Given Bayern’s dominance, young prodigies Lewis Holtby and Julian Draxler could do nothing to stop Schalke 04 losing their first game of the season.
Schalke threatened on occasion at the Veltins Arena, but Bayern Munich simply wouldn’t be beaten. The result sees them maintain their perfect start to the new Bundesliga season, joint top of the league with surprise package Eintracht Frankfurt, boasting 4 wins out of 4 games. Their 2-goal tally also seals their current position as league top scorers with 14 goals. Jupp Heynckes could ask for nothing more. It’s the perfect response following their Champions League final nightmare last season.
As for Huub Stevens’ Schalke 04, their first loss — as well as home loss — sees them slide down to 5th in the table, remaining on 7 points so far this season. In truth, it was a lacklustre performance by them, especially in an attacking sense. Jefferson Farfan was Schalke 04’s most dangerous player going forward, looking the most likely to get a goal for the hosts. However, the likes of Lewis Holtby and Julian Draxler, who joined Farfan in playing behind lone striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, were unable to have a similar impact and were subbed as a result. Let’s look at these players’ situations.
It’s been a different role for Lewis Holtby this season. The departure of Raul saw the youngster pushed further forward from the deep-lying midfield role he occupied last season and into the hole just behind star striker Huntelaar.
Given his impressive performances thus far this season, complemented by 2 goals and 1 assist, it seems Holtby has slotted seamlessly into this new role. It should come as no surprise given his immaculate vision, made evident by his expansive passing range. And that vision and passing range were on show in this game, albeit sporadically.
He is a player who relies heavily on having the ball at his feet so he can orchestrate his team’s play. But because of Bayern’s dominance, Lewis Holtby, starved of the ball, simply couldn’t have the same impact he had in the previous 3 league fixtures.
Schalke 04 averaged 56.3% possession in their first 3 games, which was ideal for Holtby, given his playing style. More so given his new role. With his team commanding possession, Holtby saw enough of the ball to prove incisive in the final third. He averaged 55.3 touches in those 3 games. On this day, however, Schalke 04 had just 42% possession, resulting in Lewis Holtby enjoying just 37 touches of the ball.
He still mustered a shot, though — a volley which he ballooned well over the bar — and set up 2 goal-scoring opportunities despite the circumstances (in comparison, Toni Kroos used his 85 touches to create 5 goal-scoring opportunities). Both were for Farfan, who had his shots saved well by his former team-mate Manuel Neuer. These chances were created on either side of a 33-minute gap, however, giving further evidence of just how in-and-out of the game Holtby was as a result of Bayern’s dominance over proceedings.
Having seen enough, Huub Stevens substituted Holtby on 62 minutes; Tranquilo Barnetta took to the field. However, the Switzerland international had even less of an impact than Holtby did. In fact, he made no impact which, of course, didn’t help Schalke 04’s cause.
There’s much to like about this young German winger. He has great feet, is pacey, and has a box of tricks. His crossing is also decent.
Schalke 04 know precisely the kind of talent they have and sought to get him involved as much as they could during this game. Hugging the left touchline, team-mates — Lewis Holtby included, who sometimes drifted towards him in order to try and link up — searched him out with cross-field balls, which he took in his stride.
Draxler’s own passing suffered, however, as Phillip Lahm and company generally dealt well with him, not allowing him the time and space to exchange passes with his team-mates. He completed just 68% of his passes as a result — the worst percentage of Schalke 04’s starting outfield players.
But thanks to his skill, he still carved out a few decent contributions. Cutting inside onto his stronger right foot, he gave Lahm and the other Bayern defenders a few things to think about, completing 3 dribbles, attempting a shot (which went wide), and setting up 2 goal-scoring opportunities during this game. One of these was a low cross. It found Jermaine Jones, who had wandered into the box. His resulting shot was blocked just before the end of the first half.
That would be the only cross he would attempt, however — a fact that further explains the lack of involvement of Huntelaar. The other goal-scoring opportunity he created fell to Farfan, who also had his shot blocked by a resilient Bayern defence.
Draxler certainly did what he could, but like Lewis Holtby, his talent was only seen sporadically in this game, thanks to Bayern Munich. As the heat map above shows, he spent the bulk of his time pinned in his own half. To be fair, he put in a decent defensive shift, making an impressive 5 tackles (joint second-best among Schalke 04 players) as he sought to help Christian Fuchs contain Lahm and Arjen Robben on that flank.
But it became clear that Huub Stevens wanted more attacking impetus. Farfan had a much better time on the right flank given he was up against Holger Badstuber, who isn’t naturally a left full-back. The Peruvian generally had the beating of the German and was proving a real handful on the day, so it was unlikely that he would be subbed. That in mind, Julian Draxler joined Lewis Holtby in being substituted on 62 minutes. Ibrahim Afellay came on.
By that time, Schalke 04 were already 2-0 down thanks to a 4-minute blitz by Bayern, which saw Toni Kroos — who impressed on this day — and Thomas Muller score decent goals. Afellay, however, similar to Barnetta, had no impact what-so-ever.
In the end, the impact of Huub Stevens’ substitutions summed up the extent of Bayern Munich’s domination.
It was always going to be a tough test for Schalke 04 versus last season’s runners-up. Without question, the likes of Lewis Holtby and Julian Draxler, who were both impressive in the fixtures preceding this game, will have better days.
With Mainz 05, who are yet to win on the road in 2 attempts thus far this season, visiting the Veltins Arena next, those better days may not be far away.
**Stats courtesy of Whoscored
**Heat maps courtesy of ESPN FC