Schalke 04 takes on Borussia Dortmund in the Revierderby on Saturday, and unlike last season, both teams are fighting for a top four position in the Bundesliga. New coach David Wagner has turned Schalke’s fortunes around, and the Royal Blues don’t look like they’ll be anywhere near the relegation fight this season. Schalke currently sits just one point behind Dortmund in the table.
A big factor in Schalke’s revival has been the play of attacking midfielder Amine Harit, who has been reinstated after struggling to crack the lineup under Domenico Tedesco last season. The 22-year-old Moroccan played just 1,083 Bundesliga minutes all of last season, but he already has 695 minutes this year, having started all of Schalke’s matches.
Harit has four goals and two assists this season, and his highlights make him look like the most dynamic No. 10 in the world.
Harit is, unfortunately, not quite as productive as those highlights and traditional counting stats suggest. He’s a solid creator and ball-retainer, but his goals are just about the only quality shots he’s produced all season. It’s rare to see a true attacking midfielder — especially one with the freedom Harit has to get into the box at will — take as many bad shots as he does. He also doesn’t make much of a defensive contribution, which is surprising given how aggressively Schalke presses opponents. Schalke’s strikers and central midfielders do all the hard work while Harit just looks for space.
Here’s how he plays relative to other attacking midfielders in the Bundesliga, via StatsBomb. Particularly concerning, for anyone hoping Harit can keep up this level of production, is his comically low Expected Goals per shot.
So no, your favorite superclub probably shouldn’t be targeting Harit for a big-money transfer. He’ll need to improve as a shooter and contributor in the press to become a truly elite attacking midfielder. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the hell out of him on Saturday.
Harit is, above all else, an entertainer with the ball at his feet. He dribbles past defenders and looks for every opportunity to try tricky one-touch flicks to teammates. At home, in a derby against Dortmund, he’s probably going to be even more ambitious. Perhaps Wagner would like Harit to take fewer bad long-range shots and work a lot harder defensively. But he’s in the team because he’s one of the very few Schalke players capable of turning the game around with one moment of magic.
Keep taking those 30-yard rips, Amine. One of them has to go in eventually. Why not against Dortmund?