When I last wrote about VFB Stuttgart for the Fanatic, they were in the thick of the relegation battle, and they had just recently hired Jurgen Kramny. Even though I thought that they had the ingredients to improve, even the most optimistic Stuttgart supporter couldn’t have predicted what would ensue for Kramny and Die Schwaben. Despite their most recent performance, a disappointing 2-0 home loss to a talent-rich but injury-riddled Leverkusen, the fact that Stuttgart are 11th in the league is remarkable when you realize where they were when Kramny took over. Kramny hadn’t ever managed at the senior level, and he didn’t have a summer transfer window while injuries plagued the squad, he certainly should be considered for manager of the season considering the improvement in the performances of the Stuttgart players.
Kramny was appointed interim head coach at Stuttgart after the firing of Alexander Zorniger on November 24. Kramny had played a small role as a player with Stuttgart on their 1991/1992 Bundesliga championship squad in a career that also saw the midfielder spend a lengthy amount of time at Mainz, along with stints at 1. FC Nürnberg, 1. FC Saarbrücken and SV Darmstadt 98. After his playing career ended, Kramny coached at Mainz as an assistant and youth squad coach beginning in 2006, and was both a teammate of Jurgen Klopp and part of his coaching staff. Kramny was also at Mainz when Thomas Tuchel succeeded Klopp as head coach in July, 2009.
joining Stuttgart in 2010, working as U-19 coach and then coach of the Swabians’ reserve squad. His interim appointment was made permanent at the end of the Hinrunde, as he’d earned five points for VfB from four league matches after taking over and had guided the club to a Pokal victory over Eintracht Braunschweig.
Noticeable Player Improvement
Only one player, Daniel Didavi, was doing particularly well when Kramny became head coach, and he seemingly was single handedly keeping VFB alive in the relegation fight. Leading scorer Daniel Ginczek was out with injury (and later re-injured himself when re-introduced to training), while purported #1 goalkeeper Mitchell Langerak had yet to play in Stuttgart gear, as they former Dortmund #2 was injured in preseason training.
But ever since the 44 year-old German took over, a lot of the players have improved. The most notable of these improvements has been Filip Kostić , who has become Stuttgart’s best player in the second half after a downright awful Hinrunde. And Timo Werner, the young phenom that Kramny has also gotten the best out of during his tenure as manager so far.
The improvement of Kostić since Kramny took over has been incredible, and he has been Stuttgart’s inspiration in their second half renaissance. The Serbian has already won man of the match 3 times since the break, and he has been delivering his best in most every game. His match rating against Hoffenheim was a perfect 10, and he had a goal and an assist in that match. He’s compiled whoscored.com ratings of 8.0 or above in 8 games since Kramny took over, compared to just one such game with previous manager Alexander Zorniger. His increase in rating displays just how much his play has improved.
Kostić has scored all 5 of his goals and picked up all of his 4 assists this season under Kramny’s guidance. If Zorniger were still manager, who knows what the Serb’s statistics would look like based on his early season form. Stuttgart paid a €6 million transfer fee, plus a bonus rumored to be €1 million to FC Groningen in August, 2014 for the 23 year-old, and now Kramny is the one who is making sure that investment is a successful one. The money spent on Kostić makes his success under Kramny very encouraging for the board, creating confidence that the new coach will get the most out of new signings.
Another player who has improved under Kramny is young phenom Timo Werner, whose improvement has been encouraging for a 20 year old. Under Zorniger, Werner was scoring a decent amount of goals but that was mainly because the young German was playing the full 90 every game. And while most might think that playing a lot is good for a young player, sometimes it limits the work and effort they put into training sessions and games.
Kramny has challenged Werner, and made him fight for his place in the team. As a result, Werner has three goals under Kramny in the Bundesliga, the same that he has under Zorniger despite playing only 2 full matches during Kramny’s tenure so far. Another player whose improved noticeable under Kramny is Serey Die, who has turned his season around just like Kostic. Under Zorniger, Die had some terrible performances, with whoscored.com ratings being below 6 against Bayern, Augsburg and Hoffenheim in the first half. But recently the Ivorian has been a revelation, with great showings against Hertha Berlin, Hamburg and the Hoffenheim. He picked up man of the match against Hertha, which showed how much he’s improved since Kramny took over.
No Previous Experience
Unlike some of the other candidate for the award, such as Pál Dárdai and Thomas Tuchel, Kramny has had no experience at the senior level prior to this season. Dardai managed the Hungary National Team prior to being appointed by Hertha, and Tuchel made a name with himself while managing Mainz. Both of those jobs provided Dardai and Tuchel with invaluable experience and they were able to learn what it took to manage at a high level. Before Tuchel even took over Dortmund, he had tremendous experience as a Bundesliga manager. And while Dardai didn’t have Bundesliga experience, he had experience managing a national team, which some people would say is harder than coaching at the club level.
Since Kramny had no experience at the senior level when he was appointed in November, he had no track record as a coach as well. The highest level that he managed at was in the 3. Liga (3rd tier) and the fact that he can go from the third tier to Bundesliga success is surprising to say the least. This lack of a track record makes his story one that is truly incredible and unexpected. Since a manager with no experience has been able to do what Kramny has done, he must be considered for Manager of the Year. The award is not only about overachieving, but it’s about what manager burst on to the Bundesliga scene.
Kramny has certainly burst onto the scene since his appointment and he’s gone from an obscure manager in the lower divisions of Germany to leading Die Schwaben to their most successful season in years. Almost every Bundesliga fan had heard of Dardai and Tuchel before the season started, they had become recognized names for their previous success. But if you asked most Stuttgart supporters about Kramny before the season started, how many would’ve known who he was? And because of that, the German has certainly come out of nowhere to be in the position that he is now. Combined with his success so far and obscurity before the season, he must be considered for the manager of the season.
No Summer Window and Injuries
Despite the fact that Kramny did have a January window to improve the squad, most of the transfers that managers want to make has happened in the summer in recent times. This is because in January teams are in the middle of the season, and the window is short enough that teams can hold out it they want to. Since this is the case, Kramny wasn’t able to bring in many players like he could in the summer. The lack of a summer window is something that didn’t happen it Tuchel or Dardai.
They both were able to buy impactful players like Julian Weigl and Roman Burki for Dortmund, and Vladimir Darida and Per Skjelbred for Hertha. Without these players, both Dortmund and Hertha Berlin wouldn’t be in the positions that they are in now, imagine of Kramny could’ve bought some stars in the summer like the others did. Imagine were Die Schwaben would be right now if Kramny was the manager at the start and had a summer window, because with signings like Artem Kravets and Kevin Grosskreutz in January already contributing, he certainly would’ve found a way to make Stuttgart even better than they are right now.
Having a summer transfer window would certainly help the former Stuttgart 2 manager, but what might help him even more would be getting all of his player fit. Some of Stuttgart’s top players from last season haven’t been able to make an impact under Kramy because of injuries such as Daniel Ginczek.
Ginczek is one of the best players on Die Schwaben, with 3 goals and an assist in only 7 games this season, but the German striker hasn’t played since September due to injury. If Kramny was able to have a reliable poacher in front of goal like Ginczek, he wouldn’t have to rely on either the young Werner and the new signing Kravets to finish off good chances. A player like Ginczek, who had 7 goals in 11 starts last season, is one that would help Kramny and Stuttgart get even better.
Since Stuttgart were in the relegation zone after firing Zorniger, their remarkable rise to 11th in the table under Kramny has been incredible. After looking like they were going to be lucky to survive another Bundesliga season early on, Die Schwaben look like a lock to be in the top flight once again next season.
This has been because of Kramny, and the improvement of the players, his lack of senior experience, and the lack of a summer window along with injuries gives Kramny a compelling manager of the season case. If the former Stuttgart 2 manager can finish in the top half of the table, his case will be even stronger then it is at the moment. But the fact that Stuttgart and top half are even being mentioned together, after where they were when Zorniger was fired, is incredible to say the least.
Latest posts by Alex Lynch (see all)
- Five Takeaways from The First Week in the Bundesliga - August 21, 2017
- Another All Too Familiar Summer for SC Freiburg - August 20, 2017
- How Much Did Thomas Müller Really Struggle this past year? - July 8, 2017