Oh my goodness, I’m running out of superlatives! FC St. Pauli dismantled the Würzburg Kickers in less than 25 minutes. The game was controlled to the maximum and even though FC St. Pauli saved some energy, the Würzburg penalty area was always ablaze throughout the game. This difference in performance, this strength of the play of FC St. Pauli, is almost frightening, but they are the logical consequence of the development of the last matches. In this form, FCSP is not much less than the best team in the 2.Bundesliga.
(Cover picture: Peter Böhmer)
Compared to the already convincing victory in Erzgebirge, FC St. Pauli changed two positions: Maximilian Dittgen replaced Guido Burgstaller, who had to miss the match for personal reasons. In central defence, James Lawrence returned from illness, so Adam Dźwigała had to make way.
On the other side, there were five changes: In goal, Fabian Giefer replaced regular goalkeeper Hendrik Bonmann. On the left side of defence, Arne Feick had to make way for Rolf Feltscher and further upfront, Marvin Pieringer and Martin Hašek replaced Dominic Baumann and Mitja Lotric. And then in defensive midfield, Patrick Sontheimer was missing due to yellow card suspension. He was replaced by Daniel Hägele.
It was not really surprising that Max Dittgen would start as the nominal striker. He had already played in this position in the test against Bielefeld and also acted there recently as a substitute. Together with Omar Marmoush, they are probably the fastest forward duo in the division. And this speed is quite a mismatch from Würzburg’s point of view compared to what their defence has to offer. FC St. Pauli played these tempo advantages in an outstanding manner.
Nominally, the Würzburg Kickers lined up in a 4-2-3-1. When FCSP were in possession, Pieringer moved up front and the attacking wingers fell in line with the two defensive midfielders. At times, it smelled more like a three-man backline, because Frank Ronstadt, at right-back, was oriented towards Rodrigo Zalazar at the start and ran into him. This was quickly stopped, however, as FC St. Pauli were targeting the spaces behind the wing-backs.
The forward duo was officially called Dittgen and Marmoush, but actually, both were rather outside forwards and it was Daniel-Kofi Kyereh or even Finn Ole Becker and Rodrigo Zalazar who entered centrally. FC St. Pauli’s offensive formation in this game almost has to be described as 2-3-5.
This is how FCSP arranged itself in its own defensive line when in possession of the ball. From this high position, two or three players always dropped a little deeper into their own ranks. At best, this happened simultaneously with a deep movement of a teammate. So when Omar Marmoush dropped from his high position, Becker started into that gap right in front. Maximilian Dittgen did a pretty good, no, really good, I would even say an outstanding job. His opponents couldn’t catch him at any time, and he was happy to occupy the flank and create space for Kyereh, who ran into the centre. In many moments it was also diagonal balls that opened up spaces. If you take your eyes off the ball for a while and look at the far side of the ball, you will quickly notice how carefully they look for open spaces and how quickly they look for deep runs. In addition, Marmoush and Dittgen swapped positions quite frequently and they were not always available only for deep runs on the flank and short passes from the defence. They also looked for the way into the depth again and again.
The description of FCSP’s offensive play already reads chaotic. Painted up, all the movements don’t look much tidier:
If these diverse movements and position changes of the FCSP offence cannot even be written down and visualised in peace, how the hell is the opposing defence supposed to deal with it in the game? Eintracht Braunschweig tried strong man-orientation in midfield and failed e.g. because of the dribbling strength of the FCSP players. Erzgebirge Aue tried to defend more in space and failed especially because of the outnumbering situations FCSP created on the outer lanes. The Würzburger Kickers didn’t seem at all sure how exactly they wanted to work. The initial man-orientation (see Ronstadt on Zalazar) was rather counterproductive due to the many position changes. Before an effective concept could be developed, it was already 0-3 from Würzburg’s point of view.
But I can’t think of anything at the moment to defend FCSP wisely. At least one team is currently failing week after week. FC St. Pauli is probably the strongest offensive team in the division (a view shared by FWK goalkeeper Fabian Giefer) and simply cannot be fully defended. In this match report, I can only emphasise it again: This development is great.
Counter-pressing? Even better than the rest!
The build-up play against a deeply positioned opponent has improved a lot during the season. However, the actual strongest weapon was also further improved: The Würzburg Kickers did not get a pass to their teammate in the opponent’s third for the first time until the 17th minute. FC St. Pauli won most of the balls beforehand in a brutal counter-pressing.
That’s how the 1-0 came about when Finn Ole Becker intercepted a crossfield pass and sent Marmoush on his way. It was by no means the only good ball won through successful counter-pressing. Sometimes I’m not even sure whether FCSP itself prefers to have the ball in the opponent’s half or whether it would rather call for a drive after losing the ball. It also just works too well. The best phase of the counter-pressing was when the game was already decided: When Daschner and Viet entered the field at 4-0, a lot of speed came into the game and the Würzburg Kickers can thank FCSP’s inefficiency that they didn’t have to lament six or seven goals conceded after 65 minutes. In the defensive work, FC St. Pauli made some other noticeable changes: Until now, the opposing full-backs were always put under direct pressure from FCSP’s half-positions. This was also the case yesterday. However, the Würzburg wing-backs were often given a lot of time. And they were usually offered exactly one single passing option:
FC St. Pauli offered Würzburg a pass into the offensive half-space. However, this was only done in order to constrict this space to the maximum and to attack the player there directly with several players. A classic pressing trap that snapped shut several times against Würzburg.
So the 1-0 was scored by a transition action. The second goal came from a corner. And I would like to make the claim that in the first half of the season, FCSP would not have scored a goal like the one Benatelli scored to make it 2-0, but rather would have caught it. Of course, the distribution of space at the corner fits pretty well, but FCSP gets an open ball right in front of their feet twice.
Only a few minutes later, Leart Paqarada scored the 3-0 with a nice long shot. In this situation, too, nothing happened by chance. The movements at the throw-in are already rehearsed and don’t think that Paqarada would come up with the idea of positioning himself centrally 25m in front of the opponent’s goal on his own throw-in on the opposite side.
With 3-0 after 22 minutes, the game was decided. I have no idea if I have ever seen a game decided for FCSP at such an early stage (feel free to share your memories in the comments). Subsequently, FCSP eased up a bit and, probably consciously, didn’t really put the pressure on, but dominated the game due to a lot of possession without taking too many offensive risks.
Würzburger Kickers had their first and only shot on goal in the entire match in the 36th minute. This had an xG value of 0.03. In contrast, FC St. Pauli had 2.16 and several other situations in which FCSP combined really well in front of the opponent’s goal but failed to score.
The incredible dominance that FC St. Pauli exuded the entire match can of course also be seen in some of the statistics:
FC St. Pauli topped their already excellent stats from the game against Aue, which indeed already topped the stats from the Braunschweig game, and played 615 passes (530 successful – both season records).
The 42 positional attacks in 90 minutes, ten shots on goal resulted from them, also mean a season record. And for the first time this season, FC St. Pauli lost less than 100 times the ball in a match (the 101 ball losses against Aue were previously a season record).
I would like to add a special focus, which is somewhat neglected in this offensive spectacle: FC St. Pauli’s central defence (Ziereis, Lawrence/Reginiussen) lost only one one-on-one in total. Only one. In addition, it was precisely those centre-backs who played the initial pass for FCSP’s attacking actions (Reginiussen and Lawrence brought all their passes into the attacking third to their teammates). Compare that to 2020…
Where’s the journey heading to?
Honestly: I don’t know. If FC St. Pauli could conserve the performances of the last games, it would be pretty likely that they would also win the remaining five games. But as we all know, that’s not just possible. Next Wednesday’s game against Düsseldorf, however, should provide clarity in many respects. Their own style of play will be put to the test against Düsseldorf. Because what Braunschweig, Osnabrück, Aue and Würzburg want to play, i.e. to score goals from a deep defensive position in transitional moments, is what Düsseldorf is playing quite successfully this season. And there should only continue to be the topic of promotion at FCSP with a win, probably even stronger than before. Also because Greuther Fürth is coming to the Millerntor next weekend.
Keep on moving forward!
//Tim (translated by Arne)