Schalke this season's surprise Bundesliga package
Schalke 04 can enjoy the winter break. The Royal Blues trail only Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga table, looking down on Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Leverkusen and RB Leipzig. Die Konigsblauen finished last season on 43 points, good for tenth. With 17 games remaining in this campaign, Domenico Tedesco's side is just a baker's dozen from matching that mark. What has been behind the turnaround?
Managerial gamble pays off
Schalke took a real punt on Tedesco. The 32-year-old was previously an assistant and manager with Vfl Stuttgart U17s before taking charge of Hoffenheim's U19s, then Erzgebirge Aue. The Gelsenkirchen outfit lined him up to replace Markus Weinzierl at the Veltins-Arena. The decision has paid dividends..
Tedesco has already served up a defining moment, making the correct adjustments to reverse a 4-0 deficit to Dortmund at half-time, turning disaster into a 4-4 draw. He won the Bundesliga’s Man of Matchday 13 for the achievement and boasts a 55% win ratio as coach.
This is Schalke’s best start to a season since 2011/12 when Huub Stevens amassed 34 points from 17 games. That club sat third. It’s been 17 years since Schalke were in better position at this stage of the season. Its manager is rightly receiving the credit
Shrewd summer acquisitions certainly helped Tedesco's cause. Schalke lost many players over the summer. More than 10 were shown the door. Six went out on loan. In exchange, eight players were brought in with a net spend of £40 million. The new arrivals have played their part in Schalke’s success this season.
|Felix Platte||SV Darmnstadt||£720k|
Left on free:
|Sidney Sam||Bochum||Atsuto Uchida||Union Berlin|
|Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting||Stoke||Sead Kolasinac||Arsenal|
|Klaas-Jan Huntelaar||Ajax||Timon Wellenreuther||Willem II|
|Dennis Aogo||Stuttgart||Phil Neumann||Ingolstadt|
|Benedikt Howedes||Juventus||Johannes Geis||Sevilla|
|Bernard Tekpetey||Rheindorf Altach||Luke Hemmerich||Bochum|
|Nabil Bentaleb||Tottenham||£17.1 million|
|Yevhen Konoplyanka||Sevilla||£11.25 million|
|Amine Harit||Nantes||£7.2 million|
|Bastian Oczipka||Eintracht Frankfurt||£4.05 million|
|Pablo Insua||Deportivo de La Coruña||£3.15 million|
Signed on a free:
Second to only Bayern Munich, Schalke have lost just three games from 17 in the league, boasting the second-best defence in the top seven. Bastian Oczipka has replaced Sead Kolasinac, and he’s one of many who has impressed in his debut season. New-boy Nabil Bentaleb scored three goals in his first six games. Yehven Konoplyanka has made four assists in his last five appearances. Amine Harit has contributed eight league goals.
The kids are alright
The new arrivals are playing their part in a fast start to the campaign, but the existing youngsters also deserve thanks. Schalke’s average age is 25, with ten players younger.
Leon Goretzka, 22, has been making waves on the wider stage. The midfielder has been linked with Liverpool, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich. Max Meyer and Breel Embolo have also been tipped for moves after stellar play.
There’s still a long way to go but Schalke have a real opportunity to get back into the Champions League for the first time since 2014/15.
Eleven points off Bayern, the Royal Blues are unlikely to win a first title in 50 years but Tedesco just arrived. Give it time.