FC Schalke 04 have one of the best left backs in the Bundesliga, as Bastian Oczipka continues to turn in high level performance after high level performance.
Fans of the Royal Blues have every reason to be disappointed with the team’s Matchday 21 performance at the Veltins Arena against lowly SC Paderborn 07. Schalke didn’t create nearly enough opportunities for themselves and were completely overrun in midfield, as they struggled with Paderborn’s pressing and intensity.
But there were some quiet bright spots for the Royal Blues. Starting left back Bastian Oczipka was indeed among them, as he’s consistently been this season.
You could make the case that after Amine Harit, Ozan Kabak, Suat Serdar, and Omar Mascarell, Oczipka has been the fifth-best player on the team this season. And like those other four, Oczipka can claim to being one of the top players at his position in the entire league.
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What sets Oczipka apart from the competition is his all-around impact. There are so few weaknesses to Oczipka’s game, perhaps only his short pass accuracy and exchanges with the left forward or attacking midfielder.
This season, only Harit has as many assists as Oczipka on the team with four. Oczipka’s crosses and set piece deliveries are pinpoint.
According to WhoScored.com, Oczipka has the fifth-most accurate corners per game at the left back position and the ninth-most accurate crosses overall. His 1.6 key passes per game rank eighth at the position and third on the team behind only Harit and Daniel Caligiuri.
Defensively, Oczipka isn’t short on quality either. He’s third on Die Knappen in tackles per game and is rarely caught out of position. He has athletic limitations, but he’s disciplined with how he goes forward, which prevents him from being exposed with his more important defensive duties.
Alphonso Davies, Marcel Halstenberg, and Aaron Martin are the top left backs in the league right now, but Oczipka isn’t far behind them. His crosses are dangerous, and, as he showed against Paderborn, he can occasionally go on dangerous runs when cutting inside. If Oczipka’s awareness and passing in tight spaces in the attack were better, he could have even more assists.
But for now, Schalke have to love what Oczipka has produced. At 31, he isn’t going to learn any new tricks, but the former Eintracht Frankfurt man will continue to be a consistent part of the lineup. He has played a whopping 1,890 minutes this season as the workhorse of the team, showing no signs of slowing down. Hence why the Royal Blues signed him to an extension that will take him through the age of 34.
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It may be risky to extend an aging player, but Oczipka has shown that age is just a number as far as he’s concerned. With solid attacking and defensive performances on a weekly basis, Oczipka remains a key part of Schalke’s gameplan.