Schalke: Get ready for the year of Rabbi Matondo, Ahmed Kutucu

FC Schalke 04 (Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images)
FC Schalke 04 (Photo by ANP Sport via Getty Images) /

FC Schalke 04 struggled in front of goal for a second straight season, but things are quietly looking up for the Royal Blues with Ahmed Kutucu and Rabbi Matondo continuing their development.

In the 2019-2020 Bundesliga season, sixth-place FC Schalke 04 scored fewer goals than every other team in the league’s top 10. And only five teams in the Bundesliga scored fewer than the 33 goals the Royal Blues posted.

While Schalke showed improvement in the attacking from their dismal 2018-2019 campaign, their improvements were marginal. They enjoyed an excellent Fall, specifically in September when Amine Harit was the league’s best player, but they struggled to create goals in the Rückrunde.

By the time the season was postponed, only two players had more than five league goals. And both were midfielders in Suat Serdar (7) and Harit (6). In third-place was summer signing Benito Raman, who was hot at the end of the Hinrunde but struggled mightily in the second half of the season.

Die Knappen won’t be able to buy a star striker in the summer, such as Napoli’s Arkadiusz Milik, due to their financial situation. And Augsburg loan signing Michael Gregoritsch looks like a bust, playing himself out of the lineup despite a dream debut against Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Even so, Schalke should feel confident about their attack’s ability to make more strides and no longer be a weakness for the team in 2020-2021. And that confidence stems from two exceptional young players in Ahmed Kutucu and Rabbi Matondo.

Kutucu and Matondo have a ton of talent and have come along nicely in their developments, even if the progress may not be obvious to everyone. For example, Matondo only scored one goal in 2019-2020, but the metrics show a hard-working player who is dangerous around the box, can put in a shift defensively, and can cause immense trouble around the penalty area with his dribbling. At 19, Matondo just needs more experience and confidence in front of goal before the end product shows.

Meanwhile, Kutucu is already a starting-caliber player for Schalke, and the only thing potentially holding him back from stardom in 2019-2020 is playing time. Last season, he led all players on Die Knappen with 1.03 goals and assists per 90 minutes, scoring three goals with one assist in 349 minutes of Bundesliga action. He produced at this rate despite never starting a game.

Schalke have a talented, pacy striker in Raman who works extremely hard for his team and has a rocket of a shot when he finds himself in space. But he needs more help, since he isn’t the dynamic dribbler or technician who can score goals from nothing.

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Matondo and Kutucu can be that help. Kutucu’s dribbling ability, technical quality, and speed have been huge for the Royal Blues, while Matondo is the kind of wide forward who can cause all sorts of problems by disrupting the back four with his well-timed runs and energy.

In fact, Matondo and Kutucu can be more than just “help” to support Raman. They should surpass him before long as the stars in Schalke’s attacking front, and that could take place in 2020.