The main dish for Schalke 04 fans at Saturday brunch was crow. Calling desperately for some kind of change that might make a difference in a game that was 1-0 Köln going into the half, the cry of most Schalke 04 fans on Twitter was: “For goodness sake, why is Marica still on the pitch?!?”
Ciprian Marica would answer that question not once, but twice in the second half. His brace led the way for two more goals as the Royal Blues came to life in the last 20 minutes, beating the Billy Goats 4-1, and preserving their tie on points with league leaders Bayern and Dortmund.
One can’t truly blame the Schalke fans for having such little faith in Marica. The Romanian forward has done little this season to garner their trust. Prior to Saturday’s game, he had played only 130 minutes in 12 games, mostly as a late-game substitute. Prior to Saturday’s 82-minute effort, Marica’s longest game was 34 minutes in the 2:1 loss to Wolfsburg on Matchday 5.
His totals before Saturday: 130 minutes with no goals, no assists in the Bundesliga; 304 minutes in the Europa League with only 1 goal and 2 assists. He was subbed in in the 70th minute in the DFB Pokal game that saw the former Cup winners fall to Gladbach.
Marica’s total (after Saturday): 20 matches, 3 goals, 2 assists, only 547 minutes.
Let’s compare him to the man he was filling in for on Saturday, Raul (who was out with calf pain). Raul has 1,603 minutes in the Bundesliga this year, with 10 goals and 5 assists. Add in the Europa League and DFB Pokal, and Raul has played a total of 27 matches with 13 goals, 9 assists and 2,393 minutes. (All statistics here are from: http://www.transfermarkt.co.uk/en/)
Schalke’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (another favorite target of some Schalke fans at times) shows the best in the numbers. Huntelaar has played 29 matches with 27 goals, 11 assists in 2,459 minutes. He has 1,543 minutes in the Bundesliga with 16 goals and 8 assists.
So needless to say, Marica was an unlikely hero on Saturday. But looking only at the Bundesliga numbers, Marica actually compares quite well. Huntelaar’s goals and minutes average out to a goal every 96 minutes. Raul, a goal every 160 minutes. And Marica? A goal every 106 minutes. Better than Raul’s average.
Now, before the fans stop reading in protest, this in no way should be construed to imply that Marica is better than Raul. As we all know, there is a lot more to the game than numbers. Raul brings a presence to the game that Marica has yet to (and may never) reach. Raul’s lovely chipped goal against Cologne in the first half was just named goal of the year (Sportschau.de). Raul is, well, Raul.
However, perhaps we should have another look at Mr. Marica. Perhaps the brace will help him gain the confidence to start making his presence known, shaking out the cobwebs that have kept him so quiet up to now, and lead more frequently to his inclusion in Huub Stevens’ lineup.
Or maybe Saturday was only an anomaly, a short burst of brilliance that will die away just as quickly as it emerged. And maybe Schalke fans will once again have to bemoan his silent presence on the field and ask: Why is Marica still on the pitch?!?