Schalke must continue to place their trust in David Wagner

David Wagner of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by Max Maiwald/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
David Wagner of FC Schalke 04 (Photo by Max Maiwald/DeFodi Images via Getty Images) /

FC Schalke 04 went from the Bundesliga’s biggest disappointment to a quality football team in David Wagner’s first season at the helm.

Although FC Schalke 04 stumbled in the Rückrunde of the 2019-2020 Bundesliga season, David Wagner had a highly successful first campaign in charge of the club.

He inherited a mess of a team that was incapable of scoring, not getting the most out of young players, and genuinely in disarray. By the end of the first half of the season, Schalke were title contenders despite suffering injuries at center back and elsewhere.

Under Wagner, Schalke showed grit in defense, as per usual, and real creativity in the final third. Whereas Suat Serdar and Amine Harit only flashed in 2018-2019 and weren’t given enough responsibilities befitting of their talent and upside, they became two of the Bundesliga’s best overall players under Wagner.

The new manager’s ability to encourage young players like Serdar, Harit, and Ozan Kabak helped them become centerpieces of the team. And it didn’t take long for FC Barcelona loan signing Jean-Clair Todibo to show similar world-class abilities in defense to Kabak.

Not every example of Wagner coaching up young players is successful. He could still do a lot more to involve the gifted Ahmed Kutucu and hasn’t truly unlocked Rabbi Matondo. But Harit and Serdar are shining examples of Wagner’s ability to help great players find their greatness.

Tactically, Wagner’s pressing and approach to the midfield trio of Omar Mascarell, Serdar, and Harit helped Schalke take the league by storm in the Hinrunde. Defenses adjusted later on and the system fell apart after key injuries in midfield, but Wagner did find a work-around with a highly defensive 5-4-1.

It didn’t entirely pay off and came at the expense of benching the team’s most talented player in Harit, but it did allow Schalke to put up more of a fight against Bayern Munich in their third match of the 2019-2020 campaign.

Fans of Die Knappen can be skeptical of Wagner’s tactical acumen and ability to consistently compete at the Champions League level in the future, but healthy skepticism will always be there with any manager.

The truth is that Wagner had given Schalke immediate stability after a nightmare of a 2018-2019 season. And in addition to helping the team’s youth, Wagner has brought out the best in more experienced players like Mascarell, who enjoyed a resurgence as a methodical defensive midfielder and the team’s unsung hero (and eventual captain).

Schalke won’t have a real transfer market for Wagner to work with, but they will have a full offseason for Wagner to continue to develop the enticing young talent on the squad while getting some veterans like Salif Sane back at full strength. The future is bright in Gelsenkirchen with Wagner at the helm, and after one promising season, it’s important for the club to continue to place its full trust in Wagner.

dark. Next. No matter what, this season was a success

As we saw in 2019-2020, there will be highs and lows for a club that is still forging a new identity, especially on the attacking end. But it’s important to ride out the lows and know that the overall trajectory of the club under Wagner is quite positive indeed.