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Schalke have found their man

September 28, 2019

After years in the wilderness, Schalke produced one of their best displays in years with a 3-1 win at Leipzig. Schalke may have finally found their perfect coach in David Wagner, writes DW's Michael da Silva.

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Image: Getty Images/AFP/R. Hartmann

There was a moment in first-half stoppage time, when it was clear it was already party time for Schalke. Leading 2-0, Suat Serdar beat two RB Leipzig players and found Amine Harit, who flicked the ball over the head of Marcel Halstenberg. It's been a long time since the Bundesliga club have played with this kind of swagger.

Schalke have been searching for their perfect head coach for some time. Their quest for silverware stretches back to Ralf Rangnick's brief reign in 2011 and they've not been in genuine title contention since 2010, when Felix Magath guided them to second, five points behind Bayern Munich. The Royal Blues have had a few false dawns in the decade since, but they've finally found their man.

DW's Michael Da Silva
DW's Michael Da Silva

Schalke's run of three straight wins coming into this game was tempered by the mediocre opposition they'd beaten along the way. Leipzig were a step up from Hertha Berlin, Paderborn and Mainz, and hadn't lost at home in eight months.

Schalke made sure they lost this one. David Wagner's side played them off the park, with a swashbuckling brand of football that has been absent from their game for a long time. Assured on the ball, compact without it, and ruthless in front of goal, it was the kind of slick performance for which Leipzig themselves have become known. Even David Wagner's opposite number, Julian Nagelsmann, had to concede that his team were outperformed in every department.

It was a personal victory for Wagner too, against a man widely considered the best young coach in Germany. Wagner has Schalke working harder than before and, for the first time in a long time, has cultivated a togetherness in the squad that had been missing, something remarked on by the linchpins in Wagner's midfield, Serdar and Omar Mascarell, before the game: "We've come together more as a team," said Serdar. "We're generally fitter than last season," added Mascarell. "The way we're playing, aggressively with lots of running, is a lot of fun."

Schalke were fun to watch, illustrated best when the impressive Rabbi Matondo, the Welsh teenager plucked from the Manchester City academy last summer, collected Amine Harit's perfectly weighted pass and expertly stabbed the ball beyond the advancing Peter Gulacsi. Matondo and the wonderfully talented Harit are just two of the youngsters being given the freedom to express themselves under Wagner, and they combined to repay the coach with a goal of the highest quality.

Wagner was quick to express his pride for his players, but was just as quick to keep expectations low when he reminded the assembled press in Leipzig that the season was only six games old. That won't stop Schalke fans getting excited by what they've seen under the new regime though. It's worth remembering that when Wagner took charge of Schalke, they had just come off an excruciating season that included the threat of relegation. Six games into the new season and that feels like a lot longer than six months ago.

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