I pretty much hit the ground running at Schalke. They have some great players here and the youth potential is outstanding. If I can develop a few of them into first team players, I’ll be sorted for the future. The team took to the tactic like moths to a flame and after initially struggling to get goals, we became a real threat. I managed some really great results throughout the season and came through some tough tests against the top teams in Germany.
We were challenging on three fronts this year, the Bundesliga, the DFB Pokal and the Europa League. In the cups I was rotating my squad where possible and had no real desire to win either, I was essentially blooding my youngsters/backup players to see if they were worth playing or keeping. I was putting all my efforts into doing well in the league. I really wanted to finish in the top three and get a Champions League spot.
The board have been pretty miserable financially although they did give me some extra cash in November which I spent on a new goalkeeper. Fahrmann’s contract was up at the end of the season and he was wanting a huge wage rise. I thought he was ok, but knew if I spent some money, I could get a younger and better keeper. Timo Horn has developed quite well in game so I splashed the £6m to activate his get out clause. It took him a few games to get settled, but once he did, he played great. I expect us to concede goals due to the lack of defensive midfielder so if he keeps clean sheets, then I’m really happy. With my lacklustre backline, I guess getting a clean sheet is a bonus. Horn managed 8 clean sheets in 17 appearances, which wasn’t too bad I thought.
I never really got into my tactic much in the first post or in my time at Arsenal. I’ve gone for pretty much the exact same style. A fast paced counter attacking style with lots of transitional play. The team move the ball quickly, always looking to score a goal. I posted my formation on the previous blog which is a 4231. My team instructions are pretty straightforward. Play into space, get the ball in the box, use the width of the pitch, use the intelligence of my forward players and try to win it high up the pitch. The only difference between the instructions here and at Arsenal is the addition of the Low Cross option. My strikers are pretty small so there’s very little point in hitting a high ball into the box.
I tend not to use player instructions unless I want them to carry out something different or I’ve set them to a general role. The goalkeeper is the only player I’ve set with instructions and that’s just to stop him being wasteful with the ball. I find this style of football really works and it brings favourable results. I guess it’s my style. We score lots and we’re usually pretty mean at the back, although less so at Schalke than at Arsenal.
Getting into how we performed now. Starting with our dismal “run” in the DFB Pokal. As I said, I was using my youngsters and really didn’t want to use my first team players in the cup. In England, I usually send all the youngsters out to play in the Capital One Cup and then mix it up in the FA Cup. We started off with wins at Saarbruck and Mainz but Hertha beat us 4-2 in the third round. It was 2-2 at half time, which was lucky as we were down to ten men after quarter of an hour. Two second half goals finished us off. We had chances, but weren’t able to take them. I wasn’t too bothered, but I hate losing. It probably worked out for the best though as the fixture congestion after cup games in Germany is a bit mad. We had a one day break between games when I was in the cup.
The Europa League was a bit better. We were drawn in a group with Grasshoppers, Metalurg D and AA Gent. We only dropped points at home to Metalurg D in a 3-3 draw but won the rest of our games. Upon qualifying from the group we were drawn against big spending Monaco who thrashed us 4-1 before we got a 2-1 victory at home. The damage was done in the first leg. My youngsters did well in the second leg against a strong team. That was the end of that though. Our calendar free’d up significantly after this and I was able to play some of the younger players amongst the more experienced ones more often.
Now that that’s out of the way, onto the Bundesliga. If you remember from my first post, Schalke had finished 4th last season and in previous years had finished as low as 9th. I was looking to finish in the top three so that we’d get a place in the Champions League.
We started off against Bayern Munich and managed to draw 2-2. They scored a late goal, I was a bit annoyed to have conceded it, but it was early in the season and had to be happy I’d not lost. For the first five games, I was playing with a 4411 with two defensive midfielders, but it just wasn’t effective enough. We were pretty poor and struggled to finish off games. We weren’t even defensively solid. I switched to a 4231, which is a tactic I don’t care for greatly, despite using it a lot on previous versions of the game. It had an instant impact. We won our next few league games before 1860 Munchen brought us back down to earth. They were 4-1 up against us. I thought we were going to come back but it was too late and we lost the game 4-3.
After that defeat we picked up an outstanding 22 wins in 23 games. Only dropping points in a 0-0 with Hertha. We had impressive victories against Dortmund twice, Bayern Munich, Leverkusen and Pep Guardiola’s Gladbach.
We won the Bundesliga on the first attempt. I’m actually a bit stunned as the team isn’t really anything special, especially compared to the squads of Dortmund and Bayern. I suspect that them replacing their managers this season will have something to do with that though. Looking at the league table, you can see that they both drew a lot of games. In fact, I’ve just noticed that Leverkusen pipped Dortmund into third place!
We were really lucky with injuries this season, none of my main players picked up any major knocks. Schroder picked up a thigh strain which ruled him out for ten days and that was the worst injury we had all year. That was definitely a contributing factor to our consistent form.
Our points total makes it look like a walk in the park, but reality was that the three teams behind me were very poor. I couldn’t believe how much they fell apart after the winter break.
Draxler had an outstanding season for us, scoring 21 goals and setting up 22, he managed 17 MOM awards as well. He was a huge creative outlet. More than I actually anticipated. Winger isn’t a role I use often, but Draxler’s performances have changed my mind, it’s a great role. Player performances were pretty good on the whole. My main players are up there with the best stats.
The board have set me a budget for next season at £25m and I have £725k excess of wages to spend. There are going to be a few departures in the summer. Hahn and Stenzel have already agreed to free transfers. Howedes and Jantschke are both out of contract along with Grauschopf and Hesse. I’m considering giving Howedes another contract, but his wages are really high for his age. He’s 33, but he did just have a really good season. He’s not got the personality type that I like players to have to pass on for tutoring, so I’m going to have to make a decision based on how much he’ll play. The others I’m likely to let go without much fuss.
Next season we’re in the Champions League. Would be good to get to the Quarter Finals. I’m not sure I’ll be able to balance the league and Champions League, so I’m aiming for top three again next season.
Time to get my scouting in place so I can make a few signings.
Thanks for reading and sharing!