Albion Analytics: Fabian Hurzeler

The German was appointed Albion boss in June.

By Liam Tharme • 22 June 2024

By FC St. Pauli
Fabian Hurzeler joined Albion on a three-year deal.

Chairman Tony Bloom’s justification for picking Fabian Hurzeler was simple: “He has a style of play that aligns with how we want a Brighton & Hove Albion team to play."

Unfortunately for Hurzeler, his success belies his age. Albion have never been shy about appointing young coaches: Gus Poyet, Oscar Garcia, Sami Hyypia, Graham Potter and Roberto De Zerbi were all hired in their early 40s. Hurzeler, though, will become the youngest permanent coach in Premier League history, actually born after the competition started.

He is not inexperienced. Once a Bayern Munich academy player, Hurzeler’s success was achieved in Hamburg. He became St. Pauli's head coach in December 2022, having joined two years earlier as assistant head coach to Timo Schulz. They were 15th in the German second division (2. Bundesliga, an 18-team league), with only three wins from their first-half of the season and were one point above the drop.

Hurzeler’s first ten games were all wins. They kept seven clean sheets and only conceded three times. He is the first and only coach to win that many consecutive games at the start of their 2. Bundesliga career, and it set a club record. St. Pauli finished fifth, level on points with fourth-placed Dusseldorf. Unsurprisingly, they were the best team in the league in the back-half of the season, winning 13 of 17, only losing twice and conceding fewer than a goal-per-game.

That form was more than carried over into last season. St. Pauli went unbeaten in the first 20 games, with wins by 5-0, 5-1 and 4-1 scorelines. In the past ten seasons, Darmstadt (21 games in 2022-23) are the only club with a longer unbeaten run in Germany’s second tier.

That run was the launchpad for St. Pauli’s promotion back to the Bundesliga for the first time since 2010-11. They made slightly hard work of it, losing three of their last seven, but won the league by a point and registered the highest points total of a 2. Bundesliga champion (69) since Stuttgart in 2016-17 (also 69 points).


Hurzeler leaves the division with the highest points-per-game average (2.16) of any coach with at least 50 games, topping a list which includes Ralf Rangnick (1.94) and Jurgen Klopp (1.75). Last season was also only St Pauli’s second time this millennium where they reached the DFB Pokal (German Cup) quarter-final, having managed so in 2021-22.

Probably the only thing missing from Hurzeler’s time in Hamburg was a win in the infamous Stadtderby against Hamburg — two defeats and one draw in St. Pauli’s three meetings under Hurzeler, though it is a derby notoriously dominated by Hamburg.

Expect to see a change in formation from the 4-2-3-1 favoured by Roberto De Zerbi. Hurzeler’s success at St. Pauli came playing a 3-4-3, which providers a stronger defensive base as it can drop into a back-five. Even if the system is different, expect a similar style. St. Pauli ranked second for possession in the 2. Bundesliga last season.

Goalkeeper Nikola Vasilj only launched (kicked 40+ yards) 16.8% of open-play passes and 13.9% of goal-kicks, which were the second-lowest and lowest proportions in the division. Brighton were 20.3% (5th-lowest) and 5.9% (lowest) in those metrics in the Premier League last season. The goalkeeper absolutely has a role in build-up.

St. Pauli come out highly for switches of play, liking to change the point of attack against a mid/low block, but ranked in the bottom three for long passes overall, pointing to a short build-up approach. Only Magdeberg (19) made more than St. Pauli’s 16 errors leading to opposition shots last season, which points to the risk attached to a short build-up style, but clearly came out as a big net positive.

Hurzeler’s St. Pauli liked to press, ranking seventh and fifth for midfield-third and final-third tackles last season, high positions given how much possession they had. They drew the third-most offsides, too, which underlines his capacity to coach a press and high line.

Whether Hurzeler continues a trend of Brighton’s three Premier League head coaches remains to be seen. Possession has gone up from Chris Hughton (43%) to Potter (52%) to De Zerbi (60.9%), with win rates and goals-per-game have trended upwards too. The contrast comes in tactical adaptability and defensive prioritisation, with Potter more flexible and pragmatic, keeping more clean sheets and conceding than De Zerbi but scoring fewer and winning less.

If De Zerbi was all about winning with a specific style and Potter was all about being tactically flexible, then Hurzeler is somewhere between the two.