Shades of Pep Guardiola as Schalke's Domenico Tedesco plays USA midfielder Weston McKennie at centre-back
Having successfully remodelled Benjamin Stambouli as a right-sided defender and Max Meyer as a holding player, Schalke head coach Domenico Tedesco has turned his attentions to USA international Weston McKennie.
Another midfielder by trade, the 19-year-old made 14 Bundesliga appearances in his favoured role during the first half of the current campaign, but kicked off 2018 with an eye-catching cameo at the heart of the back three.
Watch: Tedesco’s tactical masterclass
McKennie, 19, replaced 35-year-old Brazilian Naldo at half-time in Schalke’s eventual 2-1 friendly win over Belgian outfit Genk on Sunday, and Tedesco seemed to suggest he wouldn’t have any qualms reshuffling the pack in the same vein in the near future.
“We’ve been wanting to try him out in central defence for a while,” Tedesco said after the game. “He’s good in the air, strong and up for anything.”
Tedesco’s innate ability to think outside of the the box has, unsurprisingly, drawn comparisons with former Bayern Munich strategist Pep Guardiola.
The Catalan, now of English Premier League side Manchester City, often deployed players in unaccustomed positions during his three-year tenure in the Bundesliga, using right-back Philipp Lahm in defensive midfield and tried-and-tested midfielders Joshua Kimmich and Javi Martinez in central defence.
As Tedesco pointed out after the Genk triumph, in which Juventus loanee Marko Pjaca opened the scoring with a debut goal, “you have to be prepared for all eventualities.”
Second-placed Schalke resume their pursuit of a top-four finish away to last season’s Bundesliga runners-up RB Leipzig on 13 January (kick-off: 18:30CET/17:30GMT).