FC Schalke 04
The Champions League is back, and the boys are off to Valencia. We don’t have a real preview for this match, unfortunately, but this post can serve at least as a match thread for any Schalke fans who want to vent their anger, or shout their joy, depending on how things go. Valencia is going to be a tough matchup, currently sitting third in La Liga behind you-know-who and the other one.
This will be Raul’s first match in Spain since coming to us from Madrid, and there’s a chance for it to be a big one – if he scores, he will pass Pippo Inzaghi as the all-time leading Champions League scorer.
This match is really about two things for Schalke – not conceding more than one goal, and getting that precious, precious away goal. 1-1 would be a great result, 0-0 would be perfectly acceptable. Let’s bring them back to Germany without a lead to defend.
If you want to keep up with both matches, come to The Offside’s Champions League Liveblog starting 1 hour before kickoff.
This picture serves as the perfect metaphor for Schalke. You ever had one of those old cars where the same bad script keeps repeating itself? One part breaks down, you take it to the mechanic who fixes it, but lo and behold soon after you discover some new part has broken down, so you take it back to the mechanic and they fix that, and then soon after another part….You get the picture. This week the broken part was at fullback. Uchida was something akin to an obnoxious clanking noise in the car: annoying but not fatal. Lukas Schmitz on the other hand was like going down a steep hill and your front tire flies off the axle into the gutter. Schmitz was completely destroyed by Patrick Ochs in the 2nd half. Yes, you heard that correctly. Patrick Ochs! Mr. Average, Mr. Bland, Mr. Meh.
The first half was an even affair with a minimal amount of quality chances. The best was probably Jurado’s pass to create a great opportunity for Raul, but Nikolov made a solid save. The even scoreline at the half was deserved. Frankfurt started the 2nd half the brighter, but it was not dominating. Then the 60th minute rolled around. This is where I think every single Schalke fan played this out in their head:
“I see Matip is about to come on. This must clearly be for Jones who just picked up an idiotic yellow card and probably should have seen straight red. Given our past history in playing with 10 men this season it is completely logical to make a straight center DM swap of Matip for Jones. I like this decision.
And Matip comes on for Jurado. What. WHAT!? Why? What the hell! Are we playing for a draw? What is Magath doing! Why is our only creative player leaving the pitch with 30 minutes to play so we can play a midfield of 3 defensive mids!?”
For the next 30 minutes Frankfurt shellacked us. It was like a gunnery range. Somehow, someway they never found the back of the net. Altintop’s open net miss is going to win “miss of the season” when May 2011 rolls around. Perhaps his subconscious love for his past time at Schalke prevented him from putting it in. Ending shot count: Frankfurt 17, Schalke 5. Schalke shots in the 2nd half? Zero. In the final 20 minutes I think the Schalke 04 announcer said “Mann oh Mann!” and “Oh, mein Gott!” about 50 times. There was nothing else you could say.
Yes, the decision to take off Jurado was simply Magath at his most brilliant. I am baffled. Whatever plan he had in mind certainly did not happen. For the last 20 you could see him screaming on the sidelines and motioning to push up. His intention seems to be that “Bad Boy” Jones would play as an attacking mid. Well, that worked out about as expected. Another bizarre sub choice was Sarpei’s introduction in the 85th. Did the left back come on for our left back on the pitch, Schmitz, who was being flayed alive by Patrick Ochs? Of course not! Instead, Uchida at RB was taken off. This made no sense. Also, given how badly Schmitz was being destroyed, perhaps the Sarpei introduction, who is definitely our best LB defensively but offers little going forward, could have happened earlier than the 85th minute? Maybe like the 70th when Schmitz was repeatedly being bent over? Magath has made a lot of dumb decisions this season. I don’t think anyone can contest that fact.
I mentioned it previous to the Frankfurt match. Schmitz has an awful football IQ. He does not read the game well. He does not anticipate. He does not position himself correctly. On two occasions in the match I saw him opt to “guard” a patch of grass on the sideline where there was no threat to our goal, instead of Patrick Ochs who was slipping inside him towards Neuer to receive a pass. He just doesn’t get it.
If anything this was the day the realization hit that this team is mid table quality (at best?). It’s also probably the day, when we look back later, that Neuer began packing his bags.
Current Point Total:
9 Matches Played in BL ——> 6 points
3 Matches Played in CL ——–> 6 points
This reminds me of something from last season. The epic car crash called Hertha Berlin. This was their statistics through the first half of the season:
17 Matches Played in BL ——> 6 points
6 Matches Played in EL ——-> 10 points
Now, I’m not trying to make that drastic of a comparison or saying we’re going to get relegated, but we have been prolifically bad and have an equal amount of points in the BL as in our CL group with 6 more matches played. Hard to believe in 9 BL matches we have a single win. We haven’t been stomped by anyone, except Dortmund, but this weekend at home to Leverkusen I could easily see a 3 goal loss, which should have been the margin against Eintracht Frankfurt this week.
In some mid-week good news we did beat the other, smaller Frankfurt club, FSV Frankfurt, in the 2nd round of the DFB Pokal winning 1-0 thanks to an early Jurado strike from outside the box. We dominated the first half but never put the game away. In the 2nd half we became too lax and were lucky to not concede and let FSV back into it. At least we’re moving on in the Pokal and we’ll take any win we can get these days even if it’s against a mid table BL II side.
Sorry for the long lack of posts. Work has been crushing me lately. It’s hard to put something together when you’re working 7:30am to 8:30pm everyday. I’ve barely had time to watch the matches. To make up for it here is a gi-normous post to hit the highlights of the things I’ve missed since the Benfica Preview:
The 2-0 home win over Benfica: This seemed like it would be the turning point in the season. We did not look amazing, but we looked like we did last year: strong defense, clinical finishing, physical play. The fact we finally kept a clean sheet and beat a quality opponent was big. I remember thinking after the game “we have a lot of easy games coming up and I think we go on a run here and rattle off a couple wins in a row.” Well, that didn’t happen of course (more on that below). This was the night of Papadoupolos. It’s rare you see anyone land ~5 perfectly timed slide tackles and a bunch of blocked shots in a single match. He completely dominated the game defensively and saved Metzelder on several occasions. For a player who hadn’t shown to this point why he was a starter in the Greek League at age 15, he suddenly took center stage.
The 2-1 loss to Nurnberg: Ugh, the Hamburg loss 2.0. What an awful script. Tight 0-0 game, silly/questionable 2nd yellow card, instantly down 1-0 only to battle back, equalize late and then somehow concede again to lose 2-1. A lot of Schalke fans raged about the refereeing after this one and how refs must be out to get us after all the red cards we’ve had. Yea, some have been ridiculous like the Howedes card in Lyon, but most have been justified. The Jones 2nd yellow here was not a good call. He tried to pull out of that challenge. He has a right to go for the ball, he does nothing malicious and clearly tries to pull his legs out of the slide when he realizes he is beaten. The home Nurnberg crowd, players causing a big stink about it and the keeper being miraculously injured are what drew the yellow. This whole game was a massive stomach punch. Just as Schalke fans felt a break through was coming, this happened. We also saw Papadoupolos have a poor performance right after his man of the match display a few days prior, which basically summed up the whole roster at Schalke this year: wildly inconsistent from one game to the next.
International Break: Simply a bizarre break for Schalke players. Farfan was arrested while in Peru for, apparently, not making child welfare payments to his ex-girlfriend who he impregnated. This caused him to get back to Germany late and not be available for the Stuttgart match. Matip contracted malaria or some other virus while playing for Cameroon and was briefly hospitalized. Rakitic took a kick to the face while playing for Croatia that dislodged 2 teeth and gave him a minor concussion that kept him out of Stuttgart. Even when he came on as a sub against Hapoel on Wednesday his face looked messed up like his entire mouth area was swollen. Fortunately, that didn’t stop him from playing well very well and setting up a goal.
Neuer began hinting at a move to a bigger club after this season (cough Manchester United or Bayern). For realistic Schalke fans this is not a surprise. He has 2 years left on his contract. If we had a great season maybe we could convince a new deal, but if we didn’t light it up I fully expected him to move on this summer and I wouldn’t begrudge him. Well, here we are tied for 2nd to last place so I’m not surprised he’s already starting to put the feelers out for a move. He has essentially said if Schalke is not in Champions League next year then he’s out. If no extension can be done by this summer then he must be sold. We need the money and if we don’t sell he goes on a free a year later. Let’s just hope he doesn’t go to Bayern. Not sure I could handle that.
2-2 Draw with Stuttgart at home: A battle of the most underperforming, supposedly good teams. We were lucky to get the draw. Stuttgart had a perfectly good goal ruled off-side in the first half that would have made it 2-0. Yea, we recovered from that deficit against Monchengladbach before, but being down 2-0 at home with a psychologically fragile team and fanbase a 2nd time seems unlikely. Then we got a pretty fortunate penalty decision in the 2nd half. I wouldn’t say we looked bad, it’s just Stuttgart made us pay when given chances and we didn’t do the same. We still have yet to record a home win in the Bundesliga. I don’t want to act like some prophet, but when I saw Stuttgart fire Gross before the match I knew we wouldn’t win. It just is a general rule that in the match after a team fires their coach they always do well. It makes sense because the players want to impress the new manager so they try extra hard whereas with the old manager they probably wanted him gone anyways so they weren’t trying as much. I was hoping Stuttgart would hang onto Gross for 1 more match, damn!
After this the media began stirring the pot about Magath’s job being in jeopardy. Chairman Tonnies said he was not in any jeopardy. Felix Magath had this to say: “I am not leaving Schalke. I will not leave before we have won a title.” Now, let me ask you the big question: When you read that statement is your first reaction “Phew!” or is it a bunch of mixed feelings? I’m still in “Phew” mode. I’ve been highly critical of his summer transfers (namely in defense) and a lot of his roster and substitution choices, but he remains one of the best coaches in the league. This summer he was regarded as the best. Now of course Tuchel and Klopp are giving him a run for his money. We need to be patient. We can still turn this around. Keep the faith going.
3:0 over Hapoel Tel-Aviv: Very interesting strategy in this match from Magath, which the English announcers covering the game did not pick up on. Magath purposely let Hapoel get the majority of the possession and intended to play on the counter using Jurado to feed Raul and Huntelaar. It worked to perfection. People watching this match might’ve thought “Schalke is crap. They are being outplayed by this nobody Israeli squad and only won because of some good finishing.” But really this was our intention all along and our finishing wasn’t even that good. Jurado set Huntelaar and Farfan up with break away sitters and both of them bungled it, so the scoreline couldn’t been larger. Now, let’s not get too excited because Hapoel is probably equivalent skill-wise to a midtable BL II side. Any win in the CL though, and especially by 3 goals, is fine by me. This puts us on 6 points and thanks to Lyon beating Benfica we are now 3 points clear in 2nd place and have the current tie breaker. We can discuss the semantics of the CL standings another time, but you’d have to say we have a very good shot at progressing to the knock-outs right now.
Tactically, what we did here is what we should do in all matches. We’re bottom of the league. Teams do not play us scared. They play us intending to win whether it is home or away. Play like we did last year and soak up the pressure. Then use Jurado, the brilliant play-maker, to feed Huntelaar/Raul( and to some extent Farfan) who are great finishers. The weakness is that our defense remains questionable. Schmitz is simply not that good. He has strong, raw physical talent but a weak mind, always has bad positioning and game sense. Uchida is probably 1-2 years away from being a very good fullback. Metzelder is Metzelder. Howedes can’t do it all by himself.
The headlines for this match were all Raul because of his brace and tying Gerd Muller’s European scoring record and I will say Raul had two excellent finishes. I’ve been critical of him so far this season, but at least now he’s scoring goals, with 3 recently. The real man of the match was Jurado. This guy is the engine of our entire attack. He crafts almost all of our goal scoring chances now. Without his creativity and inspiration we are clueless up front. If you asked me who the player is that we cannot afford to lose I would unquestionably say Jurado. He has no replacement that is even remotely near his level (Baumjohann? Ugh, no. Until Holtby returns we are dependent on Jurado).
Magath has some weaknesses as a coach, one of the major ones is that he is not a genius at attacking football and how to tactically set up goals. Where he has had success is when an intelligent central play-maker has been on his team that could take over this burden for him and be the spark for the attack. This was Misimovic at Wolfsburg and for Schalke it must be Jurado.
Lewis Holtby will definitely return from loan after this season at Mainz. The central midfield play-maker has been crushing the league this season. He leads the BL in assists, has also bagged a couple goals and has been instrumental in Mainz going 7 wins in a row to start the year. Jogi Loew had this to say about Holtby’s incredible, pin-point through ball pass to Szalai against Hoffenheim “The Holtby pass alone was worth the price of admission today.” If you had to do an MVP of the season so far Holtby would win it (Kagawa in 2nd).
Knasmullner, who is a rising star at Bayern Munich says if things don’t pan out with Bayern his dream would be to play at Schalke 04. He’s a winger, Austrian international, still a teenager and plays on the Bayern II squad. You can draw parallels between him and Bayern’s other major teenage prospect, David Alaba (both are Austrian midfielders). Will anything ever come of this? Probably not, but it’s nice to know some of the rising youngster talent out there views Schalke as a great place to play.
Upcoming Frankfurt match:
Sorry I just don’t have time to do an in-depth preview. I will thoroughly analyze the game on Sunday though. Again, like in many recent weeks the Schalke match is not being televised in the US. I am a huge fan of the Schalke 04 online TV service that you can get through the official site. I really don’t mind coughing up a bit of money so I can watch every single match, including highlights and player/coach interviews. The stream is good quality and posted very soon after the match concludes. Definitely would recommend it. Otherwise you’re stuck searching the web for a random stream that might infect your computer with a virus, have terrible picture quality and go down for no reason.
The main casualty for the roster against Frankfurt is Kluge who is out with food poisoning. Not to insinuate anything against Kluge who is one of the biggest gladiators on our team, but in general:
Is food poisoning not the biggest excuse used for some different illness, family issue or other cover up? I’m pretty sure everyone has used the “I have food poisoning” excuse once in their lifetime to take a day of work off. Did you actually have food poisoning? Heck no, you just wanted to go to the beach. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I have never in my life gotten food poisoning. I assume anyone who actually does get food poisoning is eating at a China Buffet or is rummaging for week old fish in a restaurant dumpster. I had someone at work call in sick with “food poisoning” and I almost told them bullshit right into the phone. Then I remembered we have a Human Resources department.
History on our side
When Benfica comes to the Veltins on Wednesday we’ll at least have history with us. How much does history count for? Not much, but you have to be optimistic about something!
Schalke have met Portugese competition three times in the CL, all in knock-out stages, and all times came away victorious. We’ve never met Benfica, but have dispatched their countrymen in Porto and Braga. The most recent was in 2007/2008 when we knocked out FC Porto on penalties. This was also the night, and tie, of Manuel Neuer who absolutely dominated the match to force a shoot out then had an unreal save rate for penalties which let us cruise 4-1 in the shoot out.
Benfica have never won playing in Germany in 17 attempts. Their most recent German adventure was a 1-1 tie to Hertha Berlin in the EL round of 32 last season. At home is a different story, but on the road 0 wins in 17 is quite staggering. Benfica opened their CL fixtures this year by dispatching Hapoel Tel-Aviv 2-0 at home. Anything besides a win against the Israeli side at home would have been eye brow raising. A quick look at the match statistics only reveals one interesting tidbit:
Possession: Hapoel 55%, Benfica 45%
Unfortunately, Hapoel did next to nothing with their possession as they were outshot 19 to 6 and only had 1 shot on target the whole match compared to 11 by Benfica. If not for some great goal keeping for Hapoel this would’ve been 5-0. Overall, it is tough to get any kind of read on Benfica from one game at home against the team everyone views as the weakest in the group. Domestically, Benfica had a rough start losing 3 of their first 4 matches. Things have picked up since with 2 wins in a row including one over Sporting Lisbon. Their road form has been poor with only 1 road win and 2 losses. The away victory was not exactly impressive being a 1-0 over bottom of the table Maritomo.
Bayern was making all kinds of oohing and aahing noises over Fabio after his impressive World Cup for Portugal at Left Back. In the end the Bavarians decided the 20 million asking price was too steep. They’re probably lamenting that decision now as neither Diego Contento nor Daniel Pranjic seem to have enough quality for their LB spot. Coentrao has recently extended his contract with Benfica. He will likely play a more attacking role against us as a LM instead of a LB. Given how terrible our RB spot has been in the last few games you have to consider this a critical match-up. Will we again be terrorized down the right side of the pitch? Uchida should get the start, so that will be a large defensive improvement over Moritz and Howedes there, but still the Japanese man has not been that great.
Cardozo & Saviola:
These are the two consistent strikers for Benfica and they have formed a strong partnership since Saviola joined from Real Madrid last season. They are kind of like one of those old cartoon mobster villain combos. Cardozo is a big (6’3), powerful striker and Saviola is a small (5’7), quick player. Cardozo, the Paraguayan national team striker had a decent World Cup and like many of Benfica’s players was linked with a lot of high profile clubs in the transfer window. The consensus from a lot of Benfica fans is that Cordozo is over-rated and they wish the ~15 million euro offers this summer had been taken. With Howedes serving his suspension for the ludicrous red card in France we’ll be forced to employ a CB combo of Plestan and Metzelder. Even if Cardozo is over-hyped, he may be too powerful for our slow old timers to deal with. Saviola is the more dangerous for us. Plestan and Metz can put a body on Cardozo and handle his speed. They have no means of handling the quickness of Saviola.
Very few changes can be expected from Magath’s line-up employed in the last two matches. We will again go with the 3 DM’s in midfield, Jurado as creator and Raul/Huntelaar leading the line. Unfortunately, Farfan is going to find himself odd man out. I’ve said it before, but to reiterate I would prefer Farfan in Raul’s spot. That isn’t going to happen though. There is no way to fit Huntelaar, Jurado, Farfan and Raul into a starting line-up. The only way those 4 get on the pitch together is in a 2nd half when we are chasing a goal. Huntelaar and Jurado are clear starters and Raul is untouchable to Magath (expect it to be even more so after his goal at the weekend), so despite his strong play, Farfan is out.
Each team will employ a very similar formation of a central holding midfielder, a central play-maker and two strikers. The subtle difference will be between Jones/Rakitic and Martins/Coentrao with Benfica’s midfielders looking to add more width. For Schalke the width will come from the full-backs and Rakitic/Jones will play more centrally and defensively.
Is this the most important match to date?
It’s a close call between this and Dortmund. From a purely unemotional position you would have to say this is it. A loss at home to Benfica and the CL is probably over. We’d be battling for 3rd place and a parachute into the EL and not a top 2 finish. A draw would be a lukewarm result and put us up against it, but not out of the picture. We really need a win. As always, we can expect a great atmosphere at Veltins Arena. It doesn’t get much better than a night match in the Champions League.
Schalke 2:2 Borussia Monchengladbach
It was a tough day at the AufSchalke Arena. This was probably best described by a certain Schalke fan the camera continued to pan towards during the match. It was an angry, grizzled grandma looking woman who had two expressions: either lamenting the fate of her team with a look of resignation as she slumped in her seat or indignantly standing up to hurl obscenities towards the field in outrage. The whole stadium had the feeling of frustration about it. We played the best half of football we have played to date this season. The problem was we ended that half down 2-0.
Magath seems to learn his lessons slowly. “Moritz is a mistake at RB, check. Hmm, who to put there? I’ll put a natural CB there in Howedes!” Of course disaster ensues. Howedes commits the penalty foul on Bobadilla which makes it 1-0 and he is again to blame on the 2nd goal as he lets Reus slip in behind him easily and his run and pass sets up a simple finish for Michael Bradley. Like in the Freiburg game, Magath realizes his RB mistake at half time and corrects it. Ironically, as bad as Moritz was against Freiburg we were not punished for it. Sadly, against Monchengladbach this was not the case. I am 100% convinced if Magath had started Uchida or Sarpei at RB we would have won the game. The lesson he hopefully learns is that he needs to stop playing midfielders and center backs at fullback. Even if it is a natural LB, play them at RB over someone else.
I couldn’t believe we trailed 2-0 at half time. We should’ve been at a minimum tied if not winning. Jurado was superb and adds so much to our attacking game. I can’t stress enough how impressive he was today. We have no other player like him and he is exactly what we need. He set up so many chances and was the creator at the heart of everything. Why it has taken this long to make him a starter is beyond me. We had chances galore, but the mistakes in the line-up made us the large trailers at the half. In fact this game overall had so many chances for each side that it is impossible to go through them all. It honestly could have finished 5-5 and I would not have been surprised.
Trailing 2-0 at half time we subbed Uchida on for Plestan and moved Howedes inside to his natural role at CB. Uchida has not been amazing and he was not that good in the 2nd half, but he was solid and decent defensively. We would not have trailed 2-0 if Uchida had started at RB. This game essentially went that we had a lot of possession and pushed for chances and Monchengladbach played a very dangerous counter attack game.
Some minor comments on the referee. Usually, I am a huge proponent of German referees and wish they would get nearly all of the CL and International matches, but today the referee was quite awful. I have not seen this referee before so I assume he is relatively new, but he called a poor match. There were a ton of nitpicky / phantom calls that made no sense. Monchengladbach played ridiculously dirty and physical the whole game, but it took until the last 15 minutes to get the red card that should’ve happened ages earlier. About the only things this ref did get right was the 1st half penalty decision and several offsides calls that his linesmen can be credited for.
Let’s go through some player ratings Kicker style (rating scale of 1-6, with 1 being the best and 6 the worst):
Huntelaar 3: He continues to be the tor factory scoring his 3rd in 3 matches. He did have chances to score more and I wish to high heavens he had converted those, but you can find no fault with him. He creates well, his touch is strong, and he finishes superbly. He has an innate instinct for goal that cannot be taught.
Matip 2.5: The center DM anchor is his best position. He has a great sense of anticipation by reading the game and he constantly shut down attacks by slowing them down or making great tackle. Like against Freiburg he really showed his class. Matip is impressing me more and more. He just needs to be played in his correct position, as he was today.
Jurado 2.5: He had an exquisite first half. I still don’t know how we trailed by 2 goals after that half. In the 2nd he was still effective. We have no other player who can do what he does. He is essential to our team and should 100% be a starter from here on out.
Howedes: 1st half he gets a 5. Second half he gets a 3.5. He’s simply not a RB so I can’t fault him that much for being to blame for both of Gladbach’s goals. When he was moved to CB in 2nd half he was his usual, solid self.
Metzelder 3.5: I’ve been one of his biggest criticizers, but today, like Freiburg, he played pretty well. He still looks slow and reads plays poorly, but he’s gotten better. Him or Plestan at CB to pair Howedes is a close call, but I would have to begrudgingly say Metzelder gets the nod.
Raul 4.5: Yes, he scored a goal. Did he do anything outside of that? No. In 6 matches now all I can say Raul has done is marginally been a part of setting up 1 goal and scoring 1 goal. This is not impressive. Maybe this goal spurs him on and he gets on a roll, but I have a hard time seeing it. He is mostly non-existent out there and seems to be aimlessly running around. Sometimes he drops all the way back to our defense to get a ball for no reason.
Rakitic, Jones, Schmitz, Plestan, Uchida, Edu, Neuer 4: All these players were ok. Nothing special, nothing awful. The one stand out might be Neuer who looked to have an early middle finger injury, but played through the pain. He is always a world class keeper. He didn’t have many big saves to make today.
We are now narrowly are out of the basement by moving 1 point ahead of Stuttgart. We trail league leaders Mainz by 14 points. We face Benfica on Wednesday at home. If we lose this match then it is really difficult to still qualify for the CL knock out rounds. We have to at least get a draw and if we’re serious then we need a win. I’m a naively superstitious person and I’ve noticed that after 5 defeats we have won 1 and drawn 1 when I didn’t do match previews. With that in mind I will refrain from a Benfica preview in the hopes of keeping some kind of karma going (however misguided it may be).
Finally, the first victory of the season comes. This is a huge psychological boost for the team and let’s all hope we can build some momentum off it. Magath went back to an old number from last year by pulling out the triple DM formation. He also wisely gave Jurado the start, although I was surprised Farfan found the bench instead of Raul. Here’s my points to take in from the match:
1. Jurado was instrumental on the 1st goal. He had several chances to make lateral and backward passes and any other player on the pitch in his position would have made those easy passes, but instead he focuses on creating chances and makes an excellent up field pass, between defenders to Raul. This initiates everything on the goal. Overall, Jurado had a solid game and I hope and expect he will again get the start for Monchengladbach.
2. Matip completely rocked. Not only did his great intercept, subsequent run forward and cross set up the game winning goal, but he played really well at DM. He had a tough start to the season looking poor at RB and then at CB, but his performance here was superb and when he has been deputized as a CB lately like against Lyon he has been good.
3. Huntelaar is the new Kevin Kuranyi. He is a goal scoring machine and as long as he gets his chances he will put them in the net. He nearly had a 2nd when he latched onto the rebound from Schmitz’s free kick and his powerful strike caused the rebound leading to Rakitic’s goal. For certain, he will be our top scorer and this goal makes 2 in 2 matches. Great job stretching the leg to get on the end of Matip’s cross.
4. Metzelder actually looked decent! Is this bizarro world? Metzelder was better and more confident than Howedes! I’m shocked. Maybe we can’t stick a fork in Metzelder just yet. He had several crucial blocks and tackles and his positioning and marking were good for a change. We should be realistic though. He has now played 1 good game compared to the previous 10 that were awful. I remain skeptical, but am willing to give him another chance.
5. Rakitic/Schmitz: Each had a pretty good match. Rakitic recovered from being awful lately to being ok. Schmitz has had defensive troubles in the past but did not show them here. As long as Schmitz can handle his defense he for sure offers the most in attack of any LB option we have.
1. Moritz got manhandled. Freiburg identified him as a weakness and exploited him a ton in the 1st half. Smart half-time substitution by Magath to bring in Sarpei who added much needed stability. Sarpei is never going to light it on fire, but he is reliable defensively. I think the Moritz RB experiment is over. The blunder against Lyon was awful, we were smoked by Dortmund and now Freiburg victimized him. Uchida made the bench for Freiburg so hopefully he can start this Saturday. He can’t return soon enough.
2. I suppose there are good days and bad and this day was not a great one for Benedikt Howedes.
3. Raul: I’m still waiting for him to do something. He had a decent pass to Huntelaar which led up to the 1st goal. He looks so slow on his finishing and touch. Right now he merely seems to exist for a bit of passing creativity. I really don’t see many goals coming from him. To me Magath should be playing Farfan in Raul’s role and we are set. Huntelaar as out and out striker with Farfan roaming and sitting just behind and then Jurado as the play-maker. Stick our 3 DM’s behind them with Rakitic being the 1 DM plays more forward and that is the line-up. It gets us back to the basics of what made us great last year by having a stout defensive midfield in front of an organized defense and then relying on Huntelaar to be a goal factory with Farfan in support. Magath is enamored with Raul though and I don’t see him putting him to the bench. This unfairly means Farfan is losing minutes when he has been one of our few decent players.
Next match is about the best you could hope for. Borussia Monchengladbach has dropped 3 in a row including a 0-4 to Frankfurt and 0-7 to Stuttgart. We get them at home and it hopefully will be time to record our first home win.
Schalke 2:1 SC Freiburg
Thank you Huntelaar. Thank you Jesus.
Schalke vs SC Freiburg
For US based fans nobody is hosting the match. Good luck with streams and try to avoid their pesky viruses! I’ve got work during the match time so I might miss this one or try to catch it on Schalke TV tomorrow night.
Just for fun I looked up the odds on our match with Freiburg and was quite surprised to see we were viewed as the favorite. Here we are 0-4 in the BL and 0-1 in the CL against a team who is 3-1 in the BL and on the road and somehow we are favored. The only insight this has given me is that clearly not many people are watching us play and are still thinking “Freiburg was supposed to be a relegation struggler and Schalke a title challenger. Schalke must be the favorite even despite their bad start.” Oh, no ladies and gentlemen, you cannot have watched this team all season to imagine we could be favorites.
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Dortmund 3:1 Schalke
That was agonizing to watch. Utterly dominated from the first whistle. It looked like two teams who shouldn’t even be in the same division, Varsity vs. Junior Varsity. 3:1 is a flattering score line. It should have been 6-0. The only thing that kept this slightly close was Neuer who as usual had an excellent match. Our entire team was too slow for the speed and quick thinking of Dortmund’s midfield and attackers. Kagawa was incredible, Barrios rampant, and whether it was Gotze or Kuba they manhandled us. Sahin and Bender shut down any type of attacks we could start and if it somehow got through them then Hummels/Subotic mopped up with ease.
We continue to be overrun in central midfield and it has been a theme for this season. Just as our defense had somewhat been stabilized with the absence of Metzelder the next glaring problem has been identified. There is absolutely 0 link play or creativity to bridge our midfield and forward attackers. We cannot possess the ball adequately because the distribution from Rakitic has been woeful. I don’t know what has happened to him, but he cannot even complete simple passes right now and is completely incapable of any attacking through balls. Kluge equally was bad. Tactically, Dortmund’s formation was almost the same as ours except Kagawa played closer to the midfield than Raul. This created constant situations where Kluge/Rakitic were overrun 3 vs 2 by Sahin, Bender and Kagawa. We had no answer for runs by Kagawa in and out of the center.
Offensively, we are so static. There are no dynamic runs. The outside players sit at the touch line. The two forward players sit up front and our DM’s sit back. Nobody moves, shifts, overlaps or crosses. Nothing happens. We have two methods of attack:
1. Our DM’s pass the ball to our wingers sitting on the touch line. Then everyone stops and waits for them to do something. At best this results in a low percentage cross into the center that is easily stopped.
2. Our defenders or Neuer hoof the ball long which is easily handled by the towering CB’s (Subotic and Hummels stopped these all day with no issues) and never reaches its target.
And that is IT. We have no ideas. There is no creativity. You know how sad it is when the only time we look dangerous is on set pieces from 35 yards out? Tactically, Magath seems to have no idea what to do. He’s lost. It reminds me of a quote from his days at Bayern. Magath was angrily berating his players during a game about a lack of formation and tactics, to which Van Bommel responded “Tactics!? What tactics? We have no tactics!” The team we have built is completely in Magath’s image. He’s made all the off-season signings and removals and now we’re left with a team that makes no sense. Where is the creativity supposed to come from? Oh yea, Jurado but Magath refuses to play him. Not like 1 player is going to be a magic band-aid either. Everything is so disorganized and aimless. The players clearly seem to lack direction. Is Magath going to step up from being a fitness trainer with his medicine balls to actually figuring out our tactics and formation?
All over the pitch we are weak. A sub-par defense with a struggling midfield in front of them and two forwards who get no service and when they do get it they squander their chances. Nobody wants to target Raul, but seriously has he done anything in 5 matches? He’s done nothing. Part of it is not his fault for seeing the ball so little, but really we might as well have played a ghost instead of him and nobody would’ve known the difference.
Right now we are Hertha Berlin 2.0. Completely and utterly embarrassed by our biggest rivals. I’ve never seen the Veltins arena so quiet. Every fan was shell-shocked like we’d been drinking “the Koo-laid” for the last month thinking somewhere inside we had a decent team only to realize today that we are simply awful. It is embarrassing to be a fan right now. We spend all this money and we are 100x worse. We have to seriously consider that we might battle relegation. From supposed title contenders to relegation candidate. Oh, the irony is splendid.
We have Freiburg away on Wednesday. If we lose that match I don’t even know what to say. At least the match comes soon so we don’t have an entire week to dwell on this atrocity.
Amazing it is only 1:0, it should be 3 or 4 nothing and game over. The entire stadium is stunned and silent. We are clueless of how to attack and Dortmund is shoving the ball down our throats. Feel free to comment as the 2nd half progresses. I have no confidence we can turn this around. Magath MUST make some halftime substitutions. Please put in Jurado.