Season Preview — St. Pauli — Pushing for Promotion

It’s never easy to stomach missing out on a playoff place due to inferior goal difference, a mere four goals for St. Pauli last season if we want the exact number. Fortuna Düsseldorf took that final promotion spot over St. Pauli based on their superior differential and went on to play the infamous tie against Hertha Berlin and ended up in the first tier, while St. Pauli face yet another year in the 2.Bundesliga. During the offseason, big names have left and some encouraging ones have arrived for the popular, left-leaning kult club with supporters around the world, but the objective remains the same: win promotion back to the Bundesliga.

Transfers:

In:

Florian Mohr (SC Paderborn 07)
Sören Gonther (SC Paderborn 07)
Carlos Zambrano (Schalke 04)
Daniel Ginczek (Borussia Dortmund)*
Lennart Thy (Werder Bremen)
Florian Kringe (Borussia Dortmund)
Akaki Gogia (VfL Wolfsburg)
Robin Himmelmann (Schalke 04)

Out:

Petar Filipovic (unknown)
Philipp Heerwagen (VfL Bochum)**
Fabio Morena (SV Sandhausen)
Deniz Naki (unknown)
Carsten Rothenbach (VfL Bochum)
Arvid Schenk (VfL Wolfsburg II)
Petar Slišković (Mainz 05)**
Lasse Sobiech (Borussia Dortmund)**
Ole Springer (unknown)
Charles Takyi (unknown)
Max Kruse (SC Freiburg)
Moritz Volz (1860 München)
Rouwen Hennings (Karlsruher SC)
Davidson Drobo-Ampem (Esbjerg fB)

The Team

All in all, it can’t be considered a good summer for St. Pauli. The loss of key players is obviously quite a worry. Max Kruse was snapped up by Freiburg for 750.000€, Lasse Sobiech’s loan finished and he went back to Dortmund and is now at Greuther Fürth, the emblematic full-back Moritz Volz was surprisingly released and has now joined 1860 München and Deniz Naki also left the club. However, the replacements are not bad either. The double signing from Paderborn of Florian Mohr and Sören Gonther is an encouraging boost for the defense after their solid year last year and Carlos Zambrano seems that he will be joining them in defense, staying for another season at the Millerntor despite interest from Eintracht Frankfurt. Akaki Gogia will be trying to fill Kruse’s role behind the lone striker and the front line receives a good boost with the acquisitions of Thy and Ginczek, two exciting players that haven’t had the chance to prove themselves in the Bundesliga.

The goalkeeper position seems still wide open, with Philipp Tschauner appearing to be the number one, but Benedikt Pliquett showed last season that he’s a capable replacement, and perhaps a candidate for the starters position.

The defence seems to have an overload of centre backs, with Thorandt, Mohr, Zambrano and Gonther vying for the two starting spots, although presumably Gonther will slot in at right back and Sebastian Schachten doing likewise on the left flank, with Jan-Philipp Kalla pushing him for the spot. Zambrano’s versatility will definitely be a strong point since he can play anywhere across the defence although centre back is his strongest place.

Patrick Funk will probably be partnering club emblem (and Hamburg policeman) Fabian Boll as the two holding midfielders in the 4-2-3-1 system, although he needs to step up his game a bit more this year if St. Pauli want to achieve anything. His promise and good displays for the German U21 side don’t seem to come as regularly for his club and Stuttgart will be keeping a close eye on their player. Gogia will probably find his level more in die Zweite after a brave showing in the Bundesliga with Augsburg last season and he’s definitely one to keep an eye on, although filling Kruse’s boots won’t be easy. Fin Bartels and Florian Bruns will be playing on the wings and Florian Kringe will also be looking for a starting XI spot anywhere across the midfield.

There will be stiff competition up front, with the ever-young Marius Ebbers and new boys Lennart Thy and Daniel Ginczek competing for the lone striker spot, with Mahir Sağlık most likely coming off the bench, although it wouldn’t be strange that André Schubert decides to play two up front considering the quality that he has in his strikeforce.

The manager and tactics

A lot of confusion has reigned this summer at Millerntor around the manager figure. It seemed inevitable that André Schubert, following in the footsteps of longtime St. Pauli trainer Holger Stanislawaski, was going to be sacked after missing out on promotion.  When the club announced a press conference, it seemed the writing was on the wall for the former Paderborn coach.  But in a surprising turn of events, the club announced that Schubert was staying, despite contradicting media reports that he had already been sacked.

It’s obvious that despite finishing 4th last season, St Pauli didn’t have a season that reached expectation, and their 59 goals in favour will need to improve, considering that the top 3 teams were in between 64 and 76. Schubert used a 4-2-3-1 last season and if there are no surprises he will do so again this season, although with the amount of good strikers that he has and considering how limited Patrick Funk was playing in this system last year, it might not be a bad idea for Schubert to go 4-4-2 or even a daring 4-3-3 if goals are needed. Schubert was criticised a lot last season for being too conservative as stupid points were dropped in the dying seconds at Aue and München, while poor away displays against supposedly weaker teams such as FSV Frankfurt and Alemannia Aachen (3-3 and 2-1 respectively)  when competing for promotion sealed Pauli’s fate. That’s definitely something Schubert will have to work on to achieve promotion this season.

Strengths and weaknesses

It’s quite obvious that St. Pauli’s main weakness last season, and the one that ultimately cost them promotion, was the ability to close games. Points were dropped when winning and points were dropped when drawing, so Schubert, as mentioned before, will have to work on that aspect. More goals are also needed if they’re going to get promoted. Fürth and Eintracht scored 73 and 76 goals respectively in the league, which compared to St. Pauli’s 59 makes it easy to see why they were promoted.  The club has done the right thing and brought in quality strikers who can add to that tally, as well as good attacking midfielders.

This brings us to the strengths. While they seem to be a bit short in numbers in defense, the quality is there and if Mohr and Gonther can bring their form from last season into this one, their already low number of goals conceded should be even lower. The same goes for the strikers. Ebbers will now have three direct competitors and competition is good up front, since the alternative will be there when the striker isn’t on form. It also allows for a change in tactics if Schubert so wishes. Hopefully Patrick Funk will also be used to this division and will play the way he knows how to, and the advantage being that not many teams in the 2.Bundesliga have players of this calibre.

Prediction: 2nd

It would be a great surprise if St. Pauli were not near the top of the table come the end of the season. They have addressed their problems from last season and, despite losing some key men, have brought in a good mix of experience and youth that can be nothing but beneficial. St. Pauli only missed out on a final playoff spot by four goals last season and I predict that they’ll go two better in the upcoming  campaign. St. Pauli open the 2012/2013 season Friday at Erzgebirge Aue and return home to host FC Ingolstadt on August 11th.

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Aleix Gwilliam

Is a 27-year-old living in Barcelona who gets more pleasure from watching German lower-league football than from going to watch his hometown team at the Camp Nou every other week. Passionate about European football, its history and culture, you can follow him on Twitter at @AleixGwilliam

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