Tonight Schalke started the post-Rutten era with a 2-0 win at the Schüco Arena against relegation threatened Arminia Bielefeld. The first half started the same way most games had during Rutten’s reign, dreadful and boring. In fact Arminia were the better side in the first half and missed four clear cut opportunities. Unfortunately for the Blues, Schalke hit for a goal in added time and walked into the dressing room with a 1-0 lead.
It was a fantastic goal. Vicente Sanchez was having a hard time breaking past Nico Herzig so as he moved the ball out of the left corner he caught a streaking Christian Pander with a cheeky back-heel. Pander then supplied a sublime cross to the center of the box where an unmarked Jefferson Farfan finished as defender Andre Mijatovic decided to spectate rather than mark.
The goal seemed to wash the team of Rutten’s presence, for in the second half Schalke were something completely new this season: fun to watch. With Arminia chasing the game, their counter was free flowing and exciting and should have led as many as a half dozen goals with offsides discounting two goals and the woodwork denying Kuranyi twice. A late goal finally clinched the full three, but it was a thoroughly deserved win by the visitors.
So let’s look at what was different.
- 1. Not Everyone is a DM
The only person that was a legitimate holding midfielder for the Royal Blues is Levan Kobiashvilli since the departure of Ernst. And tonight rather than trying to force Westermann or Jones or Kuranyi into the position while forcing Kobi to be a left back, Mike Buskens and Youri Mulder let players play their natural positions. Westermann was CB. Kobi a DM. Jones a box-to-box. Guess what? It worked!
- 2. Orlando is not Disney Magic
In fact, he has been disgraceful since joining the team in the summer. And as a favorite of Rutten’s he was an automatic to start, which is one of the main reason’s Rutten is jobless. He sat on the bench tonight and wasn’t able to waste space on the pitch. The Dutchman is meant for a 5 man midfield with someone to get him the ball and runners to find space for his strength: his long passing. Rather than force Schalke to accommodate his play, they had two central midfielders, two wide midfielders and two forwards.
- 3. Old Dogs and Old Tricks
Bordon and Kuranyi were back. The defender and forward seemed renewed as if they had not gotten on with Rutten. Bordon was frisked leaving the ground and found to have Artur Wisniarek still concealed in his back pocket. And Kuranyi should have had a hat-trick, but the woodwork was not his friend today. But it just wasn’t the outcome, it was the output. Both put in the hard grafting that we were used to two years ago.
- 4. Sanchez Unleashed
The Uruguayan had become an important player under Rutten, but today he was allowed to roam and be the playmaker that Schalke have been missing since Lincoln left for Turkey. Rather than isolated on a wing, he seems was free to explore the pitch and seems poised to be the tip in a diamond formation. He could even take a #10 role similar to Misomivic or Augusto.