I’ve written here about Paderborn previously, building up to their season and wondering what it might bring. Excitingly enough, the start of the Bundesliga has brought them 4 points from two games after a draw at Mainz was followed up by rather making, ahem, mincemeat, of Hamburg. The new boys, then, are taking to it like a Ducksch to water and sit second behind Bayer Leverkusen. Matchday three brings Bundesliga 2 champions Köln (Cologne if you’d rather) to town, so there’s a chance that positive run may have legs yet.
It was difficult to tell, during their slightly lopsided pre-season, how Paderborn would acclimatise and even, with Breitenreitner testing a great many players, exactly what to expect in the Bundesliga. Two games in, though, and a few things are beginning to emerge strongly.
Before the serious stuff, there’s a quick aside here for a graph showing how many goals Paderborn have been scoring so far – admittedly, a great many in friendlies – which if nothing else indicates their attacking intent. They’ve been well spread, too, with as many as 20 players grabbing goals for them in their ‘games’ to date, as you can see here.
Moving on, then, to the business of the Bundesliga and it’s fair to say that Breitenreitner’s side are a reactionary team. Both games have seen them control less than 40% of possession and both games have seen their best attacks come from wide areas where the full-backs, Daniel Brückner and Jens Wemmer add their numbers to the attack.
It is worth noting that their policy is not generally to swing crosses into the box (neither full-back has a completed cross to his name yet, and the team only seventeen between them, generally split around the midfield) but to manipulate the ball towards the middle of the penalty area from where the likes of Mario Vrancic, exemplified in the win at Hamburg, can exploit holes in the defence to wriggle free and shoot at goal.
Revelatory it is not, but the more central a position a shot is taken from, the more likely it is to go in. The same is true of proximity; with Paderborn having managed to ensure that 60% of their shots come from inside the penalty area, and as high a figure as 16% come from inside the 6-yard-box, it’s clear to see how they’ve racked up 5 goals already.
There was a very definite difference between home and away set-ups from Breitenreitner, too. Against Mainz, Paderborn were a very ‘definite₁’ 4-4-2 with Kachunga and Kutschke up front on their own and Hünemeier stepping forward when possible to add a bit of extra punch to the midfield; of course he scored in that game.
A week later at Hamburg, it was Ziegler, who had started alongside Uwe Hünemeier in the first match, who took the defensive midfield role in a 4-1-4-1; Christian Strohdiek making up the back four. Of course, that meant that Mario Vrancic, who had tended backwards in the 4-4-2 stayed in a more central position, which in turn meant that Marvin Bakalorz was free to join Kachunga in the attack.
Two very different games have brought two very different Paderborns, which gives some truth to the thought that Breitenreitner (It translates as ‘Width-rider’, which sounds gloriously sci-fi) is able to switch his team around. Interestingly enough, during perhaps Paderborn’s biggest pre-season test, against Everton, he used a 4-2-3-1, with Lukas Rupp (hencetoforth just a substitute in the Bundesliga) acting as the central figure in the attacking midfielder with Stoppelkamp and Bakalorz either side of him.
It’s possible that he used the same in the game against Maccabi Haifa, with Ducksch up top on his own, and Kachunga part of the midfield; if so, that outing also led to a 0-1 deficit leading up to half-time – I suspect it will be a while before Breitenreitner deigns to use that set-up for a Bundesliga game.
Chris Long gave Everton the lead, before a Stoppelkamp penalty brought the home side level, but after switching briefly through their 4-1-4-1 and ended up winning 3-1 using the ‘familiar’ 4-4-2. It is that 4-4-2 that I expect to see more often from Paderborn during the season, though Breitenreitner experimented enough with 4-1-4-1 during the previous campaign and pre-season to suggest that will be their fall-back should they need to shore it up.
Hamburg away, evidently, was one of those games, though a 3-goal margin was perhaps generous – the home side, even with their pressure to get back level before Vrancic’s 68th minute goal, ended up with fewer shots than the Bundesliga newcomers – and far fewer on target; Paderborn deserved their win, even if Stoppelkamp’s goal was a numerical cherry on the top.
It will be interesting to see where Paderborn go from here. Obviously, their squad is untested, though by way of that, promising Dortmund youngster Marvin Ducksch sits in the wings as well as the versatile midfielder Lukas Rupp and Saliou Sané.
In the end, all we know is that Paderborn have made a good start. They’ve been worth their four points and, having conceded a last-gasp penalty to draw with Mainz, might well have been worth six. Their first XI has come into the Bundesliga and hit the ground running, which bodes well for the season. They won’t finish in the same second position they occupy now, of course, at the end of the campaign, but there’s nothing to stop them continuing to impress.
₁Such as they are – it was fluid enough