The Hamburger Stadt derby is always a big game in the city, especially for the fans from both sides. In these games, teams forget the table and sometimes the tactics while the focus is on winning and to be the number one. St.Pauli came to this away game as the clear underdogs. Their season has been full of ups and downs, so by beating their rival, the St.Pauli players could give something to cheer about for the fans. On the other side, Hamburger SV are chasing straight promotion back to the Bundesliga.

As a mid-table team, St. Pauli have changed their formation several times during the season. Hamburg SV have used the same formation throughout the season. In this tactical analysis, we take a closer look at both teams’ tactical approach to the game.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
Hamburg’s 1-4-3-3 Formation
2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
St. Pauli’s 1-3-3-2-2 / 1-3-5-2 Formation

St. Pauli’s approach to the game

As we mentioned, St. Pauli started this game as clear underdogs. They needed a good plan to get best the possible result from the game. Manager Jos Luhukay chose the 1-3-3-2-2 / 1-3-1-4-2 formations with a very defensive approach. In this analysis, we could find it was nothing special tactically, just working to get the best out of basic defending actions in a very compact way. They managed to do that for 90 minutes.

Defending

St. Pauli pressed high for goal-kicks with half man-marking and half zonal. This tactical move was one of the biggest reasons why St. Pauli won the game – Hamburg SV couldn’t find the way to play out from their own half fast enough. St. Pauli often forced their opponent to play their right side.  

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
St. Pauli high press in goal-kick situations

Wingers did long runs to press HSV’s full-backs, while two strikers stayed in the middle and supported the central midfielders. 

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
Strikers closed middle and forced opponent play to the sides

The man-to-man press was very clear and organised, resulting in HSV trying to find more options by using their goalkeeper as a sweeper playmaker.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
The man-to-man press was very effective. HSV tried to find more options with using their goalkeeper in the build-up

In the middle block defensive phase, the whole team were very narrow. By doing this they forced HSV away from the dangerous areas. 

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
In the middle block defence, St.Pauli were compact vertically and horizontally. Because of this, they kept HSV away from the dangerous areas

When HSV did manage to play to the wings, there was always an equal number of players. 

Tactically, St. Pauli’s plan was to force opponent play to the sides and then they made 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 situations there. One main reason why they managed to do that was their formation while defending. With the 1-5-3-2 formation, they were compact and close enough to get support in pressing situations on both sides.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
Through the game, St.Pauli made 2 v 2 or 3 v 3 situations to the sides and that closed options from HSV to get in the places to cross

At the same time, there were enough players in the box. Despite this, HSV still managed to get crosses into the box. during the game. It was more of an HSV weakness that they couldn’t use the huge gap in front of the St. Pauli’s box line.

St. Pauli‘s low block defending was very organised and compact. There was no space behind the defensive line for penetrations. With this defensive action, they forced their opponent to play to the areas which was their strategy for this game. In some cases, this opened huge spaces in the central areas. 

St. Pauli used the same half zonal and half man-marking approach in their own half that they used while pressing higher up on the field. Actually, when they defended in their mid-block there was a clear zonal defensive style. Basically, they defended in three different ways depending on where it happened. This hybrid style was very interesting to watch.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
While defending deep, St.Pauli used man-marking and zonal defending as a mixture

Transitions

St. Pauli scored their first goal from a counter but besides that, there was no structured style or purpose for how they wanted to play those moments. All counters seemed more to be based on ”intuition” and hope rather than clear tactical purpose. The two strikers were targets and many times in these situations, there were only 3-4 players who participated and because of that, they couldn’t manage to build up good scoring chances. 

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
Often, only a few players participated in the counters. Especially after the 70th minute, when they wanted to secure their lead

In the second half after 70 minutes, fewer players participated in counters. Normal transitions were really slow and it looked like more a slow attack than a counter-attack. It was a very clever tactical change to keep 2-0 lead.

After they lost the ball, the whole team did transition very quickly from attack to defence. The strategy was to drop deep instead of starting a counter-press and try to win the ball higher up the field. With this plan, they managed to have enough players to organise the defence and prevent their opponents’ fast attacks. 

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
The defensive strategy was to drop deep instead of starting a counter-press and tried to win the ball higher up the field. By doing this, HSV couldn’t find enough space to fast counters

Attacking

The attacking was not structured. The whole strategy for this game was based on counters and organised defending. What was very noticeable was FCSP lost the ball very often after two or three passes, even if the HSV press was not very strong. These actions forced them to switch back to the defensive rather than play longer attacks. Also by losing the ball so easily, organised attacks were impossible.

2. Bundesliga 2019/20: Hamburg SV vs St. Pauli - tactical analysis tactics
2 v 5 underload in midfield during a build-up. There were many moments when St.Pauli didn’t have enough players inside of HSV’s defensive formation

Conclusion

Throughout the game, HSV kept possession and their plan was to build scoring opportunities by attacking line by line. They created many good chances to score even though St. Pauli defended really well. Because of the chosen strategy, St.Pauli were more focused on defending and preventing goal-scoring opportunities from HSV. They managed to do this task well and got three points. It worked in this game but it’s likely that if these teams played five games, HSV would win four of them.

Because of this defence-oriented playing style, St. Pauli attacking was more focused on counter-attacks. In possession, they lost the ball quickly and were forced to defend even more. The biggest worry for the St.Pauli fans is the team’s inability to keep possession and play with a more structured style when attacking.

This Hamburger Stadt derby was very entertaining after all and gave a lot for the spectators. At the same time, for the manager Hecking, it gave a lot to reflect on. If HSV really want to fight for promotion, they should be winning these kinds of games against weaker opponents. By losing points in games like these, it’s a good way to miss out on the top flight. With this win in the Hamburger Stadt derby, St. Pauli took a step to secure their 2. Bundesliga spot for the next season.

Akusti Salonen
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