It is normally the lamb that goes to the slaughter but in this case it is the wolf with the news arriving on Sunday morning that VfB Stuttgart trainer Hannes Wolf has been fired by the club.
The 2-0 home defeat to Schalke on Saturday was the Swabians sixth loss in seven games and the club’s hierarchy have deemed it necessary to dispense with their young trainer’s services in a move to stop the rot and help move the club away from the drop zone.
“Following yesterday’s game, we held very intensive and emotional talks with Hannes and we analysed the situation very extensively. We firmly believe that the danger that the current situation cannot be turned around in the current constellation is too great and that we need a new impulse to get back onto a more successful track” explained Sporting Director Michael Reschke.
“None of us wanted to be in this situation and we would very much liked to have continued working with Hannes, because he is an exceptional coach and a wonderful character. Hannes and Miguel have served VfB exceptionally well with the promotion and the work they have done during the current season. We wish both of them all the very best for their personal and professional futures.”
Such is the cut-throat and highly pressurised world of the Bundesliga that the 36-year-old has become the sixth trainer this season to be fired. The loss to Schalke means that Stuttgart are 15th in the table just four points above Hamburg, who occupy one of the direct relegation places in 17th.
From Saviour to Scapegoat
So Wolf has gone from hero to zero in the space of just half a season. Rewind to May 21st 2016 and there were jubilant scenes at the Mercedes Benz Arena following their 4-1 win over Würzburger Kickers, which clinched their return to the Bundesliga as champions.
The club had taken a bit of a gamble in handing the inexperienced coach the job as head coach after the debacle of Jos Luhukay’s resignation after just four games in charge at the start of the 2016/17 campaign. However, his record with Borussia Dortmund’s U-17 and U-19 sides impressed enough to land him the task of returning the club to the top flight at the first time of asking.
And that’s just what he did guiding the club with assurance and quickly gaining the respect and belief of his squad. Promotion was the goal and that target was ticked off. However, with promotion came a new more ambitious target- Bundesliga survival and the questions were soon being asked as to whether Wolf had the experience and ability (with the squad at his disposal) to achieve that.
We’ll never know whether Hannes Wolf would have succeeded in guiding VfB to safety with the club doing what so many others do in such a situation- getting an itchy finger and pulling the trigger.
The Hinrunde really was a campaign of contrast for Stuttgart with their home form the saving grace and possibly the reason that a coaching change wasn’t considered earlier. They had the worst away record of any of the 18 Bundesliga sides with just a single point picked up in their nine matches away from the Mercedes Benz Arena. Goals were also hard to come by with the club registering just thirteen in the whole of the Hinrunde.
The New Year began with a win over Hertha at home courtesy of a bizarre own-goal, but then came a miserable performance away to fellow strugglers Mainz which saw the 3-2 score line rather flatter them. The loss to a confident Schalke side on the up was no disgrace and to some it would have seemed more logical to have waited until after next week’s trip to Wolfsburg before taking a decision on Wolf’s future at the club.
Who Next for VfB?
There will no doubt be a whole host of the usual suspects touted as potential successors to Wolf with a number of coaches currently out of work and looking for a return to the Bundesliga touchline.
Jens Keller has already had a brief spell as VfB interim coach in 2010 and is available after leaving Union Berlin in December. André Schubert and Markus Weinzierl will both have their interest in the post, while Felix Magath could also be an option now that he has left Chinese club Shandong Luneng.
The list goes on with Bruno Labbadia linked with every job under the sun lately (without success) while another of the left-field options could be Slaven Bilic.
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