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Opinion: Schalke reset not enough without new thinking

February 28, 2021

After another defeat, Schalke lost another head coach, Christian Gross becoming the third to bite the bullet this season. The club have also axed several backroom staff but must change further, says DW's Matt Pearson.

Christian Gross und Jochem Schneider both left Schalke
Christian Gross und Jochem Schneider both left Schalke on Sunday

The ship is sinking, but Schalke are determined to keep shuffling the deckchairs on the Titanic.

After a 16th league defeat, this time a 5-1 loss in Stuttgart, the Royal Blues announced the departure of Christian Gross, a number of his backroom staff and Jochen Schneider, the head of sport and communication.

Gross is the third permanent head coach to be sacked by the Bundesliga's bottom club this season and the only one who has won a league game - the 4-0 win over Hoffenheim that saved them from recording the division's longest ever run without a victory.

"Christian Gross will give the team clear instructions and will set us on the right path with his unwavering expectations. We are sure of that," said Schneider when he unveiled Gross just before the turn of the year. He, and others in management positions who have since left or ducked for cover, made similar noises for Manuel Baum and David Wagner before him.

DW's Matt Pearson
DW's Matt Pearson

No one in the dugout or the boardroom can really emerge from the wreckage of Schalke's impending relegation with even a scrap of credit. The coaches have failed to wring anything out of a squad with more talent than others in the division while the catalogue of errors made by Schneider, former chairman Clemens Tönnies and other boardroom figures runs to several volumes.

Gone too soon

Perhaps the greatest mismanagement of a club that was the 14th most valuable in world football in 2014 and played in the Champions League six times in the decade between 2008-9 and 2018-19 was allowing so many talented players who came through their youth system to run down their contracts and leave for low fees or nothing.

Joel Matip, Sead Kolasinac, Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka all left on free transfers. The departures of Julian Draxler, Mesut Özil, Leroy Sane and Manuel Neuer at least bought in some money.

But the money has gone. Reports in Germany suggest Schalke were on the verge of collapse during last season's coronavirus-enforced hiatus and are still in a precarious financial position, not helped by paying off all those coaches and managers.

With a number of first teamers' contracts expiring, Schalke need a clean slate and they need patience. As Hamburg have found out, reputation alone means nothing in the second division and the Royal Blues need to live more humbly once they are finally dethroned.

Trust in youth

That's where that youth system comes in. Schalke must resist the urge to sign 'proven' players as a short-term fix and trust that one of Europe's best youth systems can produce players good enough to get them back up — eventually. 

There will be bumps in the road, but the short-term thinking (sack the coach, buy new players) mentality has got them where they are. Nothing short of a total u-turn is required.