The Deep Dig- The redemption of Amine Harit

Three successive wins for Schalke has seen the Königsblauen move up into the top four in the Bundesliga and cap an impressive start for new trainer David Wagner as he seeks to wipe the awful 2018-19 season from the club’s consciousness. Over the last few games, one player more than most has epitomised the improvement in the Knappen’s fortunes- step forward Amine Harit.

The wrong headlines

When Amine Harit arrived at the Veltins Arena in an €8 million move from French side Nantes in the summer of 2017, he burst onto the scene with immediate effect for Domenico Tedesco’s side. The Moroccan winger was thrust straight into the first-team and provided an assist in a 2-0 opening day win over RB Leipzig. He scored his first goal in the famous 4-4 draw against Borussia Dortmund in the tumultuous Revierderby in the Hinrunde.

He was named Bundesliga Rookie of the Year for December and was then crowned Rookie of the Season at the end of a campaign, which saw Schalke finish as runners-up to Bayern Munich. Three goals and seven assists were a very good bounty for Harit in his first season in Gelsenkirchen.

However, last season turned sour for the player both on and off the pitch. His form was nothing like that of his first campaign scoring just once all season and providing only two assists. He lost his starting place as Schalke struggled against relegation and was involved in more than a few scandals off the field.

There was criticism of his lifestyle and attitude with reports that he was banned from a Duisburg casino for his own good as gambling was taking it’s toll. A party lifestyle where he would stay out all-night wasn’t exactly suited to the demands of a Bundesliga professional.

In June 2018  he was involved in a car crash in his native Marrakesh, where a 30-year-old pedestrian was killed. He subsequently was sentenced by a Moroccan court with a four-month suspended prison sentence and a fine.

It looked last season as though his time at the club was at an end with rumours that he was to be sold.

The right headlines

However, a new season has brought a new Amine Harit (or rather a return of the old one) and his early season form has been like a new signing for the club.  After just five games this season, he has already surpassed his stats from last season and looks to have sewn up the starting berth on the left hand side of Schalke’s attacking line once more.

Last weekend’s 5-1 win at Paderborn was Schalke’s biggest away win in 42 years and saw two goals from Harit. Then on the opening night of matchday 5, he was once again the star of the show with his assist and magical 89th winner helping the Königsblauen to a 2-1 win over Mainz.

His first against Paderborn saw him pull cleverly out to the edge of the box, before receiving the ball, making space with a feint and then firing home powerfully with his left-foot. His second was a similar effort after he had instigated the move down the left flank. After a cross appeared to have gone too far, he once more pulled himself off the defenders to the edge of the box to create room for the shot.

Against Mainz his vision and accurate through ball were decisive in Suat Serdar’s opening goal on Friday and after Mainz had seemingly secured a point with a late equaliser, Harit popped up at the very end with a piece of magic to seal another three points for the home side.

Picking the ball up on the right side close to the Mainz box, be beat his marker easily with a trick, before bursting onto the edge of the box and curling home an exquisite shot with the outside of his right boot. Take a bow.

The tale of the tape

  vs Paderborn vs Mainz
     
Touches 57 71
Pass accuracy 93.3% 77.1%
Shots on target 3 1
Dribbles completed 7/8 1/2
Goals 2 1
Assists 0 1

The stats don’t lie. With three goals and one assist already this season, he has already surpassed his scorer stats from last season. With a new start has come a fresh wind from the tricky winger. He looks hungry for the ball and has shown the intelligence to take up clever positions when supporting the Schalke attacks. Yes, he has the pace and trickery to bamboozle defenders, but he is offering much more than that early in the season.

He is not shying away from his defensive duties averaging four tackles per game. The first five games have seen him playing with a renewed enthusiasm, indicating that he has put the problems of the past season behind him. He is predominantly playing form the left, but especially against Mainz he was seen drifting all across the front line as part of the Schalke attack (his winner against Mainz came from the right).

Courtesy of SofaScore

What they said

Amine Harit: “I am very happy. Only if people believe in you and you feel comfortable at the club, can you perform to the best of your ability. We are ready for the coming games.”

“I feel that the coach has confidence in me, and I’m pleased that I can repay his faith on the pitch. The past year wasn’t easy for me. But my mind is clear again, and I just want to work hard.”

“I am more focussed. I have cahnged everything and now I’m paying [Schalke] back. I have to do it all for my family, my wife and my daughter.”

Benjamin Stambouli: “Amine and Weston [McKennie] are a bit crazy. They have so much energy that they simply run everywhere. Our job is to calm them down now and again. But it’s better than having to always tell them to run!”

Sascha Riether (S04 professional co-ordinator): “David Wagner has made a big contribution to the change in Amine, but Amine himself has of course done a lot. We said that Amine would get the chance to start a new and he is now paying us back.”

 

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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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