The final encounter from matchday 21 in the 2. Bundesliga featured two sides in contrasting positions. Holstein Kiel had been making a push after a tough start to the season; however, they were coming into the game, winning only one of their last five games. St. Pauli knew that a win was ever so important. With Nürnberg, Hannover, Bochum and Darmstadt all winning, the Boys in Brown seek their first away win of the season.

This tactical analysis looks at this hotly contested North Germany fixture. One featured plenty of drama right until the end, but it would be Holstein Kiel who stood tall to take all three points.


2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

Ole Werner was pleased with his team’s convincing performance in Karlsruhe last week but was forced to make a change. An injury to man of the match Fabian Reese saw Emmanuel Iyoha come into the side.

Jos Luhukay made only one change from St. Pauli’s 1-1 draw with Stuttgart last time out. On-loan Sheffield Wednesday winger Matt Penney was dropped in favour of Luca Zander. Sebastian Ohlsson switches to left-back to accommodate the change.

Kiel’s use of a false nine

The false nine is in vogue within teams in the 2. Bundesliga with most sides sticking with a traditional number nine. Holstein Kiel this season have utilised the tactics of having a striker dropping between the lines of the opponent’s midfield and defence to cause havoc. Creating uncertainty within the defence whether to track or stay put defensively. Kiel uses Lee Jae-Sung in this role. The South Korean is quick, technically gifted in possession and causes opponents’ defence plenty of uncertainty. Let’s look at how Kiel used the false nine tactics on Monday night.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

Our initial situation showcases the use of Lee as the false nine with possession. When Kiel attacked using Johannes van Den Bergh or left centre-back Stefan Thesker, Lee would aim to drop in between the spaces in front of the two St. Pauli defensive midfielders. This was achievable when Waldemar Sobota presses up alongside Henk Veerman giving Kiel a passing avenue. Here Lee drops into space and receives the pass.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

Again, another situation where Lee is vital in providing the option in attack. This time with a tighter space, Lee’s objective closer to halfway is to either hold possession up or provide space for Salih Özcan to run in to. In this case, it’s the later with Lee playing to space for Özcan to run onto. The false nine at Kiel has been utilised in 21% of games this season, a tactic which works well when the number eight’s push up into the spaces vacated and the wingers press forward.

St. Pauli defensive structures

St. Pauli has had a horrid run away from home; in fact, they are one of two teams in the 2. Bundesliga yet to win on their travels. For a team entrenched in the relegation fight, this is a glaring issue and one that needs rectifying quickly. The defence has been problematic on the road, 18 goals given up in 10 away fixtures see St. Pauli in this predicament. This section of the analysis looks at the defensive structure for St. Pauli.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

The first scenario looks at the defensive structure set by Luhukay. The formation is a 4-2-2-2 in defence with leeway as the number 10 Sobota is allowed to press alongside the striker Veerman. This works when the wingers in Ryo Miyaichi and Viktor Gyökeres play tighter and more central. We spoke earlier about Kiel using a false nine, and we can see how St. Pauli try to combat this. With the use of Johannes Flum and Rico Benatelli in defensive midfield, one tracks Lee as he progresses deeper into midfield while the other sits back in the hole.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

This defensive shape remains with several adjustments made. The first change being switching the two wingers, allowing for some variance in transition and when St. Pauli wins possession back. We also see one of the defensive midfielders being more proactive within the pressing game. With Kiel attacking down the left 44% of the time, the defensive midfielder Benatelli comes to assist the winger on that side.

Finally scoring from set-pieces

Holstein Kiel under Markus Anfang and Tim Walter had great success scoring goals from set-pieces with 14 and 16 goals respectively. Yet heading into their clash with St. Pauli, Die Storche had only managed one goal which was is the worst in the league. However, on Monday night Kiel scored their second set-piece goal of the season. Let’s look at the set-piece tactics used by Kiel, is there a pattern? And what changed that resulted in an elusive goal.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

We have three corner kick routines to analyse; two are quite similar in their approach with the third being the game-winning goal. Kiel uses a mix of corner takers, but in this game, they used Alexander Mühling and Özcan. Both right footed which doesn’t leave a lot variance, Kiel does have the left-footed van Den Bergh who has taken set-pieces but opted not to use him. In the first situation, the Kiel runners make their move from the penalty spot. They are generally making diagonal runs to the edge of the six-yard box. This instance leads to a St. Pauli clearance.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

The following situation on the other side is much the same in almost every way. The only difference being it’s an in-swinging ball into the area. Much like before, the runs made by the Kiel players are towards the six-yard box. Like the previous example, St. Pauli clear the danger, and another set-piece is wasted.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Holstein Kiel vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics

In the game, Holstein Kiel had eight corners in total. Seven of the attempts were almost identical, as the ball comes in, run to the edge of the six-yard. However, the goal scored by Kiel may have caught St. Pauli off guard. The routine of packing the six-yard box tighter than a can of sardines is one that isn’t often successful. However, on this occasion, it was. The lack of movement and crowding of St. Pauli keeper Robin Himmelmann almost took the shot-stopper out of the picture altogether. As a result, Janni Serra headed home from close range to give Kiel the lead once more.

If Kiel take anything away from this match, it should be the importance of variety at dead-ball situations. The element of surprise and providing different looks can throw a defence off; ironically, that unpredictability led to the goal.


Holstein Kiel make it two consecutive wins, and now they sit in sixth place, this seemed incomprehensible early this season under predecessor Andre Schubert. Once again, they were active with possession and controlled the tempo of the game with relative ease. Despite a turbulent end to the game, Kiel were worthy winners.

St. Pauli’s woes away from home continue, now they face the dread of a relegation six-pointer with Dynamo Dresden. The visitors were asleep at the wheel in the first half and once again, they were forced to play catch-up. However, with all the carnage at the end of the match. We could’ve been looking at this match through a different lens had Veerman converted his penalty to make it 2-2.