking third, also meant a rather tight last third, which is why the big chances remained scarce for the time being. Nevertheless, such dominance of a team, which by the way was also equipped with sufficient remaining defence, is rather rarely not successful.
This dominance can also be seen in the statistics: FC St. Pauli played a total of 41 positional attacks. That is the season’s high. The yield in the form of 17 shots on goal (xG 1.89 – Osnabrück at 0.99) is clear but shows that FCSP did not want to win this game with their usual focus on transition moments.
When VfL Osnabrück had possession of the ball, they did not have much room to breathe. FCSP pressed everything that shimmered purple on the pitch mercilessly and Osnabrück was not particularly resistant so that there was no real orderly build-up phase for the hosts in the entire course of the game. A PPDA value as low as the 4.7 (= an average of 4.7 passes to the opponent’s defensive action) from FCSP has not yet been seen in games involving FCSP this season. It was also pleasing that Osnabrück did not succeed in overplaying the high pressing. The value of 66 interceptions, i.e. “caught” passes from the opponent, also expresses the high pressing of FCSP in a certain way (also the best value this season – on the other side, Ulrich Taffertshofer intercepted an incredible 15(!) balls in the defensive midfield). Osnabrück’s only dangerous situations rarely arose from transition moments but mostly from set-pieces. But apart from a really good header by Beermann towards the end of the first half, the set-pieces fizzled out almost completely.
A touch of contact?
The 1-0 for FCSP is highly deserved because of the dominance, but the penalty whistle was rather from the category “lucky” or even “wrong decision”. Even after looking several times, I cannot see any contact between Omar Marmoush and Maurice Trapp. It looks more as if Marmoush had a bit too much speed and rotation in his body and therefore, surprised by his ball stop, could no longer keep on his feet and Maurice Trapp simply slid past the ball and the opponent. (Note of Maik: I see it completely different, more about that in the “Lage”).
I would have loved to have heard the conversation between the referee (who, for me, misjudged many situations) and the VAR in this situation. Because if the field referee was sure that he saw a contact, the opposite must be clearly proven by VAR (“clear wrong decision”). Possibly, due to the lack of camera perspective, it was decided that this decision would not be reversed, I have no idea, but as an Osnabrück supporter, I would be pretty pissed off.
Of course, it was Guido Burgstaller who took care of the matter. After all, he had never scored against Osnabrück in his entire career, which I used as a trigger in the preliminary report (I had “forgotten” that he couldn’t score against Osnabrück because he had never played against Osnabrück until yesterday). I’ll think about something for the next game, but first I wish Guido’s arm a speedy recovery, it looked pretty painful just before the end.
2:0 – then the match stopped
The first goal was painful for Osnabrück. Until the 70th minute, the team remained in a kind of shock paralysis and FC St. Pauli actually HAD to score more than “just” the second goal in this phase. There were more than enough chances. The lead and with it the necessity for Osnabrück to act more actively forward, suited the actual strength of FCSP, the offensive transition game, very well. This situation led to the second goal, scored by Marmoush. But just like against Sandhausen, in Nuremberg and against Darmstadt, FCSP did not manage to put the lid on the game and started to flounder at the end.
One of the reasons was that Osnabrück coach Markus Feldhoff changed his formation with the substitution of Multhaup (69th minute) to a 4-3-3. This, together with a little sloppiness on the part of FCSP, ensured that it became exciting once again at the end. The goal, which was the result of a rarely seen ball loss by Benatelli, was annoying, but it was also a really well-played attack by Osnabrück.
However, there was not much more after that, on both sides. Thus, FC St. Pauli wins the enormously important match in Osnabrück and can relax a bit and work on all corners and ends during the international break. And unfortunately, he also has to lick one or two wounds in the process. Timo Schultz emphasised at the post-match PK that this break was bitterly needed for the entire team. Sebastian Ohlsson’s injury will hopefully turn out to be not so serious, although I am rather pessimistic based on the pictures.
FC St. Pauli thus remains the team of the moment in the 2nd Bundesliga, having won eight of the last eleven games and thus (almost) ridding themselves of all relegation worries. The team has earned its break. After a few days to catch their breath, however, the entire system must be ramped up again with the same intensity. The next opponent, Eintracht Braunschweig, is a team that is enormously similar to VfL Osnabrück, both in terms of play and in the standings. And I want to see another dominant performance like that. It’s just incredibly fun to watch. I want more of it. Don’t let up now!
Keep moving forward!
// Tim (translated by Arne)
(all Data by WyScout)