FC Schalke 04: How to fix the other half of the forward problem

Schalke 04, Ahmed Kutucu (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
Schalke 04, Ahmed Kutucu (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

Over the past few weeks, Benito Raman has emerged as a solution to FC Schalke 04’s issues up front. But it’s also become clear that he can only be one half of the solution.

Although FC Schalke 04 have scored more than one goal in five of their last six fixtures, they have relied on midfielders Suat Serdar and Amine Harit for their goal contributions. Both men have at least five goals scored this season, whereas the only other player with at least three hadn’t scored until Nov. 23.

That Schalke player with three goals is none other than Benito Raman, who has become a crucial breakout star recently. The Royal Blues could be in a tougher spot in the table if Raman didn’t shine after returning from an injury. He has scored once in each of the team’s past three games, assisting twice in his last four. Raman also had a brace in late October against Arminia Bielefeld, which proved to be a sign of things to come.

There’s no doubt that Raman is a key part of the solution for the Royal Blues. The former Fortuna Dusseldorf forward scores all types of goals. Last week, he smacked home a thunderbolt from the top of the box. And against Bayer Leverkusen, he finished off a wonderful team move from Ahmed Kutucu and Harit with a cool tap-in.

Raman provides more than goals, too. As the statistics show, he’s capable of setting up teammates, and he could easily have four assists right now. Raman works hard for his team on offense and defense, using his pace to track down opponents, such as Karim Bellarabi on Saturday, or stretch defenses.

The problem is that Schalke need more than just as Raman, which has become painfully obvious. Raman scored against  Bayer, Werder Bremen, and Union Berlin, providing crucial contributions for his team in these last three games. But against Union and Bayer, Raman had less of an influence on the game when he wasn’t scoring.

Raman, Harit, and Serdar are a fantastic trio with a combined 14 goals this season, but they need help. And unfortunately, that boost isn’t going to come from Bundesliga veterans Mark Uth and Guido Burgstaller, who consistently look anonymous in games.

Schalke need someone active. They need someone who, like Raman, can stretch defenses, work for the team, and finish off chances. David Wagner needs to start someone with Raman who can complement him, bring out the best in him, elevate the rest of the team, and, of course, score goals himself.

Ahmed Kutucu and Rabbi Matondo are two potentially great 19-year-olds who stand out. Matondo had a great performance at the Revierderby that was only lacking in the finish. He brings excitement and intelligence off the ball to Schalke, but his inconsistent technique makes his weaknesses a little too similar to Raman.

But Kutucu? He has the technique. He has the pace And most of all, he has the work ethic, versatility, and engine to be a perfect complement to everyone.

In fact, Kutucu created both of Schalke’s last two late goals. Serdar’s strike against Union began because of a great tackle Kutucu made. And against Bayer, it was his tackle and link-up play with Harit and Raman that created the golden opportunity for the Belgium international.

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Kutucu has to be the focus as the second half of Schalke’s solution at forward, but Matondo deserves some game time, too. The talented young Wales international can’t fall by the wayside and have his own quality ignored. Wagner will need to use these young men and retool his lineup, or risk falling into stagnation, which is what Schalke can’t afford.

Raman needs help, and a midfield-heavy formation isn’t a solution. Neither are Uth and Burgstaller. But Kutucu or even Matondo can be a part of a winning formula, so it’s time for Wagner to make that adjustment before the Ruckrunde begins.