Schalke’s straw: “That’s not how relegated players play”
Schalke, bottom of the Bundesliga, loaned out six new players in the winter to prevent the threat of relegation. At least in defence, the team now seems more stable. But time is running out.
The distance to the non-relegation places is increasing, the fear of falling again decreases. The bottom of the table FC Schalke 04 is currently clinging to every straw.
A new “glimmer of hope” for the Bundesliga team, which was reorganized during the winter break, was the zero number on Saturday evening at Borussia Mönchengladbach, which should in fact have been much more worrying for Borussia, who were much better equipped in terms of quality. Schalke’s sports director Peter Knäbel, on the other hand, seemed surprisingly in a good mood. “That’s not how relegated players play. It doesn’t feel like it for everyone either,” Knäbel announced full-bodied.
The fact that Schalke looked good was down to the hosts
Of course, that was only partly true. Indeed, in terms of commitment and body language, the current Schalke team has as much in common with the 2021 squad, which willingly surrendered to Bundesliga relegation at the time, as Gladbach’s current team does with the team who, at the same time, two years ago still kicked in the Champions League round of 16. “This team is really alive,” said Gladbach’s Christoph Kramer rightly – which he could not have said in good conscience given the unambitious performance of his team, at least on Saturday. The fact that Schalke looked relatively good was mainly due to the uninspired hosts. This was Knäbel – of course – never mind. “A little more courage that we can keep up,” he judged.
In fact, the defensive stability gained during the winter break is a legitimate reason for hope. The defensive zero was already in the previous week in the 0-0 draw against 1. FC Köln. Knäbel rated the 1: 6 against RB Leipzig as a “slip” and the appearance in Gladbach as “proof” for his thesis. You can follow that. In Moritz Jenz, whom Schalke loaned from FC Lorient in France – the 23-year-old was already loaned to Celtic Glasgow from there – the Revierclub seems to have found an additional stabilizer. “He’s a very good central defender,” praised teammate Tom Krauss. “He helps us a lot there.” The return of the previously injured Czech Alex Král in defensive midfield also ensures a much more impenetrable defense. From this point of view, the royal blues with their six new loan players seem to have raised the quality at least in one area.
“We need to start getting threesomes”
“Anyone who says in a panic, ‘It’s almost over’ can say: No, it’s not over soon,” Knäbel rejoiced. “The path is absolutely right.” But the ex-professional also knows: “Keeping up and staying in are just two different things. There’s only one thing that helps: time.” And unfortunately that’s where the problem lies. Because time is running out. The gap to the non-relegation places is getting bigger and is now eight points after 19 games. With eleven points at this point, 16 out of 19 teams have ended up being relegated from the league. “One point doesn’t help us in our situation. We have to start getting three points,” defender Cedric Brunner said appropriately, and keeper Ralf Fährmann said: “We have to score. It’s no use just getting congratulations.”
But Schalke need goals to win, and this is where things are particularly lacking. In the new year, a meager goal was achieved in four games. In Gladbach, too, the defense was greatly improved compared to the previous year, but the attack is still not at Bundesliga level. Coach Thomas Reis and some players talked about “lack of luck”. Sports director Knäbel was a little more revealing. “There is no alternative that we continue with them,” said the 56-year-old. Even if Knäbel clearly wanted to radiate the opposite: at least he didn’t exactly spread hope.