Bundesliga Review – Stevens Shakin’ after sacking by Schalke
Whilst Shakin’ Stevens festive hit “Merry Christmas Everyone” rings out continuously in this season of good will, a namesake of Shakin’ won’t be bustling with that Christmas spirit. In fact, Huub Stevens is more likely to be Shakin’ with anger. Because, after a regretful run of results, the Schalke head coach was sacked on Sunday morning.
It didn’t take long for BILD to point out that “the Dutchman has flown.” This is true as Stevens’ Schalke were indeed flying earlier this season. October marked the high point of their voyage as it was then that the Royal Blues outplayed Arsenal and most importantly, their fierce rivals Borussia Dortmund in what were two superb away performances.
But let’s not forget what Felix Baumgartner also showed us during October: what goes up must come down. Like the Austrian daredevil, Schalke’s descent has been spectacular. The problem is the Gelsenkirchen outfit haven’t landed on their feet.
Since that magical month, Huub Stevens has endured something of a nightmare in the Bundesliga, compounded by Freiburg’s victory in Gelsenkirchen on Saturday. Stevens was given false hope by Jefferson Farfan’s opener but then began the woeful defending that would curtail his second reign in charge.
After gliding in unnoticed, Jan Rosenthal volleyed home Freiburg’s equaliser from the edge of the area. Then Joel Matip took a swing and a miss at a bouncing through ball allowing Jonathan Schmid to poke the visitors in front before half time. And when Schalke decided to give the ball away in their own half, Rosenthal was there to make it three.
So could it get any worse for Stevens and Schalke? Well yes it could, because on the field the team’s talisman Klaas-Jan Huntelaar was sent off and off the pitch, there was fighting between a few Schalke fans. Parts of the VELTINS-Arena emptied before full time as memories of the victory over Borussia Dortmund less than two months ago seemed very distant. By the end of Saturday evening the Royal Blues had slipped to seventh place in the Bundesliga.
Stevens’s time was up and keeping to the lyrics of that now familiar English football song, Huub was indeed sacked in the morning. Schalke cited the team’s poor recent performance in the Bundesliga as the reason for his departure. That’s unsurprising when there’s been just one win in Schalke’s last eight games and four losses in their last six.
The Dutchman hasn’t been helped by the performance of a fellow countryman, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. Last season he won the (brilliantly named) Torjägerkanone as the Bundesliga’s top scorer. This time round, the man nicknamed “The Hunter” looks unfocused as his modest total of five Bundesliga goals suggests. When you see that his contract expires in June it makes more sense.
Not much though will make sense to Schalke supporters at the moment. Their team’s recent performances have been oh so frustrating, especially after the heights they scaled just a short time ago. Of course, you can blame injuries and tiredness but it’s still perplexing to think that Schalke’s season looks to have peaked in October. Huub Stevens can be credited for his team topping their Champions League group. Yet, as General Manager Horst Heldt made clear in a press conference after Stevens departure: “The Bundesliga is our bread and butter.”
Jens Keller is Stevens replacement for the rest of the season. The Schalke website excitedly reported that he has been having a fantastic season with the club’s Under-17 team. Still, he takes over from a man who was held dearly by Schalke for leading the club to UEFA Cup glory in 1997 and back-to-back German Cup wins four years later. But as was shown on Sunday, he was held so dearly by the club, that they sacked him meaning Huub Stevens will be left Shakin’ this Christmas for all the wrong reasons.
Elsewhere in the Bundesliga:
- Let’s start with the man who is favourite to be Schalke coach come next summer – Thomas Tuchel. His Mainz side grabbed another victory as they saw off Stuttgart at the Coface Arena. After their latest victory, Mainz’s General Manager Thomas Heidel said Schalke will need to come up with 30 million euros if Tuchel is to move to Gelsenkirchen. That comment may have been tongue in cheek but don’t doubt how highly Tuchel is valued by Mainz – they end the year in a very impressive 6th place.
- Bayern Munich were surprisingly held at the Allianz Arena by Borussia Mönchengadbach. Gladbach goalkeeper Marc-André Ter Stegen deserves extra credit for some outstanding saves on Friday night. The teams trailing Bayern made up some ground though. Bayer Leverkusen comfortably beat Hamburg, Borussia Dortmund overcame Hoffenheim and the season’s surprise performers Eintracht Frankfurt were victorious in Wolfsburg. Bayern Munich though will be very satisfied though with their lead going into Christmas.
- Meanwhile, in the relegation ramalamadingdong, Fürth and Augsburg drew – a result which left both sides still deep in the proverbial mire. A side that were expected to be in the relegation scrap, Fortuna Düsseldorf, were able to celebrate another win though. They beat off Hannover, who still haven’t worked out this winning away business. And in the last game before the winter break, Werder Bremen and Nuremberg shared the points in Lower Saxony.
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Matchday 17 Results:
Bayern Munich 1-1 Gladbach
Bayer Leverkusen 3-0 Hamburg
Fortuna Düsseldorf 2-1 Hannover
Fürth 1-1 Augsburg
Mainz 3-1 Stuttgart
Wolfsburg 0-2 Eintracht Frankfurt
Schalke 1-3 Freiburg
Hoffenheim 1-3 Borussia Dortmund
Werder Bremen 1-1 Nuremberg
|1||FC Bayern Munich||17||13||3||1||44:7||+37||42||CL*|
|2||Bayer 04 Leverkusen||17||10||3||4||33:22||+11||33||CL*|
|4||Eintracht Frankfurt||17||9||3||5||33:27||+6||30||CL* Qual.|
|5||SC Freiburg||17||7||5||5||24:18||+6||26||EL* Qual.|
|6||1. FSV Mainz 05||17||8||2||7||24:21||+3||26||EL* Qual.|
|7||FC Schalke 04||17||7||4||6||27:25||+2||25|
|12||SV Werder Bremen||17||6||4||7||28:29||-1||22|
|14||1. FC Nuremberg||17||5||5||7||17:22||-5||20|