High-flying Schalke are enjoying a great start to the new season which is a most welcome thing after the appalling year they endured in 2018/19. The players look transformed under new trainer David Wagner, but the jury is very much out on striker Guido Burgstaller- is he a vital component, or a player in need of replacing?
Alexander Nübel has shone with his fantastic saves, Suat Serdar has stood out with his all-round midfield effectiveness, while Amine Harit has dazzled with his goals and assists. Austrian striker Guido Burgstaller however has failed to hit the back of the net in the opening seven games leaving some fans questioning his place in the side.
Depending on which statistics you look at, the forward is either an integral part of the Königsblauen team, or a player, who is in danger of being benched. The 30-year-old has had 21 shots on goal this season, but still has a big fat zero on the goals scored column. Only Eintracht Frankfurt’s Filip Kostic has a worse record (22 shots, 0 goals).
Burgstaller has now gone five months without a Bundesliga goal with his last strike coming back on matchday 33 last season against Bayer Leverkusen. Against Köln on matchday 7, he had two big chances to open his scoring account but missed both (one hit the post).
He has however been an ever-present in Schalke’s forward line missing just nine minutes of action (after being subbed out late on in the 2-1 win over Mainz). David Wagner certainly sees something in the rugged forward.
The ‘Malocher’ (the grafter) is the Schalke architype and a character type the Royal Blue fans take to their hearts. In David Wagner’s high pressing and gegenpressing system, Burgstaller’s physical, aggressive and robust style suit this style- even if the goals thus far have been absent.
The former Nürnberg striker leads the Bundesliga for sprints with 216 ahead of Ihlas Bebou and Marco Reus. He also leads the way on intensive runs with 646 (Wout Weghorst is second on 613). Against RB Leipzig he led the match with 12.74 kilometres covered. Overall this season he ranks 13th in the entire league with 79.3 kilometres run.
Any criticism of the lack of goals is not shared by the club leadership with sporting director Jochen Schneider giving his full backing to the striker. “”What the boy does is phenomenal and cannot be valued high enough. That’s why I’ll always back him, “said Schneider after the game against Köln.
The goals are missing, but the Malocher in Guido Burgstaller for now is enough to convince David Wagner of his importance to the team. It may not be pretty, but you would be hard-pushed to find a single Bundesliga defender, who would confess to enjoying playing against the Schalke forward.
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