Is it Time to Refresh the Schalke Forward Line?

It is fair to say that Schalke 04 massively underperformed last seasons and few players emerged from their dismal campaign with any credit. The defence, midfield and attack all under-performed and ultimately coach Domenico Tedesco paid the price with his job.

New coach for the 2019-20 Bundesliga season David Wagner has a real job on his hands to get the squad back on its feet and somewhere close to the side that finished as runners-up to champions Bayern Munich in the 2017-18 season.

53 goals were scored in their Vizemeister season, but that figure dropped to a paltry 37 in the campaign just gone. Obviously there were issues with supply and the team’s level of play as a whole, but the forward line is surely one area where incoming trainer Wagner will want to have a serious think. The fact that Daniel Caligiuri was the club’s leading scorer with seven goals makes the issue all the more pressing.

The Königsblauen have more than enough options in the striker department, but the question following the disastrous season just endured is whether it is time to get some new blood in, or whether those already in the squad can deliver.

Breel Embolo

The Swiss striker still has it all to prove following his €22.5 million transfer from FC Basel in 2016. The appalling ankle injury he suffered in his first season was a real set-back, but after returning in the Rückrunde of 2018, you’d think it was time to finally deliver.

Embolo has only played 48 times for Schalke in three seasons, scoring 10 goals in the process. Last season saw him once more hampered by injuries with a fractured foot suffered in November seeing him miss 16 league games for die Knappen.

His season highlight was his drilled right-foot shot that sealed Schalke’s shock 4-2 win in the Revierderby at the Signal Iduna Park, which seriously dented Dortmund’s championship hopes. Moments like this however have been few and far between for Embolo during his three years in Gelsenkirchen.

An injury-free run and spearheading a more confident side may finally see the 22-year-old deliver on his potential.

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Guido Burgstaller

Like Embolo, Guido Burgstaller will be  entering his fourth season with Schalke and like the Swiss will be wanting a much better return next year. When the club finished second in 2018, the former Nürnberg striker scored 11 goals in 32 appearances, whereas last season his figures dropped to 4 in just 24 matches.

I don’t believe the 30-year-old is ever going to score the number of goals in the Bundesliga that he did in the Bundesliga II for 1FC Nürnberg, but he can still do a job for the Königsblauen. Much depends on the style David Wagner wants to play, but the big, bustling striker will in all likelihood have to settle for a back-up role next season.

He too missed 9 games last season with an achilles injury, but his experience, his presence and his power will still have a place in the Schalke attacking plan. How regularly that is as a first-choice starter remains to be seen.

Mark Uth

Schalke were a huge disappointment last season, but one of the biggest let-downs was the failure of Mark Uth to deliver.  After enjoying one of his best seasons and scoring 14 Bundesliga goals for Hoffenheim in 2017-18, Schalke pulled off quite the transfer coup by bringing him to the Veltins Arena.

It was supposed to be a step-up for the 27-year-old, but a disappointing tally of just two goals was all he had to show for his first season. He earned his first call-up to the German national side on the back of his final season at Hoffenheim. Based on last season he would be wise to not be waiting by the phone for a second call from Jogi Löw anytime soon.

Uth never got going at Schalke last season and his form and lack of goals was synonymous with the whole team’s struggles. He had to wait until matchday 10 for his first goal (against fellow strugglers Hannover) and added just one other against Hertha Berlin on matchday 19.

Two separate muscle injuries kept him out for 15 games, but that was potentially a blessing. A fit and eager to impress Mark Uth will be ready for the start of the new season. Which Uth will we see- the free-scoring Hoffenheim Uth or the deflated mis-firing Schalke Uth?

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Cedric Teuchert

Schalke’s signing of Cedric Teuchert from Nürnberg in the 2018 Winter transfer window made some sense as he looked to definitely be one for the future and good back-up for Guido Burgstaller and Breel Embolo. A year-and-a-half later and the jury is still very much out on the German U-21 international.

Since arriving he has only played a total of 318 minutes for the club, which equates to 3.5 matches in total over a season-and-a-half. Like his fellow strikers injuries have played a part with a hip problem keeping out for a ten-game period, but with Schalke in dire need of goals, he was never entrusted with game time.

This stands in contrast to his form with the German U-21 side for whom he scored 8 goals in 8 games to help Germany qualify for this summer’s European Championship finals. That form however was not enough to see him named in the final squad with his lack of minutes with Schalke seeing his cut from the squad.

One for the future? Could that future be next season under David Wagner?

Ahmed Kutucu

Talking of the future, youngster Ahmed Kutucu could be one to watch under Schalke’s new coach next season. Manuel Neuer, Mesut Özil and Leroy Sane have all come through the club’s academy to become top stars so why not Kutucu?

Having joined the Königsblauen as an 11-year-old, he made his first team debut last season against Augsburg and was a shock starter for Schalke during their trip to the Allianz Arena to face Bayern on matchday 21. Even more of a shock came when he scored the shock equaliser for Schalke (although they went on to lose 3-1).

Time to refresh the forward line? Time for Kutucu to see more game time?

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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