Nobody beats Schalke 04 nine times in a row

Last week, FC Schalke 04 Esports (Schalke) got their first win of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) Summer split. At the end of the fourth week of the LEC, Schalke finished the first round robin at the bottom of the standings in tenth place with one win and eight losses. Their sole win was on July 4 against Fnatic, one of five teams tied for fifth place at 4-5.

Schalke also had a difficult Spring split. In Spring, Schalke was winless until the fourth week. Schalke ultimately ended Spring in eighth place with a 6-12 record. If the team hopes to replicate or improve on that Spring result, then this first win is an important turning point for the squad. Will this victory mark a change in Schalke’s trajectory, or will it stand as a lone surprise upset?

Schalke 04 first win in Summer Split

© Schalke 04

What Changes did Schalke 04 make?

In an interview with Hotspawn.com, Schalke 04’s head coach Dylan Falco spoke at length on the team’s struggles in the aftermath of their first Summer victory.

Falco emphasized that Schalke 04 would be going through growing pains as they adopted a ten-man roster strategy for the Summer split. This approach, Falco claimed, treated all players in Schalke (the five LEC starters and five Academy starters) as equal: any player could be swapped between the two teams.

According to Falco, this included the long-time LEC regulars Andrei “Odoamne” Pascu in the top lane and Felix “Abbedagge” Braun in the mid lane.

This approach is likely the result of the lingering influence of most recent Schalke bot laner Konstantinos “FORG1VEN” Tzortziou. Forg1ven was a legacy bot laner who was known to be a difficult player to work with, mostly due to his combative attitude towards teammates he felt were underperforming.

Falco’s emphasis that LEC veterans would not have free reign is likely an attempt to clamp down on potential discipline issues within the team.

As to the actual implementation of the “10-man roster,” the jury is still out on how well it will work. Schalke swapped both players in the bot lane after the first week, to no noticeable improvement. In week four, veteran jungler Erbek “Gilius” Demir replaced relative newcomer Lukas “Lurox” Thoma and secured Schalke’s first win of Summer. It is still too early to say if this is the result of Schalke’s system or simply Gilius’ natural talent outshining Lurox’s.

Misfits tried a similar 10 man roster tactic last Summer Split to mitigate their poor performance. The team later released most of the veterans it contracted at the start of the season.

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How did Players React to the Change?

According to Falco, Schalke is making roster changes with a careful eye on how the players react to them. He repeatedly emphasized the swaps of jungler and bot lane making the team more aggressive overall, which he believes to be a necessary shift in approach to the game.

Regarding player influence on the roster, Falco said:

“I obviously value the opinion of all my players. I have a lot of experience as a coach and I have a great outside perspective on my players. But yeah, of course, if I’m making these decisions I definitely evaluate what my players think about it. For sure. But I also need to be aware that they can have biases, just as I can.”

With that in mind, it will be interesting to see how Schalke approaches their jungler situation moving forward. According to Falco, Gilius only started as Lurox had been ill and unable to play. Gilius securing Schalke’s first win could make the Schalke players believe that he is better suited to start.

Falco seems to believe that, for now, Gilius better suits the “new mindset” of active play that he wants Schalke to pursue. Time will tell if Falco reached this decision independently, or if results-based analysis and player pressure are compromising whatever the original “10-man roster” vision was.

What’s Next?

Schalke 04 has a long climb ahead of them if they want to reach the sixth-place cutoff for playoffs. In the unlikely case that Schalke reaches playoffs, they will probably be eliminated in the first round.

The competition in the LEC is extremely close right now. While the other nine teams are improving and crystallizing their playstyles to get ahead of their competitors, Schalke is busy playing catch-up.

Even the circumstances of their first win are suspect. A best-of-one match can result in more upsets because a bit of luck can give teams the edge they need to win out over better opponents. Furthermore, Fnatic is currently slumping hard and it is just as likely that Fnatic lost the game as it is that Schalke won it.

The memes however, were way more important then the win.

Overall, Schalke will probably still finish in tenth place. Depending on their rate of improvement against that of other teams, they may be able to steal a few more wins and end with a more respectable record. Still, this relies more on the other LEC teams faltering more than it does on Schalke improving.

Maybe next season.

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