December 14, 2017

Season Preview 2014-2015: FC Schalke 04

Nicknames: Die Konigsblauen (The Royal Blues), Die Knappen (The miners)
Founded: 4 May 1904
Club colors: Blue and white
Primary Rivals: Borussia Dortmund, Hertha Berlin
Fan Friendship: FC Nurnberg
Trophies:
German League (7): 1933–34, 1934–35, 1936–37, 1938–39, 1939–40, 1941–42, 1957–58
German Cup (5): 1937, 1972, 2001, 2002, 2011
German Supercup (1): 2011
UEFA Europa League (1): 1997
Stadium: Veltins-Arena (originally: Arena AufSchalke,  opened: 2001, capacity: 61,973)
2013-14 Finishes:
Bundesliga: 3rd (64 points)
DFB Pokal: Round 3 (loss to Hoffenheim)
UEFA Champions League: Round of 16 (loss to Real Madrid)
Top Goal Scorer: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar : 14 goals (12 Bundesliga + 1 Pokal + 1 Champions league)

2013-14 Season Summary:

Club Reputation

To most that don’t follow the Blues well enough, Schalke are seen as eternal top four finishers in the Bundesliga, but never worthy of the top spot in the league. Despite this, they are seen as a club that every team want to avoid in European competition. The 7-2 beating of Inter Milan in 2011, followed by a 2-0 victory at Arsenal, sent the message that they are not simply space-fillers in the Champions League, but dark horses. Boasting one of the greatest youth academies in Europe, the club is synonymous, along with the likes of Ajax and Barcelona, in producing some of the best players in the game. Neuer, Ozil, Howedes, Meyer, Draxler and Matip are some of the stars who have emerged through the Schalke scademy. As a whole, the club is seen with a positive attitude among other European teams.

Reality

In reality, however balanced the squad might be, Schalke are still only third best in Germany. This might change in the years to come, considering the club’s financial power and philosophy. Just like the previous two seasons, Schalke will be expected to finish in the top four, but in reality it is either a third or fourth spot.

Philosophy
Attack minded football centered around home grown players is all Schalke is about. Build up play from midfield is often lacking, but they compensate by having an explosive front line. With defenders always putting in an extra shift, a fast paced game with rapid transitions is what Schalke do.

Plan B

Despite being often criticised for his lack of Plan B, manager Jens Keller has the luxury of playing versatile players in defensive roles. There have been occasions where Keller has played 3 natural left backs (Fuchs – left wing, Kolasinac – left back and Aogo – holding midfield) in the same team. Additionally with players like Matip, Ayhan and Kirchhoff capable of playing in midfield, a worst case Plan-B is to sacrifice the goal scoring for a shored up defence.

Strengths and Weaknesses

A well established squad including strength in depth with potentially world class talents, is what Schalke can boast of heading into the new season. Adding to the young Draxler, Meyer, Goretzka, Ayhan, Avdijaj, Sane and Friedrich, experienced internationals in Farfan, Huntelaar, Howedes and Boateng add a perfect balance to this team.
Injury susceptibility is a major weakness in this squad. All of the aforementioned internationals have missed sizeable spells of last season through injuries, which could once again prove to be a problem. Pre season blows to keeper Giefer, Farfan and Hoger could unsettle the team early on this year.

Additionally, lack of authority, leadership and control in the center of the park could once again prove costly, as proven by Schalke’s struggles against top teams like Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund.

Takeaway from 2013-14

Foremost, Jens Keller will look to keep his players fit, considering the numerous injuries to his squad last year. Also, luxuries of playing crucial games early on should provide a perfect springboard for a good finish. And finally, learn to put back heavy defeats, lest it affects the team on the long run.

Trivia

Keeper Ralf Faehrmann saved 79% of shots, with only Manuel Neuer faring better in Germany.

Verdict

Considering all the above points, yet another top four finish is a very likely outcome at the end of the season. But again, injuries could take their toll and the emergence of teams like Borussia Monchengladbach and Wolfsburg could put the pressure on the blues.

The Boss
Jens Keller has always been given a tough time by the German media for poor results and rather pitiful performances against competitive opponents. Yet, the former Stuttgart manager has always proved his critics wrong by managing respectable finishes in all competitions. With various groups of supporters calling for him to be sacked, now is the perfect time for Keller to prove his worth. Whether it will be tame season finish or a good fight for the top spots, is the question.

Odds to win league: 25/1 (source: Paddy power)

60-second dossier:

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 14
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 5
Number of Matches drawn: 7
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 3
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 5
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 1
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 1
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 4

Top Scorers in 2013-14: Huntelaar(12), Farfan(9), Szalai(7), Meyer(6), Boateng(6)

Five-Year Record: 2 14 3 4 3

Q & A with a club fan:

“Keep an eye out for “ : Max Meyer. The youngster is considered the next superstar of German football, and a good season will give him great confidence and he is certain to attract attention from top clubs across Europe this year.

“Terrace favourite “ : Benedikt Howedes. The world cup winner’s leadership, determination, loyalty and versatility make him a fan favourite. Even if we trail by 10 goals, Benni ensures we never lose our spirit.

“Player you’d happily drive to another club . . .” : Felipe Santana. After getting him from Dortmund, the Brazilian has never performed for us. Additionally, crucial mistakes against Madrid last year didn’t do him any favours with us.

“Advice you’d give the manager” :  Try to control the midfield to minimize threats of teams like Dortmund and Bayern. Keller has the luxury of playing two of Goretzka, Hoger, Neustadter, Boateng and Kirchhoff. Yet, we always seem overrun in midfield and it’s up to the defence to stop attacks.

“Opposition player you secretly admire”: Lars Bender. The Leverkusen man embodies hard work and industry. We need a player like him, who can tire out opponents, pick out a pass, stop opposition attacks, and is not afraid to get his hands dirty. This type of player is sorely lacking here. (Sorry, Roman Neustadter!)

“Opposition player you despise.” : Kevin Grosskreutz. This needs no explanation. He plays for our rivals, is berserk off and on the pitch and seemingly possesses no footballing skill at all! It’s a wonder he plays for a title contending team!

“Where will you finish” : Considering the pressure and injuries to Bayern and Dortmund, I say we could sneak up into a second spot this year, like we almost did last season. One thing is certain though, the fight for four champions league places will be a six way battle this year, and we are one of them.

“Often overlooked strength”: Our goalkeepers. Very few Bundesliga teams can boast of having more than one keeper worthy of a starting role. We have two in Faehrmann and Giefer. Both are Germany’s future in goalkeeping and the competition between the two will only make us stronger defensively this year.

Fixture list:
August
23 Hannover (A)
30 Bayern Munich (H)

September
3 B Monchengladbach (A)
20 E Frankfurt (H)
24 W Bremen (A)
27 B Dortmund (H)

October
4 Hoffenheim (A)
18 Hertha B (H)
25 B Leverkusen (A)

November
1 FC Augsburg (H)
8 Freiburg (A)
22 Wolfsburg (H)
29 Mainz (H)

December
6 Stuttgart (A)
13 Cologne (H)
17 Paderborn (A)
20 Hamburg (H)

January
31 Hannover (H)

February
4 Bayern Munich (A)
7 B Monchengladbach (H)
14 E Frankfurt (A)
21 W Bremen (H)
28 B Dortmund (A)

March
7 Hoffenheim (H)
14 Hertha B (A)
21 B Leverkusen (H)

April
4 Augsburg (A)
11 Freiburg (H)
18 Wolfsburg (A)
25 Mainz (A)

May
2 Stuttgart (H)
9 Cologne (A)
16 Paderborn (H)
23 Hamburg (A)

Crucial Five Game Stretch:

The five-game stretch from matchday 2 to 6 sees Schalke facing Bayern, ‘Gladbach, Frankfurt, Bremen and Dortmund is crucial for the royal blues. Playing against 4 teams who have had a share of European football last year is a daunting prospect. A home fixture against a depleted Bayern early on is the perfect stage to signal their intentions this year. With a new look Frankfurt and Gladbach having the ability to surprise; Schalke’s resolve will truly be tested in these games.
Even if the club don’t manage results against Gladbach, Bayern and Dortmund, they can take heart from a relatively easier fixture list in November and December.

The following two tabs change content below.

Navneeth Sridharan

Navneeth Sridharan is a 19 year old engineering student from India with a fondness for the German Bundesliga and almost everything German. You can follow his new Twitter handle for thoughts on the Bundesliga: @NavneethSridhar

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply