When does a dry spell turn into a drought? When does a poor run turn into a crisis? In the case of Bayer Leverkusen striker Patrik Schick, we could be reaching drought and crisis time right about now.
The difference between the Patrik Schick we saw last season and the Patrik Schick we are witnessing this season is dramatic. With 24 goals in 27 Bundesliga appearances last season Schick was (Robert Lewandowski not withstanding) the top striker in the league and the focal point around which the Werkself attack was going to be built for the coming season.
With Leverkusen struggling at the start of the season to rediscover the form of last year, Schick has stood out as one of the players, whose levels have dropped by a shocking level. By this stage last season, he had already hit the back of the net times. So far this season he has scored twice.
It is nor just the raw numbers that are alarming- the demeanour of the player, his body language and his poor conversion rates of relatively easy chances point to a more serious issue than a temporary blip (à la Marvin Ducksch at Werder).
Theory A is that last season was a blip, that Schick massively overperformed in team that was on the up and that things just clicked. He scored goals at RB Leipzig, Roma, and Sampdoria, but only reached double figures in a season twice.
Theory B is that he doesn’t want to be at the club anymore and is annoyed at not being allowed to leave in the summer when clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United and even Barcelona were said to be interested in signing him.
“No, we will not sell Patrik Schick. There is no need to talk about that at all,” CEO Carro explained in the summer. “We are very happy that he is with us, and we firmly count on him for the next few years,” he told Sky Deutschland
Sporting director Simon Rolfes also made a statement on the matter to BILD saying: “Nobody needs to contact us for Patrik as he will play with us next season, that’s very clear. There’s interest but he’s key player for our plans.”
Theory C is that this is simply a loss of form that will rectify itself when the first decent game comes along. However, the way he appears makes the first two theories more likely than the third. He was withdrawn in the 5-1 hammering at the hands of Eintracht Frankfurt in the 80th minute without having had a shot- not a shot on target, but a shot full-stop. He looked thoroughly dejected and forlorn- far from the goal machine on display last season.
Clearly something is wrong, and whether new Leverkusen coach Xabi Alonso can fix it remains to be seen. Without much of an option up front in the striker department, Schick will continue, but will he continue to deteriorate, or will there be a resurgence and return to the scoresheet?