full name: Verein für Bewegungsspiele Stuttgart 1893 E. V.
nickname: Die Schwaben, Die Roten
stadium: Mercedes-Benz Arena (60,000+ capacity)
colors: red and white
sporting director: Jos Luhukay (first year)
primary rivals: Karlsruher SC
Bundesliga: 17th place, relegated
DFB Pokal Cup: Quarterfinal loss to BVB Dortmund
top goal scorer: Daniel Didavi (13)
Monday marks the beginning of a new era for VfB Stuttgart and hopefully a better one than the disaster that was last season.
It was a mixed bag of emotions being relegated. Selling players to other teams in the Bundesliga is a familiar way of life for VfB fans; being relegated didn’t change that much. The main difference is the level of competition will be more in line with Stuttgart’s roster quality of the past few years. No more getting steamrolled by half the league.
God, it’s scary to even predict something that modest given how pathetic this team has looked on the field.
Anyways, starting from the top, let’s quickly run down the changes with die Schwaben before their 2. Bundesliga debut at home against dearly beloved FC St. Pauli.
President Bernd Wahler resigned following the end of last season. Wahler’s success as president rivaled Carli Fiorina’s reign as Hewlett-Packard CEO.
He will not be missed.
Replacing Wahler appears to be Wolfgang Dietrich. I say “appears to be” because the decision is not official until the October 9th team board meeting. Little is publicly known at this time in regards to his long-term plans for the team. He has the business and sport connections that Wahler did not. That also brings with it a potential conflict of interest, among other things, given his son is now in charge of the locally based sports-media company from which Wahler stepped down in May. It’s doubtful those kinds of issues matter to the team board come October.
Sporting Director Robin Dutt resigned soon after Wahler. Dutt was not much different than the other failures at Director besides the annoying habit of sitting on the team bench dressed up in a suit every friggin’ game. Who does that?!? Hopefully not new Director and likely trained assassin Jan Schindelmeiser.
So far, Schindelmeiser has done a good job at keeping a few quality players from last year’s Bundesliga team. With a small(er) budget and leadership uncertainty, there isn’t much else to report here, but this will gradually change as the season progresses into the winter break.
Poor Jurgen Kramny. Faced with an impossible task, he took over during the season and gave the team a short-term boost. Inevitably the injuries, lack of defense, and lack of effort from certain players took its toll, and Kramny appeared helpless at the end. He was dismissed the day after the team was relegated.
The coach replacing him is a well-known face (and mustache) to Bundesliga fans. The team quickly appointed Jos Luhukay following relegation. Luhukay has a wealth of experience at both levels and has the unique experience of managing three teams (Mönchengladbach, Augsburg, and Hertha Berlin) from the second to the first division. Although he was not a good fit at the time Kramny was hired, he is a great fit for Stuttgart and their situation. It’s the best the team could have asked for. Luhukay’s style of play is more painful to watch than enjoyable, but it’s more enjoyable to win games. I’m tired of losing and will happily take boring soccer to get back to the top flight.
Stuttgart lost a few good players. Forward Daniel Didavi signed with Wolfsburg, midfielders Filip Kostic and Lukas Rupp signed with Hamburger SV and Hoffenheim respectively, and forward Timo Werner sold his soul to RB Leipzig. The most disappointing of all was Geoffrey Serey Die returning to Switzerland after leading our hearts in the other direction. Maybe he didn’t mesh well with the new coach or understood how many fellow teammates were going to leave. He was always a bit of a head case, but his effort, passing, and anticipation were second to none on the team.
Forward Martin Harnik, in a move that only Martin Harnik would do, joined fellow relegated team Hannover 96. Enjoy the sheer quantity of missed shots-on-goal and shots straight into the goalie, Hannover. It’s really a sight to behold when he’s in top form.
Former starting goalkeeper Przemysław Tytoń has moved on to similar pastures, signing with La Liga’s 15th place team Deportivo in the offseason. Tyton played in La Liga with Elche in the year before joining Stuttgart.
Tyton’s likely replacement is Mitch Langerak, his backup on last year’s team. Langerak was also the backup for Roman Wiedenfeller at BVB and is capable at holding his own. He does not take unnecessary risks like Tyton does but he does not make acrobatic saves like the former goalkeeper could.
Stuttgart added city native and former Hoffenheim goalkeeper Jens Grahl as the backup to Langerak. The 27-year-old is a fine addition and if something were to happen to Langerak, who battled a couple of injuries last season, Grahl should not be too much of a drop-off in performance. Stuttgart is very fortunate to have good goalkeepers. It’s weird to think any would want to come here. Maybe the keepers see potential. Let’s run with that.
Yah, let’s definitely run with that because the defense is looking similar to last year. Argentinian lefty Emiliano Insua, Toni Sunjic, and Timo Baumgartl are back for another season. Sunjic and Baumgartl have potential, but are prone to severe lapses at times. Insua has occasional breakdowns but is generally solid. He is very good in one-on-one situations and moving the ball upfield.
The defense will be led by Kevin Grosskreutz. Thank heavens he stayed. Our team’s defense was actually a defense when he was healthy and on the field. Grosskreutz brings a wealth of Bundesliga and World Cup experience to a team that badly needs it. He has a great feel for where to be on the field at all times and makes consistently solid passes in order to move the ball forward. It’s his anticipation and flow around the field that make all the difference. If Grosskruetz is healthy for most of the season, and that’s a big if given he won’t be ready for the first game (damn it!), there is no doubt in my mind Stuttgart makes it back into the Bundesliga next year.
A new name to watch is Jean Zimmer. The 5’7″ defender has played two seasons with FC Kaiserslautern and will see plenty of action in the early going given Stuttgart’s lack of healthy bodies in the backfield.
Captain Christian Gentner and Alexandru Maxim lead the middle of the team along with former Hertha Berlin defensive midfielder Hajime Hosogai, a former Luhukay player who knows the new coach’s system.
One player to keep an eye on is 20-year-old Mart Ristl, a team captain for Germany during the 2015 U19 UEFA Championship Qualifications.
Gentner and Maxim are top-flight quality and provide Stuttgart with a solid midfield that can be aggressive forward and score goals. Gentner is very good at scoring from short range. He has a good nose for the goal and great touch from both feet. His goals often don’t look powerful but he can and will hit quick shots from short to medium range if a window opens up on goal in the center field area.
Simon Terodde is the name to watch and without a doubt their biggest off-season acquisition. He led the 2. Bundesliga last season with 25 goals in 33 games for VfL Bochum and at 28 years of age could be in for another big season if given the opportunities from his fellow teammates. Bochum tends to play more conservative in nature so he should fit in well with Luhukay’s system
Daniel Ginczek was Stuttgart’s savior in 2014 but had multiple surgeries which sidelined him for 2015. Another player with a great knack for being at the right place at the right time near the goalpost, Ginny is rehabbing his knee and is out until at least the end of September.
With Terodde leading the way and a potentially healthy Ginczek arriving near the winter break, it’s easy to see why Stuttgart has ascension ambitions.
The goal is simple: secure one of the top three spots among eighteen teams. Stuttgart has to navigate through a tough group of teams at the top (Hannover being the strongest), but looking at the team’s lineup from top to bottom it’s hard to see how VfB does not regain their footing and return to their rightful place in the Bundesliga. They have a good mix of talent, experience, youth, and a coach who understands defense.
Stuttgart may struggle a little at first as the new coach and team get used to playing with one another. Fans will not have patience if it gets past that point. Boring losing football gets old very fast. Boring winning football only gets old if you’re a fan of Man U and/or spoiled.
Good luck to you, Mr. Luhukay, and good luck to all of us Stuttgart fans in another journey to god knows where. Hopefully not the toilet again.
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