Julian Schieber – Dortmund’s Forgotten Weapon

VfB Stuttgart crashed into a heavy defeat against a vibrant Borussia Dortmund side on Friday as Thomas Schneider’s impressive unbeaten run at the helm of the Swabians came to an end. Before the match, much of the talk was focused on the exuberant 4-4 draw from a couple of seasons ago. It was a brace in the space of two minutes from Julian Schieber for Stuttgart that started a rollercoaster fifteen minutes that lead to a frantic end to the match. It is safe to say, his performance that night played a huge role in the his transfer to Borussia Dortmund that summer.

It hasn’t been all smooth sailing in Dortmund for the former Germany U21 goal-getter, though, as he has found playing time difficult to come by for the Ruhr Valley side. Less than two years after one of the most entertaining matches in the history of Bundesliga, Stuttgart paid a visit to Dortmund this weekend and Schieber had to wait until the last fifteen minutes of the match for his introduction. It was just his second league appearance of the season, bearing in mind that the other match was an injury-time cameo in a narrow home win against Hannover a couple of weeks ago. What’s going wrong for the player who was regarded as one of the candidates for leading the national team’s attacking play just a few seasons ago?

Injury setback

After showing impressive form for both Stuttgart’s U19 and U23 team in the third-tier, Julian Schieber made his debut against Energie Cottbus in Stuttgart’s 3-0 victory during the 2008/2009 Bundesliga season. Due to all the competition in the striking department, Stuttgart allowed Schieber to join 1. FC Nürnberg in a one-year loan deal for the 2010/2011 season. It was with the Franconians with who the youngster played his best matches to date in German football, as he scored ten goals in all competitions to help Der Club to a top-half league finish after escaping relegation by the skin of their teeth a season earlier.

A serious injury ruled him out for almost the entire Hinrunde the following season on his return to Stuttgart, as Schieber was deployed to the left wing by Markus Babble, with Vedad Ibišević undoubtedly being the chosen one to lead the way upfront. Schieber, who scored five times in just seven appearances for the Germany U21 national team, ended the season with just three goals to his name – a thumping free-kick at Bayer Leverkusen and the aforementioned couple of goals in the crazy 4-4 draw in Dortmund.

Shot at titles with less playing time

His stunning performance at Dortmund didn’t go unnoticed as Jürgen Klopp decided to sign up the striker for a fee of 5.5m€. His debut saw Dortmund lose to their arch rivals Bayern Munich in the season-opening DFB-Supercup, after Dortmund had won each of the five previous meetings between the sides. He played the whole ninety minutes in the 5-0 victory against Borussia Mönchengladbach in October but had to wait for the start of the Rückrunde for a similar chance in terms of playing minutes. Besides Polish international Robert Lewandowski’s world-class form, his underwhelming performances have also not helped the fact that he is spending most matches on the bench. The only highlight for the former Stuttgart striker, then, was scoring the match-winning goal against Manchester City when Klopp gave his squad players a chance in the last match of the Champions League group stage, as they had already clinched their place for the knockout round.

Robert Lewandowski saw a red card in the club’s disappointing 1-4 defeat in the hands of Hamburg in Matchday 22 and this presented a golden opportunity for Schieber to step up and fill the boots of the Torjägerkanone candidate. However, as weird as it may sound, for the second week running a Dortmund striker got his marching orders from the referee. Schieber couldn’t believe his luck (or lack of) as a rather soft challenge in the match against Eintracht Frankfurt prematurely ended his chance of proving his worth to the club in the absence of their regular hitman. Marco Reus’ flawless hat-trick sealed the deal for Dortmund and Schieber also got the green light to feature in the following fixture after Dortmund’s appeal against the one-match suspension.

Schieber ended the 2012/2013 season with only three goals to his name after seventeen of his twenty-three appearances come from the substitutes bench. In regards to the Champions League matches , injury to playmaker Mario Götze paved the way for the former Stuttgart striker to feature in the European’s elite tournament final fixture but he wasn’t able prevent a heart-breaking last-minute defeat to Bayern Munich. Schieber looked isolated from Dortmund’s attacking play in what was arguably the biggest match of his career.

Low point

With the exciting summer transfers of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Henrikh Mkhitaryan as well as the addition of youngster Jonas Hofmann to the Dortmund squad this summer, playing opportunities have become even more difficult to earn for Schieber. He is yet to feature in the starting lineup in a competitive match this campaign and has only seen less than fifteen minutes of league action up until Matchday 11. Even when Klopp decided to rest Lewandowski against Nürnberg, it was 19-year-old Marvin Ducksch, a squad member of the club’s second team in the third division, who got the nod ahead of the more experienced Schieber.

Once thought as a future choice for the national team striking department, Schieber now spends more of his time warming a substitutes bench for a star-packed Borussia Dortmund side. Maybe it’s early to say this but the striker rushed into a totally new chapter in his career as the move to the then back-to-back Bundesliga champions was too tempting to turn down. A possible loan deal in the winter transfer market could boost the striker’s future and time will tell what his role for Dortmund will be after that, although the rumors linking Robert Lewandowski’s name to either a January or summer exit could keep Schieber at the Signal Iduna Park until the future of the Polish striker is decided.  Who knows, maybe Lewandowski’s departure is what Julian Schieber needed all this time to finally mark his place at the club. After all, despite his limited playing time, Schieber regularly makes the bench for Klopp for both Bundesliga and Champions League fixtures and is still only 24 years old, still young enough to revitalize his career.

Image courtesy of ruhrnachrichten.de

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical difference, he is interested in every detail of German football. He breathes football to the point that he gets pleasure from nutmegging his innocent kid. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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