After finishing second in the Bundesliga last season, Schalke expected to consolidate its status as one of the “best of the rest” behind Bayern Munich amid the glamour of playing in the Champions League.
But five games so far have all ended in defeat, leaving Domenico Tedesco’s team humiliated and bottom of the Bundesliga with zero points. Only two other sides – Hannover and Stuttgart – are winless in the league, though they at least have points after claiming two draws each.
Tuesday’s 1-0 defeat at modest Freiburg ensured Schalke matched its worst start in the league, made two years ago under then-coach Markus Weinzierl.
Weinzierl’s team finally ended its drought in the sixth round with a 4-0 win at home over Borussia Moenchengladbach.
Despite the loss in Freiburg, Tedesco – who had made a host of changes in a bid to freshen up the side – maintained that his team had played well and just needed to start scoring to end the crisis.
Schalke had a goal ruled out for offside and twice hit the post in the first half, but offered little in the second, when Florian Niederlechner scored for the home team.
“We have to keep going as we are,” said Tedesco, referring to the performances rather than the results. “We have to score goals. We had lots of big chances, especially in the first half.”
Tedesco has almost as many defeats this season as last (seven), when he enjoyed a stellar start to his reign after taking over from Weinzierl. It took 21 games before Schalke suffered its fifth loss in 2017-18.
Weinzierl’s side recovered to finish 10th, but that would represent a disappointment for a season that had promised so much under the 33-year-old Tedesco.
He’s not worried about being fired, for now.
“I feel 100 percent support, the club can’t give any more,” Tedesco said. “It’s only about this season. I don’t want any credit for last season.”
Daniel Caligiuri, who hit the post on Tuesday, cursed the side’s bad luck.
“The ball doesn’t want to go in,” the midfielder said.
Brazilian defender Naldo gave an indication of the strain the players are feeling when he hit back at Weinzierl for comments the former coach made about the side’s predicament.
“The question is whether it’s promising only to think defensively or tailor your game to a 36-year-old,” Weinzierl said, referring to Naldo without mentioning his name.
“I have a name, it’s Ronaldo Aparecido Rodrigues, or Naldo,” he responded. “I find it disrespectful what Markus Weinzierl said and am very disappointed by him. He should keep his mouth shut and find a job.”
Weinzierl told Kicker magazine he felt his original comments were misunderstood.
“I didn’t criticize Naldo personally, but called the strategy into question. I think a lot of Naldo as a person and as a player,” Weinzierl said.
Schalke plays Mainz at home on Saturday, when sporting director Christian Heidel will face his former club. Heidel has been in this situation before after leaving Mainz to take over Schalke in 2016, when he appointed Weinzierl.
Source: The Associated Press