St. Pauli earned just six points from a possible 21 in the final stretch of last season, a slump that meant the Hamburg-based side narrowly missed out on promotion to the Bundesliga. Now, however, they’re back and determined to go one better in 2022/23.
bundesliga.com outlines five reasons why the Kiezkicker can return to the top flight this term…
1) Consistency at the top
Pauli go into the season with a familiar face on the touchline in that of head coach Timo Schultz. The 44-year-old spent seven years at the club as a player, making well over 100 competitive appearances, and he remained on the books as a youth coach after hanging up his boots for good in 2012.
Having taken the reins in July 2020, Schultz is going into his third season as first-team boss, providing the kind of stability and consistency all clubs strive for but only few attain.
He guided Pauli to a 10th-place finish (on 47 points) in his first season and ended up in fifth last time out (with 57), a 10-point improvement that was rewarded with a contract extension earlier this year.
"Both sides have always emphasised the esteem in which the other is held, and the contract extension is a logical consequence of that,” said sporting director Andreas Bornemann. “We want to continue our journey with Timo, and so I'm delighted to have clarity over our future relationship beyond the end of this season."
A similar upturn in 2022/23 would surely be enough to make it back to the Bundesliga. Indeed, gaining promotion is something Schultz knows plenty about, having done so as a player with Pauli in 2010.
2) Home fortress
Famed as Germany’s leading cult club, St. Pauli have a hardcore, passionate fanbase – not to mention well over 25,000 members - that fills their 29,500 capacity Millerntor Stadion at every home game.
It should come as no surprise, then, that such vociferous support can carry the players on the pitch – something that was reflected in their results last term.
Schultz’s charges ended the campaign with the best home record in the division on 37 points with a goal difference of plus 20, having won 11, drawn four and lost just two league games.
A repeat of that in the new season will once again make life very tough indeed for any visiting teams, while driving Pauli’s promotion bid.
3) Improved defence
The famous sporting adage states that while goals win games, it is defence that wins championships. Schultz will no doubt have had that at the back of his mind over the summer, given that his side conceded 46 times last season; no team in the top seven let in more.
That leaky backline is especially worrying given that city rivals Hamburg had the best rearguard in Bundesliga 2 after shipping just 35 times and only narrowly missing out on promotion via the play-offs.
All of which led to Pauli seeking reinforcements over the summer, and they were swift to bring in 21-year-old centre-back David Nemeth from Mainz, following a loan spell in Austria with Sturm Graz, where he scored twice in 32 outings.
"David is still young but gained regular match practice at a high level and did very well during his spell at Sturm Graz,” said Schultz. “We're confident he can play a key role for us straightaway. His two-footedness is another plus point, as he offers flexibility in central defence and also copes well with different systems."
Not only that, but the club also brought in Greece international right-back Manolis Saliakas, someone Schultz described as able to “make an impact at both ends of the field and be a valuable addition for us. He's attacks the ball with venom and brings a lot of dynamism going forward. He's also responsible for lots of set pieces at his current club, so he gives us more options in this area.”
4) Fresh start
The Boys in Brown had the fourth-best attack in Bundesliga 2 last time out with 61 goals, but Guido Burgstaller (18 scored, seven assists), Daniel-Kofi Kyereh (12, nine) and Finn Becker (two, four) have all now departed, taking with them a huge chunk of the team’s goal threat.
Nevertheless, as tough as the losses of such influential players will be, it also opens the door for others to fill the void. For example, left-back Leart Paqarada chipped in with two goals and 10 assists last term – only two players in the whole division managed more provisions than that.
Furthermore, Simon Makienkok scored six times and Marcel Hartel four, so there are still plenty of players who know where the goal is.
And that is even before taking into account the arrival of former Werder Bremen forward Johannes Eggestein, who is back in northern Germany following a spell at Belgian side Royal Antwerp.
“Johannes is an effective striker with a range of key skills and international experience,” said Schultz. “He’ll give us more options and variation in our attacking play. I'm delighted to welcome him to the squad and pleased that the competition for places up front is hotting up.”
5) Aussie power
Jackson Irvine proved a hit in midfield in his debut season at Pauli in 2021/22, registering one goal and three assists in 28 Bundesliga 2 outings (23 starts).
His first year at the club may have ended in disappointment, but the 29-year-old returns after the summer break having helped Australia qualify for the FIFA World Cup this year, scoring a crucial goal in the play-off semi-final win over the United Arab Emirates, then playing all 120 minutes of the play-off final against Peru.
Irvine will be determined to be have a good few months for Pauli before he gets on the plane to Qatar, and he will be joined in midfield by 22-year-old Aussie compatriot Connor Metcalfe, who arrived on a transfer from Melbourne City FC
“Connor can occupy various positions in central midfield and will give us more options and flexibility from next season,” said Schultz of the new arrival. “He's still young and we'll have to allow him a little time to acclimatise after his move. The fact that he'll be hooking up with a teammate from the national team in Jackson Irvine is sure to help him settle in."
The prospect of having two battling players in the middle of the park eager to make their country’s World Cup squad can only bode well for Pauli.
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