The Millerntor, one of the most significant stadiums in the North part of Germany played host to a massive Hamburg Derby on Monday night. An occasion of epic proportions as the 2. Bundesliga league leaders heading into matchday six Hamburger SV looked to retain that status against city rivals St. Pauli. The hosts have had an underwhelming start to the 2019/20 season, one win which came against northern rivals Holstein Kiel on matchday four has been the only bright spot. Hamburg have been nearly flawless; the only game Hamburg have failed to win heading into this encounter was a matchday one draw to Darmstadt.
This tactical analysis takes a look at the 24th Hamburg Derby and how St. Pauli defied the odds to beat the league leaders for the first time in eight years.
Jos Luhukay made two changes from the side which blew a 3-0 lead at Dresden before the international break. Florian Carstens was replaced in favour of Brighton and Hove Albion loan defender Leo Skiri Østigård whilst Niklas Hoffmann was dropped to the second team. Finn Ole Becker moved from left midfield to the defensive pivot alongside Marvin Knoll. Ryo Miyaichi moves from full-back to right midfield with Waldemar Sobota dropped for Sebastian Ohlsson.
Dieter Hecking was forced to make one change from his team which dismantled Hannover on matchday five. An injury to Jan Gyamerah kept him out of this encounter with Josha Vagnoman coming in at right-back.
Lack of tempo
In a big derby, there is an expectation that Hamburg, in this case, would’ve asserted themselves onto St. Pauli. This was the case the last time the two sides met when Hamburg crushed St. Pauli 4-0. However, in the early stages of the match, the hunger and drive which had seen Hamburg take 13 points out of 15 weren’t there. A lack of intensity and vigour for the occasion deserted them and it showed as areas to which Hamburg had thrived in this season, deserted them. This includes building the play with purpose and tempo as well as applying presses in the opponent’s defensive half.
The first scenario looks at Hamburg in possession and how their inability to move the ball quickly resulted in numerous recycling of play with no end product. As the picture showcases, St. Pauli are set in a 4-2-3-1, the space between the two defensive midfielders and the defenders is tight. This nullifies Hamburg’s ability to play to the striker who could then hold up possession. There are spaces between the attacking midfielders as highlighted if one of the central midfielders provides an option in the space. Not only will Hamburg be able to retain possession, but more importantly win the territory battle going forward.
We skip to moments later in this particular play, with no options presenting in the highlighted spaces before, Hamburg are forced wide to the full-back Vagnoman. When this happens, St. Pauli’s winger Christian Conteh begins to press the ball carrier whilst the formation shifts across. With a lack of urgency on the ball, St. Pauli are able to create man on man situations forcing Vagnoman to try and recycle play.
Our next situation looks at Hamburg’s inability to press St. Pauli in the early stages. James Lawrence is on the ball for St. Pauli and its evident that the lack of intensity in trying to win the ball back for Hamburg isn’t there. It seemed that Hamburg were willing to wait for St. Pauli to bring possession close to halfway before applying the press as showcased here. However, St. Pauli seemed prepared for this and would either play back to the keeper or play the ball long. The issue is with the former, when the ball was played back to Robin Himmelmann there was no desire to press up, as a result, St. Pauli had plenty of time to decipher their next move. Too much time afforded to St. Pauli allowing them to dictate the tempo of the match.
St. Pauli under Luhukay are notorious for sitting back deep and inviting pressure, this is something we saw in the game against Stuttgart when they took the lead early. They immediately sat back and allowed Stuttgart to control the game and find a way back. In this case from the outset, St. Pauli were brave defensively and weren’t afraid to push the line closer to halfway. As we will showcase below, this had a profound effect in the first half on how Hamburg moved the ball.
Our first scenario is in the opening 10 minutes and it’s evident that the shape and remaining compact is key. Playing a 4-2-3-1 formation, we can see immediately the shape implemented by trainer Luhukay. What is evident is that St. Pauli are looking to force Hamburg to recycle possession out wide. Then St. Pauli can shift across and repeating the cycle of meaningless possession.
Late in the first half, St. Pauli continued to be brave in their defensive approach even with a bone goal lead. They remain relatively tight except for Ohlsson on the right playing wider, man-marking Bakary Jatta whilst Dimitrios Diamantakos is the loan striker partially pressing the ball carrier. The key to the structure is minimising the space between the layers. Between the attacking midfielders and defensive pivots and from the number sixes to the defenders. It’s excellently tight and as a result, Hamburg had real issues in the first half breaking down a structurally set St. Pauli.
Déjà vu for Hamburger SV
In the last Hamburg match analysis, we looked at their 4-2 win over Karlsruhe. We lamented the issues they had at defending set-pieces which resulted in conceding. Once again, Hamburg gave up a set-piece goal all be it in comical fashion. It’s not only their inability to consistently dispel the danger from set-pieces but balls into the area from wide areas caused all sorts of issues. This section of our analysis looks at why this was the case.
The initial set-piece comes close to the touchline and immediately you can see a couple of issues in the structure. Ideally, Hamburg should be aligned at the edge of the area but as we can see it’s not set properly. The match-up identified is centre half Østigård and striker Hinterseer. The positioning of Hinterseer is already concerning, his body position is open almost allowing Østigård a free run at the set-piece.
Møller Dæhli provides an excellently weighted ball towards the penalty spot. Østigård is unable to finish off the delivery but the real issue is the defending. One issue which remains an issue for Hamburg is the set-piece defending and it was only a matter of time before they conceded.
That goal would come on 62 minutes and this is how it happened. Møller Dæhli is once again over this free-kick which is in a dangerous position. He can either shoot which would require an excellent effort or play the ball into the same area as the previously showcased set-piece. A person of interest in this set-piece is Marvin Knoll, the defensive midfielder is the only St. Pauli player not tightly marked by Hamburg. His opponent being Kinsombi. Again like the previous set-piece, the defensive line isn’t level with Jung playing everyone onside.
The free-kick is taken short to the space showcased in the previous picture and Knoll has left Kinsombi in his dust. Knoll redirects the ball and poor Rick van Drongelen deflects the ball into his net. The off the ball movement from Knoll and the intelligent delivery from Møller Dæhli is delightful, but the defending left a lot to be desired.
Awakening in the second half
Down a goal at half-time, Hamburg showcased a lack of desire and will for the game. Hecking was immediate in making adjustments to his tactics. Khaled Narey who had no impact on the game at all was substituted for Aaron Hunt. The result of this saw Jatta switching flanks and Sonny Kittel moving the left of midfield. Hunt tucking in alongside Kinsombi.
The impact of Hunt’s introduction to the game unlocked Hamburg going forward and it was needed after a poor first half. As we see with his first interaction in the game, a one-two with Jatta and away the attack can progress. These kinds of exchanges between a midfielder and the wide attacking players didn’t take place in the first half, as a result, they were unable to penetrate the St. Pauli defence.
This next situation comes shortly after but the principles are very similar. The idea is to draw the full-back out of position, but instead of using the wide midfielder to do so Hamburg have Leibold providing the overlapping run. This is achieved by Ohlsson being forced to take Kittel and as a result, this provides Hamburg space out wide. What has made Hamburg excellent before the St. Pauli match-up is their ability to move the ball quickly through exchanges from central to wide positions. This, in turn, spreads their opponents defensively and space opens up, unfortunately, it took Hamburg far too long to apply this process.
St. Pauli going forward
The style of attacking football from St. Pauli is a mixed bag, at times in the Hamburg Derby they moved the ball with precession. On the counter-attack, they looked excellent with the likes of Møller Dæehli on Conteh causing all sorts of issues for the Hamburg defence. However, it seemed the original plan was to play the old fashioned long ball to the number nine in the hope he holds up the play. Let’s take a look at how this worked, as well St. Pauli’s ability to counter.
Our first two situations showcase St. Pauli’s long ball plan in motion. Lawrence who is still new to the set-up after his loan move to the Millerntor from Anderlecht, but he has been entrusted with delivering the long ball forward. The goal is to hit Diamantakos in a one-on-one contest to which in this situation he does. The question is whether the striker can hold the ball up and allow St. Pauli to retain possession.
As is the case for the second situation, unlike the first we have Østigård providing the ball. The Swedish defender plays to Diamantakos but unlike the first instance, the striker is unable to keep possession. In the first half, in particular, this method worked effectively for a good reason. This being the space between midfield and defence, Hamburg playing a 4-1-4-1 formation allow for creative freedom to the likes of Kittel and Kinsombi. This does mean Adrian Fein is vulnerable if the two number eights don’t drop back. As a result, St. Pauli are able to bypass the midfield wall if Diamantakos is able to retain possession.
The final passage of play concerning St. Pauli relates to how they played the second half. With an increase in intensity from Hamburg, Luhukay reverted to more counter-attacks to catch opposition players out of position. Late in the second half in particular when Hamburg was pressing, St. Pauli was able to achieve this on multiple occasions. A steady diet of Miyachi and Møller Dæhli, as shown above, helped pierce through an overcommitted Hamburg defence.
The 2-0 win for St. Pauli certainly shook the landscape of the 2. Bundesliga, a win of real significance for Luhukay in particular who has been under pressure from the seasons beginning. It’s only their second win of the season, but a win of this calibre could be one to kick start St. Pauli’s season.
For Hamburg, it’s a bitter taste. The lack of intensity and understanding of the occasion showed as they allowed St. Pauli to get the jump early in the game. When they made the necessary changes, they were unable to make those chances count. It was certainly a performance which reminds us that Hamburg still has some way to go in their development under Hecking.
Until late February when the 25th Hamburg Derby takes place at the Volksparkstadion, “Hamburg ist braun weiß”.
If you love tactical analysis, then you’ll love the digital magazines from totalfootballanalysis.com – a guaranteed 100+ pages of pure tactical analysis covering topics from the Premier League, Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga and many, many more. Buy your copy of the August issue for just ₤4.99 here.