The news that Schalke had sacked coach Frank Kramer came as no big surprise. What was surprising is that it didn’t come sooner and that the 50-year-old survived beyond the recent Bundesliga defeats to Bayer Leverkusen and Hoffenheim when the writing was on the wall. So, after just twelve games in the Königsblauen hotseat, the end has come for Kramer. As with so many Schalke trainers down the years, he is left asking- what went wrong?
First and foremost, the reason for his dismissal is results (or a lack of them). Schalke find themselves in 17th place with six points after ten league games and a relegation fight is clearly on the cards. However, the players are the ones not getting the results, so the squad needs to be looked at.
In a way Kramer was seriously disadvantaged at the very start by the loss of two of the club’s best defenders from last season. The club could not afford to keep Japanese star Ko Itakura, who was on loan from Manchester City, and then Malick Thiaw was sold to Milan for €7 million. The fact that Itakura has impressed so much at Mönchengladbach just goes to show what Schalke are missing.
The signing of 33-year-old Maya Yoshida on free wasn’t going to compensate and what he brings in experience, he loses in lack of pace. Sepp van den Berg’s loan move from Liverpool did look a good deal, but the 20-year-old got injured soon after arriving. Leo Greiml signed from Austria was kept in reserve and only recently made his debut.
Dressing room unrest
There have been many rumours that Kramer had a number of internal dressing room issues to deal with. A number of players were said to be very unhappy with their lack of playing time and had made their feelings plain to the coach. Amongst the dissatisfied were Alex Kral, Rodrigo Zalazar, Thomas Ouwejan, Sebastian Polter, and club captain Danny Latza.
Latza has only made one start this season and is said to have been furious at not being part of the Revierderby match. Once the dressing room starts to turn on you, trouble is often not far away. Disharmony in the camp is not the best preparation for important Bundesliga games where vital points are up for grabs. The disunity at Schalke (at the bottom end of the table) stands in stark contrast to the unity seen at clubs like Freiburg and Union (at the top end).
The league table doesn’t lie and sees fellow promoted side Werder Bremen much higher up the table and making a more than acceptable start to life back in the topflight after a year away. Schalke on the other hand are perilously close to the bottom and in danger of spending the season involved in a relegation dogfight.
Werder’s approach is positive, cavalier at times (see their defeat at home to Frankfurt) and attracting admirers. Schalke on the flipside seem to have a rather more negative approach to games, are set-up first and foremost not to lose and are not as easy on the eye. It’s an approach that is also not gaining the points that Bremen are.
This season Schalke have come across as quite passive in games, more concerned with stopping their opponent than pushing the game the way they want to. The Revierderby was a case in point where they went for a goalless draw and were deserved of their defeat.
The trouble is this is Schalke and like Werder they are a big club, with a huge fanbase and equally large expectations as to what they expect to see. What is being served up is not the progressive football that excites. Frank Kramer seemed to lack the ideas to rectify this.
Kramer also had the disadvantage of not being the trainer, who won promotion with the Königsblauen. This is a new project with new players and a different squad to the one that finished above Werder last season in the 2. Bundesliga.
It had been rumoured that Bochum’s Thomas Reis was the preferred candidate to take Schalke into this season, but he wasn’t allowed to talk to the club. He has since been fired and will be one of the names in the frame to succeed Kramer no doubt.
Kramer comes across as a coach with expertise at keeping clubs up, making the cut just above the danger zone, eking out points to reach the safety zone. Was he simply the wrong man at the wrong time for Schalke?