It’s been a long time since my last season update. Almost three months as it turns out. Had a lot going on since then and I was getting a bit bored of the save so I played a game without the need to update it. Someone asked me about the Schalke save on Twitter not so long ago and it sort of re-ignited my desire to play with Schalke and finish the season. So, here goes!
As you may or may not recall, last season was hugely successful for us. We won the Supercup, the League and the Champions League. I set out with the task of claiming my fifth title in a row and was aiming for the semi-final of the Champions League. I thought due to the heavy schedule this season due to the additional World Club Cup, a semi-final place was a good goal to aim for.
I only made one signing this summer as I promoted a couple of players from the youth team. Julio Villalobos, a Mexican ball winning midfielder, signed from FC Twente for £7.5m. He was signed as a backup to Schroder and had the potential to grow as a player.
Outgoings were tough this summer, I had some decisions to make. I noted at the end of my last blog that Meyer was having an average season. I decided his time was up if the right offer came in. Wolfsburg offered me £38.5m and I couldn’t turn it down. Off he went. Fans were disgruntled, but it was great business for a 29 year old. I decided to keep Goretzka and he ended up playing most of the time for us this season.
I promoted three teenagers from the youth team. Soljic had played towards the end of last season, but he was now competing with Draxler for the right wing spot as opposed to being a rotational player. Lakhdar Guessoum was a player I signed from Nice for £6m a couple of years ago and he was now ready to do battle with Goretzka for the deep lying playmaker role. Salih Aydin was another younger player I bought for £1.3m and has developed rapidly. At 17, he’s a risk, but I’m thinking he can rotate with Bollman at right back when required. I’m not short of quality in that position, so I’ll choose his games wisely.
The season kicked off with the Supercup and European Super Cup. This time, both games were against Köln. In the domestic Supercup, the game was over within 20minutes as Halilovic, Kocabiyik and Thomson put us into the lead before Ehrmann (a former target of mine) pulled one back to make it 3-1. First trophy in the bag.
The European Super Cup was a different affair altogether. The game was a pretty drab and it was 1-1 after extra-time. I hate penalty shoot outs. I get nervous, so I picked my best men for the job and looked away. We lost.
Success in the group stage of the Champions League was followed up with World Club Cup victory. America (MEX) were smashed 7-1. Corinthians of Brazil were our opponents in the final and we put four goals past them to claim our second trophy of the season.
The DFB-Pokal was where my fringe players and youngsters got their games, supported by experienced players like Donis Avdijaj. We made it to the final only conceding one goal during the 6-1 defeat of Osnabrück. It was a Revierderby in the final as we faced Pep Guardiola’s Borussia Dortmund. I had a more experienced line-up for the final since it was a derby. We ended up winning the tie 4-0. Dortmund only had two shots the whole game, neither of which hit the target. Alen Soljic, who appears to love scoring in finals, nabbed two in the first half followed by a goal each for Donis Avdijaj and captain, Julian Draxler.
The League campaign was ticking away in the background, our usual slow start (winning games, but not convincingly despite the scorelines) was making me nervous. We lost our second game of the season to Bayern Munich. We followed that up with nine league wins on the trot before FC Köln beat us for the second time this season. Due to our participation in the World Club Cup, this was the first time I’d not been ‘Winter Champions’ since I joined Schalke. Admittedly, we were only three points off the top with three games in hand. FC Köln were leading the way.
The knock-out stages of the Champions League put us up against Vitesse (8-0 agg), Paris St Germain (6-1 agg) and our fellow Germans, FC Köln, who we seem to be getting pretty cosey with this season. I was actually a bit nervous about the semi-final against them, as they’d been in great form and defeated us twice already this season. The team were obviously annoyed by this and over the two legs, we destroyed them. We won the tie 11-3 on aggregate, putting in two great performances to secure a second consecutive Champions League Final spot, this time against Italian giants, AC Milan.
After the winter break, we had a lot of games to play due to being away for the World Club Cup. I think we had and “English Week” for about two months. The performances were brilliant. Kocabiyik was a scoring machine. He picked up an injury and wasn’t the same for the rest of the season, but Donis Avdijaj was ready to pick up where he left off.
Fraser Thomson was a one man assist machine. Need a goal? Pass it to Thomson and whoever touches it after him will almost certainly hit the back of the net. Thomson ended the season with 42 assists and 20 goals in 48 games.
After the league reverse to FC Köln, we went the rest of the season undefeated, only drawing one game against Frankfurt, an annoying 86minute equaliser! The title was ours which allowed us to concentrate on picking up the Pokal and concentrate on the Champions League Final.
Surprisingly, when it came to player awards, Julian Draxler won World Player of the Year and the Ballon D’or again. I didn’t even think he had merited such awards. was quite happy to see Fraser Thomson and Alen Halilovic pick up second and third in both awards. Goal machine, Gökmen Kocabiyik picked up the European Golden Boy award.
The players, again, had great performances. Overall, we scored a lot of goals and created a huge amount of chances. We defended well, we tackled well and picked up very few bookings. I think we only had one red card the whole season. Kocabiyik was on another level with his scoring, racking up 51 goals as well as laying on 16 for his team mates. My second line of attackers also contributed a huge amount of goals. Player stats for the season are below, in order of average rating.
Unsurprisingly, Fraser Thomson picked up player of the year along with Best Player in Europe and Champions League Best Player. Donis Avdijaj won the Champions League Golden Boot. Neither of those two players made it into the Champions League Dream Team though.
As the season was going along, I felt that this was my last season at Schalke. I’d won everything but the European Super Cup, put the club on a very strong financial footing, developed some youngsters into World Class stars and left my mark on German football. Schalke were now a team to be feared. Before the Pokal final, Real Madrid sacked Stanislav Cherchesov and approached me for an interview. I looked at the team full of 30 year-old plus players and decided it wasn’t for me, I’d wait it out. They hadn’t won anything in a while, but I figured it would be a bit easy being Real Madrid.
When I joined Schalke, they hadn’t won anything and had been through four managers. I left them with 5 league titles and.. oh yeah, the Champions League Final against AC Milan!
So, it was a pretty average performance from our point of view. Milan played very well and controlled the game for long periods. We put ourselves ahead through a fifth minute Halilovic goal. Calabria cancelled that out shortly after to take us in 1-1 at half time. Kocabiyik was having a dire game so I had to pull him off and throw Avdijaj in. He didn’t fare much better mind you. Soljic got our second goal but again, Milan struck back quickly to level things up. As the game wore on, Milan hit the post twice before the game eventually went into extra time and onto penalties. Time to close my eyes and hope for the best. The penalty shoot out went on for what seemed like a lifetime. All my players took two penalties and it was into the third time round when it was finally settled. Albonetti missed their 26th penalty. Lakhdar Guessoum stepped up and I turned away, he kicked the ball, the crowd roared, the confetti canons exploded and we were back to back Champions League winners, the first team to do so! 26-25 on penalties, bloody hell!
So that was cup number 9 at Schalke!
And that was also my last game in charge as I left for a new challenge.