In Depth: Schalke 04
Domenico Tedesco has revolutionised Schalke, shifting them eight places up the Bundesliga and ending their three-year absence from the UEFA Champions League. We are going to tell you how he he’s done it…
Dominico Tedesco is the latest of the young managers breaking onto the German scene. In fact, he and Hoffenheim manager Julian Naglesmann attended the same coaching course, with the Italian-German Tedesco coming out as top of the class. The 32-year-old also followed Naglesmann at Hoffenheim, taking his place as U19 manager before getting his first job at Bundesliga.2 side Erzgebirge Aue, saving them from what looked like certain relegation.
His career took another huge step when Christian Heidel, sporting director at Schalke 04, took a huge risk naming Tedesco as Die Knappen’s youngest ever manager. Although Tedesco lacks a playing career, he prides himself on statistical analysis and that has proven pivotal in Schalke’s turnaround.
Speaking to bundesliga.com, Tedesco says that there is a great desire to sign players who “are not a one-man show”, placing greater emphasis on team performances rather than individual efforts. This has been key in Schalke 04 ‘s cohesion as a team, not allowing big egos to take over the dressing room which, in turn, has created a more family-like environment at Gelsenkirchen.
With losses such as captain Benedikt Höwedes and Bundesliga Team of the Season entrant Sead Kolasinac departing for Juventus and Arsenal respectively, The Miners had work to do in order to at least maintain their mediocre 10th position. However, the minimal isn’t Domenico Todesco’s style…
Nabil Bentaleb was the first player Schalke’s new manager wanted. Having spent the previous season on loan at Die Königsblauen from Tottenham Hotspur, featuring in all but two games, Bentaleb knew the place well and a fee of around £17m made his stay permanent. Despite troubles with his attitude, there is no doubt that the Algerian international has the ability to play at the highest level and he proved it.
What stood out about Tedesco’s transfers was his ability to pick out replacements who matched, or even exceeded the departing player’s quality. Instead of a rash panic buying spree when enduring a poor run, Tedesco sort a swift deal with Italian giants Juventus to loan in one Marko Pjaca. The Croatian international may only have played 7 games for Gelsenkirchen but his contributions were well-received by the Veltins-Arena regulars.
Eyes On: Mark Uth
Following the path of fellow countryman Lukas Podolski, Uth started his career at 1.FC Köln before spending time in the Eredivisie at SC Heerenveen. After a poor loan spell at lowly Heracles Almelo, the torjäger’s first full season at Heerenveen (pronounced ‘hair-en-vain’ in case you were wondering) saw him net 15 goals, earning him a move to Hoffenheim.
His consistent scoring, including a pair over two legs against Liverpool in the Europa League, earnt him a pre-contract move to the Royal Blues this summer. As he reaches his prime, the whole of the Bundesliga are anticipating whether he can convert his sharpshooting into trophies and with Schalke competing in next season’s Champions League, he’ll have the opportunity to play at the pinnacle of European football.
From The Training Ground
The introduction of the German-Italian manager has led to an alteration tactically. The German side has stuck to a 3-5-2 which switches to a 5-4-1 when without the ball this campaign. This subtle change in formation has reduced the number of balls carving their
entire defence open as two banks of three condense the midfield and allow Gelsenkirchen to play how Tedesco wants: narrow. The increased protection and bordering world class goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann has meant more clean sheets for Die Knappen and you know the saying: “you can’t lose if they don’t score”.
It is also clear that there has been a revamp in set pieces. With three centre-backs now operating in the starting eleven, there is more to aim for from free kicks and corners. Set pieces have become a key element in Tedesco’s training sessions. As a result of their hard work, Schalke have scored 20 goals from set pieces this season, 12 more than the previous campaign.
Transition: Max Meyer
5ft 8in Maximilian Meyer was once a dainty attacking midfielder with a certain creative talent, but dainty no more. Tedesco’s reinvention of the internationally capped midfielder has worked perfectly as avid watchers of the Bundesliga now get to see him in a whole different role.
With an ability play in a double pivot alongside Leon Goretzka, Meyer has become a reliable source of balls going forward to the two workhorses Franco Di Santo and Guido Burgstaller upfront, suiting Tedesco’s fast, direct philosophy. Not only this but his defensive capabilities have severely increased, making triple the number of tackles he did the previous campaign (thanks Squawka). At only 22 years old, it’s a shame that he and Goretzka have left Schalke, but there’s no doubt Tedesco will find someone with the quality to make their midfield tick.