In the minority when compared to most promising youngsters or up-and-coming footballers, 21-year-old Fabian Schär worked in the banking industry before making his footballing breakthrough at FC Basel. He possesses the necessary qualifications to work as a banker. With his impressive Football intelligence, well-rounded technical skill set, ball-playing ability and, arguably most importantly, a well-grounded mature mindset, this Swiss centre-half and his interesting background story is most definitely one to remember and for all the right reasons.
Who is Fabian Schär?
Born on the 20th of December 1991 in the city of Wil in the Swiss Canton of St. Gallen, Fabian Schär joined the youth academy of his hometown club FC Wil 1900 as an 8-year-old. Promoted to the FC Wil 1st-team at the age of 18 in 2009, the Swiss centre-half hasn’t looked back since.
After his 1st-team debut and a single further senior appearance in 2009/10, Schär went on to appear 25 times and score 4 goals for Wil in 2010/11, impressing so much that he was called up for Switzerland at U20 level. He then made 29 appearances in 2011/12, getting on the scoresheet on 5 occasions. A video clip of him scoring a goal from his own half against FC Aarau in an October fixture in the Swiss Challenge League – ie the Swiss 2nd Division – went viral on the Internet in late 2011, bringing Schär up many notches in terms of visibility. On the international stage, the progress continued as Schär stepped up to the Swiss U21s and even headed in a goal on his 3rd appearance, a 3-1 win over Estonia in a Euro Qualifier. 56 appearances and 9 goals for his hometown side, Schär impressed enough to make the step up the footballing ladder, joining perennial Swiss domestic champions FC Basel in the summer of 2012.
Schär didn’t manage to break into Murat Yakin’s Starting XI immediately, having been with Switzerland at the 2012 Olympic Games, but bided his time and made the most of his opportunity when it finally came on 29 September 2012. After ending 2012/13 with 24 domestic (league + cup) appearances, starting all but 2 of the Rotblau’s 14 UEFA Europa League matches in a run to the semi-finals, appearing for the final time for the Swiss U21s and proceeding to earn 3 senior international caps, Schär hasn’t looked back. The young Swiss international contributed a total of 11 goals and 1 assist in 42 appearances for Basel and Switzerland. At the time of writing in 2013/14, Schär has appeared 15 times for Basel in the league, scoring 3 and assisting 2. In Europe, he scored twice across the 2 rounds of UCL qualification that Basel had to negotiate to reach the group stage, where he played every single minute of Basel’s 6 matches. Hugely impressive performances were seen from both FCB and Fabian Schär in their double over Chelsea, with Schär impressing even further with his assist for Salah’s winner in Matchday 5. Internationally, Schär further cemented his spot in Switzerland’s squad for this year’s 2014 FIFA World Cup, making 2 appearances in friendlies – 1-0 win against Brazil and a 2-1 defeat to South Korea.
Barring any significant drop in form, expect to see Schär on Switzerland’s plane to Brazil. A big move after the World Cup? That would not be a surprise. However, note that any big move would be what he deserves, through his impressive development and displays at Basel, rather than 1 of those “flavour of the month” transfers that happen in the wake of World Cups.
Style, strengths and Weaknesses
Watching Fabian Schär in action, the 1st thing that comes to mind is his cool and composed nature in dealing with anything, be it sending a free kick delivery further forward, bursting out of his team’s defensive line to make an interception or tracking an opponent’s run in behind. His good communication and organising skills help him in this regard as well, as they ensure that he and his defensive partners are always in sync against an opposition attack, hence forming a formidable FC Basel defence that has the ability to frustrate the biggest of teams in the Champions League; Just ask Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Manchester United.
Schär has exhibited the trait of stepping up his game when he goes from playing in the Raiffeisen Super League to the UEFA Champions League. This ability to step up and produce a top performance when required is inherent of young footballers who possess the potential to kick on and break into the top echelons of the Beautiful Game.
Though Basel missed out, by a narrow margin, on qualification to this season’s Champions League knockout stages, Schär played in all 6 of Basel’s matches and did well enough to impress onlookers.
Defensively, he is adept at both 1-on-1 tackling and making interceptions. Though Schär outwardly isn’t the most intimidating or fierce-looking centre-half, he can put in a robust challenge if he needs to. With an average of 3.5 successful tackles per game, Schär is ranked 19th, ahead of more renowned names like Martin Demichelis, Gary Cahill and Jonny Evans. However, his 5th-placed ranking of 2.8 fouls per game suggest that he still has considerable room for improvement in this area of defending. With regard to interceptions, he made an average of 3.8 per game, which, at the time of writing, places him 5th in the rankings. That puts him above more experienced and/or illustrious counterparts like Felipe Santana, Mats Hummels, Laurent Koscielny, Jerome Boateng and Joao Miranda. Numbers of 1.3 offsides won per game, which places him 6th, illustrate that Schär has the game-reading ability to shift his position at the right time to catch the opposition offside. Of course, it must be noted that playing the offside trap is, more than anything, a team move, so what can we take from this specific stat? Well, it shows that Fabian Schär has the required ability to be a cog in a team that utilises the offside trap system of defending, albeit Basel do not rely particularly on playing the offside trap.
On the ball, Schär is capable of seeing the opening for a long-range “Hollywood pass” and execute it well. Though he isn’t yet at the level of a Gerard Piqué, Mats Hummels or David Luiz in that particular skill, the young Swiss international is improving in that aspect and is likely to eventually perfect that area of his offensive game. Though 79.2% isn’t exactly an impressive passing accuracy rate, that doesn’t tell the full story. With Basel frequently looking to maximise the threat of pacy new Chelsea signing Mohamed Salah, Schär frequently looked to play the direct long-range passes in behind opposition defences. This shows, via Squawka, in his average pass length of 25m. 9.7 accurate long balls per game ranks him 3rd in WhoScored’s ratings and places him ahead of Dante, Neven Subotic and Gerard Pique. Thus, whilst still having much room for development, he clearly has the potential to eventually reach the aforementioned levels of Pique, Hummels and David Luiz et al.
Granted, statistics do not tell the full story and can be manipulated to the extent of overrating a player. Schär is by no means the finished product, hence his statistics simply show that right now he can hold his own at the top level and that he has the potential of eventually becoming 1 of the top centre-halves of his generation, or at least age group.
Physically, the 1.86m tall Schär is athletic without being particularly fast. Aerially, Schär is no slouch. His composure and game-reading ability ensures that he times his jumps well when he has to challenge for headers in either penalty box. The Basel defender is an aerial threat, as seen in his offensive contributions(discussed further down).
A prime and recent example of Schär’s passing ability would be his stunning assist for Mohamed Salah’s goal in a 1-0 win over English giants Chelsea in the group stage of this season’s Champions League. On the ball at the right centre-half area of the St. Jakob Park pitch, Schär released Egyptian livewire Salah through on goal with a diagonal pass in behind the Chelsea defence, right back Branislav Ivanovic in particular. Whilst he might not be consistent enough – he is improving though – with his long-range passes, Schär quite clearly has the ability to polish that aspect of his game and push on to become 1 of the premium ball-playing central defenders of his generation.
Schär, with his composure and maturity, has shown to possess leadership qualities. Once he has proven himself at a top club, as a departure from Basel seems inevitable, it would not be surprising to see Schär eventually being made captain. He is potentially a stalwart type of player a top club could have, like Jamie Carragher and Carles Puyol.
In terms of roles in a central defensive partnership, Schär can operate in both the stopper and “last man”(organiser) roles. Think Koscielny for the former and Mertesacker for the latter role. Before Aleksandar Dragović’s departure from Basel, Schär had formed a brilliant well-rounded partnership with the Austrian. Dragović’s natural tendencies to push forward and aggressively front up the opposition blended perfectly with Schär’s adeptness at dropping further back to look at the big picture and organise Basel’s compact defensive side.
A negative of Schär’s progression thus far is his collection of yellow cards. He was cautioned 11 times in his 56 appearances for Wil and, at the time of writing, has been yellow carded 22 times in 63 appearances for FC Basel. Whilst representing Switzerland at youth and senior level, his record is a huge contrast from club level. For Switzerland at U20 and U21 level, he has received only 1 red card in 8 appearances. As a senior international, just the 1 yellow in 5 appearances. The vast difference could perhaps be put down to the difference in refereeing in Switzerland, UEFA competitions and in senior international matches. Schär is not a “dirty player” and I believe his yellow card count will gradually decrease as he develops. As with any young footballer, there will be flaws to his game.
On a more positive note, Schär is also a goal threat. In his debut season (2012/13) with Basel, he scored 8 goals in total, a mixture of headers and penalties. In his first 3 senior appearances for Switzerland, Schär notched 3 goals, including on his debut. At the time of writing, he has scored 3 goals domestically and a further 2 in the UCL(Qualification) this 2013/14 campaign. Again, these were a mix of headers and penalties. He is evidently adept at the art of taking penalties, doing so on multiple occasions(even outside of penalty shootouts) for Basel. His most high profile penalty to-date would be against Chelsea in the 2012/13 UEL Semi-Finals, which Basel lost on aggregate. Offensively, Schär’s composed nature and comfort & confidence with the ball at his feet shines through. He has proven to be completely at ease playing a one-two with a team-mate before bursting into the opposition box and taking a shot at goal, doing so with the same air of confidence he exudes when bringing the ball out of defence to start an attack.
All in all, Fabian Schär is a complete and intelligent defender who is also a holistic offensive threat. His composed nature stands him in good stead for the future as he isn’t fazed by any challenge, hence I’ve no doubt that he will eventually make his way to the top, perhaps even being handed the armband wherever he ends up after his inevitable departure from FC Basel. Remember the name – Fabian Schär.
“Composed on the ball with an expansive range of passing and shooting, strong in the tackle, immaculate in his positioning and dominant in the air.” (@Paul_Doyle of the Guardian compares Fabian Schär to his current FC Basel manager, Murat Yakin in this piece)
Some credit must go to Chris Wachtler, who is behind @FCBasel_english on Twitter. I had a discussion with him on Fabian Schär midway through writing this Scout Report.
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