It’s been a good season. A very good season. A surprising season that promised very little but that delivered big. Having fought off relegation last season and with a smaller budget from which to re-build the squad, the expectations from the management can’t have been much more than re-stabiling the club. That was before Marcel Halstenberg was courted by RB Leipzig, and the club and the player couldn’t turn down the mega bucks that are being thrown around by the drinks company. So late was the agreement that it meant St. Pauli had no time to reinvest the money or to find a replacement, if required.
Nürnberg’s comeback at the weekend from 0-2 down at home to Union Berlin to win 6-2 gave them a 9 point lead over St. Pauli, and with a vastly superior goal difference, it all but meant that St. Pauli will be plying their trade in the 2.Bundesliga again next season.
In recent weeks the club has moved to plan for next season, and the main area of improvement has to be the strikers. The club has little choice but to bring in new strikers, as Lennart Thy and (Big) John Verhoek will both leave on free transfers at the end of the season to join Werder Bremen and Heidenheim respectively. Ante Budimir has impressed at Crotone in Serie B this season, and they have secured his signature after securing promotion to Serie A. That leaves Fafa Picault as the only recognised striker. The club have struggled (yet) again with a lack of a goalscoring striker, and defensive midfielder Rzatkowski is the joint top-goalscorer with 7. Lennart Thy also has 7, but 4 of those came in one remarkable game. If St. Pauli are going to challenge for the top 3 next season, a striker who can score 10-15 goals is vital.
Aziz Bouhaddouz will join in the summer on a free transfer, and the striker from Sandhausen has 9 goals to his name in the 2.Bundesliga this season, and would probably have had more but for an injury in the opening weeks of the campaign.
Another free transfer incoming will be Vegar Eggen Hedenstad, a Norwegian right-back from Freiburg. He’s only featured 6 times and for a total of 89 minutes for the league leaders this season, and he spent the previous season on loan at Eintracht Braunschweig.With 4 national team appearances, he could turn out to be a good signing.
The other signing to date is Richard Neudecker, a 19 year old from 1860 Munich. The German youth international midfielder has made 6 appearances for 1860 this season comes with potential.
So where else do St. Pauli need to improve next season? Firstly, the club must look at how else could leave at the end of the current campaign. A number of players are out of contract and look set to leave – most notably Enis Alushi and Seb Maier. Several youngsters like Kurt, Startsev, Deichmann are all out of contract at the end of the season, as if Fafa Picault – but i’d expect his contract to be extended. There’s also understandable interest from the Bundesliga for Marc Rzatkowski, who has a contract until the summer of 2017.
The club have had a wealth of midfielders in recent seasons, but with Alushi and Maier looking likely to leave there’s an gap in the squad for a midfielder. Sobota has again been great in midfield, and Marc Rzatkowski has been a revelation as a defensive midfielder. If we could add another central midfielder and an attacking midfielder to play behind the striker, the squad would be very healthy. I don’t think defensively the club needs to change any of the personnel, but the main priority has to be rebuilding the strikeforce. The last St. Pauli player to hit double figures in the goalscoring charts was Daniel Ginczek in 2012/13. His 18 goals is only beaten in recent times by Marius Ebbers’ 20 goals in 2009/10. Before these two, the last St. Pauli striker to score 15 goals in a season was Marcel Rath at the start of the decade. It’s a bit unrealistic to expect a striker to match Ginczek or Ebbers’ tally, but we can’t have another season where our strikers fail to reach anywhere near double figures if we realistically want to challenge for promotion.
With all that said, with the dream team of Lienen and Meggle in charge, we trust they’ll deliver another great season!