With Bastian Oczipka haring up and down the left-hand side, it hasn't taken Schalke fans long to get over the summer 2017 loss of Sead Kolasinac to English Premier League outfit Arsenal.
Kolasinac was the Ruhr district club's best player by some distance last season, but his successor at left-back has ensured standards haven't slipped. In fact, the opposite is true.
"I'm really happy – on a personal level and for the team," Oczipka told bundesliga.com in an exclusive interview. "The first half of the season was positive. It's going well for us."
Perhaps even better than expected. What some might have anticipated to be a season of transition after last term’s failure to qualify for European competition for the first time in seven years, has instead restored belief that Schalke are among the best the Bundesliga has to offer.
After 19 rounds of fixtures, the Royal Blues are one of three teams locked on 31 points, jostling for position in the top four. Only four sides have outscored them, they boast the joint-fourth meanest defence in the division (25 goals conceded) and have suffered the level-second fewest number of defeats (four). Domenico Tedesco's troupe are also through to the quarter-finals of the DFB Cup.
Pound for pound, Oczipka is proving himself to be the better player in a league where wing-backs can be equally as effective as their more advanced counterparts on the flanks. Schalke didn't just find a replacement for their prized 2016/17 asset; they got an upgrade.