Nick Bidwell’s Notes From Germany: Schalke Paying The Price For Selling Their Future
FC Augsburg’s South Korean striker Ji Dong-won certainly crammed a lot into a ten-minute substitute appearance in the 2-1 Bundesliga loss at Mainz, putting his side one-nil up on 82 minutes with a spectacular long-range shot, then blowing out his left-knee in the subsequent goal celebration.
Landing awkwardly after joyously leaping into the air, the 27-year-old ex-Dortmund and Sunderland centre-forward had to disconsolately limp off and was later found to have damaged medial ligaments, a diagnosis which will sideline him for a prolonged period.
“It’s a real shame for us as Ji was coming off an excellent pre-season and was in strong form,” declared Augsburg director of sport Stefan Reuter. “The goal he scored today would have given him a tremendous boost. Now he has to take that good feeling and use it to recover as quickly as possible.”
Much to FCA’s dismay, Ji’s injury also turned out to be the signal for a late collapse, their keeper Fabian Giefer twice badly at fault as Mainz sensationally turned the tables at the death.
A far happier scenario was playing out in Mönchengladbach, where winger Patrick Herrmann enjoyed a red-letter day in the 2-1 win over Schalke, netting his first Bundesliga goal since April 2017, a drought lasting 1708 minutes.
With Gladbach for over a decade, Herrmann, 27, has become something of the forgotten man of German football. As a youngster, he was one of the most exciting prospects in the country, good enough to win full caps for the Nationalmannschaft in the summer of 2015. But beset by injury problems for the past three years – ruptured cruciate ligaments and severe ankle trouble – his stock and confidence were to plummet. So much so that he no longer is an automatic first-teamer for the Foals and was rumoured to be considering a move away in the off-season.
However, he opted to stay and claims he has no regrets at all. Even if it means playing second-fiddle on the right-flank to the ever-improving Belgian international Thorgan Hazard.
“Naturally I want to play, but if other boys are doing well, you have to accept a spot on the bench. I’ve always been a team player. I do what I can to help the side and the club. It was just fantastic to score after such a long, difficult wait. Goals always are good.”
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What We Learned This Week
1. Tolisso torment.
Bayern Munich’s French midfielder Corentin Tolisso will be unavailable for the next six months after rupturing cruciate ligaments in his right-knee in the 3-1 home win over Leverkusen. An afternoon of extreme emotions for the 24-year-old Gallic World Cup winner. One moment, netting Bayern’s equaliser. The next, carried off on a stretcher.
Tolisso was not the only Bayern casualty against the ‘Werkself’. Brazilian full-back Rafinha, sent sprawling by a terrible challenge from Karim Bellarabi, has partially torn ligaments in his left-ankle and will be out for several weeks. “This can’t go on,” stormed Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. “The DFB and especially the referees have to protect the players.”
2. Gelsenkirchen: Crisis City.
Inevitably, Schalke’s disastrous start to the new Bundesliga season – three games, three defeats and only two goals scored – has proved a rich seam for the pundits to mine, with every talking head only too happy to dissect the woes of last season’s top-flight runners-up. Especially keen to say his piece was former German international midfield enforcer Steffen Freund, who started his pro career with the Royal Blues.
“Schalke’s main problem is in attack, ” he opined on the ‘100 Per Cent Bundesliga’ talk show. ” Their shots to goals ratio is around 20:1. They have lost the effectiveness they had last season. The players who left this summer have been badly missed. Max Meyer, Leon Goretzka and Thilo Kehrer were the club’s future, but they sold it. “
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