Although FC Schalke 04 were unable to score against rivals Borussia Dortmund, they dominated the Revierderby and should be pleased with aspects of their performance.
FC Schalke 04 are a team on the rise under new manager David Wagner, who has helped the Royal Blues complete an early turnaround from their woeful 2018-2019 campaign. The club has been spearheaded by talented young players, with September’s Bundesliga Player of the Month Amine Harit deservingly receiving much of the adulation.
But the most impressive attacking player in Saturday’s 0-0 Revierderby result with Borussia Dortmund was Rabbi Matondo. While the Wales international may have received more tweets for missing a few great chances, nothing but kind words should be spoken about Matondo, who did exceptionally well to get into those situations.
Harit and Schalke’s midfield have been excellent this season, so, really, any criticism of Schalke’s goal-scoring output has rested on the strikers. Guido Burgstaller is, of course, the main magnet for criticism, but the issue isn’t about the misses but rather the runs off the ball.
Against Dortmund, Matondo was unplayable when it came to his movement. He regularly outsmarted Julian Weigl and Bundesliga veteran Mats Hummels, splitting the defense and causing all sorts of problems for the entirely overwhelmed Dortmund back four.
Matondo’s intelligence off the ball was uncanny for a 19-year-old, and the Schalke forward looks like the next dangerous teenager in the Bundesliga. The end product wasn’t quite there, but Matondo was active, always looking to get behind the defense. Playing off the shoulder of a defense isn’t easy, just ask Burgstaller how easy it is to be called offsides especially in the VAR era, but Matondo did so flawlessly.
And let’s talk about the misses. Because they weren’t for a lack of finishing or technical quality, but rather nerves. It’s easy to forget that Matondo is a young kid playing significant minutes in a major league for the first time in his career; those nerves are magnified by a thousand-fold in what is literally one of world football’s most passionate rivalries.
Throw in the fact that Matondo was one-on-one with Marwin Hitz with far too much time to think – and thus psych himself out – and those agonizing misses become more understandable.
Matondo just needs in-game experience, patience from the organization, and situational training. Those chances will be converted into goals in no time, and another positive to notice is how Wagner is so encouraging of giving his young players room to grow. Matondo is undoubtedly a key part of Schalke’s future, so the club is more than willing to accept these growing pains.
Because the reality is that Matondo did all the hard work to create those chances on his own with his excellent movement. He is a special player, and as he continues to improve as a more clinical and confidence striker, which will come via experience, he’ll become a truly scary forward for Schalke.