Schalke: No matter what, this season was a success

David Wagner of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images)
David Wagner of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images) /

If the 2019-2020 Bundesliga campaign does not resume later this year, FC Schalke 04 can still consider their first season under David Wagner a success.

It’s easy to get a little too pessimistic when discussing FC Schalke 04, because they suffered some humiliating defeats in the Rückrunde of the 2019-2020 season. There’s simply no way to sugarcoat how the Royal Blues performed against Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga, losing both games 5-0.

However, before the Rückrunde, Schalke were legitimate title contenders and were competing for a Champions League spot in Europe’s most competitive male league. The Royal Blues were right there with Borussia Mönchengladbach and Borussia Dortmund, just one season after being threatened with relegation under Domenico Tedesco.

David Wagner’s system was figured out in the second half of the season to some extent, but the new manager was also undone by a myriad of injuries. After successfully navigating injuries to key starters Benjamin Stambouli and Salif Sane at center back, Schalke unearthed two young superstars in Ozan Kabak and Jean-Clair Todibo, only to lose both to injury. And when Suat Serdar and captain Omar Mascarell went down, the injuries simply became too much.

But before the injuries hit, Schalke were playing inspired football. Even in their first game back from the mid-season break, Die Knappen looked like an absolute unit. They demolished Marco Rose’s impressive Gladbach side 2-0 in a game that could have easily been a 5-0 outcome to their credit.

This season was all about the young stars. Kabak, Serdar, Todibo, Amine Harit, Jonjoe Kenny, Markus Schubert, and Benito Raman all look like future building blocks. When Weston McKennie had to step up as a starter due to injuries to Mascarell and Serdar, he also looked the part.

Schalke have every reason to smile about the future, no matter how the season ended. They will, presumably, be back playing European football, which should help them eventually ride through any economic uncertainty resulting from the impact of the novel coronavirus.

The Royal Blues have found leaders, exciting players, and youth ready to take the next step to superstardom. Kabak, Serdar, and Harit are already three of the absolute best players in the Bundesliga, and there’s a good chance Rabbi Matondo and Ahmed Kutucu develop into special players in the attack to support them. And Schubert? Well, he looks like an even better goalkeeper than Alexander Nübel.

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So remember that the future is bright in Gelsenkirchen. It would have been unrealistic to expect the Royal Blues to go from an aging, inept squad in 2018-2019 to immediate title contenders in 2019-2020, so their regression in the second half of the season was unsurprising. But it was also largely driven by injury. With more experience, better luck, and the same positive mindset, Schalke can have a special 2020-2021.