Simply to survive was the pre-season target for Paderborn after they surprisingly clinched promotion from the 2. Bundesliga the previous year. Having won promotion from the Dritte Liga in 2018, it came as a massive shock to find them taking their place in the topflight rather than favourites HSV. However, with talismen Philipp Klement and Bernard Tekpetey, who hit 26 of the team’s 76 goals the season before, moved onto pastures new, it was always going to be an uphill struggle for the club from Westfalen.
And so it proved with relegation confirmed on matchday 32 after having spent the majority of the season rooted to the foot of the table. Speaking after their defeat to Union trainer Steffen Baumgart said, “Unfortunately, you have to say that it wasn’t enough. 20 points two games before the end of the season are not enough for this league, we have to admit that.”
The horrible truth is that this season Paderborn were just not good enough for the Bundesliga and as the worst team, deservedly return to the second tier. It was a definite case of punching above their weight.
If they were under any illusions or carrying any optimism over from the previous season, then they were soon brought down to earth once the Bundesliga season got underway. One point from their opening eight matches highlighted just what a challenge the season was going to provide and put everyone at the club under no illusions as to the battle ahead.
A 2-0 win over Fortuna Düsseldorf on matchday nine finally brought a modicum of joy, but there would be just two further wins (v Werder and Frankfurt) before the Winterpause and Paderborn finished the Hinrunde firmly fixed to the bottom of the table with just 12 points to their name. They did run Borussia Dortmund very close at the Signal Iduna Park on matchday 12 with the home side needing an 84th minute goal from Axel Witsel and a 92nd minute equaliser from Marco Reus to rescue a point.
A win over Freiburg in the second game back after the Christmas break engendered a glimmer of hope, but they were to be the last three points garnered meaning a return to the second tier was always going to be a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’. They lost five and drew one up until the Corona virus interruption, and things didn’t improve after the restart with four draws and five defeats.
The last time Paderborn were relegated from the Bundesliga at the end of the 2014-15 season, they had amassed 31 points, this time around it was a mere 20.
In a season which ended in an instant return to the second tier, it might seem hard to find any real highlights and with only four wins to count upon. It was however one of their draws which provided their highlight- or at least the first half of the game in question.
Matchday 12 saw them travel to Dortmund with many fans not overly optimistic. Steffen Baumgart’s side however raced into a 3-0 half-time lead with two goals from Streli Mamba and another from Gerrit Holtmann. Lucien Favre reacted with three changes at the interval and Jadon Sancho pulled one back two minutes into the second 45 minutes.
It however required an 84th minute header from Alex Witsel and a 92nd minute leveller from Marco Reus to save BVB’s blushes. It was very much a case of what could have been for Paderborn as the Schwarzgelben ruined their moment.
They also produced another impressive display against Bayern causing the Bavarians a bit of worry with two second half goals in a 3-2 loss.
The dismal start to the season which saw them lose 10 of their opening 13 matches was an ominous sign of things to come. They were hammered 5-1 at the Benteler Arena by Schalke on matchday 4. Borussia Dortmund gained revenge for the 3-3 by putting six past them on matchday 29, and when they faced fellow strugglers Werder Bremen on matchday 31 the gulf in class was clear. Bremen, who themselves had looked poor prior to the match beat Paderborn 5-1.
The disciplinary record of rugged defender Klaus Gjasula was also something not to be proud of this season. The headgear-wearing Albanian broke the Bundesliga record for yellow cards in a single season with 17.
Tale of the Tape
Record: 4-8-22, 20 points (0.59 per game), 18th in Bundesliga
Home Record: 8 points (2-2-13) Away Record: 12 points (2-6-9)
Goals: 37 (1.09 per game), Goals Against: 74 (2.18 per game), Diff: -37
xG: 40.3, xGA: 67.7, Diff: -27.4
Paderborn were the Bundesliga’s lowest scorers with 35 goals scored. They only averaged 1.09 goals per game, while their Xg for expected goals was 40.3. Top scorer was a three-way split between Streli Mamba, Dennis Srbeny and Sven Michel with five apiece. All of Mamba’s goals came in the first half of the campaign, Srbeny only returned to the club in January after two-years in England with Norwich City. Ben Zolinski added three.
They actually ranked 11th in the Bundesliga for total shots (423), but fell to 17th in regard to percentage of shots on target (30.7%). Kai Pröger actually led the way with shots attempted (51), but it was Sven Michel, who had the most on target (19).
Leopold Zingerle was the first-choice keeper for Paderborn playing behind Steffen Baumgart’s favoured back-four. He only kept five clean sheets in his 28 appearances. The six games that Jannick Huth deputised saw the goals conceded per 90mins rise from 2.04 to 2.83.
Laurent Jans and Jamilu Collins were the go-to fullbacks throughout the season with Nigerian left back Collins looking particularly impressive at times. He led the league in both blocks (101) and interceptions (73) and was tied 7th for overall tackle in the defensive third (44). His stunning goal in the 3-2 loss to Bayern was a thing of beauty.
Sebastian Schonlau, Mohamed Dräger and Christian Strohdieck shared the central defensive duties, although the loss of Luca Kilian through injury and then illness was a big blow as he had impressed in the early stages of the season (he had a 90.7% pass accuracy).
Paderborn conceded 74 goals (2.18 per game) which was seven more than Fortuna Düsseldorf. Aside from the goalkeeper Jamilu Collins led the team for progressive distance on passing, while Dräger did provide three assists.
The predominant 4-4-2 formation saw Sebastian Vasiliadis and Klaus Gjasula as the two central holding midfielders with Christopher Antwi-Adjei on the left and Kai Pröger on the right given more freedom to get forward. Pröger edged Antwi-Adjei for shot-creating actions (83 to 79) and also led the team on assists with six. The duo however were error prone with both guilty of losing possession a little too often for the team’s good.
21-year-old Greek Vasiliadis was the team’s top tackler with 88 and was way out in front in terms of pressures with 756 (Pröger was next best with 527). He was however ‘only’ booked ten times compared to Gjasula’s record seventeen!
Despite the sales of Philipp Klement to Stuttgart and Bernard Tekpety to Schalke for €5 million apiece, there wasn’t a lot of money to spend in the summer with most of the arrivals either free transfers or loan signings.
Streli Mamba made the jump up from the Regionalliga Nordost with Energie Cottbus and took to the challenge well scoring five times in the Hinrunde. Central defender Luca Kilian arrived from Borussia Dortmund II and impressed in his 13 starts before injury and then a confirmed diagnosis of Covid 19 curtailed his season. He does have a relegation release clause so his time at the club may already be over.
Attacking midfielder Anthony Evans was another English talent brought to the Bundesliga, but unlike Jadon Sancho, he didn’t light up the league making only two starts and collecting just 156 minutes of first-team action.
Right back Laurent Jans arrived on loan from Metz and proved to be a key player, but with the club relegated he will return to France. The same will go for Gerrit Holtmann to Mainz, although his impact wasn’t as significant as that of Luxemburg full back Jans.
Icelandic defensive midfielder Samúel Fridjónsson arrived in January for €400,000 but made just two starts, while Abdelhamid Sabiri (signed on a free from Huddersfield) made 24 appearances (nine starts) and chipped in with four goals making him a shrewd signing.
Looking ahead, there are already rumours that Schalke are interested in Vasiliadis, and Christopher Antwi-Adjei has been linked with both Hannover and Ludogorets. The key to next season will be holding onto the key players now they’ve had a taste of the Bundesliga.
Player of the Season
Centre back Sebastian Schonlau was probably the stand-out player for Paderborn in what turned out to be a rather poor season collectively. The 25-year-old was kept busy this season making the second highest number of tackles in the defensive third in the entire league and he made 168 clearances (ranked 8th overall). He was the mainstay of Paderborn’s central defence and even managed to get himself on the scoresheet twice. He was run very close by midfielder Sebastian Vasiliadis for the team’s best player, and he will be key to their chances of finishing in the 2. Bundesliga top three next season.
It was a bit like a student being put into a top set maths class, when they really were only comfortable with set two level algebra and calculations. They were always going to struggle and relegation came as no real surprise. Trainer Steffen Baumgart hit the nail on the head in his summation saying that they just weren’t good enough for the Bundesliga. Grade D, but top marks for effort.