To speak of a turning point would be an exaggeration. After all, FC St. Pauli is a well-established second-division football club that is playing in the Bundesliga lower house for the twelfth consecutive season. Here, however, Braun-Weiss wintered in 15th place in the table, which resulted in a change in the post of head coach. Ironically, fan favorite Timo Schultz was released at the beginning of December, in which Fabian Hürzeler promoted his 29-year-old assistant coach to head coach shortly before Christmas Eve.
He and his newly formed team are now responsible for the first time. FC plays on Sunday (1:30 p.m. / Sky and in the live ticker on WELT.de) at 1. FC Nürnberg and actually has to win against the eleventh in the table in order to leave the danger zone as quickly as possible.
After only three wins in the first half of the season, the Kiezkicker is also a seismograph for sporting development. After a generally bleak year as a whole - Schultz was also counted in the balance sheet for the disastrous second half of the previous season - all signs point to readjustment: new coach, new signings, tactical changes. In the friendlies, St. Pauli was quite ambitious. The Hürzeler team beat top Swiss club FC Lugano 7-2 and Bundesliga club Gladbach 1-0. Most recently there was a 0-0 draw against the Danish first division club FC Midtjylland.
In Hürzeler's tactical route, it is noticeable that he plays a 3-4-2-1. So a tendency towards a chain of five to create defensive stability compared to the first half of the season. In addition to better protection, the offensive game has to ignite more. Again and again Schultz' eleven had a visual and playful dominance, but hardly got into the decisive interfaces and spaces.
Instead, attacks that were actually well carried out fizzled out in the last meters. A self-confident and consistently implemented attack flow must first be worked out again. Hürzeler said about the trend-setting game in Franconia: "Everyone can read the table and everyone knows what situation we are in." The goal could only be a win. "Even so, I'm a coach trying to work with content goals for each player personally and what they can impact in a game."
St. Pauli signed four new players. Karol Mets (29, came on loan from reigning Swiss champions FC Zurich) is an Estonian international and is supposed to stabilize the defense as a central defender. He will start against the "Clubberer" in the back three. It will also be interesting to see how the three new attackers Elis Saad (23, Eintracht Norderstedt), the Brazilian Maurides (28, Radomiak/Poland) and Oladapo Afolayan (25, Bolton Wanderers) fit into the team.
However, bank spaces are initially reserved for them. But the offensive at St. Pauli is a kind of black box. It is clear that Hürzeler will muster a real top. The favorite here is David Otto, who made you want more in the friendlies and has left Maximilian Eggestein behind in the attacking hierarchy. Maurides paws behind with his hooves, Saad and Afolayan are trained left wingers and should liven up the wing.
However, Hürzeler did not want to stylize an artificial competition here. "I've always emphasized that I was very happy with the squad that was already there. Just because new ones come doesn't mean I'll switch right away. The guys who were there, like the new ones, played a great preparation.
It's a competition that enlivens the training. The intensity is very high," he said. "I keep emphasizing that the players who supposedly play from the start are challenged to the maximum by those who probably won't start."
With the new assistant trainer Peter Nemeth (50), the young, quite inexperienced Hürzeler also gets an old driving man of the industry to the side. The two new coaches can also fall back on an experienced line-up of keeper Nikola Vasilj, left-back and captain Leart Paqarada, as well as midfielders Afeez Aremu, Eric Smith, Jackson Irvine and Marcel Hartel. Center forward Igor Matanovic, on loan from Eintracht Frankfurt, will leave the club after a disappointing year and a half.
It will also be interesting to see how the mood in and around the cult club unfolds. With almost 30,000 spectators, the stadium is sold out every home game, St. Pauli has long since arrived in the modern age and has become a top brand in German professional football.
Club president Oke Göttlich warned, not without good reason, in a heated speech after the unsuccessful first half of the season that all parameters were at least in the top third of the table, only the sport was lagging behind. His colleague, Chief Financial Officer Bernd von Geldern, a level-headed person with numbers, is reporting one piece of good news after the other, despite the years of crisis.
The club is debt-free, the Millerntor Stadium, a showpiece in the heart of St. Pauli, is owned by the club and will probably be paid off in a few years, and the self-confident club also does its own lucrative merchandising.
The only weak point in the leadership phalanx is sports director Andreas Bornemann. The Schultz resignation, for which he was accused of cumbersome communication at the general meeting in mid-December, is hanging on him. If his successor Hürzeler is not successful, Bornemann's chair could also wobble.
Another problem against Nuremberg, where 3200 Hamburg fans are expected, could be the away weakness of St. Pauli. The team picked up a total of three points from nine guest appearances this season and hasn't won away from home for eleven months. Hürzeler now promises: “We will not be passive, but active. We'll try to establish a majority. Against the ball, but also with the ball. We will follow our principles, our game.”