After Schalke’s away defeat to FC Köln on Sunday, a performance which rising-star Julian Draxler slammed as “the worst performance in years”, it was announced that with immediate effect the contracts of both Sidney Sam and Kevin-Prince Boateng would be terminated.
In addition, Marco Höger would be temporarily suspended.
These are the “consequences” of the defeat, as described in an official statement by the club.
"Schalke sporting director Horst Heldt announced there would be consequences after Sunday’s defeat away to 1.
FC Köln and the first action has been taken: Kevin-Prince Boateng and Sidney Sam have been suspended indefinitely with immediate effect. Marco Höger is suspended from training and first-team action up to and including Saturday, 16th May."
However, what does this actually accomplish in ameliorating the problem plaguing Schalke’s Hinrunde form?
It has been clear for quite some time that Boateng would be moving on at the end of the season.
Sam did not play a single minute in the recent defeat, nor has he played at all since the game against Freiburg on April 11.
In addition, Marco Höger, often praised as one of the team’s hardest workers, was played at left back, a position he hasn’t played in years.
Furthermore, the shocking manner in which these players were removed from the team will do nothing to repair an already crippling team harmony.
Accepting the blame
Rather, the reaction to the defeat highlights the cowardice of Schalke’s management, namely Horst Heldt and Roberto Di Matteo, and their utter refusal to accept blame for the run which has seen them win only once in the last eight games.
Horst Heldt is public enemy number one within the Schalke fans. His failings in the transfer market and his refusal to address the real problems within the club have made him universally despised among the Blau und Weiß faithful.
Anyone who has perused Schalke forums or visited the Veltins-Arena itself is no stranger to the phrase, “Heldt Raus!”, or “Heldt Out!” His complete failure to properly handle the recent defeat highlights his lack of capabilities as a general manager and justifies the fans burning desire to seem him ousted from the board of management.
Probably one of his biggest failures to date is the appointment of another much-maligned figure among the Knappen faithful, Di Matteo.
After leading the club to their most successful ever Hinrunde in their 111-year history, Jens Keller was relieved of his duties as coach following a poor start to the season which saw them dumped out of the DFB-Cup in the first round by third-tier side Dynamo Dresden.
Keller was criticized for his lack of a long term plan and tactical identity. However, something he succeeded in was bringing the best out of rising stars such as Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka.
Di Matteo was swiftly appointed in his place and was immediately met with skepticism due to his “Park the Bus” tactics, something that did not seem to fit with the energy and youth of the current Schalke side.
While the Knappen managed to up their fortunes and string together results at first, it was more a culmination of luck rather than the effectiveness of Di Matteo’s system. This can be seen in the first few games of Di Matteo’s tenure. Against Hertha Berlin, they invited pressure the entire game and were outshot 8 to 16, according to WhoScored.
They managed to pick up a 2-0 win purely from their composure in front of goal and the efforts of goalkeeper Ralf Fährmann. Not known for being clinical, Schalke could not sustain these results for the remainder of the season.
Fastforward to Matchday 32, Schalke vs. Köln, the statistics look strikingly similar; Schalke were outshot 13 to five. The only difference between the two aforementioned games is the result. Schalke’s current rut is not the result of poor form, but rather the result of exhausting all their remaining luck.
The platform in which Schalke has been running has shown no real potential over the last year. If Schalke really wish to improve their form and fulfill their potential as one of Germany’s most promising teams, they must overhaul their management, starting with Horst Heldt and ending with Di Matteo.