Two friendlies, two victories – Royal Blues secure confidence boost ahead of new season

As their pre-season training camp in the Austrian alpine town of Mittersill draws to a close, FC Schalke 04 secured two friendly victories to carry some confidence into the new season. Several Royal Blue academy players impressed in a 2-0 victory against Turkish side Alanyaspor before Schalke emerged 3-1 winners against La Liga side Villarreal.

“We showed a lot good movement in both matches and barely allowed anything through our defence in the Villarreal match,” said Royal Blues head coach David Wagner who split his squad in half for the two friendlies. “We wanted to give all of the players as much playing time as possible,” he explained which is why two friendlies were arranged for the same day.

However, Bastian Oczipka didn’t want to overvalue the victories against the Turkish and Spanish top tier sides. “I have experienced pre-seasons before in which you win your warm up friendlies but then start the season poorly. However, things can work out the other way around too,” says the 30 year-old. “Consequently, we cannot lose focus as a result of this result but instead work on what we have learnt in training.”

Some things working well, others not as much

Wagner shares a similar opinion to Oczipka and emphasises that there is still a lot of work to do over the course of the coming weeks and months. “I have seen some things which are working really well but others still need to be improved,” added the head coach.

We wanted to give all the players as much playing time as possible.

David Wagner

It is also impossible for the players to have incorporated all of Wagner’s philosophies and ideas in just a few weeks, says Oczipka. “We have very quickly adapted to his philosophy and style of play. However, it is certainly a process which will continue throughout the season.” At the same time, the attacker, who scored in the 3-1 victory against Villarreal, added: “It certainly isn’t completely new but we want to improve from match to match and continue to develop.”

Playing a back four but there are alternatives

In both friendlies, the Royal Blues played in a 4-2-2-2 formation but it remains to be seen for whether David Wagner will use this formation in next Saturday’s opening competitive match of the new season – the DFB-Pokal first round trip to SV Drochtersen/Assel. “We essentially want to play with a back four. The formation we play in front of the back four will depend on what players are available and what the opponents offer. The 4-2-2-2 formation is an option but I’m not fixed to one system. We want to be able to switch between systems.”

Guido Burgstaller also believes the formation is ultimately not decisive in a football match. “The system a team uses doesn’t play big role in the outcome of a match. It is important that we form chemistry together as a team,” explained the attacker. The Austrian, who scored the opening goal in the victory against Villarreal, believes the result was important for the team mentally: “This victory against strong opponents gives us a lot of self-confidence.”