Jefferson Farfán had a fine day at the office as his goal and two assists helped Schalke to a comfortable 3-0 victory at the Imtech Arena. However, if anything, it was HSV’s poor all-round performance that allowed Schalke to come out with three of the easiest points they will earn all season. Goals in either half by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Max Meyer leapfrogged Schalke into 5th position and left their counterparts staring at relegation in the face in 16th position.
Farfán beats Jansen by KO
If Farfán had a storming game, his marker Marcell Jansen had an inversely-proportionally bad one. The Peruvian got the better of the German international throughout the game and Jansen held part of or the whole blame for all three goals that his side conceded. In the first goal, he gave Farfán far too much space to whip the cross in that Huntelaar ended up heading into the back of the net; in the second one, he left a long ball for goalkeeper Jaroslav Drobný to clear despite the Czech goalkeeper being 15 yards away, allowing Farfán to nip in ahead of Drobný (perhaps with a high foot) and calmly slot the ball into the empty net; for the third, his loss of possession allowed Farfán to run with the ball unchallenged and square it for Max Meyer to finish with a cool side-footed shot from the edge of the area. All in all, an appalling performance by a player who is tipped to make the squad for the World Cup in Brazil, further highlighting the problems that Joachim Löw and Germany have at left-back.
An insight into life without Draxler
Julian Draxler, who will be making the move to Arsenal either within the next week or in the summer, was still out with a muscular tear, which allowed Jens Keller to put Max Meyer in central attacking midfield and slotted Kevin-Prince Boateng deeper in midfield. Meyer was excellent all game, looking calm and composed on the ball and making all the right decisions when in possession, creating constant danger and problems for the opposition. Whether it was an incisive pass or one to keep the momentum going, Meyer proved today that life without Draxler might not be that bad for Schalke. As for Boateng, the fact that he played deeper allowed him to combine with the attacking midfield trio and give his side more depth, speed, quality and numbers going forward, making his team’s movements quicker and more unpredictable. With Roman Neustädter sitting deep, Boateng rushes forward and threaded passes created plenty of trouble to HSV, particularly in the first half. His strength coming in from the second line could be one of Schalke’s new and unexpected weapons for the Rückrunde.
Early injuries force HSV to reshape
Striker Pierre-Michel Lasogga lasted just 24 minutes on the field before a muscular problem forced him off, being replaced by new loan-signing Ola John. In a dark day for HSV, John was the only bright spark, causing Atsuto Uchida and Sead Kolašinac plenty of problems early on playing on both wings, with his quick feet and dribbling giving his side attack more dynamism. However, his end product was poor, often misplacing passes or getting caught in possession, something that should improve as his adaptation to the squad progresses. We should expect to see John as one of the team’s main attacking threats for the rest of the season and, in all likelihood, in a starting place next week at Hoffenheim, especially with Lasogga likely to be missing. Full-back Zhi Gin Lam also went off before the end of the first half with what seems like ligament damage.
With the substitution, John moved to the wing and Hakan Çalhanoğlu moved as the lone man up top. However, HSV’s troubles getting the ball forward meant that the Turkish U21 international often had to come deep to receive the ball, leaving too much space for him to cover to the goal. Midfielders Tolgay Arslan and Milan Badelj were those in charge of bringing the ball out and too often resorted to the long ball to the wing, more often than not losing possession. When the ball did not go to John it went to Ivo Iličević, who is now a shadow of the winger that thrilled us all while at Kaiserslautern. Iličević’s one-dimensional play did not contribute anything to HSV’s attack and he was subsequently substituted mid-way through the second half by the equally uninspiring Jacques Zoua. Bert van Marwijk clearly has a problem in bringing the ball out and forming an attacking move; the players at his disposal do not inspire much confidence that this will change, either.
The Hunter is back
162 days have passed since Klaas-Jan Huntelaar went off in the match against Wolfsburg in Matchday 2 of the Bundesliga and the Dutchman got straight back into things with a performance that makes it hard to believe that he has been out for over five months. Heiko Westermann and Jonathan Tah had a torrid time trying to contain Huntelaar in the box, as the ball always seemed to reach the Dutchman’s feet or head. He opened the scoring on 34 minutes after beating Westermann in the air from a Farfán cross and with the goal he also took the lead in the battle with his marker that had been even until then, causing problems for HSV’s central-defensive duo for the whole of the second half before being substituted for Ádám Szalai with 20 minutes to go. His presence in the box alone gives Schalke an extra dimension going forward that they’ve gravely missed in the Hinrunde, giving them the option to come in from the wings or to cut through the middle without making them too predictable.
Rafael van der Vaart, an expendable luxury?
Bild published a story last week about Rafael van der Vaart’s desire to renew his contract with HSV beyond 2015. However, van der Vaart’s role this season has gone from mediocre to invisible, far from the influent player he was during his first stint in Hamburg and even last season. With the arrival of Hakan Çalhanoğlu, van der Vaart now has to share set-piece duties and despite having a decent effort cleared by a diving save by Ralf Fährmann today, he was largely ineffective to say the least. Çalhanoğlu is slowly showing the leadership skills that he had at Karlsruhe in his new club and one cannot help but feel that he is a younger version of van der Vaart; everything that the Dutchman can do, Çalhanoğlu can do too. In the grand scheme of things, Çalhanoğlu is 19 years old and van der Vaart is almost 31, with his best footballing days clearly behind him, and Çalhanoğlu plays better when positioned behind the striker, a position that he is competing with van der Vaart for.
On the wing, Çalhanoğlu is less effective and almost wasted, taking part in the game sparingly; as a lone man up front, he clearly doesn’t have the physique to compete nor is he a striker. Therefore, it is inevitable that the question arises: Would HSV miss van der Vaart if he left? His seven goals this season (2 penalties) might give reason for thinking “yes” but his performances in recent matches leave more doubts than certainties in regards to his future in the squad. In any case, there is no doubt that van der Vaart has to prove this Rückrunde that he deserves a new contract. With a salary believed to be in the region of 3.5m€ per year, it’s an amount of money that HSV could destine somewhere else more productively. It’s hard not to feel that HSV have two players for one position and that playing both of them at the same time cancels one or both of them out, coming at a huge cost to the team since they are arguably two of their best players. Food for thought for Oliver Kreuzer and Bert van Marwijk. Either way, before they tackle this problem, they will need to refer to the defence if they do not want their relegation nightmare to become a reality.
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