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The Second Tier: Season Preview

13 Jul

Hi everyone, it’s been a while. Thanks to all for being so patient for the last month whilst I’ve been away but as promised, I’m back and ready for the start of the 2.Bundesliga season on Friday. Here we go…

It’s the 13th July. In just two days time, before the extremely successful Women’s World Cup has drawn to a close, Germany’s unified second division will kick off for a 20th time. It seems a bizarre time to be starting a season – in the height of summer – but when voted on, only tiny FSV Frankfurt opposed the motion. (Although Bochum gaffer Friedhelm Funkel didn’t mince his words when more recently slating the ‘shit’ decision.)

Of course then, FSV would be one of the four teams to get the ball rolling. The other three – East German outfits.

Last season was something of a renaissance for former DDR-Oberliga sides. Although 2011/12 will be the third year running that all eighteen sides in the top tier are from the former West, both Hansa Rostock and Dynamo Dresden were promoted from the 3.Liga. With Union Berlin, Energie Cottbus and Erzgebirge Aue also there, the 2.Bundesliga will have five representatives from the former East – the most since the league was unified in 1992/1993.

Eintracht have required well since relegation

So what can we expect from this season, save for some feisty games between these Eastern sides and culture-club St. Pauli? It could be the most competitive promotion race in years. Assuming Eintracht live up to their billing – you can only get around 2/1 on them ending up champions – the fight for second and third could involve any two from around 10 teams.

The relegation battle could be equally as tense. The promoted clubs will be looking to get to around 37 points as quick as possible, and the teams that narrowly avoided the drop last season – Ingolstadt, Paderborn, Karlsruhe and the likes – are all likely to struggle again whilst teams like Union, FSV and even a side like Aachen could be dragged in.

So what do we think will happen? I’ll start with my expectations but please feel free to add to the debate below! It’s always a good laugh come May when we’ve accurately predicted nothing but our own idiocy.

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2010/11 Season Review: St. Pauli

10 Jun

Position: 18th

 Average attendance: 24,258 (16th)

Number of sell outs: 11 (7th)

Top scorer: Gerald Asamoah (6)

Most assists: Gerald Asamoah (6)

Red cards: 5 (Asamoah, Bartels, Kalla, Kessler, Thorandt)

Most minutes: Matthias Lehmann – 2902

Season review (written by Leeds United and St. Pauli fan Scott Stubbs (@stubbsylufc))

Downhill from here: Asmoah celebrates his winner at Hamburg

It was a season that for quite a while promised so much, but in the end, the seemingly inevitable occurred. A football season often has defining moments. St. Pauli’s defining moment should have been February 16th 2011: the fixture highlighted by all St. Pauli followers when the fixtures for the season were announced, a short trip across the city to play Hamburger SV.  St. Pauli recorded a historic 1-0 victory over their city neighbours. The result was a third successive victory, after two home victories against Köln and then Borussia Mönchengladbach. The defeat of Hamburg propelled St. Pauli up to 11th in the table, sitting comfortably on 28 points after 22 games. A club written off at the start of the season appeared to be on the brink of safety.

Unfortunately, the remaining twelve games saw St. Pauli suffer eleven defeats, picking up the only remaining point of the season in a 2-2 draw against fellow relegation-strugglers Wolfsburg. It was a catastrophic end to the season, which saw St. Pauli end the campaign at the bottom of the Bundesliga standings.

So where did it go wrong for St. Pauli? One big problem during the season was the loss of key players after the Christmas break – particularly in defensive areas. Ahead of the game against Hannover at the end of February, St. Pauli manager Holger Stanislawski – or Stani as he is known – resorted to calling up 30 year old press officer Hauke Brückner to the squad, due to the availability of only four fit defenders.  Markus Thorandt, who played 29 times, was the only Pauli defender to play more than 20 of the Bundesliga games. These injuries came at a crucial time, and stopped the momentum that had been gathered by picking up three straight victories. In a squad that had the weakest financial backing in the league, the injuries were a major catalyst in their eventual relegation from the top flight.

Holger Stanislawski's last home game of an 18-year affiliation with Pauli was an 8-1 loss to Bayern

Another factor would be the obvious lack of goals scored. The top scorer was the marquee signing of the summer, Gerald Asamoah – who scored a mere 6 goals. Pauli scored 35 goals during the season, averaging just over a goal per game, but conceded 68 – including eight in one game against Bayern Munich. St. Pauli had earned promotion to the 2.Bundesliga with a free-flowing blend of attacking football, but they struggled to adapt this against better quality opposition. Asamoah often cut a frustrated figure playing as the lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation, and the lack of goals throughout the squad was something that could, and perhaps should, have been addressed.

Pauli also failed to make their home ground, the Millerntor, a fortress and had the worst home record in the league – picking up only four victories all season. The Millerntor perhaps ought to have been a difficult place for opponents to attend, with a fervent fan base and a small, intimidating ground, but it wasn’t to be.

St. Pauli also seemed to have a penchant for conceding late goals, which ultimately cost them points which could have been the difference in them surviving. During the barren spell after the victory against Hamburg, St. Pauli conceded in the last minute at home to Hannover 96 to lose the game 1-0, and also at home against fellow strugglers Stuttgart a couple of weeks later, to lose 2-1 in a game which they had led. They also led in the relegation battle against Wolfsburg away from home in April, but conceded a last minute equaliser to draw the game 2-2. You could put this down to naivety, or simply tired players with less stamina than their opponents who are more accustomed to the Bundesliga.

In the end, it was a mixture of bad luck, a lack of quality and perhaps a little naivety which saw St. Pauli relegated. It was a result that the vast majority of people had expected at the start of the season, but the way in which the season had fallen apart after the victory against bitter rivals Hamburg was remarkable.

Highlight of the season

The obvious choice, really. The 1-0 victory over Hamburg was the highlight for the ‘other team from Hamburg’. Gerald Asamoah’s 59th minute goal will live long in the memory of Pauli supporters. The celebrations after the goal and subsequently at the final whistle were akin to winning a trophy, with players and fans alike celebrating a huge victory that the club and its supporters had waited a long time for.

Low point of the season

From a footballing point of view, the obvious disappointment was the number of late goals conceded in vital games towards the end of the season when points should have been gained. Another notable disappointment was the 88th minute equaliser for Hamburg by Mladen Petric during the derby game at the Millerntor. However, the low point of the season has to be the beer-throwing incident during the game against Schalke at the Millerntor, where the linesman was hit during the closing minutes of the game by a plastic cup of beer that had been thrown from the St Pauli section.

Player of the season: Matthias Lehmann

A difficult choice, due to the injury plight of many key players during the season which meant many played a bit-part role, and also the lack of a goalscorer to claim the plaudits. Therefore, the selection has to be to Matthias Lehmann, who was almost an ever-present in the centre of midfield for St Pauli. With his composure on the ball, his dominance in midfield and his ability to act as a playmaker, Lehmann was the key man. Lehmann has joined Eintracht Frankfurt this summer, and will be a big loss to St Pauli next season.

Honourable mentions: Fabian Boll, Thomas Kessler, Carlos Zambrano

Best signing: Gerald Asamoah

Pauli’s big summer signing gave his all and never complained. Despite some rather ridiculous off the pitch behaviour – involving his wife, a mistress, a knife and some hamburgers – Asamoah finished the season with six goals and six assists in an ultimately failed bid to save Sankt.

What now for St Pauli?

Ex-Paderborn manager Andre Schubert will replace 'Stani'

With the loss of key player Lehmann to Frankfurt and Stani leaving to manage Hoffenheim, a summer of change at the Millerntor will be overseen by new coach Andre Schubert – previously coach of Paderborn 07. Pauli have already brought in three signings, goalkeeper Philipp Tschauner from TSV 1860 München, full-back Sebastian Schachten from Borussia Mönchengladbach and Lasse Sobiech who is a central defender on loan from Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. The aim? Promotion back to the Bundesliga.

Season Rating: E

Another single season in the top flight for Pauli had more than its fair share of hope, but ultimately eleven defeats from twelve to close the season was simply too bad to survive.


Bundesliga – Week 33 – CL, EL and Relegation matters

5 May

Title bagged, now tightest defence ever?

23 year-old Schmelzer has played minute in a defence that has conceded just 19 goals

Borussia Dortmund deservedly wrapped up their fourth Bundesliga title and seventh German Championship last Saturday with a 2-0 over Nürnberg. Having conceded a paltry 19 times all season, Dortmund are still on course to beat Bayern Munich’s 06-07 season record of 22. With 14 clean sheets and only one side (Bayer Leverkusen in week 1) managing to put two past BVB’s youthful back four, it is more than likely the Bavarians’ record will go.

The Champions League

Despite their 2-0 loss at local rivals Köln, Bayer Leverkusen (2nd, 64 pts) bagged a place in next year’s Champions

Thomas Müller scored twice as Bayern demolished weary looking Schalke

League as Hannover 96 (4th, 57 pts) slipped up at home to ‘Gladbach. This week, die Werkself can make sure they don’t have to go through the qualifiers with a home win against Hamburg.

Bayern Munich (59 pts) took advantage of 96’s disastrous slip to reclaim 3rd with a comprehensive 4-1 win at home to Schalke. With two games to play, it’ll be a real shock should Bayern not be playing in Europe’s premier club competition next season. They travel to St. Pauli this Saturday knowing a win coupled with any Hannover slip-up at Stuttgart would see them home.

Final two fixtures:

  • Bayern Munich – St Pauli (A), Stuttgart (H) – 3rd, 59 pts, +33
  • Hannover 96 – Stuttgart (A), Nürnberg (H) – 4th, 57 pts, +3

The Europa League

It’s all gone wrong for Nürnberg (6th, 47 pts) these past two weeks. A win against Mainz in week 31 would’ve put them in the driving seat for 5th. As it happened, Mainz 05 (5th, 52 pts) came away with a well-earned point, then demolished local rivals Eintracht Frankfurt last week whilst Dieter Hecking’s side were being steamrollered by Deutscher Meister Dortmund.

Mainz need just two points from their last two games to ensure they’ll be playing European football in their new Coface Arena next season:

  • Mainz 05 – Schalke (A), St Pauli (H) – 5th, 52 pts, +10
  • Nürnberg – Hoffenheim (H), Hannover 96 (A) – 6th, 47 pts, +5

The Relegation Battle

Mathematically, 10 teams in the Bundesliga can still go down. It’d be a miracle if any of Hoffenheim, Schalke or Kaiserslautern dropped but they still all need a point for the DFL to note their names next to ‘Bundesliga 2011/2.’

  • Hoffenheim – Nürnberg (A), Wolfsburg (H) – 9th, 40 pts, +1
  • Schalke – Mainz 05 (H), Köln (A) – 10th, 40 pts, -3
  • Kaiserslautern – Wolfsburg (A), Werder Bremen (H) – 11th, 40 pts, -5

Only three teams have picked up more points than Stuttgart (12th, 39 pts) since the turn, and all three occupy the Champions League spots with two to play. At Christmas, with only 12 pts, the Swabians looked relegation certs. Travelling to fortress Köln in week 30, they sat just two points above 17th. Three wins on the spin later and Bruno Labbadia’s side are effectively, because of their positive goal difference, just a point away from survival. With their form, they are more likely to affect the Champions League places than the relegation battle with games against Hannover and Bayern to come.

  • Stuttgart – Hannover (H), Bayern Munich (A) – 12th, 39 pts, +1

Following Stuttgart come two teams on 38 pts – Werder Bremen (13th) and Köln (14th) – who both saw a reversal in form last weekend. After an eight game unbeaten run (including four 1-1 draws and three 3-1 away wins), Thomas Schaaf’s side were beaten 1-0 and dragged somewhat back into the scrap by a resurgent Wolfsburg side. On the other hand, Köln, now under the leadership of Volker Finke, won the Rhein derby to end a miserable run of heavy defeats. This week both can end all relegation fears with a win. Bremen host champions Dortmund whilst Köln face a key match at Frankfurt that they daren’t lose. Losses could see them both sweating on the last day, should Wolfsburg also get a result.

  • Werder Bremen – Dortmund (H), Kaiserslautern (A) – 13th, 38 pts, -15

    Still sweating - both Werder Bremen and Wolfsburg need points

  • Köln – Eintracht Frankfurt (A), Schalke (H) – 14th, 38 pts, – 18

As mentioned, Wolfsburg (15th, 35 pts) have been resurgent in recent weeks. Their win at Bremen last week was straight on the back of a 4-1 win at home to Köln. A win this weekend could see them safe should Frankfurt slip up. Felix Magath’s side have a relatively favourable run in, facing two sides almost certainly safe.

  • Wolfsburg – Kaiserslautern (H), Hoffenheim (A) – 15th, 35 pts, -6

Eintracht Frankfurt (16th, 34 pts) have been the worst Bundesliga side this calendar year – collecting a measly 8 points in 15 games. They have only scored SIX goals in 2011. If it wasn’t for their best first half performance since three points for a win began, they’d be long gone. Their free-falling spring term finally saw them drop into the bottom three after last weekend’s derby loss at Mainz. Christoph Daum needs to use every last one of his motivational clichés for the Eagles’ last two fixtures else they could be back in the second tier after six top flight seasons.

  • Eintracht Frankfurt – Köln (H), Dortmund (A) – 16th, 34 pts, -14

Despite three wins and two, maybe harsh, definitely late, defeats to Europe-chasing sides in their last 5, Borussia M’gladbach (17th, 32 pts) are still on the verge of relegation this weekend. A defeat to Freiburg on Saturday, together with positive results for Eintracht and Wolfsburg would see them down. A win would set up a tense last day with up to five sides involved.

  • ‘Gladbach – Freiburg (H), Hamburg (A) – 17th, 32 pts, -19

With Pauli’s run in, not too many would back them finishing above their now customary top flight spot, 18th, having finished there in ’97 and 2002. Not since 1996 have they finished above 18th – avoiding the drop in 15th. St. Pauli (18th, 29 pts) have the unenviable task of beating Bayern Munich to keep their ever-slimming chances of avoiding the drop alive. Even then they are reliant on Frankfurt losing at home to Köln.

  • St. Pauli – Bayern Munich (H), Mainz (A) – 18th, 29 pts, -25