Schalke: 5 things we learned from 1-1 draw with Paderborn

Schalke 04, Ahmed Kutucu (Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Schalke 04, Ahmed Kutucu (Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images) /
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Schalke CAM Amine Harit
08 February 2020, North Rhine-Westphalia, Gelsenkirchen: Football: Bundesliga, FC Schalke 04 – SC Paderborn 07, 21st matchday in the Veltins Arena. Schalkes Amine Harit is after the 1:1 at the center circle. Photo: Rolf Vennenbernd/dpa – IMPORTANT NOTE: In accordance with the regulations of the DFL Deutsche Fußball Liga and the DFB Deutscher Fußball-Bund, it is prohibited to exploit or have exploited in the stadium and/or from the game taken photographs in the form of sequence images and/or video-like photo series. (Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images) /

4. Don’t make Amine Harit the scapegoat

It’s honestly laughable how quickly fans blame a star player or make certain players targets for criticism, and we’re seeing that with Amine Harit after today’s draw with Paderborn. But Schalke suffered from a systemic failure of execution against Paderborn, which was the result of both injuries and poor tactical game planning from David Wagner.

For example, Harit gets criticized for slowing the game down too much on counterattacks, but if Michael Gregoritsch is either offsides or takes himself out of the play by making a poor run, can Harit really be blamed? If Raman is isolated on the other side of the pitch because Wagner forces him too wide in his scheme, is that on Harit? And if the center midfielders aren’t in defined positions, how can a pressured attacking midfielder know where their safety options are?

Wagner needs to do a better job of putting his players in a position to succeed and defining their responsibilities, even if injuries disrupt the structure. It says a lot that Schalke looked much better when they replaced a lazy, unaware striker (Gregoritsch) for an energetic, intelligent one in Kutucu, who could link up with Harit.

The Morocco international had three tackles, a team-high four key passes, a team-high six dribbles completed, and a team-high three fouls drawn. By any offensive metric, Harit was the best player on the team. If you scapegoat him, you merely blame a player for being dispossessed when they were tasked with being the only creative outlet.

Serdar and other familiar players were missed, the schematic approach from Wagner was inadequate, and Paderborn played well. You don’t need to turn on a star player because “they held the ball too long”, while ignoring statistical evidence showing their performance was more “positive” and “mixed”. Not everything is a binary “great” or “terrible”.

5. Adjusting Expectations

Schalke couldn’t get the job done against Paderborn in front of their own fans, and it’s time to come to grips with the fact that the Royal Blues may not be good enough to qualify for the Champions League this season. The Bundesliga is incredibly competitive now, and Schalke are closer to Bayer Leverkusen in terms of quality than an RB Leipzig or Borussia Dortmund.

But that’s in 2019-2020. With the young talent they have assembled, Schalke can challenge for titles in the future, especially if they can keep true superstars like Amine Harit, Ozan Kabak, and Suat Serdar around. With Ahmed Kutucu and Benito Raman making strides in the attack, the roster will keep improving.

Next. Schalke vs. Paderborn Player Ratings. dark

It’s a process. Schalke were one of the worst teams in the league last season, and they are now safely in the top even. But it will still take time for them to be a true top three team. It’s time we need to make sure we give to Wagner, the players, and the club’s decision-makers. Under that scope, a 1-1 draw amidst injuries to key players isn’t a catastrophe, but, rather, a soft reminder of where the club currently is.