Ahead of this season, many people thought that Schalke 04 would need some time to adapt to the ideas of their new coach David Wagner. Almost no one expected them to have such a successful start as they had this season with 14 points out of their first seven games. The likes of FC Bayern Munich, RB Leipzig, Bayer Leverkusen and SC Freiburg have the same number of points. Vfl Wolfsburg have 15 points and Borussia Mönchengladbach already collected 16 points and so they are currently in the first position.
Schalke currently sit in the sixth position what sounds worse than the actual situation is. They just lost their game against Bayern and drew against Gladbach and the Cologne. They were able to win the remaining four games and scored 14 goals.
They finished the last campaign in the 14th position and the squad didn’t change that much compared to the last season why this great start was for many people a big surprise. We will now look at the main reasons for their great form.
Schalke is a club where it seems to always be chaotic and that they seldom reach their personal goals. In light of this, they are often in the media and the team as well as the coach has no calm working environment. Also, in this season, they had once more the same problem as the chairman of the supervisory board Clemens Tönnies made a racist statement in the public. It was during the opening stage of this year’s Bundesliga season the main topic in the German press and so Wagner had the same problem as many coaches before him as the club is permanently present in the media.
However, the German coach always stayed calm and professional. That’s exactly what a coach needs to be in these situations. He made clear statements when the press asked him about this topic but mainly stayed in the background. Besides, he emphasises several times that he wants to focus on what happens on the pitch and it worked out well.
In light of this, Wagner seems to be the perfect coach for Schalke as he always stays calm and objective. Furthermore, he doesn’t talk too much with the media what is quite beneficial as a coach of Schalke and when he gives an interview, he always seems to find the right words. These aspects give him and his team the needed environment to focus on that what really matters: their performance on the pitch.
That the Königsblauen have a lot of talent in their squad is undeniable. However, a coach also needs to find a system and the tactics to exploit the individual quality of the players. We know coaches who permanently stick to their ideas and try to make their players fit into their system. However, Wagner isn’t one of them and tries to find the right tactics for his players.
It seems as he found it with their current system. They are very flexible and use different pressing heights when the opponent is in possession. On the other hand, they want to have a calm and structured build-up as they have players with the needed technical ability to do so. Besides, they also have payers as Amine Harit, Daniel Caligiuri and Guido Burgstaller who are very fast and because of that good when it comes to counterattacks.
Considering all these aspects, they don’t have one clear tactic, but try to use their versatility as a strength. Besides, Wagner has his favoured back four which consists of Bastian Oczipka, Salif Sané Benjamin Stambouli and Jonjoe Kenny. In addition, Omar Mascarell also played in all Bundesliga games from beginning on in front of the defence. On the other hand, he gave in the midfield and offence several players a chance and rotated. This keeps the players happy and at the same time, it’s not that easy for their opponents to prepare for them.
Harit – Schalke’s new star
Even though Wagner often rotated in the midfield, Harit was in every game part of the starting eleven. He played either as an offensive midfielder or on the left-wing and is so far the top scorer of Schalke in this season. In seven appearances, he scored four times and made two assists.
The 22-year old showed disappointing performances during the last season, but under Wagner, it seems as he feels better than ever before. He already said in interviews that the German coach gives him the freedom on the pitch and that they trust each other.
The young man needs this freedom on the pitch as he is great when it comes to looking for free spaces in the defensive structure of the opposition. To exploit these with dribbles, passes or runs he needs the freedom to move all over the pitch. Wagner gives him exactly that, but also made him part of his defensive structure and the young Maroccan is aware of his defensive duties.
All in all, Wagner made until now almost everything right and his team showed great performances so far. We’ll have to wait for the remaining weeks if they can continue to collect so many points. However, with Harit, they have a young player who could be one of the absolute shooting stars of this season.
At this very moment, it seems as Schalke was the right choice for Wagner and vice versa. It’s interesting to watch how good the German settles in during his first season as head coach in the Bundesliga and we’ll see if he can continue his solid work.