Fnatic vs FC Schalke 04
A clash between Fnatic and Schalke 04 shouldn't be this hard to predict, no matter the season or meta. But here we are, at the start of the year, with a fairly competitive affair between the former "Kings of Europe" and an organization that, by and large, never accomplished much.
Neither of the two impressed us much over the last two years, although that's for entirely different reasons. Schalke 04 had good moments but they were too few and far between to warrant anyone's benefit of the doubt. They're just not cohesive enough as a unit, and it seems like they're not entirely sure who's supposed to do what and when. This, in short, is quite a surprise as they didn't change that much during the course of the off-season. A different top laner and support shouldn't have made such big of a difference, and yet here we are. It seems that losing Odoamne (and even Dreams, for that matter) hurt them in more ways than one. Of course, they still have quick glimpses of greatness, those short flashes of brilliance which allowed them to go on that mind-blowing miracle run last year, but they're also weaker in nearly every regard. Some of it boils down to the meta, with the rest hinging around their synergy or lack thereof. Still, it's the start of the season, and we're only just a couple of games into the split, so these fumbles and failures can generally be excused.
Well, at least in Schalke's case. When it comes to Fnatic, the kind of mistakes they've made aren't quite as justifiable. Heck, it's not even close. We're talking five seasoned veterans, most of whom have already hoisted at least one LEC/LCS trophy. This team should've been able to hit the ground running, based solely off sheer experience and mechanical prowess. When synergy's lacking, individual talent comes into play and yet we haven't seen much of that throughout the first week of the split. There were solid glimpses, for sure, but they still paled in comparison to what most of us expected.
The thing is, they're still unsure of where their limits lie, and how they want to go about playing the game. It's been one step forward and then two steps back. When they make a play, they always stick around for a bit too long and get punished for it. We've seen that time and time again, and it mattered very little if they had any sort of lead or not.
Instead of going in willy-nilly, Fnatic needs to focus on the fundamentals -- drafting a team comp that scales into the late game, giving Hylissang a bit of agency with a pick that can engage, and they'll be good to go. It's really *that* simple. If a team cannot execute layered, complex team comps and strategies because they lack synergy, then giving them simple and easy-to-execute strats is the only logical option — at least until they get on the same page further down the line.
Whether they'll do so or not still remains to be seen, but after getting two losses on the board, one can imagine they're pretty darn frustrated. And, frankly, it shouldn't be this hard, especially not for a team as seasoned and talented as Fnatic.
Still, Schalke are by no means an insurmountable challenge, and even though our patience (and trust) in the boys in black and orange is running thin, we'll still side with them on this one. They have all the right tools to get the win and find some semblance of momentum, but they still need to deliver. In any case, a competitive clash that's packed with unforced errors and baffling mistakes (on both sides) is all but guaranteed.