December 15, 2017

2017-18 Season Preview: VfB Stuttgart — Can This Traditionsverein Climb back To the Top?

Basics

Name: VfB Stuttgart (Verein für Bewegungsspiele Stuttgart 1893 e. V.)
Nicknames: Die Roten (The Reds) Die Schwaben (The Swabians)
Founded
: 9 September 1893
Club colors: Red and white
Primary rivals: Stuttgarter Kickers (This rivalry has decreased drastically since 1992 as the clubs rarely play), Karlsruher SC (The Baden-Württemburg-Derby. Note: Unless KSC can climb the ladder of the 3. Liga and perhaps even further, these two will rarely play for the foreseeable future), Bayern Munich (Süd-Derby. This was once a meeting of giants within the Bundesliga. Due to Stuttgart’s recent struggles however, this rivalry has lost most of its luster. Hopefully this is only temporary).
Fan friendship: SSV Reutlingen 05, AC Cesena

 

Mercedes-Benz Arena

Capacity: 60,469
2015-16 attendance: 858,748 (50,515 per match) (1st in the 2nd Bundesliga)

Mercedes-Benz Arena, Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

 

Trophies

  • German Champions: (5) 1949-50, 1951-52, 1983-84, 1991-92, 2006-07.
  • 2. Bundesliga Champions: (1) 2016-17.
  • DFB Pokal Champions: (3) 1953-54, 1957-58, 1996-97.
  • German Super Cup: (1) 1992.
  • UEFA Intertoto Cup Champions: (3, most all-time) 2000, 2002, 2008.

 

2016-17 Finishes

2. Bundesliga: 1st place with 69 points (63 goals scored, 37 allowed, +26 GD)

DFB Pokal: 2nd round (2-0 loss to Borussia Mönchengladbach)

Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals:  12
Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 9
Number of Matches drawn:  6
Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 5
Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals:  2
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss:  1
Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw:  3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw:  3
Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory:  3

 

Top 2016-17 Scorers

Simon Terodde: 25
Carlos Mané: 6
Christian Gentner: 6

Summer Test Results

Record: 2-1-2
Goals Scored: 10
Goals Allowed: 5

  • Stuttgarter Kickers 1:1 VfB Stuttgart
  • VfB Stuttgart 1:2 Dynamo Dresden
  • Heidenheim 2:1 VfB Stuttgart
  • VfB Stuttgart 5:0 Kasimpasa
  • VfB Stuttgart 2:0 Asteras Tripolis

 

When last we saw them

Simon Terodde

VfB Stuttgart spent most of the 2016-17 season in a three-way battle for first place in the 2nd Bundesliga with Eintracht Braunschweig and Hannover 96. As it turns out, they finished the season in magnificent form winning 5 of their final 6 games and earning 18 out of a possible 21 points to secure the 2nd Bundesliga Championship by 2 points over Hannover.

Stuttgart knew the objective from match day one: get immediate promotion or risk falling into 2nd Bundesliga obscurity. This is a fate that so many of their fellow Traditionsvereine in the league have suffered. That being said, they never struggled past the first month of the season. Stuttgart spent one week in ninth place after match day four but made a steady climb upward immediately thereafter. Once Stuttgart ascended to first place in the table on match day 14, they occupied this position for 15 of the next 20 weeks, including the final 7 weeks of the season.

Stuttgart had the league’s top scorer, forward Simon Terodde who netted an impressive 25 goals. In addition to Terodde, Carlos Mané, Alexandru Maxim and Christian Gentner all had productive seasons, combining for 17 goals and 17 assists. Stuttgart was impressive in the counter attack and were extremely efficient in finishing scoring chances. The Reds were most effective attacking down the wings, and defensively the team did a fine job defending against set pieces. Unfortunately, Stuttgart’s overall defensive woes continued in 2016-17. The same mistakes that got the club relegated the year prior remained seemingly unfixed. Despite these struggles, Die Schwaben conceded the sixth fewest goals in the league. Offensively they tried to pick apart their opponents with short passes, through balls, playing wide and most importantly, controlling the ball in the opponents half. Combine all of this and you can say that Stuttgart played a successful one-and-done season in Germany’s second tier while achieving their goal of immediate promotion back to the Bundesliga. VfB hopes this stay in the top flight of German football lasts as long as their previous one, which was over 40 years and included three Bundesliga Championships.

 

Aspiration

Mid-table: Historically, Stuttgart is a German football power. After their rapid decline during the past 7 years however, it might be best to temper expectations. They have a few aging, yet productive stars in Terodde and Gentner, but by in large Stuttgart has a young team. Core players like Carlos Mané, Daniel Ginczek, Julian Green, Timo Baumgartl and Benjamin Pavard are all 26 or younger. They have a formidable roster that will at the very least be competitive in the Bundesliga from the start. That being said, they are not RB Leipzig. No other 2nd Bundesliga-promoted side is, or perhaps ever will be. I am unsure if Stuttgart is even capable of duplicating SC Freiburg’s success from last season, after that club re-joined the Bundesliga following an unlucky one-year hiatus. Offensively, Stuttgart will be efficient but defensively they are going to concede their fair share of goals. I believe they have corrected some of their defensive inadequacies from their relegation campaign of 2015-16, yet I am still skeptical of their back four. It has been proclaimed, in order to survive the first season back in the Bundesliga you must hinten sicher stehen (stand solid in the back). This was the main reason why 1. FC Köln performed so well in the league three years ago, post-promotion. They then built upon this philosophy, which culminated with a fifth place finish in the Bundesliga and a Europa League qualification last season. Your mission Stuttgart: Be like Köln!

 

Reality

I believe Stuttgart has a legitimate chance to finish in a mid-table position. If they can minimize the damage in their half of the pitch as well as continue improving upon last season’s solid offensive production, there is no reason not to believe that this is an achievable goal for the proud club from Baden-Württemberg. This is not Darmstadt we are talking about here. VfB Stuttgart won the Bundesliga only a decade ago, and knows how to compete in the top tier. It is crucial however, that Stuttgart has learned from their mistakes of the past five years. I believe that they have. Therefore, I am announcing the return of VfB Stuttgart to the Bundesliga with a bang.

 

The Boss

Stuttgart manager Hannes Wolf was recently rewarded with a much-deserved contract extension. He took over for the struggling Jos Luhukay on September 20th, 2016. One week before his hiring, Stuttgart sat in ninth position in the 2nd Bundesliga table. Within five weeks he had the team safely in the promotion zone, a position they would not relinquish at any time for the remainder of the season. In what was a “must-win” season for any manager of the team, Wolf delivered.

Only 36 years young, Hannes Wolf has already achieved great success in his climb up the managerial ladder in German football. He was the manager of the Borussia Dortmund U17 squad from 2011-2015 and won back-to-back German championships in his final two seasons. He was then appointed as manager of the Dortmund U19 team and won another German championship.

Hannes Wolf. The man in charge of resurgent Stuttgart.

In what has to be considered a fantastic hire, Stuttgart plucked Wolf away from Dortmund and added him to a long list of names that have been extremely successful both at Stuttgart as well as a host of other big-named clubs. With Stuttgart’s rise back into the Bundesliga, Hannes Wolf can easily be added to the shortlist of young, successful German managers that will be in high demand for years to come.

 

Philosophy

Carlos Mané

Stuttgart will primarily line up in either a 4-4-2 formation with Terodde and Ginczek as forwards with two Viererketten (rows of four players) in both the midfield and defense. Wolf could also utilize a 4-2-3-1 with Terodde as the lone striker. The 4-3-2-1 allows for Wolf to best utilize his short passing and ball possession tactics. This worked out well last season as Stuttgart finished second in the league in both possession and pass success percentage (53.9% and 78.5%). This formation also enables them to attack efficiently from the wings. VfB scored the most goals from open play in the 2nd Bundesliga with 39 and added 8 more with counter attacks, which was fourth best in the league. It should therefore come as no surprise that they finished sixth in shots per match, but more importantly, fourth in shots on target per match.

Defensively Stuttgart was an average squad at best. They finished in the middle of the league in both tackles per match as well as shots allowed per match. They did not defend the ball aggressively and thus were below league average in interceptions. These facts could present major problems when playing against Germany’s elite. The Bundesliga is a league known for its amazing Gegenpressing style of play. If a team cannot make the quick adjustments needed to shut down the opponents’ attack, they will inevitably pay the price.

Plan B

If all else fails park the bus. No, it is not pretty, but don’t tell Köln that in 2014-15. Darmstadt and Ingolstadt both benefitted from boring, uneventful, yet defensively sound football, as newly promoted clubs in 2015-16, while Traditionsvereine such as Stuttgart and Hannover were relegated due to extremely poor defending. To put it simply, this approach gets the job done and gives you the best chance of avoiding relegation, period. The most critical item for survival as a newly promoted side is unquestionably having stability in the defense. Without this, nothing else matters.

 

Notable Transfers 

Out:

  • Alexandru Maxim (1. FSV Mainz 05)
  • Toni Sunjic (Dinamo Moscow)
  • Benjamin Uphoff (Karlsruher SC)
  • Borys Tashchy (MSV Duisburg)
  • Florian Klein (Free Agent)

In:

  • Chadrac Akolo (FC Sion)
  • Ron-Robert Zieler (Leicester City)
  • Orel Mangala (Anderlecht)
  • Ailton (Estoril)
  • Anastasios Donis (Juventus)
  • Dzenis Burnic – (Borussia Dortmund – loan)
  • Benedikt Gimber (Hoffenheim)

 

Strengths

Stuttgart has a consistent and effective offense. Terodde scores goals, lots of them. They control possession, create chances, and unlike two years, they now convert those chances. Both Ginczek and Gentner, along with many other players on the team, have experience playing in Germany’s top flight. Stuttgart’s strengths reside in their midfield and attack. Many are waiting to see what the impact of Chadrac Akolo will be. After all, Stuttgart did slightly overpay for this player. He will be a welcomed addition to the midfield after the departure of the productive Alexandru Maxim.

Patience. Stuttgart must be patient. Hannes Wolf has created an exceptional offensive game plan. In the past few seasons especially, the team fell into a bad habit. Whenever they would fall behind they would develop a sense of panic, became increasingly disorganized and ineffective. Stuttgart must play to their strengths. Use Terodde, Green, Akolo, Gentner, Ginczek and Mané in the most efficient ways possible. Be patient with your possessions, attack down the wings, create good chances, and good things will come.

 

Weaknesses

For the past few years Stuttgart’s kryptonite has been their underachieving defense. Despite finishing as 2nd Bundesliga Champions last year, they were still only middle of the league in defensive efficiency. They have added Ron-Robert Zieler at keeper, which will give them tremendous depth at the position with Mitchell Langerak also on the roster. Timo Baumgartl, Benjamin Pavard, Emiliano Insua and Marcin Kaminski form a solid back line, but Stuttgart lacks dependable depth. The hope is that the acquisitions of Ailton, Dženis Burnić and Orel Mangala can aide them in this area of need.

Stuttgart has been terrible in recent history at defending against counter attacks. It is paramount that they improve in this area if they are to be successful in the Bundesliga.

 

Crucial Stretch in Schedule

A five week stretch between October 14th and November 18th, which includes four matches against teams that finished in the top seven last season. 1. FC Köln (H), RB Leipzig (A), SC Freiburg (H), Hamburger SV (A), Borussia Dortmund (H).

 

Verdict

Timo Baumgartl

11th place. There is enough talent and experience here to finish mid-table. Stuttgart’s transfers this summer were good as they added depth on defense and reinforced a productive offense. The midfield features a blend of talented youth and experienced players who have “been there, done that,” while in attack they have a player with a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net. Stuttgart must maintain their composure and not get rattled if they fall behind early.

Defensively Stuttgart is going to concede goals this season. That’s the reality. They still have not added enough quality to their defense to think otherwise. The key will be to minimize the damage. If they are able to achieve this by staying focused in their defensive third of the pitch, while remaining patient on offense, I think they will finish the 2017-18 season far clear of the relegation zone.

 

The following two tabs change content below.

Christopher Smith

Christopher grew up in Amberg, Germany, but now resides in Charleston, South Carolina in the USA where he follows the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga on a weekly basis. He is an avid Borussia Dortmund fan, but enjoys all German football from top to bottom. His favorite players are "Super" Mario Götze and Christian Pulisic. You can follow him on twitter @crittysmith

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply