Through a combination of new management and youth, the bar for Schalke’s 2017/18 campaign wasn’t set all that high. Bouncing back up the table following their 10th placed finish in 2016/17 would’ve been enough, but the youthful group that lowered expectations was the same group determined to exceed them.
The Royal Blues did bounce back but rather than securing a Europa League berth, or merely competing for a Champions League spot, Schalke surged past expectation on the path to collecting a 2nd placed finish — ahead of cross-town rivals and second place regulars, Borussia Dortmund, no less.
Topping the highlights of the season is a 4–4 Revierderby draw that remains as unbelievable as it is indescribable; the 90 minutes of horror-turned-happiness was emblematic of a larger pattern. The newfound belief on display in that game was something seen in many of Schalke’s matches last season, and something they’ll need plenty of in 2018/19.
Managerial Background — Domenico Tedesco
One of just five Bundesliga coaches under the age of 40, Domenico Tedesco has been a welcome sight in Gelsenkirchen. Given his chance at Schalke after just 11 games in 2. Bundesliga with Erzgebirge Aue, Tedesco has raised his squad’s ceiling, and facilitated both current and long-term growth.
Always one-to-watch, Max Meyer finally unlocked some of his potential, and split midfield duties with one of Bayern’s newest stars, Leon Goretzka. Both eventually left the club but Tedesco showed the enormous potential of his system. Thanks to a recent extension that will run through 2022, the German-Italian looks set to be the first Schalke manager to outlast the twin-season curse since Huub Stevens (1996–2002).
Replacing both Meyer and Goretzka’s contributions was the obvious goal coming into the summer, something made only harder by the fact Schalke lost them both for nothing — a continually harmful trend. Their replacements, Suat Serdar and Omar Mascarell, bring neither flash nor fame, but they do bring enough to plug the gaps left by the pivot’s respective departures.
The gap left by Thilo Kehrer’s late €37 million move to PSG will be harder to plug, but Salif Sané is cover enough for the versatile defender and won’t look out of place alongside Naldo and Matija Nastasić in a back three.
Other summer incomings include Hamza Mendyl, the young left-back out of Lille; an experienced and effective striker in Mark Uth, as well as boyhood Schalke fan and Union Berlin player of the season, Steven Skrzybski.
Bayern’s Sebastian Rudy will soon join them and while no player is particularly over-exciting in their own right, Schalke’s new boys as a collective should give the club and its fans a blend of hope and comfort heading into the new season.
Improvement on last year’s finish is just slightly far-fetched but fans can expect die Knappen to once again challenge for a Champions League place, as well as plenty of fun along the way. Tedesco should be happy with his squad, and will no-doubt look to show any doubters the error of their ways.
Strongest XI (3-5-2)
Fährmann — Nastasic, Naldo, Sané — Oczipka, Bentaleb, Mascarell, Harit, Caligiuri — Burgstaller, Uth.