10 Things we learned from Matchday 22By: Jan | March 3rd, 2008
1. A lesson in the fine art of self destruction by Schalke 04.
The merits of having the club’s president publicly lame ducking a coach are generally questionable. Doing so ahead of two of the most crucial fixtures of the season is attention seeking, mistimed and pure idiocy at best. While Schalke’s sporting director Andreas Müller was busy trying to spin the story, by claiming it was meant as a positive wake up call for the team and coach, it realistically undermined the authority of Mirko Slomka and further unsettled the team.
Schalke did well against Bayern, when they met in the Allianz Arena earlier in the season. Bayern were even a bit lucky, that Schalke failed to extend their lead and that a wrongly awarded free kick led to Bayern’s equaliser. So a Schalke team in good form should be able to hold Bayern at bay. Especially if it’s a home game in a stadium Bayern never managed to leave victorious before. In the end, Schalke can be happy with a 1-0 beating, given that Bayern easily could have made the score-line look worse. All of that, despite Slomka giving in to the criticism of not playing the new superstar signings (at €2m each…) and had started Vicente Sanchez ahead of Lövenkrands. Ze Roberto was also given a bit more time to shine, when he replaced Rakitic early in the second half. All with little effect.
A post match peace conference between Slomka and Schnusenberg intended to calm things down again. The match against Porto will tell, whether this helped the confidence of the squad in any way.
2. A lesson about squad strength and depth.
It’s not just the management, who aren’t too happy with Mirko Slomka. A lot of the fans feel he failed to develop the team. Schalke still have the same difficulty defending a lead and creating chances.
From an outside perspective it doesn’t look all that bad. Realistically it’s not too surprising that teams like Bayern, Bremen and Hamburg occupy the Champions League spots, even if Schalke have a chance to challenge them. And they still have this chance. There’s also potential in Schalke’s team with Rakitic and Rafinha receiving attention from European top clubs, while Jermaine Jones, Heiko Westermann and Christian Pander all debuted for the German national team recently. Which isn’t all too different from let’s say Bayer Leverkusen. Yet, the UEFA Cup clearly isn’t enough for a management whose club financing depends on 8 out of 10 Champions League seasons over the next years.
Yet, that there probably isn’t as much quality in their squad, as the management believes Mirko Slomka isn’t unearthing was demonstrated by Bayern Munich. Hitzfeld had decided to rest several key players, who had to go the full 120 minutes in the DFB-Pokal midweek, but those coming off the bench, would all be more than welcome additions to Schalke’s starting XI. And maybe this is a reality Schalke need to accept.
3. Hertha have their bi-annual early season high.
Hertha confidently beat Duisburg on Friday and could only be blamed for not running up the score a bit more (2-0). It was a display, which could have you believe, that Lucien Favre finally found the right tactical formation and the right players to play his preferred attacking passing game. Yet, Hertha were in the same position in the first half of the season, when they gave a glimpse of Favre’s vision in a 3-2 victory over Dortmund at home. Eventually though, the season continued to be topsy-turvy and it’ll be interesting to see, whether it’ll be any different this time around. An away game against Dortmund is waiting.
4. When in doubt put it in the back of the net.
Markus Rosenberg’s first goal against Dortmund might look like a classy cool back-heel finish, but in reality it was probably born more out of hesitation than intention. When the ball came rolling towards the goal and Rosenberg, Rosenberg knew he was offside and thus didn’t touch the ball. Once he realised the ball wouldn’t find the back of the net without his help, he quickly decided to put it in anyway. You know, just in case. And in this case it counted, since the referee hadn’t seen the offside position. Dortmund were understandably furious. Though, there is nothing to complain about Rosenberg’s second goal. A 2-0 victory keeps Bremen on the heels of Bayern.
5. Dortmund receive carte blanche to suck.
The defeat at Werder sees Dortmund trailing seven points from a place in Europe. Following the semi-final draw of the DFB-Pokal though, Dortmund may no longer need to worry too much about their Bundesliga campaign. Dortmund play at home against second Bundesliga strugglers Jena, while Bayern host Wolfsburg. Should Bayern beat Wolfsburg, Dortmund would only be one victory away from a return to European football. Should Wolfsburg cause an upset, it’ll be two. There’s no shorter and no easier way really and Thomas Doll can use the remaining 12 Bundesliga matches to find the right squad for those two matches.
6. Emma temporarily stops Stuttgart’s decay.
Emma was the name of a storm over Germany this weekend. It caused windy conditions in many stadiums and helped generate puns for busy German football writers – where storm translates to Sturm and attack/offence in football translates to Sturm as well. Being handicapped in this regard, I may just point out, that the DFL didn’t even bother starting Stuttgart’s away game against Cottbus because of Emma.
7. Karlsruhe are the Bundesliga Offside’s darlings of the weekend.
Just because they beat Wolfsburg 3-1. Next team to get the chance of winning this prestigious award will be Cottbus, and they clearly could use those three points as well.
8. Bochum should start planning their summer marketing tour through Japan.
A 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen opened a 12 point gap between Bochum and the drop zone. It may be safe to assume, that the outlook of Bochum getting relegated is just as hypothetical as the idea of Bayern not winning the Bundesliga this year. One player, who has contributed to this upswing, is Japanese superstar Shinji Ono, who now lures plenty of Japanese reporters to Bochum’s home games. So it’s probably time for Bochum to make this transfer pay off off the pitch as well.
9. Safety first football doesn’t suite Leverkusen.
Maybe Michael Skibbe was looking for a dress rehearsal ahead of their UEFA Bundesliga Cup clash with Hamburg and the away goal rule in mind. Whatever the case, it didn’t look too pretty for a team hailed for playing one of the most entertaining football in the league.
10. Attacking football suites Hamburg.
Huub Stevens was more successful switching roles and playing all guns blazing against Frankfurt, who were happy to play passive bystanders most of the time. Hamburg won 4-1 and could still be blamed for not making the most of their chances.