March 22, 2017

Schalke’s Week of Utter Chaos Ends in Utterly Banal Victory

Schalke 04 (Hunemeier OG, 88′); Paderborn 0

Schalke are not often the focus of German soccer in the media. That privilege is usually left for the mighty Bayern with Dortmund sometimes intervening.

This week, for better or worse, the status quo changed when a desperate Horst Heldt put his team in the headlines after Week 32’s defeat to Köln with the indefinite suspension of Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sidney Sam, along with a one game suspension of Marco Höger.  These moves were a desperate plea from someone who should be dismissed, trying to shake up a club who was threatened with missing out on Europa league qualification – along with ending up behind rivals Borussia Dortmund, despite their own disastrous season.

Fortunately, after Matchday 33, none of these doom scenarios will occur – whew – as Schalke qualified for the Europa League and guaranteed themselves finishing above Dortmund for the first time in five years.

Yet even after this good news, the weather is highly stormy at Schalke as Heldt gutlessly unleashed his desperate fury on two easy targets.

Boateng was already heading out over the transfer window and was unpopular with the fans after a shoddy season of ineptness and controversy, in which he could only muster four assists in twenty-three games. Sam, supposed to be a groundbreaking pickup before this year, ended up being both injured and underused. He embodies the incompetence of the management and coaching personnel, in how his talents did not even come close to being exploited. However, Höger was an odd target of Heldt’s ire, since in a year of underperforming for everyone on the squad, he was actually one of Schalke’s most steady players (look at my “Three Star” selections in past weeks).

In the aftermath of these suspensions, Heldt and club chairman Clemens Tonnies’ decision to stick with Roberto DiMatteo as manager has made the club administrators new targets of fan anger.

Week 33’s match against Paderborn was a pathetic performance from Schalke, earning them victory in the most merger manner possible. Schalke couldn’t create any scoring chances until they found a fortunate goal just before the final whistle.

Against Paderborn, once again DiMatteo’s team had no clue what to do with the ball. The Royal Blues’ attack was only slightly than what you’d expect to see in a local pickup game. Yet Klaas-Jan Huntelaar does deserve credit for putting pressure on Paderborn’s defense, forcing an own goal after Tranquillo Barnetta’s cross.

However, the crowd was in a state of protest as a large portion of the home crowd in Gelsenkirchen refused to cheer for the home side.

Schalke ended up losing Benedikt Höwedes for the rest of the year due to ligament damage in his ankle. This injury might also mean they get him back again next year.

Overall, this Heldt’s scapegoating method has meant simply shifting players around, like Jermaine Jones in the past to Boateng this time. Boateng will likely end up playing in either Italy or the MLS next year. Meanwhile, Schalke are keeping their eyes on the growing possibility of signing Sami Khedira.

Three Stars:

1. Sead Kolasinac: good to see him back in the starting eleven. He led the team in sprints, runs and touches. His effort cannot be questioned.

2. Dennis Aogo: led the team in distance covered(12.06 km) and passes(42).

3. Jefferson Farfan: a better performance this time, as he ended up with three attempts on net and eight crosses.

(Header image courtesy of Erwin Koslowski)