FC St. Pauli lost against Hannover 96 with 0:1. The biggest opponent was not necessarily Hannover 96, but their own lethargy. Thus, the many ball possession and the visually strong predominance brought relatively little, because hardly any scoring chances were created. Hannover 96, on the other hand, created quite a few chances despite having few ideas of their own. As a result, FC St. Pauli missed out on the leap to the top of the table and – not only because of this – put a severe damper on themselves.
(Cover picture: Peter Böhmer)
As expected, FC St. Pauli did not change their line-up compared to the successful home match against Jahn Regensburg.
Hannover 96, on the other hand, changed five positions: Niklas Hult moved back to the left-back position. Jannik Dehm, who had replaced him in Darmstadt, moved to the right side of the defence and replaced Sei Muroya. In defensive midfield, newcomer Gaël Ondoua started for Dominik Kaiser. Maik Frantz only replaced Sebastian Kerk at the back eight position, as he injured his thigh shortly after kick-off. Hoffenheim loanee Maximilian Beier started on the offensive wing, replacing Philipp Ochs, and newcomer Lukas Hinterseer started in the centre of attack for Hendrick Weydandt.
Hannover 96 played in a 4-3-3 formation with two attacking wingers, two eights and a six. This formation takes FC St. Pauli’s 4-4-2 with a diamond relatively well, at least in the centre. It worked particularly well in the first half, but that was not due to the formation but to FCSP’s rather slack performance.
The (lack of) attitude?
Hannover 96’s build-up play did not create any danger for FC St. Pauli throughout the entire match. There were a few situations that could have been critical. This had to do with the role of the half positions, i.e. Finn Ole Becker and Marcel Hartel. They always moved out when the opposing full-backs were in possession of the ball. Behind them, Hannover’s eights, Kerk and Ernst, could move into the half-space or to the outside and had to be taken up by Afeez Aremu, which was not always successful. Aremu always had to make the decision in the defensive work whether to leave his central position and move into the half-space or partly completely to the outside, or whether to hold his position and allow an overflow on the outside.
Fortunately, he did not have to make this decision too often, because Hannover 96 actually almost never played out these situations consistently. If the eights had moved more consistently to the outer lanes, the FCSP central defence would also have had to venture out of its position much more often so that there would have been access on the side. Quite a lot of “would have” in that sentence. Because both Kerk and Ernst did not go all the way out most of the time, FCSP was able to keep Hannover 96’s build-up play under control. Hannover 96 only created a scoring threat through switching moments and standards. When things got dicey in open play, they could actually rely on Aremu (71% of duels won), Medić (83%) and Lawrence (88%) defensively.
FC St. Pauli experienced a rather unusual game situation: The centre-backs had an enormous amount of time to build up the game. Hannover 96 started pressing very late and expected FC St. Pauli to be in their own half. There was no running at the FCSP centre backs.
FCSP had its problems with this much possession. This was mainly due to the fact that Hannover 96 worked completely man-oriented in midfield. The pairs Ondoua/Kyereh, Hartel/Kerk and Becker/Ernst formed on the pitch. In addition, Hinterseer joined Afeez Aremu, but this covering task was probably the most relaxed job on the pitch, as Aremu hardly took part in the build-up to the game at all.
The aim of the first phase of FC St. Pauli’s build-up is to reach their own full-backs in a controlled manner. At best via a quick lateral shift so that there is some space. Leart Paqarada and Jannes Wieckhoff positioned themselves relatively high for this. Due to the positioning of Hannover 96’s offensive wingers, the direct passing path from the centre back to their own wingers was not possible. In order to get to the outside, FC St. Pauli tried a kind of relay station, which should work as follows: The two eights position themselves relatively high, then run towards the centre-backs, break away from their opponents a little, are then played on and can then pass to the outside lane. If everything goes ideally, they can even turn up and shift the side or play one station centrally to Kyereh.
That is the theory. In practice, this was the crux of the matter yesterday. Becker and Hartel rarely, really far too rarely, managed to break away from their opponents in the first half and move into the spaces. It may be that the man-oriented defence caused them some problems, but I also only noticed timid efforts to get rid of this guarding. One way of evading the guard is to double occupy one of the two sides. This could be seen a few times, especially at the end of the first half, when Hartel joined Becker. This then also has the nice side effect that there is even more space on the other side. When FCSP managed to play Leart Paqarada, he had a lot of space. But as already written: The efforts to break away were rare. FCSP’s build-up play was therefore surrounded by a rather unusual lethargy, in which it seemed at times as if no one would dare to break cover (in the truest sense of the word) and take responsibility.
The existing game control is of no use
The build-up play of FC St. Pauli thus degenerated into an almost rigid structure. The only time Hannover 96 had any trouble was when James Lawrence took advantage of the space and ventured forward with the ball on his foot. He was able to do that because Hinterseer was at Aremu and Hannover’s attacking wingers were focused on the FCSP wing-backs.
But it was only James Lawrence who dribbled forward (Wyscout counted four “progressive runs”). Jakov Medić did not do that (accordingly, there is a zero in the same category) and he did not actually play any passes forward in the first half, but it was always Lawrence who opened the game. I was a bit surprised about that because I really trust Medić to be able to do that (his assist for the 3-1 in the derby is a good example). But maybe that was also a requirement from the coaching team. In the second half, he was much more active in the build-up to the game.
It could also have been a requirement that Afeez Aremu was not involved in the build-up play. According to Wyscout, he had not a single(!) offensive action and played considerably fewer passes forward than the Medić/Lawrence duo (only ten (twice as many against Regensburg), Medić: 25, Lawrence: 31). Perhaps Aremu should rather hold the position to provide sufficient residual defence. Aremu also had a few unfortunate scenes at the start of the game. Perhaps there was simply a lack of courage in the actions that followed.
That all sounds rather gloomy now. It was not quite that dramatic. FCSP managed to shift the ball or create space in the centre a few times. It was just that little was ever made of this space because final passes didn’t arrive, the ball was lost as a result, etc. It was not Hannover’s concentrated defensive work that ensured that FCSP had little chance to get through. It was their own lethargy coupled with inaccuracies that caused this. So FC St. Pauli had a lot of possession (56% in the first half) but developed little to no scoring threat. The offensive trio Burgstaller/Makienok/Kyereh had as few ball actions in the first half as never before this season. They were simply reached far too rarely.
Instead, it was the players of Hannover 96 who appeared dangerously in front of the FC St. Pauli goal several times in the first half. These were also rare moments, but they were quite effective. Either Hannover became dangerous through standards (I count throw-ins as such) or through switching moments. Especially the counter-pressing in the last third was successful several times and produced several chances. One of them was a ball loss by Marcel Hartel, which subsequently led to an unfortunate header forwarded by Jakov Medić and finally, Sebastian Kerk served the ball a few centimetres before the goal line. With a 0:1 it went into the break.
The changeover brings results
Rico Benatelli came in for Simon Makienok. At first glance, this seemed like a defensive change, but it was not. Kyereh took Makienok’s position. Marcel Hartel moved to the ten and Benatelli to the left half position.
This loosened the knot in FC St. Pauli’s previously rather pomaded build-up play. Rico Benatelli may not be the fastest player and is certainly not suited for any pressing or switching situations. But he always, really always wants to have the ball. Exactly the quality that had been missing in half-time one. He often got the ball quite deep in the left area, a bit too deep for the opposing eighth to pull along. The eighth could not do that, because in the centre not only Hartel was now operating in the ten-man space, but Kyereh was also dropping into this space again and again. Thus, FCSP generated an overweight in the centre, a dream constellation for their own build-up play. As a result, FC St. Pauli again had more possession (66% in the second half) and was able to close in on Hannover 96 in their half.
The lack of scoring power
For all the love for all the possession and as good as the change in the second half was, there was a lack of goals. Of course, it was a question of time until they would come, given the number of good actions in the opponent’s half. But most of the time, Hannover somehow managed to get a leg up on the action and thwart it.
Instead, Hannover 96 created chances at the beginning of the second half, still exclusively from transition moments and set pieces. FC St. Pauli only became really dangerous towards the end of the game. But just when things got really tight for Hannover, the game had already progressed so far that the Lower Saxons were able to enjoy time play (which I don’t mean in a negative way at all – I would do the same in the course of the game).
The fact that it got exciting at all, in the end, was also due to Nikola Vasilj, who made some outstanding saves in the first half. A player who continues to convince me.
Jannes Wieckhoff also convinced me. He was already able to do a lot in the first half, but in the second half, he did even more with the space on the right side. That’s really good and I think that Luca Zander and Sebastian Ohlsson if they are fit again (both were not in the squad yesterday), will have to really stretch themselves to get back into the starting eleven. A development that I didn’t think was possible at that position.
Jackson Irvine still seems to be a bit of a stranger. The technically demanding half position probably doesn’t suit him that well if the game goes as it did yesterday. On the other hand, I have the impression that he is a bit more dangerous in goal than Hartel and Becker together (which is not that difficult). I think he can play a really good role especially in games where there is more focus on the transition moments and less ball pushing just outside the opponent’s penalty area.
Christopher Buchtmann fits much better in these half positions. Man ey, if he could stay injury-free for more than three months…
So FC St. Pauli loses in Hannover. Based on the course of the game and the impression that the players could have shown more, this is really annoying. Hannover 96 was not the better team, but they made much more out of much less. That’s how these faces come about:
FC St. Pauli was not beaten up in Hannover, not played apart. I didn’t see such a weak performance as many people saw. But once again the limit was shown that without maximum effort it is not enough. There was a lack of initiative offensively as well as defensively in the decisive steps in the transition moments. This is not a new insight, but it seems to be necessary to remind people of it every now and then. And somehow it’s positive because it shows that FCSP has it in its own hands. Therefore: Wipe your mouth, keep going!
Forza St. Pauli!
//Tim (translation by Arne)