With the new Bundesliga season just over two weeks away, the anticipation and excitement are building at many clubs as they prepare for the big kick-off. The situation at Schalke however is looking anything but optimistic as the clouds of gloom from last season’s Rückrunde continue and threaten to remain going into the new campaign.
Calling the Königsblauen’s second half of last season anything other than a disaster would be underplaying the situation. Having gone into the Winterpause in fifth place just three points behind Bayern Munich, they suffered an appalling run of 16 matches without a win and slumped to 12th in the table.
David Wagner’s side couldn’t wait for the season to end, to start a new with a clean slate going into the 2020/21 season. That was the hope, but things still look far from rosy in Gelsenkirchen and it seems that rough times are ahead.
The financial situation at the Ruhr club is one headache causing much pessimism going into the new season. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit Europe in March Schalke already had debts of €197 million, which has only been exacerbated by the absence of fans for the last part of the season, failure to qualify for Europe and the resignation of billionaire chairman Clemens Tönnies.
The club were forced to apply to the state of Nordrhein Westfalen for a €40 million guarantee, and also introduced a €2.5 million annual salary cap on future player contracts.
That has had a huge impact on David Wagner’s squad planning ahead of the new season. With Alexander Nübel departing to Bayern for free, Jonjoe Kenny returning to Everton following his loan and Weston McKennie joining Juventus, his squad has lost three first team regulars. Add in Daniel Caligiuri (a free to Augsburg) and Jean-Clair Todibo (loan end) and the squad looks worse than last season.
Wagner is going to be forced to use many of the club’s young players, which is going to put pressure on them to perform. Schalke lost out in their bid to sign keeper Alexander Schwolow from Freiburg leaving them with Markus Schubert and Ralf Fährmann as their goalkeepers. The former didn’t inspire 100% confidence last season, while the latter played just once while on loan at Norwich City in England. They do have returning loan players like Mark Uth and Sebastian Rudy, but their futures are not set in stone as any offers made would have to be listened to. The only potential transfer in being discussed right now in that of Vedad Ibisevic on a free and he is 36 years old.
Schalke’s summer training camp in Längenfeld, Austria has also not gone to plan and is another point of gloom. With an unnamed player testing positive for corona virus he had to be quarantined along with five other players he’d been in contact with. Forced to train alone and not mix with the rest of the squad is not exactly conducive to team building. A friendly with Würzburger Kickers was cancelled as another consequence.
Results in friendlies have also been disappointing with the Bundesliga side losing 5-4 to newly promoted 3. Liga side SC Verl and also 3-1 to KFC Uerdingen. Maybe when the season proper starts things might improve?
Well, with a season opener at the Allianz Arena against triple winners Bayern and then away trips to both RB Leipzig and Borussia Dortmund in their first five matches, that looks unlikely. It is quite possible that Schalke’s winless run carried over from last season could be extended some.
In short it could get worse for die Knappen before it gets better. Is the glass half full, or half empty? In the case of Schalke right now it is questionable whether there is actually any Veltins beer in the glass