An awesome home record, a formidable, in-form marksman and an astounding supporting cast: bundesliga.com looks at St. Pauli's Bundesliga 2 campaign and eyes five key components to their 2021/22 success to date.
What a difference a year makes. Just twelve months ago, St. Pauli found themselves precariously placed in 15th spot in the Bundesliga 2 standings and two points above the automatic drop zone as the season reached its halfway point.
This time around, the Boys in Brown are setting the pace at the top of the table following a highly impressive Hinrunde. bundesliga.com offers five key reasons Timo Schultz's side have been flying this season.
1) Goal-king Guido Burgstaller
Nobody could better the ex-Austria international's numbers in the second tier, with veteran goal-getter Burgstaller racking up a formidable 14 goals, four assists and 62 shots in just 18 games as the Kiezkicker stormed the second division from July through December.
The former Nuremberg and Schalke striker - who made the switch to Millerntor-Stadion from Gelsenkirchen in September 2020 - has already bettered his total of 11 goals in 22 second-tier games last term and has been receiving plenty of praise from his teammates.
"To be honest, it's hard to know what to say about him anymore, it's almost like every one of his shots goes in," defender Philipp Ziereis said after Burgstaller registered a double in the recent 2-1 win against former side Schalke, St. Pauli's first against Die Knappen in 25 years. "Guido guides our approach," the Pauli captain added.
2. Home fortress
Simply put, St. Pauli have been awesome at home in 2021/22 so far. An incredible 100 per cent record at their Hamburg home encompasses eight wins, 24 goals scored, and just five conceded. With numbers like that, it's hardly surprising that Schultz's charges have equalled their best-ever start to a campaign in terms of points on the board.
Holstein Kiel (3-0), Jahn Regensburg (2-0), Ingolstadt (4-1), Dynamo Dresden (3-0), Hansa Rostock (4-0), Sandhausen (3-1) and Schalke (2-1) have all felt the full force of a team intent on a return to the top flight for the first time since 2010/11.
However, most memorable of all for the side's loyal fan base was the 3-2 Matchday 2 win against city rivals Hamburg, when a Simon Makienok double followed Finn Becker's opener to send the 10,000 plus supporters inside the Millerntor into ecstasy.
Watch: Pauli beat city rivals Hamburg in five-goal thriller
"It's clear that playing at home in front of fans has an effect," assistant coach Loïc Fave explained later in the season. "I have to admit that I underestimated the effect it has. It's even bigger than you think," the tactician said of the partial return of supporters in the opening half of the campaign.
3. In-game control
Not a team to apply an aggressive press, Pauli seek to conserve energy by controlling the majority of their games with possession, solid positional sense and clever tactical awareness within a 4-3-1-2 formation.
In Daniel-Kofi Kyereh, the Brown-and-Whites have one of the division's finest attacking midfielders who has weighed in to the cause with five goals and nine assists, the Ghanaian's slick forward passing going a long way to ensuring St. Pauli get into the opposition box on average 18 times per game.
Goal machine Burgstaller, meanwhile, summed it all up perfectly: "We're all very down to earth guys. We have had to work hard to achieve success like this and we know we can't take anything for granted yet. We're on the right track and play good football and that's the decisive factor."
4. Variety the spice of life
While their Austrian talisman has led the way in the scoring stakes, the Kiezkicker have had 12 different players on target in their 18 games to this point. Second only to rivals Hamburg in terms of expected goals per game (1.84), St. Pauli are averaging two points per match.
Watch: St. Pauli secured top spot at the midway point with win over Schalke
Now one game past the halfway stage, they have also only been outscored by second-place Darmstadt - 41 goals to 37 - while only four teams have conceded fewer than the league leaders (23).
Speaking after Fortuna Düsseldorf's 1-1 draw with the league leaders, forward Rouwen Hennings said of his former side: "They are the strongest team in the league; they have incredible quality (with) so many very good players. They are rightly up where they there."
5. Stronger together
At the same stage last season, St. Pauli were a team in trouble. A run of 13 games without a win, a lowly league position and creaking morale led many to predict the worst. However, coach Schultz oversaw 10 wins in the second half of the campaign as he led his men to a creditable 10th-place finish. That form has continued into the new campaign, and the division's high flyers are hoping it can lead to a return to the top table come mid-May.
"We as a club stood together [this time last year] and drew the right conclusions,” Schultz recalled. “We try to play our way forward in every game. It's sometimes better, sometimes worse. We were convinced that we could play a solid role [but] we didn't expect it to go this well."
With 27 of 39 second division Hinrunde champions having previously gone on to win promotion to the Bundesliga, everyone connected with St. Pauli will be hoping things can go even better in the second half of the season.