No matter how much progress this team seems to make, some everlasting themes continue: Inconsistency, youthful promise and last-minute defensive collapses. All are rich within the Royal Blues history.
For this game, Schalke were at home facing the hottest team in the Bundesliga. Werder Bremen had five straight wins before this match. The just-turned 19 year-old Felix Platte made his first start for the team Saturday following impressive showings against both Frankfurt and Real Madrid, and because Klaas-Jan Huntelaar remains missing in action till next week’s Derby versus Dortmund due to both suspension and injury. After three years with Paderborn, this up and coming newcomer is the buzz of the team along with goalkeeper Timon Wellenreuther, also just 19 years old. The latter’s performance against Bremen, along with every other match he has been in, make it insulting to term him as a third-strung goaltender.
Other changes in the lineup for today included Tranquillo Barnetta starting in place of Atsudo Uchida, who was out on injury but whose overall performance this year has been shaky. Barnetta, in contrast, has often put in solid if unspectacular performances for the team, including Saturday, when he led the team in both touches (99) and passes (38).
Christian Fuchs was in for Dennis Aogo and Max Meyer was picked instead of Kevin-Prince Boateng. The latter choice proved to be both wise and beneficial, as Meyer scored the team’s goal, albeit rather a fortunate one, that almost won the game. Meyer needs to be given the opportunity to play regularly by Roberto Di Matteo if he is to grow as a player. He is another talented Schalke product whom in 2013/14 seemed to have endless boundaries of potential but has been held out of the starting lineup this year by DI Matteo. Boateng could be the subject of a lengthy discussion on if and how much he has been of benefit to the team overall. In the later half of ’13/14, he was definitely the backbone of the team’s turnaround, but this year has been often inconsistent, even lacklustre in performance. It is no secret he is not the greatest gem to have if you are looking for veteran leadership.
In going back to the premise of Schalke’s undying characteristics, the game against Bremen likely should have been a draw, even with the late goal. Schalke had few opportunities despite having majority ball possession for the first time in recent memory. The defence was solid but hardly at full capacity in performance as it let Bremen have several close opportunities before they levelled the score. The inconsistency lies with Schalke’s biggest area of need. The offence did not end up producing much and if Schalke are going to take full advantage of their back line working well (keep in mind Joel Matip came out because of injury), they need players upfront in both the attacking midfielder and forward positions who can execute. This lack upfront is a barrier to Schalke progressing fully. This was displayed last week against Frankfurt (no goals), Real Madrid(0 goals) and against Bremen (one goal thanks to a goaltender error). More will be discussed before the Ruhr Derby against Dortmund next week.
1. Marco Höger (led the team in distance covered and tackles).
2. Tranquillo Barnetta
3. Felix Platte
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