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Opinion: Tedesco must be Bundesliga coach of the season

April 15, 2018

Jupp Heynckes has added to Bayern Munich's already-bulging trophy cabinet, and will likely add more. But he's not been the league's best coach this term. That honor should go to Domenico Tedesco, says DW's Matt Pearson.

Bundesliga / 30. Spieltag/ Domenico Tedesco von Schalke gestikuliert am Spielfeldrand
Image: picture alliance /dpa/I. Fassbender

This has not been a vintage season for the Bundesliga. Bayern Munich won the title in April but had it wrapped up by Christmas, while the cluster of teams below them have been unable to find anything like the consistency needed to even ride their coattails. With one exception.

After their 2-0 win over rivals Dortmund on Sunday, Schalke are on course to pick up 62 points, a mark that would have seen them finish in the top three, and qualify directly for the Champions League group stages, in any of the last five seasons. The teams in third and fourth - Bayer Leverkusen and Borussia Dortmund -  are set for 58 points, not enough to finish third in any of the last five seasons and only enough to finish fourth twice.

With the exception of Leon Goretzka, who he'll soon lose, Tedesco doesn't have the attacking talent available that Levekusen, Dortmund or RB Leipzig possess. The 32-year-old has had to be smart with the tools he's got. That's meant building the second meanest defense in the league and squeezing the most from a crop of promising youngsters and a few underperforming pros.

Read more: Tedesco's solid foundations taking Schalke to Champions League

Naldo stole the headlines for his goalscoring exploits once again on Sunday but he also stands as an example of how Tedesco has managed his resources so well. The 35-year-old had a decent debut campaign for the Royal Blues under Markus Weinzierl but has been an inspirational leader and organizer this term, playing every minute of the league season.

Kommentarbild Matt Pearson
DW's Matt Pearson

Tedesco's use of a three-man backline with Naldo at its heart has compensated for the Brazilian's aging legs and allowed him to use his dominant aerial ability without fear of being caught out. The system has also wrung the best out of Daniel Caligiuri and Bastian Oczipka, a well-traveled pair both enjoying perhaps the finest campaigns of decade-long careers.

It was Caligiuri whose driving run set up Yevhen Konoplyanka's opener on Sunday. As well as Schalke executed that counterattack, it was a goal they would not have conceded themselves. Marcel Schmelzer dwelling on the ball was a mistake, Tedesco's men also make those. But it was Dortmund's response that was most telling. The retreating men in yellow and black all flocked to the ball, completely failing to communicate and leaving Konoplyanka with acres of space to fire home. It's the kind of basic organizational error Tedesco's team rarely makes, and certainly not with the regularity that Peter Stöger's men do.

While Bayern-bound Niko Kovac has also overachieved, Eintracht Frankfurt's season looks increasingly likely to be rewarded only with a Europa League qualifying round spot. While that and Heynckes' impact at Bayern deserves respect, Tedesco took over a club in chaos. Schalke finished last season just six points from the relegation playoff spot and a whopping 19 points away from Hoffenheim in fourth. At their current rate, they'll pick up 20 more points than last season.

Domenico Tedesco and Naldo have enjoyed a fruitful relationship
Tedesco and Naldo have enjoyed a fruitful relationshipImage: picture-alliance/dpa/Revierfoto/

Tedesco's predecessor Markus Weinzierl was heralded as the man, along with sporting director Christian Heidel, to bring stability back to one of the country's biggest clubs. But he never really got to grips with the demands of the job, failing to win round the fans or inspire his players.

The club's current coach has nailed both of those relationships. The 32-year-old took to the terraces after the derby win and led the fans in song. His team may not be the most attractive but they have enormous reserves of discipline, work-rate, organization and just enough magic to get them through. The additional burden of European competition will add a new challenge next season, one that Tedesco'sformer classmate Julian Nagelsmann found difficult to cope with at first.

But, for now, one win from the remaning four games is likely to be enough to return Champions League football to Gelsenkirchen. Secure that and Tedesco should follow in Nagelsmann's footsteps and be named German Coach of the Year.