A third-straight Bundesliga defeat has left Schalke’s new head coach Markus Weinzierl under serious pressure. Following a 2-0 defeat in Berlin, the preseason euphoria has long since given way to a sobering reality.
Bang. Only 25 seconds in and Markus Weinziel explodes into action. Bouncing up and down in his technical area, he screams at his players. It’s taken just one Hertha attack and the Schalke coach is already furious over his team’s tentative defending. And so the pattern is set for most of the game, which sees the hosts run out comfortable 2-0 winners. For long stretches of the match he stands stationary in his coaching zone, hands in his pockets. But every so often the Schalke boss suddenly springs into action, gesturing wildly at his players – in apparent attempts to let off steam and wake up his dozy players.
Weinzierl is hardly known for his extroverted behavior on the sideline but on Sunday evening he resembled the most maniacal of his generation of young managers: Jürgen Klopp, Diego Simeone, Pep Guardiola, Thomas Tuchel. Until in the second half he could jump and shout and point no longer, looking on stoically as Hertha strike twice within 10 minutes through Mitchell Weiser (64′) and Valentin Stocker (74′).
An unwelcome record
“Twice we committed individual errors and invited the opposition to score goals, which have hurt us,” said the exasperated new Schalke coach after the final whistle. A third consecutive Bundesliga defeat had to be hard to stomach – no previous Schalke manager had ever lost the first three games of a season.
“We’re not satisfied,” was all that the reporters managed to pry out of Weinzierl at the press conference.
His players looked equally helpless as they left the Olympic Stadium pitch.
“Zero points after three games – that’s not Schalke,” said center back Naldo. “It’s not good enough and it is not what we expect of ourselves.”
“This is not exactly what we had in mind,” added Klass-Jan Huntelaar.
Sporting director Christian Heidel meanwhile, blamed the defeat on mental fatigue, pointing out that Schalke’s previous game was just last Thursday in the Europa League.
The trip to Nice yielded a 1-0 victory but the Royal Blues are yet to get off the mark in the eague. It was the two new signings in defensive midfield, Benjamin Stambouli and Nabil Bentaleb, who had propped Schalke up in the past couple of weeks, who committed the mistakes that lead to the Hertha goals.
“It was almost a bit presumptuous,” Heidel conceded. “But we just have to deal with it.
‘Convinced that we’re on the right track’
And yet things should be so different at Schalke this season. With a new management team and promising signings, there was genuine optimism flowing through this part of the Ruhr valley in the summer Some Schalke fans were even dreaming of launching an assault on local rivals Borussia Dortmund – and taking second place behind Bayern. It’s taken just three league games for such heady thoughts to dissipate.
“Obviously we’ve not started well in terms of points but I’m convinced that we’re on the right track,” captain Benedikt Höwedes said.
One new Schalke arrival stood out as in need of particular attention from Weinzierl -forward Breel Embolo served up a particularly a disappointing display against Hertha. The young Swiss attacker frequently made wrong decisions and continually failed to fulfill his defensive duties. He was duly withdrawn at halftime.
Still waiting for first league goal
Not that his replacement, Yevhen Konoplyanka, fared much better. His most notable contribution? A deep cross into no man’s land behind the Hertha goal. It summed up Schalke’s evening perfectly. They didn’t get a single shot on goal from within the opposition penalty area. Yet to find the net after three games, Schalke’s lack of effectiveness in front of the opposition goal is becoming a major problem. The team as whole look like a bunch of strangers and the new arrivals are out of their depth.
“The lads are on the ropes. We need to pick them up again,” Heidel said.
As the final whistle approached, the travelling Schalke fans could barely muster a peep and some were already heading for the exits.
“They expect us to earn points,” said Naldo, before turning his attention to Schalke’s home game against Cologne on Wednesday night. Schalke are in desperate need of a win but the Billy Goats are unbeaten and yet to concede a single goal this season.
All of this isn’t lost on Christian Heidel.
“We can’t afford to delay getting our first league win any longer,” he said.
The much-yearned-for turning point can’t come soon enough for Schalke and Markus Weinzierl who would prefer to be able to be more relaxed on the sideline.