Hello Tim, please introduce yourself to our readers and tell them how you became a fan of Schalke 04. What makes the club so special to you?
Hi Justin! My name is Tim, I am 24 years old and I live in Hannover. After finishing my economic degree I started to work in broadcasting. Up until two years ago I was actively playing football, but due to several injuries I had to quit.
I got into Schalke 04 15 years ago. For me personally the club is just pure emotion and passion like nothing else in the world. It is never quiet around the club, which is not always a positive feature, but it makes it special as well. For me there was simply no other option than becoming a supporter of S04, even though I was born and raised here in Hannover. Every fan of Schalke needs this bit of mayhem in his life and it never gets boring. At least this is my impression.
There were big changes during the summer break. What has changed so far and how do you feel about the new direction Schalke is heading?
Actually we experienced some new kind of calmness in the recent weeks. Christian Heidel managed to calm and revitalize the club’s surroundings. Even the loss against Frankfurt did not change that massively. One decisive factor might be that there are no more endless discussions about transfers as well as the fact that internal secrets stay where they belong. For you as FC Bayern supporters this might be usual, but for us it indicates a big step forward in the right direction. Can it be a long-term thing? I don’t know. We will see when we experience the first few big defeats. To begin with we would be well advised to stay cautiously towards early praises.
Christian Heidel was quite actively on the transfer market. Please give us a short introduction of the new players.
First there is Naldo who, with his experience, is the logical replacement after the departure of Joel Matip to Liverpool. Then there is Breel Embolo, possibly our transfer-masterpiece of the summer. He might be a promise for the future but the aim is to replace Leroy Sané on the right wing. Our new wing-backs Baba Abdul Rahman und Coke should be beneficial as well. Especially because of our history regarding injuries we had to deal with over the past seasons. Unfortunately Coke is currently suffering from an injury and will out of the action for a long time. At the centre defensive midfield position we acquired two new players, Benjamin Stambouli and Nabil Bentaleb, who are challenged to improve the interaction between offence and defence, which was one of our biggest deficits in the past. Finally and shortly before the end of the transfer window Jewhen Konoplyanka, a versatile winger, arrived from Sevilla.
Sounds like a successful period. How pleased are you with the new team?
The outcome in general is decent. Heidel not only managed to make the squad deeper, he is also counting on young and promising talents. Now we have two players in every position competing for the spot, which was rarely the case in the past when only the youth players were an option. Due to the enormity of the changes the team will take some time to gel. We should not expect miracles but we have internal competition, which is important.
Regarding the departures, Joel Matip will be hugely missed. More than it seems to be right now. He not only is a great character off the field, but also had a key role on the field. From my point of view the majority of S04 fans saw him as our best option at the centre back position, maybe even better than Benedikt Höwedes. The loss of Sané was quite devastating as well. I think he may have been capable of improving a lot more here at Schalke, which leads to my doubts that he is ready to have an impact at Manchester City right now.
You already mentioned that your team would need some time to adjust. At first sight the new Coach Markus Weinzierl did not changed a lot in the matchup vs. Eintracht Frankfurt. Maybe you can tell us how the playing style might change in the future.
Formation-wise I do not expect many changes. The new players indicate that we will stick to the 4-2-3-1 formation. Especially because Weinzierl is a huge fan of Klaas Jan Huntelaar and there are no other valid options available. Although there will be some tactical adjustments regarding the interaction in the midfield. The gaps were far too big in the past.
While our defensive midfielders often played too far back, the offensive forces were waiting for decent passes. Unfortunately we experienced the exact same problem in the game vs. Frankfurt. Their style of pressing left us no chance whatsoever and we were not able to establish our own build-up play. That is why we tried to improve at this specific position. The main tasks will be to act more versatile, compact and to bring those parts of the team together.
How much time does Weinzierl get to implement his ideas?
This is the decisive question here at Schalke. The trust in our coaches – as it is well known – is relatively small. Maybe Christian Heidel is able to change that. In addition to that the chairman Clemens Tönnies stressed that he won’t be involved in the operative procedures anymore. Time will tell how the board deals with critical voices in reference to the coach. Trust me this will not take long. I just massively hope that they will grant Weinzierl the time to form his team.
What are your short-term goals? Is it realistic to go for a Champions League spot with such a huge competition at hand in the Bundesliga?
For me it is simply to be consistent. To keep up a good performance over six to eight games was never possible in the past. Generally after one decent game we had two bad ones just after. That has to change! The Champions League is one of the big goals for the future. It should be our aspiration with such a team and the recruitments we made in the summer, but this season it might be too difficult. Sometimes aspiration and reality at Schalke are quite different. I expect to finish 5th.
On Friday Schalke will face FC Bayern. Describe the tactical approach you expect for the game.
It would not be surprising if we start with a five at the back formation. In the first leg last season this worked out quite well for us. A high-scoring game is not to be expected. We will count on set-pieces and try to get some relief in some phases during the game. The defence might see some changes. It is also possible that Benedikt Höwedes will be playing right-wing-back in a four at the back formation due to the bad form of Junior Caicara and the lack of speed of Sascha Riether. If this is the case I think a defensive midfield with Leon Goretzka and Nabil Bentaleb is the best option. In front of them I expect no big changes. Maybe Embolo replaces Franco Di Santo and Konoplayanka will get a chance instead of Choupo-Moting as well. The rest is likely to stay in the team. In general the four at the back formation will be a lot more risky.
Can you predict the result? Do you believe in the eagerly anticipated consistency and calmness at Schalke?
I already placed some bets on the game, which have a more optimistic than realistic character. It will be incredibly tough. For me a 0-2 defeat with a good performance would be OK. But I would be lying if I denied that I have small hopes to steal a point. In this scenario everything has to be perfect and your team should not have one of its good days as well.
Surely I believe that it is possible to establish a calm environment and consistency in Gelsenkirchen. Normally the club messes up, when the atmosphere changes because of bad results. This is a big task for Christian Heidel. He needs to keep everything together and I am quite optimistic that he is able to do so. But it is impossible to predict what will happen next. Schalke 04 is full of surprises.