Schalke 04, Domenico Tedesco’s revolution in Gelsenkirchen

We’d like to cancel our poor results in the last season, our aim is as usual to earn European qualification,

Schalke 04 sporting director Christian Heidel explained to Sky Deutschland after the victory over the German vice-champions RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga opening game which are the club’s ambition for the 2017-2018 campaign. The current season has started with three wins, one loss and a big gamble.

After only one season, Schalke 04 board decided to part ways with manager Markus Wenzierl replacing him with Domenico Tedesco, the coach who had led former GDR club Erzgebirge Aue from last spot to 14th place in German second tier.

It was a surprising choice, especially because of Tedesco’s coaching career. He was born in 1985 in Italy but at the age of two the newly appointed manager moved with his parents to Esslingen not far from Stuttgart. After playing with local club ASV Aichwald as amateur, Tedesco obtained a bachelor’s degree in business engineering and a master’s degree in innovation management starting his career on the bench at Hoffenheim and Stuttgart youth academies. Domenico was Schwaben U-17 and U-19 coach, while in Sinsheim he was appointed as U-19 manager for 2016-2017 season. At the club run by software mogul Dietmar Hopp, Tedesco sat on the same bench as Julian Nagelsmann, who was also his teammate at DFB’s coaching academy. At Hennes-Weisweiler-Akademie, the new Schalke 04 coach earned the best mark in 2015-2016 course. “The best mark doesn’t mean you are the best coach,” Italian-born manager stated.

A young and skilled coach, able to read well the game and manage even better the players through a open attitude (for example, in Aue Tedesco invited his players to eat together one week after his appointment) and much dialogue. “He talks a lot, especially to squad members who didn’t play so much. He explains his choices, and thanks to this method footballers seem to respect and accept them”) told Tedesco’s colleague in Stuttgart Andreas Hinkel to local newspaper Westfälische Anzeiger. All these skills convinced Schalke 04 board to appoint Tedesco, as a manager of a club who was came off a difficult season.

This decision, supported by sporting director Heidel, who had chosen Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel as managers at Mainz, has been welcomed by Schalke 04 environment.

After some difficult seasons, fans have high expectations again on the team and on Tedesco. We can say that in the ‘city of a thousand fires’, as Schalke 04 fans named Gelsenkirchen in their club anthem, football passion burns again,

Erik Roos, journalist for Sport-Informations-Dienst, the most important German sports news agency, told

It was young star Leon Goretzka to express what players think on Tedesco. “After the victory over RB Leipzig, Goretzka told reporters that Tedesco isn’t only a tactical maestro, but Leon also acknowledges his advanced social skills. Schalke midfielder said that his new coach talks with everyone, he makes every player feel part of the squad, creating communion,” added Roos. During this building process Tedesco took a brave decision, stripping fans idol Benedikt Höwedes of the captain’s armband and giving it to goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann.

It wasn’t a decision against Benedikt, we have great respect for him. We explained our decision, for us it’s important to transfer responsibilities to other shoulders,

stated Tedesco in a press conference on 12th August.
After this controversial choice, Schalke coach ruled out Höwedes of the starting lineup of the two first Bundesliga games against RB Leipzig and Hannover. “No one is guaranteed a place in the starting eleven, it’s not about Benedikt, but about healthy competition in the squad,” Tedesco said. For this reason, one of the 2014 World Cup heroes decided to leave Gelsenkirchen after 17 years, moving to Serie A. Höwedes’ transfer could have serious consequences, especially in case of poor results or difficulties in managing the team.
If Schalke 04 will achieve better results than in the past season, it will depend mainly on the performances of Leon Goretzka, who won 2017 Confederations Cup showing all his talent.

The 22-year-old midfielder, who in the first Bundesliga matches has been paired with former Tottenham player Nabil Bentaleb in a 3-4-3 formation, hasn’t to be only more continuos but also a leader in his (probably) last year in Gelsenkirchen. Starting from the new team vice-captain and Bentaleb, Domenico Tedesco is building a well organised squad, that pays attention to defense and is able to shed its skin depending on opponents, game situations and players (“Domenico hasn’t only one tactics, but several ones and it’s able to switch from one to another,” explained current Holstein Kiel manager and former Tedesco’s colleague in Stuttgart Ralf Becker).

More than formation and tactics, it’s the team’s thirst for a sporting revenge that could be decisive for a Schalke 04 revival.

The squad hasn’t changed so much (Huntelaar signed for Ajax and two interesting footballers like Oczipka and Amine Harit joined respectively from Eintracht Frankfurt and Nantes) and most of 2016-2017 players would make use of the possibility given by Tedesco. Talented youngsters like 21-year-old centre-back Thilo Kehrer who should play alongside NaldoNastasić, or new signing Pablo Ínsua in Schalke defensive line or experienced players like former Wolfsburg star Daniel Caligiuri, who would like to achieve his best level after a couple of difficult seasons. The German midfielder of Italian descent will challenge Johannes Geis and Benjamin Stambouli for a spot in the starting eleven. As regards attack, Schalke 04 should score more than the 45 goals they netted in the past season. After Huntelaar’s move to Ajax, three players are looking for a place as central forward: Swiss talent Breel Embolo, who would like to cancel his debut season plagued by a serious injury, Argentinian striker Franco Di Santo and Austrian Guido Burgstaller. The latter scored nine goals in the second half of 2016-2017 Bundesliga, becoming the Königsblauen best goalscorer.

As for offensive wingers, Tedesco, as anyone in Gelsenkirchen, is waiting for Max Meyer‘s decisive improvement and relies much on Yevhen Konoplyanka‘s skills. Former Sevilla key player has already scored three goals in his first two matches in the season (in all competitions) and seems to be particularly suitable for Tedesco’s style of play. In any case, Schalke 04 fans and executives must be patient, because as Rudi Dutschke, the most prominent spokesperson of the German student movement of the 1960s, said:

Revolution is not a short act, where something happens and then everything changes.

That also applies to football.

Cover photo ©Suarabola
Domenico Tedesco photo ©WDR
Benedikt Höwedes  photo ©
Leon Goretzka photo ©LaPresse
Breel Embolo photo ©Getty