There was plenty of surprise when Karel Geraerts and Union St Gilloise parted ways at the end of the season. The head coach had followed up on the work done by Felice Mazzu, taking the side close to the title alongside an entertaining European campaign. At times, he was linked to the Club Brugge vacancy, such was the high regard with which he was held by those within Belgian football.
So when it was announced that Geraerts would be moving to Bundesliga 2, many may consider that he has taken a step down. However, Schalke 04 are one of the biggest sides in German football, with a passionate fan base that has seen the club fall from grace over the past few years. If Geraerts can bring a bit of the magic touch he had in Brussels, the fans of Schalke should be optimistic about their future with him.
First of all, he knows what it is like to come into a club with proud history that has fallen on hard times. In 2019 he joined Mazzu as an assistant at Union, who were then in the second tier of Belgian football. Together, with support from Tony Bloom, they worked to gain promotion. In the first season after promotion, Union were already battling for the Pro League title. While under Mazzu the side were praised, the following season many were stating that the side looked even better.
This second season saw Geraerts take control, as Mazzu had left for an ill-fated few months at Anderlecht. Geraerts worked with Victor Boniface, who has also moved to Germany where he is continuing to impress. Union were just moments away from winning the league, with a late Club Brugge goal denying them and allowing Antwerp to win their first title since 1957.
His preferred formation was a 3-5-2, with the wide men in the five expected to do a lot of hard work. Yet the personnel at his disposal fitted the system perfectly. Under Mazzu the side had been more of a counter attacking side, but Geraerts changed to a side that saw much more of the ball. It certainly wasn’t possession for possession’s sake though, as they were entertaining to watch, moving the ball quickly in attempts to break down the opposition.
They could also mix it up, going back to a more counter-attacking style when up against some of the ‘bigger’ sides in Europe. Hopefully Geraerts will be able to bring some of this tactical flexibility to Schalke. What may hinder him is recruitment, something that Union do better than most in Belgium. If those in charge of player recruitment at Schalke work with Geraerts and support his vision, then the side should begin to move away from the bottom of the league.