Schalke’s crushing defeat at Revierderby exposes midfield weakness

Borussia Dortmund 3-0 FC Schalke 04   (Aubameyang 77, Mkhitaryan 78, Reus 85)

It was not that Schalke lost. It was not that it was the coveted Ruhr Valley derby. It was about how. At the end of the game, BvB Dortmund had thirteen shots on net compared to Schalke 04’s nil. Dortmund played a game of undying penetration and foiled opportunities until the gates came justifiably crashing after Pierre Aubameyang struck with about fifteen minutes left to play.

Besides Timon Wellenreuther’s superb goaltending for over seventy minutes, the whole Schalke team needs to be under review after what happened in Week 23. Regarding the other ten starters, they either played below capability: (examples being Matija Nastasic and Benedikt Hoewedes) or looked like they are not capable of playing top-flight football (Christian Fuchs, Kevin-Prince Boateng and especially Atsudo Uchida). As for manager Roberto Di Matteo, these performances prove that even a defensive-minded club cannot get away with both a lack of top-notch talent and a broken system where offensive attack is more or less non-existent. On a minor level, it has to be questioned why only one substitute was made at the cost of not displaying promising talent such as Max Meyer or Felix Platte. The answers strategically are obvious. When Schalke’s fortunes were keeping the score at 0-0, Di Matteo decided to substitute Boateng for a more defensive player in Tranquillo Barnetta. Meyer and Platte are not players meant to play a ‘park the bus’ style.

Turning towards the goals, it is noteworthy to pay heed to how this ‘park the bus’ strategy would not hold up against as talented a team as Dortmund, even if their scoring efficiency is at times inept. Goal # 1 was a 2 on 0 breakaway with Aubameyang taking advantage of a deflected ball in the penalty area. Goal # 2 was a beautiful cross by Ilkay Gundogan to of all players, Henrikh Mkhitaryan. Goal # 3 was a Wellenreuther folly, as Marco Reus took advantage of his split-second hesitation and reminded us all that this goalkeeper is indeed under 20 and is supposedly third-string on this club.

Three stars:

1. Timon Wellenreuther-for even having to bear constant attack by the opposing club, nevermind keeping the game even for over two-thirds of the match.

2. Denis Aogo-ran 10.97 km, had 13 tackles and 26 passes.

3. Marco Hoger-ran 10.53 km, had 13 tackles and 24 passes.

In the end, Dortmund were dominant in this game unlike any other they have been in this season. The problems on this Horst Heldt side of chosen limited finances and considerable second-tier talent run deep. In the end, what became apparent was that the midfield on this club is abysmal, both in a defensive coverage and in a an attacking mode. Most of the players are playing at capability level but are simply not up for the task. What the club now has is a system where forwards like Huntelaar and Choupo-Moting are mainly non-existent for the entire match. It is best not to point fingers at any particular individuals at this time but overall keep in mind that the product on the field, in particular in the midfield role is Champions League unworthy.

This midfield disaster is partly instigated by the club’s injury woes. The only positive news from the weekend is that Leon Goretzka did play a half for the U23 side. Yet there is still Ralf Fahrman, Fabian Giefer, Jan Kirchoff, Joel Matip and most prominently with regards to Schalke’s midfield ineptness, Leon Goretzka, Sead Kolasinac, Julian Draxler and Jefferson Farfan out with injury. Schalke need to revive their attacking game if any Champions League promotion is to happen this season, otherwise this was far from the last humiliating defeat.

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