Dominico Tedesco might just might just be forced out of the dugout a couple times against Dortmund due to the seat being a little hotter than usual. Currently sitting 12th with 14 points, the Royal Blues did not get a single point until Week 6, following a rocky summer transfer window. Compared to last year, they sit 8 places lower with 10 less points on the table. After losing both Max Meyer and Leon Goretzka on free transfers to Crystal Palace and Bayern München respectively, Schalke was forced to sell hot prospect Thilo Kehrer to PSG in order to raise funds to bring in replacements for the players who left without compensation. And while it may not necessarily be his fault for the poor performance of his squad which is somewhat void of talent, the overly pragmatic approach of Tedesco’s tactics has prevented them from being able to score from open play.
Last year, shithousing and set pieces worked for the Royal Blues. They scored 10 times from penalties, 6 from corners, 6 from set pieces, and 2 from direct free kicks. That was accompanied by 26 goals from open play. So far this season, Schalke has scored 11 times from open plays, with the only other goals coming from 3 converted penalties. In comparison, Dortmund has scored 36 goals so far this year, which include 3 from corners, 2 from set pieces, 2 from penalties, and one form a direct free kick. When Schalke scored two less goals from dead-ball situations than from open play last year, it does not bode well going into the future when goals are nowhere to be found this season (Understat).
There are several reasons for these struggles. The talent that departed from the Veltins Arena contributed massively in possession, creating opportunities apart from the irregular or inconsistent contribution from set pieces. Young players like Suat Serdar, Weston McKinney and Amine Harit need time to develop and grow next to the talented base in the midfield that Bentaleb offers. But to the frustrations of patient Schalke fans, Tedesco has been unwilling to play more offensively despite a somewhat capable side. Even without a key talent to elevate performances offensively, Schalke squad looks good enough on paper to qualify for European competition.
Much of it is down to Tedesco’s insistence on a low block with two forwards staying high to prepare for an impending counterattack. Differing from the traditional 4-4-2 low block, a 5-3-2 low block attempts to minimize the influence of attacking wingbacks while also having a center back on each side available to rotate towards any ball penetration into the 18 yard box. While sacrificing an available defender to cover the midfield presence of the opposition is a risk, it tends to be better at minimizing the attacking prowess of teams like BVB, who would want to get into the box with a prime opportunity before shooting. The problem is when the wingbacks get pinned back, and without players comfortable in possession and not as creative as Meyer or Goretzka, or even without being able to play Bentaleb further up the pitch, Schalke is not able to push numbers forward quickly, nor be able to take advantage of the opposition properly in possession. Which is why that relying on such a high output of sheer shithousing is naive, and it seems that Tedesco’s luck has, so far, run out.