Schalke '04 is one of Germany's most popular clubs, even though successes have been rare the past few decades. This creates an immense, almost volcanic pressure of the manager and the team to achieve successes. You could state that Schalke are in a constant state of crisis.
The current situation is no different. Expectations were high at the Veltins Arena, as new manager Fred Rutten was going to conquer the Bundesliga, alongside new signings like PSV's Peruvian forward Jefferson Farfan and FC Twente's midfield-skipper Orlando Engelaar.
After a good start Schalke's performances dropped however, plunging the club into yet another state of chaos in which supporters are demanding better results, the management are promising better results—yet the team fails to deliver these better results.
Time seems to be running out for manager Fred Rutten and technical director Andreas Müller. In spite of last weekend's 1-0 win over Hertha BSC, the Gelsenkirchen-based squad is at a disappointing ninth spot in the German Bundesliga.
The team's fortunes in Europe are looking bleak as well. Die Königsblauen lost the away-match to their Dutch neighbours FC Twente 2-1 and finished their UEFA Cup group campaign with a mere four points from four games. This could mean the end of Schalke's European campaign when either Racing Santander or Paris Saint-Germain win their next European fixture.
A few more disastrous results in the Bundesliga or elimination from the European stage could also mean the end for the aforementioned managerial duo. Schalke's board are not known for their patience towards under-achieving staff, as history will tell you.
Last season, die Königsblauen sacked manager Mirko Slomka after the team's elimination from the Champions League in the quarterfinals against Barcelona and subsequent 5-1 defeat against Werder Bremen. Slomka was in a predicament eerily similar to that of Rutten and Müller right now.
Rutten is letting Schalke play in a 4-3-3 formation, which is rather unusual for a Bundesliga side. After an initially decent start, the team started to collapse, but the Dutch manager stubbornly sticks to his own style.
Müller is accused of lacking charisma in dealing with this crisis situation. He's not giving his manager or the team extra impulses or motivation, which is something both clearly need right now.
His handling of the media is also below-par. Just last week, the technical director launched an inflammatory tirade towards former manager Slomka, accusing the former manager of squandering the talent of Turkish international Hamit Altintop, before selling the Turkish midfielder to FC Bayern Munich.
In this same rant, the director also took credit for the signings of the past few seasons.
It has to be said though, his transfer-policy has been decent. Admittedly, players like Uruguayan Cristian Grossmüller, Brazilian Zé Roberto, and former Eintracht Frankfurt winger Albert Streit have disappointed so far, but according to Müller that is yet again something to blame on Slomka, who didn't give these players enough confidence.
Müller did secure bargain buys like Jermaine Jones, who recently made his debut in the German national side, Brazilian U21 wing-back Rafinha, and Heiko Westermann, another recent international for Germany. The values of all these players on the transfer-market has sky-rocketed recently, so Müller has made Schalke money.
The question remains if this is enough to warrant an extended stay in Gelsenkirchen when the team continues to deliver the results the fans expect.
The fans want the team to mount a title-challenge, instead they have a team whose transfer-market values have increased but whose performances on the pitch have been woeful lately.
My guess is that Rutten and Müller will have their fate sealed either next Thursday or next weekend. Elimination from Europe and/or a poor performance in the away match against league leaders 1899 Hoffenheim could lead to both of them getting the sack.