As the anticipation builds ahead of the new 2019/20 Bundesliga season, attention turns to the prospects of the 18 top flight German sides and what the coming campaign has in store. Here at the Bundesliga Fanatic we preview the new season by asking five questions of the major protagonists. Next up Schalke 04.
1. What is a realistic aim for Schalke under David Wagner this season?
Going from runners-up to a relegation fight was a seismic shock for Schalke last season. All the optimism that Domenico Tedesco had created in his first season dissipated as a poor start to the season went from a blip to a full-blown crisis. Tedesco ultimately paid with his job, but what should we realistically expect from his successor David Wagner?
The incoming coach, an ex-player with the tag of UEFA Cup winner 1997 to boost his standing, takes over at the Veltins Arena in interesting times. It could hardly get worse for Schalke this season, but expectations from a demanding fan base may need to be tempered.
If Wagner, who has no Bundesliga coaching experience thus far, can take them up into the top ten, then that would clearly be progress. Talk of a Europa League place sounds very ambitious for a new trainer coming in to sort out a squad at a low ebb.
Welcome to Gelsenkirchen Herr Wagner. Expectations will be high, but if he can quickly get the team playing his way and bring back the positivity from the Vizemeister season, then maybe they could sneak into the top seven.
2.Where are the goals going to come from?
They may have racked up a massive 20-1 win in a July pre-season friendly against Stadtauswahl Bottrop, but there is a concern going into the new season as to where Schalke’s goals will be coming from.
Last season saw them score just 37 goals, with home fans at the Veltins Arena witnessing just 16. In nine home matches last season, they failed to score. Their top scorer was midfielder Daniel Caligiuri (and four of them were penalties). The strikers all failed to deliver.
Breel Embolo hit five, Guido Burgstaller scored four, while youngster Ahmed Kutucu scored twice. Mark Uth, signed as the great goal scoring hope following success at Hoffenheim, only found the back of the net twice having scored 14 in 2017/18.
Embolo has moved on to Mönchengladbach and no direct replacement has been signed. Either Uth massively improves or Schalke may have to rely on hot prospect Ahmed Kutucu to take on the goalscoring burden.
3. Will Alexander Nübel commit to the club?
Will he? Won’t he? This is one of the major transfer/ contract questions going into the new season for the Königsblauen. The 22-year-old was recently named as the club’s new captain by David Wagner going into the new season, but that hasn’t been enough to persuade him to sign a new contract.
The goalkeeper long dubbed “the new Neuer” only has a contract at the Veltins Arena until 2020 and despite every effort from the club, he has yet to commit his future. “We are in contract discussions, but I still need a little more time” Nübel explained to Kicker this week.
“I think it is very good that Jochen Schneider is not giving me any ultimatums, and I’m grateful to him for that.”
The longer the player delays, the more the speculation will rise that he sees his future away from Schalke. He would have no shortage of suitors with Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, RB Leipzig as well as clubs from the Premier League all keeping a close eye on proceedings.
Having your captain going into the new season not 100% committed to the cause is not ideal and will be a cloud hanging over the club until it is finally decided- one way or the other.
4. Is it time for Weston McKennie to become a ‘Leistungsträger’?
For the non-German speakers, the Leistungsträger is the player, who embodies the spirit of the club and takes on the leading role on the pitch to drive the team to deliver what the fans demand/ expect. Imagine Thomas Müller at Bayern or Jonas Hector at Köln.
With Benedikt Höwedes long gone and now Ralf Fährmann sent out to Norwich, could the energetic US midfielder Weston McKennie be ready to step up to the next level and take on the mantle of leading player?
The 20-year-old signed a two-year extension in June says he is ready to fire ahead of the new season. “I’m feeling good, but I’m not fully fit yet, but that is totally normal after a long break,” he admitted.
“Our coaching staff are working very hard with me and have created a special program to get me to 100 per cent as quickly as possible. I want to help the team and I’m fired up for the season.
“We need to give 100 per cent in every game whether the opposition are a top team from the Bundesliga or a team from a regional league.”
5. Will off-the-field issues cloud the season?
With plenty to concern them on the field, what Schalke don’t need is trouble off of it, but that is what they have got.
The club has had its name tarnished by comments made by the head of their board, Clemens Tönnies, and the unsatisfactory way in which the whole incident was dealt with. Tönnies caused uproar last week when he publicly stated that taxation wasn’t a solution to global warming. Instead, the meat billionaire continued, one should “build 20 electricity plants in Africa every year. That would stop deforestation and they’d also stop producing children when it gets dark”.
A storm of criticism erupted demanding action over such derogatory and racist comments, but instead Tönnies agreed to temporarily step down for a period of three months.
Schalke fans showed their displeasure with a banner at their DFB Pokal match on Saturday saying “We show Tönnies the red card.”
Don’t expect this to be the end of the matter.
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