Hoffenheim hosted Schalke this afternoon and dispatched the visitors and claimed a rather comfortable three points. A 2-0 result means Schalke are still pointless at the bottom of the table, and the pressure will certainly continue to pile on Schalke coach Felix Magath, who spent an impressive amount of money on new recruits this summer.
A first-half goal from Isaac Vorsah after some work down the right wing by Andreas Beck seemed to absolutely deflate the visitors who came up with little in return. Vedad Ibisevic caused constant problems with his pace, and should really have bagged a hat-trick if not for wonder saves by German number one Manuel Neuer. Schalke’s best chances came through Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who missed a guilt-edged opportunity after a delightful ball across the six-yard box by Hans Sarpei which he drilled wide, and then a header that deflected onto the crossbar before being cleared out of danger.
With the game nearing an end, it was a long-range free-kick from Sejad Salihovic that condemned the visitors to defeat. Hoffenheim now sit atop the table with nine points from three games ahead of the other matches this weekend. Schalke, on the other hand, are still looking for their first points of the new season.
The issue now is identifying what has gone so wrong with Schalke over the summer. The Konigsblauen looked imperious for most of last season and nearly pipped the title from a Bayern Munich side who had placed a lot of effort in reaching the Champions League final. Now, they look in absolute shambles. The defense, for me, is a complete disaster. It’s so bad, that calling it a complete disaster could be an understatement. The losses over the summer of Rafinha, Westermann and Bordon have caused huge problems and a real lack of understanding or stability at the back. Bordon and Westermann were a very competent center-half pairing, and Rafinha at right-back was arguably the best in his position in the league next to Lahm.
Christoph Metzelder, Atsuto Uchida, and Nicolas Plestan were brought in to replace those players. Metzelder is a player you’d expect to be a lot more reliable than he has been. Unfortunately, his career has been overrun by injuries and his class is no longer recognizable. He is certainly not the defender we’ve seen at international level with Germany or during Borussia Dortmund’s Bundesliga-winning season in 2002. He’s been an absolute wreck. At center-half for Schalke’s first two matches, he was roasted time and again by opposition attackers and looked totally out of place. Now, playing at right-back against Hoffenheim, he was a mess. Out of position and out of his depth. Plestan was making his debut and was roasted for pace by Ibisevic, and Uchida, who’s only professional football experience has been in Japan, has looked Schalke’s most sturdy defender, although he missed this match through injury.
Magath made an awful mistake selling Westermann in the summer. The money he got for Rafinha allowed him to buy ample replacements, but the replacements he has brought in have looked absolutely dreadful. I think we all expected Schalke to be very impressive this season and push Bayern Munich for the Bundesliga title once again, but they’ve looked far from a side capable of making any impact at all on the title race this year. For the sake of the competition, I hope they prove us all wrong.
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