In just 12 months Schalke has been both the Bundesliga’s overachievers and underachievers. Last seasons runners-up, the Royal Blues finished above rivals Borussia Dortmund, securing Champions League football in Domenico Tedesco’s first season in charge.
Just 32-years-old during his rookie campaign, Tedesco was considered one of the best young coaches in the world. Bundesliga runners-up, an exciting young manager and European football on the way, Schalke were a team on the rise. However, the highs of the 2017/18 season seem like an age ago as an unproductive summer left Tedesco and his team unprepared for the season ahead.
An off-season which saw the team lose four key players, Schalke’s summer was a disaster. Midfielders Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka both left on free transfers, two departures which expose the clubs awful transfer policy. The team also cashed in on young star Thilo Kehrer, as the German defender joined Paris Saint-Germain. World Cup winner Benedikt Höwedes also moved on, joining Russian club Lokomotiv Moscow.
Failing to replace four key players, Schalke’s recruitment policy has led to the team struggling so far this season. Currently 13th in the table, the club has recovered after an awful start to the season. Losing their first five league games, Schalke were sitting in the relegation zone. Tedesco’s team had switched one end of the table for the other, they were going backwards.
Schalke struggle to do two key things, score goals and defend, not ideal. Summer signing Mark Uth has struggled, along with the teams other forwards. Tedesco lacks a clear number one option up front, something the club hopes to address this month.
Losing Meyer and Goretzka has left a void in the middle. Struggling to create for their forwards, Schalke failed to replace two players the club relied on last season. In Tedesco’s system, Schalke normally plays a 3-4-2-1 formation, although Tedesco has gone with four at the back at times this season. Whether it’s three or four at the back, Tedesco needs his midfielders to create and work hard for his system to work. A squad which lacks a true No.10 or No.6, Schalke struggle going forward, with the build-up often being too slow. Failing to score a counter-attacking goal this season, Tedesco needs to speed things up for his team to truly be effective going forward.
Defensively, Schalke struggled massively to start their season. Conceding nine goals in their opening five games, the recruitment team at Schalke must improve at the back this winter. To make matters worse, the team has sold its best defender. Bundesliga veteran Naldo moved on to Ligue 1 strugglers AS Monaco. Leaving the team short at the back, Tedesco has confirmed the team will try to sign reinforcements this month. Losing his tallest defender, Tedesco would do well to replace the giant Brazilian.
As a team, Schalke has conceded seven goals from set-pieces this season. Conceding 24 goals in total, Schalke will focus on defensive signings this month. Selling three key defenders since last summer, Schalke need to spend, if they’re to have any chance of securing European football once again this season.
Underperforming on a regular basis, this Schalke team is letting Tedesco down. At risk of losing his job, the 33-year-old has little to work with as his team continues to disappoint home and away. The aim in Gelsenkirchen is to secure European football and push on in the Champions League. Set to face Manchester City in February, the teams Champions League goals are unrealistic, as the club is simply outmatched. However, the clubs main goal of securing European football for next season is realistic. Let down by his players, Tedesco might not see out the season with Schalke but the players aren’t solely to blame.
The clubs transfer policy has led to the team’s struggles on the pitch. Selling key players, sometimes allowing them leave for nothing, the club is always trying to replace talent, similar to fellow strugglers AS Monaco. This summer was a prime example of why Schalke can’t compete with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich. Letting Leon Goretzka leave for nothing is inexcusable for a club as big as Schalke. Failing to replace the German international is even worse. Schalke must change, otherwise, the club will only continue to go one way, backwards.
Tedesco is a talented, young manager with a great future ahead of him. He may not be at Schalke much longer, but his future is certainly brighter than the Royal Blues.
By James Jukes.