Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel
Schalke goalkeeper Alexander Nubel

David Wagner must look to Alexander Nubel as Schalke's goalkeeper problems continue

Schalke's goalkeeping problems were further put in the spotlight after Markus Schubert's error-ridden performance against Borussia Dortmund.

The Revierderby was the perfect fixture to welcome back the Bundesliga and the team in yellow hit the ground running as they secured all three points in a 4-0 victory.

The focus was on the top performing Dortmund players. Julian Brandt, Thorgan Hazard and Raphael Guerreiro were the stand-out stars, but Schubert's problems in goal failed to ease Schalke's current poor form.

The 21-year-old was to blame for Dortmund's second goal, while he could have done significantly better as Hazard beat him for the third.

Dortmund 4-0 Schalke | Bundesliga highlights

"That is part of his development. He is still a young goalkeeper that we try to develop further," Schalke head coach David Wagner said of Schubert.

Wagner's words are key. Not just in his slight defence of Schubert but in the fact that he has previously said that the youngster is the only Schalke player who was guaranteed a regular place in the starting XI.

The fallout from the January announcement that Alexander Nubel will join Bayern Munich when his contract expires has been evident. Stripped of his captaincy alongside his regular starting spot, Nubel has even lost the respect of the Schalke fan base as they called for him to go prior to Geisterspiel becoming the new norm in Germany's top-flight.

His performance levels dipped and that paved a way for Schubert to seize the starting spot. The aim to sure-up their last line of defence hasn't worked though and now Wagner has a decision to make; does he bring back his better goalkeeper or stick to his words?

There has to be some admiration for Wagner in that he wanted to keep to the original plan. Despite a shaky performance from Schubert in their 1-1 draw with Hoffenheim prior to the break, the Schalke boss kept faith and resisted the potential urge to make a change for their trip to Dortmund.

On the flip side, there is a feeling that the club could have handled the Nubel situation in better fashion. Taking away the captaincy ultimately led to the Die Königsblauen's fanbase show of dissatisfaction. It's a domino effect that has left the club with a good standard goalkeeper now severely lacking in confidence.

Schalke fans weren't pleased with Alexander Nubel's performance against Koln
Schalke fans weren't pleased with Alexander Nubel's performance against Koln

Politics is ultimately keeping Nubel out of the Schalke net, and while it isn't solely down to the goalkeeper area, those same politics are playing a significant part in the club potentially missing out on a return to European football.

This isn't looking to paint the perfect picture and saying that Nubel has been world class in every fixture. He's got a future that could see him as Manuel Neuer's long-term successor, but there had been below-par showings prior to him securing his next move.

Recent games against Koln and Leipzig stick in the memory, yet there were questionable performances against Dusseldorf and Frankfurt, which saw him shown a red card, before the winter break.

But the bad games are eclipsed by the good ones. He shone in their meeting with Dortmund in October, while the same can be said for games against Borussia Monchengladbach and Bayer Leverkusen.

Ultimately, when it comes to comparing the current two choices that Schalke have, Nubel is the better option.

The previous number one boasts better numbers in the main goalkeeping areas. He has a better pass percentage, a lower number of average inaccurate passes per game while he has significantly more successful run-outs.

Those areas are key to the way Wagner wants his Schalke side to play. The goalkeeper is expected to create attacks from the very back and removing that quality has a Jenga-like effect across the rest of team.

Nubel tops the charts when it comes to goalkeeper errors that have led to goals this season, but the fact that Schubert has now matched his tally, having played around a third of the amount of games, highlights his current problems.

It was an afternoon to forget for Markus Schubert against Dortmund
It was an afternoon to forget for Markus Schubert against Dortmund

Even Schalke's 1-1 draw with Wolfsburg, Schubert's best performance this season, saw him fail to successfully claim a cross which gave the opposition their equaliser. Whether it's the lack of experience or struggling in confidence, and the two perhaps go hand-in-hand (or forearm-to-forearm), the errors have been clear for all to see and, more crucially, have led to Schalke missing out on points.

There's no hiding from those errors for either goalkeeper. It's been a factor that has had direct influence over some of their results, but Nubel offers so more than Schubert, even with both in questionable form, through that distribution from the back.

Schubert will develop into a consistent goalkeeper in the future and his regular showings for Germany's under-21s side show that he is on the right track. Schalke boasted the best young goalkeeper pairing in the Bundesliga at the start of the season and that quality doesn't disappear overnight.

But while quality is often consistent, form is not and Schubert is battling in a low point that almost every professional footballer will experience, particularly in their younger years.

The remaining fixtures being played behind-closed-doors takes away some of that pressure. However, the lack of crowd is surely more beneficial to Nubel than Schubert, with the former experiencing those issues with supporters prior to the enforced stoppage.

Nubel's confidence was clearly affected by the reaction from the stands. The old cliche of there being nowhere to hide on a football pitch will be understood by the 23-year-old; those in blue were unafraid to share their displeasure.

But remove the fans and you remove the significant weight on his shoulders. The sound of thousands chanting in unison are replaced by the solo voice of a coach screaming out instructions which echo around the otherwise eerie silent stadiums.

If there was ever a time to introduce Nubel back then it's now. Schalke need the best options available if they are to turn around their current problems, and that starts at the very base of the team.

Alexander Nübel - Top 5 Saves

And what about the long term? Nubel will be playing understudy to Neuer at Bayern and Schalke are left in the hunt for a permanent number one.

They have previously indicated that they are willing to keep faith in Schubert; he'll battle Ralf Fahrmann, currently on-loan at Brann after an uneventful spell at Norwich, for the goalkeeper spot next season.

"We are planning with Markus Schubert and Ralf Fahrmann, because they are two outstanding Bundesliga goalkeepers." Schalke's head of sport Jochen Schneider told Sport Bild in April.

"In addition, we still have Michael Langer, who occupies an enormously important position in our team. Of course they will enter an open competition. This is a basic part of competitive sport.

"Fahrmann has the advantage of bring more experienced while Schubert has the advantage of having played more as far as this season is concerned."

Schalke's desire to bring Fahrmann back into the fold may only do further damage to their goalkeeping issues, as opposed to resolving them.

The 31-year-old has gone from 25 appearances during the 2018/19 campaign to three games this season. He badly lacks competitive minutes and, as seen with Schubert, that can be problematic.

The search for a new goalkeeper comes when the transfer window opens though and Schalke have to look to the present. Nubel's return will be a move in the right direction as they aim to put a torrid second-half of the campaign behind them.

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