The 2017/18 Bundesliga season has reached the halfway stage, giving us here at the Bundesliga Fanatic the opportunity to take stock of each club’s progress so far. Here, we look at how Schalke 04 have fared in the Hinrunde.
The story so far
Well, who expected that? With young, inexperienced trainer Domenico Tedesco at the helm, Schalke went into the season with a number of question marks and doubts hanging over them. Could the rookie coach cope with the demands of such a huge club? How would the loss of club legend Benedikt Höwedes be felt? Could the club return to the elite group at the top of the table after a few seasons of underachievement?
Those questions and doubts were still there after the opening six fixtures which saw the Königsblauen grab three wins, but also suffer defeats to Hannover, Bayern and Hoffenheim. From then on however, Schalke have gone unbeaten with five wins and six draws.
Leon Goretzka’s superb free-kick helped earn a 1-1 draw with Bayer Leverkusen, and he followed that with a penalty in the 2-0 win away at Hertha Berlin. The midfielder is really pushing for a place in Joachim Löw’s World Cup squad and on his Hinrunde form, must be a real candidate.
Mainz, Freiburg and HSV were all beaten, but Schalke were limited to a point at home to Wolfsburg thanks to a 93rd minute equaliser from Divock Origi (spoiler alert: more late equalisers to come).
The game of the season saw a spectacular Revierderby and despite the fact it was a draw, it actually felt like Schalke had won such was the scale of their comeback. The draw against Dortmund was one of four in Schalke’s last five games of the Hinrunde– their only three points came in a 3-2 win over Augsburg.
So Schalke actually finished second at the halfway stage, although that has much to do with the failings of others and the fact that the usual Bayern chasers have been dropping points at an alarming rate (Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig, etc).
That said, after an uncertain start Domenico Tedesco has shown that the job is not too big for him and he has the tactical and technical ability to steer Schalke back towards the top end of the table.
P17 W8 D6 L3 F28 A21 Pt30 (2nd)
- Schalke have won a league high six penalties this season- all of which they have converted.
- Amine Harit is the league’s most fouled player suffering 58 fouls at an average of 4.3 per game.
- Schalke lead the league in the number of tackles made per match with an average of 37 per game with a 59% success rate.
Top Performer: Naldo
The Brazilian defender is fast acquiring legend status at the Veltins Arena with his displays. His last-gasp equaliser against Dortmund alone is enough to achieve adulation in Gelsenkirchen, but he then repeated the feat with another late, late equaliser against Eintracht Frankfurt.
It has not just been his goals (3) that have made him one of the stand-out players for the club. He’s played every minute of every game and has been the cornerstone of Domenico Tedesco’s three-man back line. He’s got a 90% pass completion rate and has got forward to make 20 efforts on goal. He’s averaged 13 challenges per game with a 75% success rate.
At 35 years old, Naldo is a veteran, but against Hamburg he faced a 17-year-old Fiete Arp and showed that youth is no substitute for quality.
The summer signings
The success of the transfer of Bastian Oczipka can be measured by the fact that the loss of Sead Kolasinac to Arsenal hasn’t been felt. The fullback arrived from Eintracht Frankfurt with a good reputation, but he has only enhanced that reputation with his assured displays this season for Schalke.
Amine Harit arrived as a young talent and was thrown straight into action at the Veltins Arena. The 20-year-old has caused Bundesliga all sorts of problems with his direct running and dribbling as in the league’s most fouled player. He’s already won three penalties for his side.
Pablo Insua and Sascha Riether haven’t made an appearance in the Hinrunde, while forward Fabian Reese has been limited to seven sub appearances (usually a ten minute cameo).
Matchday 5 saw the first Englische Woche of the season and the arrival of visitors Bayern Munich. It also saw Schalke’s heaviest defeat of the Hinrunde with a 3-0 defeat.
Bayern opened the scoring with a VAR-assisted penalty from Robert Lewandowski following Naldo’s handball. James Rodriguez added a second after overplaying by Nabil Bentaleb gave the ball away.
Javi Martinez cleared off the line to deny Schalke, and Sven Ulreich denied Guido Burgstalller before but the game was put to bed with Arturo Vidal scoring Bayern’s third.
It surely has to be the stunning second half comeback against Dortmund in the Revierderby. What the atmosphere was like in the dressing room at half-time is anyone’s guess, but having been torn to pieces by BVB in the first 25 minutes, any optimism must have been for show.
When Guido Burgstaller pulled one back on the hour mark, it was a mere consolation surely? Domenico Tedesco’s decision to send on the lively Amine Harit in the first half paid dividends when the young French winger grabbed a second. Game on! The sending off of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang gave them a further boost and when Daniel Caligiuri went on a Maradona-esque run and scored with four minutes left, the expectation levels rose another notch.
Then remarkably, four minutes into stoppage time Naldo rose majestically to power home a header from Yevhen Konoplyanka’s corner. The great comeback was complete and for Schalke fans it felt like a victory rather than just a point.
To expect Schalke to challenge Bayern Munich for the title is a bit much to ask at this stage of the club’s development under Domenico Tedesco, but to finish as one of the ‘best of the rest’ and qualify for Europe would be an achievement of note. To qualify for the Champions League would represent a fantastic first season for Tedesco. For that to happen Schalke will need to start converting their draws into wins.
The transfer window should prove interesting for the Königsblauen with the future of star midfielder Leon Goretzka the main item of business. That Goretzka will one day move on from Gelsenkirchen is a given, but whether that is in this transfer window, in the summer or perhaps in a year or two’s time in the big question.
With Schalke being Schalke, it is conceivable that they can finish in the top four, but it is equally conceivable that they will under-achieve and once again finish in mid-table mediocrity.
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