1.FC Magdeburg – FC St. Pauli 2:3 – Dawn of the Diamond?

1.FC Magdeburg – FC St. Pauli 2:3 – Dawn of the Diamond?

The FC St. Pauli wins 3:2 against Magdeburg and thus made it to the next round of the DFB cup. This win was a tough piece of work. Because the 1. FC Magdeburg presented itself in various ways as excellently prepared and was the clearly dominating team.
(Cover picture: Peter Böhmer)

The line-up

Compared to the last match against Aue, there were two changes in the line-up. Simon Makienok substituted Maximilian Dittgen as a forward and Dennis Smarsch was allowed to play as goalie in the cup instead of Nikola Vasilj. Despite some minor knee issues, Daniel-Kofi Kyereh was able to play and thus no further changes were necessary. At the beginning of the match, the FC St. Pauli played with the proofed midfield diamond. In the course of the match, the diamond was first pretty deformed before it was completely neglected in the second half.

Compared to their first two matches of the current campaign in the third league, Magdeburg didn’t make any changes in their line-up. FCM manager Christian Titz decided on a 4-3-3 formation. This formation, as it became apparent in the course of the match, was clearly superior to the 4-4-2 of the FCSP. However, this wasn’t necessarily due to the 4-3-3 itself (which Kiel, for example, also played in the first match of this season) but because Titz demanded the build-up play and the defending to be enormously offensive and as prone to take risks.

A tailor-made start

But before this superiority became more and more apparent on the pitch, FC St. Pauli started the game in the best possible way: After good transition and build-up in the first two minutes, it was Guido Burgstaller who took a header from Simon Makienok in the third minute and, in the best goal-scoring manner with the help of unplanned double passes with Magdeburg’s legs and Rico Benatelli, finally put a double deflected shot into the corner – 1:0! A start made to measure!

Guido Burgstaller celebrated after scoring the 1:0.
(imago images/via OneFootball)

FC St. Pauli was also able to develop offensive danger in the further course of the opening phase. But it became clear that 1. FC Magdeburg had set their sights high. Far from the problems, which I also locate a bit in the psychological area, there was a clear mismatch against the build-up play of 1. FC Magdeburg. To explain this, I have to go a little further into the pressing behaviour of FC St. Pauli:


Since FCSP has been operating with a midfield diamond, the pressing behaviour is unchanged. Kyereh takes the opponent’s six into man-to-man defence, the two strikers close the space in front of the centre-backs and as soon as the opponent’s full-backs receive the ball in the build-up, they are tackled from the half-positions of the diamond. I had simplified this diagram for the game in Heidenheim five months ago and even more precisely for the derby win:

This pressing behaviour has worked extremely well so far. However, this requires an enormously high willingness to run and also corresponding speed on the half positions. The pressing would work even better if the half-backs did not run into the opposing wing-backs but their own wing-backs.

However, this requires not only a high willingness to run on the part of the wing-backs (which is undoubtedly present), but also good defence in space in the defensive centre. So it is not quite so trivial.

The pressing behaviour becomes even more difficult when the opposing team operates in a 4-3-3. In Magdeburg’s case, it was the two opposing attacking wingers Atik and Conteh (who were ultimately responsible for both goals) who moved behind the two wing-backs (or, in Atik’s case, wisely in the space between midfield and defence). Jakov Medić in particular had to react to this: He kept following Sirlord Conteh out wide to the left. As a result, Philipp Ziereis always had to move to the left in order not to let the gaps in the chain become too large. As a result, the right side was pretty bare. That in itself is not a huge problem, but Magdeburg put their finger in the wound in the next step:

Timo Schultz said at the post-match press conference when asked why their own wing-backs kept having problems with the opposing wing-backs, that it wasn’t the duels per se, but that Magdeburg got into the shift in the first place. Because that was the next step: the aim of FC St. Pauli’s pressing is to win the ball as soon as a team has played deep to one side. So if Magdeburg had the ball on the left side, FCSP pushed so far over that the space there became really tight. But in doing so, there were big problems to disrupt the circles of Amara Condé. By falling back slightly or clearly (sometimes between the two centre-backs), he repeatedly eluded the guard of his opponents and acted as a so-called “anchor player” and repeatedly shifted the game quickly to the other side, i.e. to where FCSP was bare. I’m not sure if the half positions should have followed him more closely or if he just moved really well in space.


But it was not only Condé’s clever shifting. Even without these shifts, the direct approach of the wing-backs by their own wing-backs led to problems due to the follow-up movements of the centre-backs.

From the 10th minute at the latest, 1. FC Magdeburg fully dominated the game and created several chances. FC St. Pauli only became dangerous sporadically and mainly in transition situations. Even in possession of the ball, FC St. Pauli had a lot of trouble with the FCM. When St. Pauli had possession, the FCSP formation was completely mirrored by Magdeburg. So there were ten pairs of field players. This put enormous pressure on FC St. Pauli’s build-up play, but the risk was actually entirely with Magdeburg. Defensively, there were three Magdeburg players facing three FCSP offensive players. Accordingly, it could quickly become quite dicey for Magdeburg with a long ball or by overplaying the first pressing line. Unfortunately, this happened far too seldom, as FC St. Pauli often lacked accuracy with the long balls to Makienok (“Do they train that at all?!” I blurted out while watching) and, as the game progressed, lacked the courage for a flat build-up despite the opponent’s pressing.

Clearly outclassed, but still take the lead into the break

Before the entire formation was changed at half-time, FC St. Pauli responded to the centre-backs’ outward movements in the person of Eric Smith: he became a direct counter to Luca Schuler, Magdeburg’s only nominal top player. As a result, towards the end of the first half, a kind of five-man backline formed quite frequently for FCSP, as Smith fell between Ziereis and Medić to defend directly against Schuler.

Although FC St. Pauli was already quite clearly outplayed, it was not as if there were no scoring chances of their own. Shortly before Magdeburg’s well-deserved equaliser, Guido Burgstaller had a great opportunity to increase the lead to 2:0. However, his header from close range went straight at keeper Reimann. In the direct countermove, i.e. in a transitioning situation, Paqarada was the crosser from the baseline for Burgstaller, Atik played a hammering no-look 40m diagonal ball to Conteh – 1:1.
It was also Conteh who missed Magdeburg’s biggest chance when he missed the empty goal from three metres out. FC St. Pauli, on the other hand, took advantage of an unusual standard: Jakov Medić, defensively overwhelmed by Conteh’s pace (but who isn’t?), showed up front that he had finally reached a new level of aerial supremacy – 2:1!

The second half saw the final change to a 3-5-2, with James Lawrence and Afeez Aremu coming on for Finn Ole Becker and Rico Benatelli, neither of whom had any grip on their opponents. With this change, FC St. Pauli got a better grip on the allocation. Lawrence and Medić, as outside centre-backs, were now able to concentrate completely on Conteh and Atik, while Zander and Paqarada moved a little further forward and thus gained much better access to the opposing wing-backs. In the end, it was a complete mirror image of Magdeburg’s formation.


With this, FC St. Pauli got a better grip on the game, at least for a short time, and should have scored the 3:1 through Kyereh. Again, almost in direct counter-attack, Aremu supposedly won the ball, but never really had it under control – but all FCSP players were of the opinion that the ball belonged to FC St. Pauli – Atik and Conteh saw it differently – 2:2.

But even this equaliser did not last long. And again it was a standard situation that gave FC St. Pauli the lead: While I was still upset about the fact that Baris Atik should have received a second yellow card for the foul (minutes later, Bittroff should not have complained about a straight red card either), Leart Paqarada hit the free-kick against the post. Simon Makienok “laid off” the rebound perfectly (with the best will in the world) to his forward partner Burgstaller – 3:2!

Sirlord Conteh slides the ball in to equalise again.
(Schulz/Eibner-Pressefoto/imago images/via OneFootball)

End phase behaviour – already from minute 60…

What followed was quite violent. What happened to FC St. Pauli was exactly what usually happened last season when they played in a 3-5-2: The opposing team was able to control more and more the half-areas in FCSP’s half. As a result, FCSP was forced deeper and deeper into the back and could hardly provide any relief due to the enormous depth, but also the quite clear passivity. 1. FC Magdeburg fired 21 of their 45 shots on goal in the last 30 minutes of the game. With sometimes eight players in their own penalty area, FCSP defended the lead over a very long period.

Not only once did James Lawrence make a last-ditch save, as here against Conteh.
(imago images/via OneFootball)

The superiority is of course also expressed in the statistics: 1. FC Magdeburg won every second offensive duel, FCSP just over every fourth. FC St. Pauli has played less than two passes per possession phase on average. Less than two. That has not happened in at least the last 30 competitive games (that’s as far back as my insight into the statistics goes). The same applies to the number of passes played (219 – FCM plays 511) and the rate of long balls (>18%).

Yes, 1. FC Magdeburg was visually enormously superior and took considerably more shots on goal. However, the xG values are not as far apart as the goal-shot statistics suggest (2.9 to 2.3 per Magdeburg). This means that 1. FC Magdeburg had a goal probability of just 6% per shot on goal (FCSP at 23%).


In the end, FC St. Pauli definitely wins the match against Magdeburg happily but shows maximum effort in defensive work despite all passivity going forward. Magdeburg, on the other hand, are once again not rewarded for a superior game after they only drew against SC Freiburg’s U23 in the division (xG 2.5 – 0.1). The development under Christian Titz, who took over in February this year when Magdeburg was in dire relegation trouble, is impressive, however.

Diamond cracked?

Yes, I’ve been thinking about that for a while now. Was that a blueprint for how to play against FCSP’s diamond? It was definitely an idea of football that doesn’t accept half-baked things. Christian Titz is known for that. The Magdeburg game was thought out in every detail and the concept was implemented to the extreme. Because the complete mirroring is also a really high risk, FCSP just could hardly capitalise on it.

So is that a style of play and a formation that works against FCSP’s diamond? Not necessarily. Because I locate the core problem of FCSP in the run-up behaviour against the outside defenders. A step back to a little less risk (which also means a little less power in transitioning) should immediately bring more stability. It is also theoretically conceivable that FC St. Pauli itself presses more offensively and thus directs the pressure to a completely different area of the pitch. But that is unrealistic with the Makienok/Burgstaller one-two, especially since Kyereh has already shown a lot of good things, but not yet that he can press well.

Moreover, there are probably few opponents who take such a high risk against the ball as Magdeburg did. The long balls were pretty ineffective (except for the 1:0), but that should change the more FCSP is confronted with this style of play. Yes, it is true that the midfield was clearly dominated by Magdeburg’s 4-3-3, but probably few teams can imitate it and FC St. Pauli will learn their lessons from this game.

Look at them, the gang.
(imago images/via OneFootball)

…and every day it’s groundhog day?

“Last year we would have lost this game” – The parallels to last season’s cup match against Elversberg are enormous: FC St. Pauli took an early lead, but that did not lead to anything like game control or more calm. The opponent took control of the game and was overwhelmingly superior. Even a tactical change (in Magdeburg from 4-4-2 to 3-5-2, in Elversberg the other way round) did not bring any improvement. Rather, it seemed as if the players had no confidence in their own abilities and therefore did not even try to build up flat. Up to this point, the performances in Elversberg and Magdeburg were similar. However, with the clear difference that FCSP lost against Elversberg.


But you know what: We’ve been knocked out in the first round of the cup so many times in the last few years that I don’t really care how exactly we got through. One thing is for sure: This is a good start to the derby week! There will certainly be some sort of diamond dawning.

//Tim (translated by Arne)

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6 thoughts on “1.FC Magdeburg – FC St. Pauli 2:3 – Dawn of the Diamond?

  1. Yeay!
    morgens Kaffee trinken und einen Spielbericht von Tim lesen 🙂
    vor allem, wenn man das Spiel am Samstag verpasst hat ….

  2. Hey St.Pauli wenn Ihr in der 2.Liga auch so viel Dusel habt wie in MD dann könnt Ihr aufsteigen.
    Aber die anderen machen Euch das Leben vor dem Tor nicht so leicht wie wir.
    Gruß Ingolf

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