“…this is our St.Pauli!” – In the rush of the senses, I simply claim that this line has rarely been truer than in yesterday’s match against Jahn Regensburg. FC St. Pauli dismantled the league leader into its individual parts, did not give it the slightest chance and put a big, big exclamation mark on it before the international break. (Cover picture: imago images/via OneFootball)
FC St. Pauli had to make a change at centre-back: James Lawrence replaced the suspended Philipp Ziereis and took over not only the position but also the captain’s armband. On the right side of the defence, it was Jannes Wieckhoff who replaced Adam Dźwigała compared to the defeat in Paderborn. In addition, FC St. Pauli had to make a short-term change in midfield: Eric Smith was injured in the warm-up (groin/ductors) so that Afeez Aremu was moved into the starting eleven at short notice.
Compared to the victorious match against Schalke, SSV Jahn Regensburg had to do without striker David Otto, who seriously injured his ankle a few days before the match and will be out for several weeks. He was replaced by Joël Zwarts.
Everything different than last time
Against Paderborn, FC St. Pauli was already sent off after six minutes. But even before that, FCSP was unusually passive and allowed itself to be impressed by the high pressing of Paderborn. Against Regensburg, on the other hand, it was noticeable immediately after kick-off that things would be different. It was FC St. Pauli who pressed high. The whole team pushed forward very courageously and showed an enormously good positional play: Jahn Regensburg positioned themselves with no less than four players in the front line when they had possession of the ball. In addition to the two strikers Zwarts and Albers, who mostly moved forward from the somewhat deeper ten positions in the build-up, it was also the offensive wingers Sarpreet Singh and Jan-Niklas Beste who positioned themselves very high.
However, this did not ensure that the FC St. Pauli wing-backs were trapped in the last chain. Rather, they alternated situationally with the backs when it was a question of who was pushing on the opposing full-back. And likewise, it was always other players who took over the position of the outgoing full-backs. Often it was one of the two centre-backs who pushed out to the side (then Afeez Aremu dropped into central defence). Occasionally, however, it was also the eights who acted as cover for the outgoing full-backs. But I also made a note of “Kyereh securing left back” once and was amazed myself. Regensburg’s build-up play was lame all along the line and the excellent pressing (and counter-pressing) even made it more of a danger for their own goal. From around the 30th minute onwards, there was a kind of capitulation in the face of FC St. Pauli’s strong defensive behaviour: until the half-time whistle, Jahn Regensburg only played long balls and completely dispensed with an orderly flat build-up of play.
The defensive behaviour of FC St. Pauli was therefore very stable. Jahn Regensburg did not manage to develop a prolonged period of pressure during the entire match, let alone emerge at all seriously dangerous in front of the opponent’s goal. This was also due to the fact that FCSP was completely unimpressed by Regensburg’s high pressing. Timo Schultz had said at the pre-match press conference that Regensburg’s high pressing offered spaces on the sides and behind the last line. These spaces were there, but before they could be played, FC St. Pauli opened their play mostly in the left half-space.
Jahn Regensburg played in a 4-4-2, but with a double six and not, like FCSP, with a midfield diamond. In the high pressing, the team arranged itself in a kind of 4-2-4, but the double six was strangely defensive. So defensive, in fact, that FC St. Pauli was usually able to play over the first pressing line with a simple movement. Marcel Hartel simply had to move out of his half position into the defensive half-space. The two sixes Gimber and Besuschkow rarely if ever went into these spaces. Instead, Regensburg tried to press the half-areas with their full-backs, but this was almost always the case too late. And FC St. Pauli was prepared for this as well: As soon as the opposing full-backs made their way to e.g. Hartel, who could even turn up again and again without any opponent pressure, at least one FCSP forward made his way to the outside. This space was orphaned by the advancement of the outside defenders (and this was probably the space Timo Schultz meant when he said that Regensburg would give space on the side and behind the last chain).
Jahn Regensburg tried to close these spaces throughout the game, but FC St. Pauli was simply enormously well prepared for Regensburg’s pressing and cleverly exploited the gaps that opened up time and again when Regensburg shifted. This enabled FCSP to outplay the pressing time and again and also to elude Regensburg’s grip most of the time afterwards.
The longer the game lasted, the better FC St. Pauli became. Offensively, there were heaps of chances and good situations. Almost every free ball ended up with FC St. Pauli and the security in the combinations was simply impressive.
I already wrote in the report on the win against Holstein Kiel that FC St. Pauli’s play in the final third probably doesn’t follow a pattern. There are no fixed sequences, no spaces that are deliberately played into or sought out. But it seems so fluid that it almost seems rehearsed. But the sequences are too varied to be really rehearsed. Sure, there are a few basic principles, occupation of the box etc., but how they are combined seems to be decided by the players themselves. And they seem to intuitively have the right division of space to win second balls and to create combinations that we have rarely or never seen at the Millerntor. It is simply great fun to watch this team play football.
But there was one pattern: Daniel-Kofi Kyereh was involved in almost all of these ball circulations. I would like to say that Kyereh usually takes small to large time-outs in his game. Moments in which he seems a bit apathetic. Against Regensburg, however, the opposite was the case, as he was the lynchpin of a completely free-spinning FCSP offence for the entire game. The way he moves between the chains and thus evades the pressure of the opponents, again and again, is impressive. The technical finesse with which he holds the ball in tight situations or directs it to his teammate is simply first-class. “He doesn’t even know how good he is,” a second-league coach we know once told me. I sincerely hope that many other clubs don’t know that either.
Beautiful, but not effective?
Back to the game:
As beautiful as the offensive play and also the defensive work were, as we all know, the number of goals decides about victory and defeat. The only shortcoming of the FCSP game was the lack of return in the form of goals. It was almost paradoxical: FC St. Pauli, as in the home games before against HSV and Kiel, put in a fabulous first half, are brutally superior, especially towards the end of the halves, and go into the dressing room with a draw in two of these games.
But also in the second half, FC St. Pauli was able to exert pressure and continued to be the team that dominated the match. This was despite the fact that Jahn Regensburg tried to adapt to FC St. Pauli’s build-up play. While in the first half the two sixes of Regensburg remained very rigid in their positions, they now followed Hartel and Becker (when he dropped, which he did less often than Hartel) when they opened up into the defensive half-spaces. In addition, I think I noticed a slight change: Jahn Regensburg no longer set up defensively in a 4-4-2 but rather in a 4-2-3-1, as Andreas Albers dropped into the ten-man area.
As a result, FCSP’s eights were no longer as easy to play against, but the full-backs now pushed much higher in the build-up and the Lawrence/Medić duo had much more freedom and peace in the build-up. The change did not really change the fact that FC St. Pauli could breakthrough on the flanks. Especially Regensburg’s right-back Konrad Faber could be successfully lured from his position again and again in the second half.
In any case, it was the left side that provided the impetus and probably should have done so. The right side with Jannes Wieckhoff was often first ignored until everything condensed on the other side and then sought with a diagonal ball. The passing pattern of the two wing-backs shows this relatively clearly: Leart Paqarada received 47 passes. 34 of them were in his own half, 13 in the opponent’s. Jannes Wieckhoff received far fewer passes, only 21, but of those 21 he received 11 in the opponent’s half and 10 in his own and basically had some offensive actions on his side. It was also remarkable how much Afeez Aremu understood his role on the pitch as a back-up for the revving-up offence. And remarkable how well he did that.
Due to the change of the Regensburg team, FC St. Pauli’s play in the second half did not seem as gripping as in the first 45 minutes. Nevertheless, the team was still clearly superior and created some good chances. But if you take off your brown and white glasses, you have to admit that the 1-0 came in a phase in which FCSP lacked some of their dominance and the game was rather even. Nevertheless, the lead was well deserved.
There have been a few FC St. Pauli games recently that have thrilled me. But most of them were also inspiring because FC St. Pauli took the lead relatively early. A lead always fundamentally changes a game and ensures that a team has to risk more and thus gives away spaces. That was not the case on Sunday. This makes FC St. Pauli’s performance against Regensburg all the more deserving of praise. They managed to dominate Jahn Regensburg, who had not lost a point in the season so far, for almost the entire match. FC St. Pauli kept the pressure on from start to finish and ensured that Regensburg was almost non-existent offensively and defensively allowed more than they had in the previous four games. Regensburg’s highly praised double six with Gimber and Besuschkow hardly made an appearance at all. Neither with offensive completions nor with defensive access. The dangerous runs of Beste and Singh were non-existent, the header strength of Albers fizzled out. And defensively, the centre-back duo of Breitkreuz and Kennedy had the worst tackling record of the season.
Rarely were the goals for FC St. Pauli so well deserved as on Sunday against Regensburg. And of course, they came from the left side after Faber was lured out of his position. FC St. Pauli could even cope with the fact that Simon Makienok had an unlucky day and that none of the many set-pieces was even remotely dangerous for the opponent’s goal. Listen to the post-match press conference and especially Jahn coach Mersad Selimbegović. He doesn’t even blame his team for the defeat but is full of praise for FC St. Pauli.
I repeat myself: this team is great fun and makes you want a lot more. After needing an own goal and a sending-off the previous week to be narrowly beaten by Paderborn (check out how they mowed down Dresden at the weekend), FCSP seems to be one of the top teams in the division in a game without any special incidents. Quite rightly, the team is currently in 3rd place, which is an absolutely realistic final position in this form.
So, now it’s out. It’s FC St. Pauli’s fault that I’m dreaming the whole international break…
//Tim (translated by Arne)