Fortuna Düsseldorf – FC St. Pauli 1:1 – A dry tactical analysis

Fortuna Düsseldorf – FC St. Pauli 1:1 – A dry tactical analysis

FC St. Pauli earn a point in Düsseldorf. In this match, first Düsseldorf responded well to FC St. Pauli and later FC St. Pauli responded well to Fortuna Düsseldorf. After a tough first half, the team in brown and white played excellent football and deservedly took the lead. However, Düsseldorf equalised in the middle of FCSP’s most substantial period of pressure. After the game became more and more open at the end, it is probably a fair division of points. A sober analysis.
(Cover picture: Peter Böhmer)

The line-up

There were no changes at FC St. Pauli compared to the successful home match against Schalke. I had expected Finn Ole Becker to start and speculated whether Jakov Medić could replace one of the two centre-backs. Neither was the case; the coaching team around Timo Schultz trusted the regular formation of the last match.

But I had also expected a completely different defensive style of play from Düsseldorf. Christian Preußer’steam made only one change compared to the victorious match against Darmstadt: Dragoș Nedelcu replaced the injured Adam Bodzek. He moved to the central centre-back position, Christoph Klarer played on the right side. As expected, Fortuna Düsseldorf started in a 3-5-2, or did they?

A line of five that is rarely one

In the pre-match report, I had described how Fortuna Düsseldorf would go into pressing in their 3-5-2. I had suspected that this type of pressing does not suit FC St. Pauli at all, as they either give the FCSP wing-backs too much time in the build-up to the game, or the FCSP attackers can create spaces for themselves in the back of the wing-backs. Therefore, I had suspected that this would lead to massive problems for Fortuna Düsseldorf. I should conjecture more cautiously because it turned out differently. Because Fortuna Düsseldorf played the 3-5-2 with an already quite clear imbalance:

Khaled Narey, Fortuna’s right wing-back, permanently moved very close to Leart Paqarada when FC St. Pauli had possession. As a result, Paqarada had little time to process and pass the ball or was not even played at all. It is a rather untypical style of play for opponents to guard the full-backs so closely. However, this approach proved to be exactly right at the start of the game. FC St. Pauli did not find their way to their dreaded build-up play.


Narey’s high positioning shifted Düsseldorf’s entire positioning: Leonardo Koutris, Narey’s counterpart on the left, interpreted his role much more defensively and always dropped back into the last chain when FCSP had possession of the ball. This allowed the back three to move completely one position to the right, turning the nominal 3-5-2 into a 4-4-2, as there were also four players on a line in front of the back four, as Jakub Piotrowski dropped from his attacking position between the Tanaka/Sobottka double six.
Nevertheless, I would still describe Fortuna Düsseldorf’s formation as a 3-5-2, as this 4-4-2 only ever formed when Leart Paqarada was near the ball, i.e. when the ball was on FC St. Pauli’s left. However, when the ball moved to the right, Fortuna Düsseldorf did not mirror this behaviour but formed a straightforward 3-5-2.

FC St. Pauli had problems with this formation. Because it picked up a lot of what worked well for Braun-Weiß in the last games and disrupted these routines, this partial 4-4-2 of Düsseldorf also allowed the broad position of the FCSP forwards to fizzle out. Against Schalke, this was precisely something of a sticking point: FCSP managed to get behind the wing defenders by moving both strikers outwards so that the Schalke three-person backline had to pull enormously vast and thus opened up spaces (explained in more detail here). Against Düsseldorf, Matanović and Burgstaller also tried these movements at the beginning. But because Fortuna stood at the back with a four-person defence, they could absorb these movements of the FCSP strikers without any problems. A first point victory for Düsseldorf. They did that very well.

A common sight: Leart Paqarada in a duel with Khaled Narey.
(c) Peter Böhmer

FC St. Pauli, on the other hand, looked for solutions for large parts of the first half. The longer the game lasted, the more often they were found. Towards the end of the first half, the team looked for more and more build-ups on the right side, as the opponent’s pressure did not come directly from the wing defender, but Ao Tanaka from midfield ran into Luca Zander when he had the ball. However, the build-up play on the right did not really work. It was noticeable that Zander had to accept the much more prominent role as initiator of his attacks. In addition, Jackson Irvine always interprets his role on the half position more offensively than Marcel Hartel on the other side, so that there were not necessarily many play-off stations for Zander. Zander, therefore, had a relatively large amount of space, but he was rarely able to use it, especially at the start of the game, as the shifts to his side were usually played very sluggishly.
In the course of the first half, Marcel Hartel then moved to the right side again and again and thus created a surplus in the half-space. In addition, James Lawrence used the space available to him several times, as with Hennings and Iyoha, there were only two players against Smith, Ziereis and Lawrence (the attacker on the far side of the ball acted in a man-oriented manner on Smith – so with a quick shift, the centre-backs had space to dribble). Also, thanks to these movements, FC St. Pauli was able to gain more and more control of the game and were clearly the better team by the end of the first half.

From the 3-5-2 in the basic formation, Fortuna Düsseldorf mainly formed a 4-4-2. FC St. Pauli reacted to this mainly in the person of Marcel Hartel.

More courage, more counter-pressing

What could still be observed rarely in the first half but more and more frequently in the second half were not Hartel’s movements to the right side but all the way to the left. At the back of Narey, whom Paqarada often cleverly pulled inside, Hartel, positioned very close to the touchline, was able to turn up several times. With Kofi Kyereh now also moving much more frequently to that side between the two back four, it was always possible to create a superior number in the space there. It was pretty brave to play into the tight space there, but it paid off time and time again.
But it was not only the positional play in the build-up that improved after the restart: FCSP showed itself enormously poisonous in counter-pressing. That’s how the lead came about shortly after half-time when Smith, once again, successfully won the ball (with his heel!), and Kyereh was then able to cross butter-softly into the back of Narey. The lead was deserved. And finally, it was Marcel Hartel. He earned this goal with an excellent (running) performance.

FC St. Pauli’s play actually got better and more gripping with every minute. Lawrence and Ziereis used the available space more often than in the first half and dribbled forward more often (in total, they did it seven times – on average, centre-backs of second division teams do it 1.3 times per match). Both centre-backs once again showed a defensively very stable performance. But mainly, the trio Hartel/Kyereh/Paqarada really turned up the heat and caused Fortuna Düsseldorf many problems.


An actually fatal reaction

F95 coach Christian Preußer reacted to the increased overloading of the left side with a change of formation after about an hour. He tried to strengthen the sides (Timo Schultz had described in the pre-match briefing that in a 3-5-2, the outer lanes are only occupied individually and where problems can arise). In my opinion, however, he only made things worse. With the substitution of Kristoffer Peterson for Nedelcu, Fortuna switched to a 4-1-4-1. Peterson now played on the left, and Iyoha dropped from the striker position to the right midfield. However, the 4-1-4-1 is pretty much the worst formation you can choose against FC St. Pauli, as the game against Sandhausen recently showed (here is the match report).

As a result, Fortuna Düsseldorf was forced deep into their half and could no longer generate access. One of the core problems of the 4-1-4-1 against FCSP is the lack of space upfront: Rouwen Hennings became the plaything of the FC St. Pauli defensive centre in this phase, as he had to act alone against three. In addition, the eights and also Kyereh were able to move better between the chains. The movements of the eights also gave the full-backs more time and space in the build-up play, as their direct opponents could be tied up in the chain more efficiently. All in all, this was actually a fatal change that Fortuna Düsseldorf made. From the 75th minute onwards, Düsseldorf changed their pressing behaviour and ran enormously high until the end to generate any access at all. FC St. Pauli used the wide spaces behind them, but not as compellingly as expected.
(After seeing that Fortuna had switched to a 4-1-4-1, I thought it was only a matter of time before Finn Ole Becker would be substituted, as he moves very well between the chains. I don’t know why that didn’t happen – on the other hand, Jackson Irvine led most of the defensive duels and won a good two-thirds of them).

The core problem of a 4-1-4-1 against FC St. Pauli: No pressure on the defensive centre.

I also have no idea how it could happen that Fortuna Düsseldorf equalised during FC St. Pauli’s most vital phase. In any case, it was a goal from the “avoidable” category. But it was also a pretty good attack by Fortuna.
FC St. Pauli continued to dominate the game. When Fortuna started to play higher, the game became more restless, and FCSP’s strong dominance diminished. Both teams had chances to score the winning goal.

But the draw is all right, even though I would instead declare FC St. Pauli the winner. Fortuna Düsseldorf went into the match with a good concept and was able to put FC St. Pauli under pressure at the start of the game. We may see this kind of man-to-man defence of a full-back more often this season. The game of FC St. Pauli is simply very lefty-heavy due to Paqarada’s enormous strength in the build-up to the game. Düsseldorf solved this ice-coldly and quite pragmatically. However, it is encouraging that FC St. Pauli nevertheless managed to become the dominant team as the game progressed and deservedly took the lead.
With the change to a 4-1-4-1, Fortuna Düsseldorf almost wholly ruined what was actually a good game. Preußer will have had good reasons for the change. However, the course of the game showed that this change played more into FCSP’s favour than giving Düsseldorf more stability.

So FC St. Pauli can be a little annoyed. More was in it than this division of points (xG: 1.5 – 0.9 per FCSP). Of course, before the season and possibly also before the game, I would have been satisfied with a point in Düsseldorf. But based on how the game went, it could have been three. I’m pretty annoyed about that. On the other hand, I am delighted that FC St. Pauli always finds answers to difficult game situations. Therefore, this game is particularly valuable for the rest of the season, and not just because of the one point.


With the point in Düsseldorf, FC St. Pauli ends the first half of the season with an incredible 36 points. At one point or another, more would certainly have been possible, but there were also games that were decided rather happily in their favour (hello Nuremberg!). But the first of the table after the first leg of the season can’t spend much time thinking about it, because the second half of the season starts on Friday with an away game in Kiel. I really hope that we end this second half of the season with three points against Fortuna Düsseldorf at the Millerntor and that we have something to celebrate afterwards (and that the pandemic allows us to do so). We’ve come so far, we’ve played all the teams and we’ve seen that we’ve developed a really good and really stable squad. Of course, there’s still a long way to go, but, damn it all, our chances of promotion haven’t been this great for a long time! Don’t let up now!

Keep moving forward!

//Tim (translation by Arne)

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6 thoughts on “Fortuna Düsseldorf – FC St. Pauli 1:1 – A dry tactical analysis

  1. Ich hab mich gewundert, dass smith mit seiner gelben aus der 26. nicht früher ausgewechselt wurde. Dadurch konnte er vor dem Gegentor nicht das Foul ziehen. Hätte hätte Herbstmeister!

    Letztendlich: Da wir ja am letzten Spieltag die Fortuna zur Aufstiegsparty zu Gast haben, wollten wir es uns gestern ja nicht mit ihr verderben

    1. Thore,
      genau, letztendlich gab es dann gestern Abend in Dusseldorf vielleicht sogar noch eine schöne gemeinsame FanParty, war mein Gedanke nach dem Spiel mit jetzt schon 36 Punkten (gegen den Abstieg). Ich freue mich jetzt schon auf den FortunaBesuch mit anschließender Party am Sonntag den 15. Mai im Neuen Jahr, KickOff um 15:30 Uhr.

  2. Moin Tim,
    wie hattest du die späte Einwechslung von Benatelli bewertet? Ich fand diese eher verspätet, da die IV schwer die erste Pressinglinie überwinden konnten und somit kaum Angriffe durch das Zentrum entstanden.

    Ein anderes Thema, das mich während des Spiels durch den Kopf ging (und für einen ausführlichen Beitrag möglicherweise interessant wäre), wie könnte die Taktik oder Formation auf solche Gegner, die ein kompaktes 4-4-2 spielen oder allgemein sehr tief stehen, angepasst, mehr Torchancen zu kreieren. Gestern hätte ich zB ein 4-2-2-2 interessant gefunden.

  3. Für mich 2 grösstenteils leichtfertig verschenkte Punkte, die am Ende noch richtig weh tun können! Auffällig, das Burgi und Matanovic aber mal so gar nicht funktionieren, bestes Beispiel hierfür der Bock gegen Schalke, wo Igor selber schiessen muss, aber zum im Abseits stehenden Burgstaller passt…Warum Burgi allerdings gestern sich dann fast komplett ins Mittelfeld zurückzieht, erschloss sich mir auch nicht wirklich…Und Kyereh, abgesehen vom Klasse-Pass auf Hartel, spielt seit Wochen für mich so, als wenn er irgendwie mit dem Kopf schon beim Afrika-Cup, oder, even worse, bei nem anderen Verein ist. Kopf nicht Oben, spielt einfach nicht den besser postierten Mann an , dribbelt sich fest und schiesst aus 8 Metern völlig freistehend dem Keeper den Ball genau in die Arme. Yo, schon klar, jammern auf hohem Niveau, aber wir müssen einfach Alles dafür tun, diese Riesenchance auf den Aufstieg wahrzunehmen, denn die wird wohl nicht so schnell wiederkommen, und gestern haben wir wieder mal auswärts eben nicht wirklich Alles getan…

  4. Moin, ja es war mehr drin. Hätten auch mehr Druck machen müssen, denn dann lief es auch. Dennoch, 36 Punkte und 1.mehr kann man nicht verlangen. Erst mal dran bleiben und hoffen, daß es keinen Einbruch gibt. Am Ende wird sich zeigen ob es reicht. Wenn nicht, dann zumindest vor den rothosen.

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