90min

Chaotic Schalke Must Stop Embarrassing Rut to Avoid Oblivion

Alec Larkin-Riley
FC Schalke 04 are currently in the worst run of form and can't seem to stop the spiral.
FC Schalke 04 are currently in the worst run of form and can't seem to stop the spiral. / Pool/Getty Images
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Justified or otherwise, the term 'sleeping giant' is brandished to teams all over the world.

You can make up your minds as to whether Schalke qualify. They've won seven Bundesliga titles, making them the fourth most successful side in the competition's history, but haven't been top of Germany's standings at the end of a season since 1958, and haven't lifted the DFB-Pokal since 2011.

Right now, the once great German force are sat rock bottom of the Bundesliga and enduring their worst ever run of form.

This campaign alone, Schalke have fallen victim to some truly horrendous results, including an 8-0 stomping from Bayern Munich on the opening day. Going off recent performances, they'll get spanked a few more times before the season is out, too.

While stats like 'worst form' can be pejorative at times, in this case it's actually a lot kinder than the reality they face. Following their most recent defeat, a 2-0 loss to Wolfsburg, Schalke are now without a win in 24 league games, a record stretching back to matchday 19 of last season.

Their last league victory came in January, a 2-0 win over Borussia Mönchengladbach. Sadly for supporters, this is the plight they now face. It was only their mid-table form in the first half of last season that saw them maintain their Bundesliga status, which they now appear to be trying to relinquish.

Veteran striker Vedad Ibisevic has seen his contract torn up, while Amine Harit and Nabil Bentaleb have both been suspended until further notice.

According to Jochen Schneider, the club's head of sport and communication, 'Schalke and Nabil Bentaleb clearly aren’t a good fit', while Harit has been 'given time to think' following a disruptive weekend.

It's fair to say the dressing room isn't exactly harmonious right now.

Bentaleb has been suspended and is training individually
Bentaleb has been suspended and is training individually / DeFodi Images/Getty Images

And gone are the days when Schalke rubbed shoulders with the league's elite. Now their only aim is to remain in the top flight.

Their first attempt to stop the rot saw them relieve manager David Wagner of his duties back in September and appoint Manuel Baum in his stead, though he has found life at the helm just as tough, picking up just one win in his first seven games. Even that came in a cup tie.

It's an odd situation, especially given the players still at the club. Rabbi Matondo and Suat Serdar look as though they will offer real quality in the future. But for all their promise, they along with the rest of their teammates lack the confidence to pick the club out of their current state.

Once upon a time at Schalke.
Once upon a time at Schalke. / Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Being in bad form is one thing, but when you genuinely can't see where a team will pick up any inspiration on the pitch, you know they're in trouble.

In past years, they could call upon names like Jefferson Farfan, Manuel Neuer and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, but with nobody in their current ranks rising to the challenge, Schalke look out for the count despite being just one point from safety as things stand.

We've seen before, in the case of Hamburg, what relegation can do for bigger sides. They were relegated in the 2017/18 campaign and are yet to return to Germany's top flight. The infrastructure in place with these kind of clubs is not designed to withstand demotion to a lower league.

There's no doubt that if Schalke do get relegated, which even at this early stage looks more and more likely each week, their squad will be torn from to limb to limb by potential suiters. Then would come the rebuild, which in one season is not an easy thing to accomplish. Coupled with the hangover from what could be a truly horrible season for Schalke, and who knows what depths this team could sink to.

There's a universal desire in football to see underdogs achieve great things, often twinned with the hunger to see the game's elite struggle and flounder. But this can't be said for this particular story. It's a sad case of a truly special club enduring the worst time in their rich history.

To put things into perspective, there were fewer than 70 worldwide cases of Covid-19 the last time Schalke won a league game. The rut needs to stop before one of the Germany's most prestigious clubs is tainted forever.

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