VfB Stuttgart: Is a Change Going to Come?

Now I’m not saying for one moment that VfB Stuttgart’s new coach Markus Weinzierl was ‘born by the river in a little tent’, but as the lyrics of the Sam Cooke classic go, ‘It’s been a long time, a long time coming. But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will’.

But the question being asked at the Mercedes-Benz Arena right now, is how that change is going to come about?

The change required is a return to the Swabians’ Rückrunde form from last season, which saw them go from relegation candidates to within a whisker of European qualification under Tayfun Korkut. The club’s season’s goals have had to be quickly re-framed from pushing on and targeting Europe to pure Bundesliga survival following an awful start to the new campaign.

With just one win and five points from the opening seven matches, the decision was made to ditch the hero of last season, Tayfun Korkut, and parachute in former Augsburg and Schalke trainer Markus Weinzierl.

“The lack of development in the course of this season and the negative results have led us to take this step” announced Stuttgart Sporting Director Michael Reschke. “Tayfun Korkut took over the team last season in a very difficult situation and secured with an extraordinary run this Bundesliga season for VfB. We are very grateful to him and his two assistant coaches Ilija Aracic and Steven Cherundolo”

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Baptism (of fire)

The reign of Markus Weinzierl however has started in less than auspicious circumstances with successive 4-0 defeats to Borussia Dortmund and Hoffenheim leaving him scratching his head and wondering whether he should have perhaps extended his sabbatical a little longer.

His first game against BVB at home saw any pre-match plans go out of the window with Dortmund racing into a 3-0 lead within the opening 25 minutes. They scored with their first attack of the match and then scored two more in the space of three minutes with Marco Reus and Paco Alcacer profiting from slack defending. The second 45 minutes saw a big improvement, but there weren’t many onlookers smiling at the final whistle.

Then on matchday 9 against Hoffenheim the eighth minute sending-off of Emiliano Insua changed the complexion of the game totally and Julian Nagelsmann’s side were able to fire in four second-half goals to inflict a second 4-0 reverse on a hapless VfB.

With a quarter of the season gone, they find themselves joint bottom of the pile alongside promoted side Fortuna Düsseldorf.

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The diagnosis

Markus Weinzierl’s successful recipe during his time at Augsburg was built on an awkward style that upset opponents, high levels of effort, hard-running and pace down the flanks. The Fuggerstädter got the better of teams not because of the individual brilliance of its players, but because of the tactics and work ethic

Where do we start with the patient that is VfB Stuttgart?

The Swabians are ranked 16th in the league for fouls committed with 75- only Bayern Munich and Dortmund rank lower and that can be attributed largely to their superior players not needing to. While I’m not advocating VfB go out and kick their way to success, it is at least a comparative marker with which to measure their play and attitude this season.

They are bottom of the rankings for distance covered by their players, are 15th for total number of shots, and rank a lowly 17th for intensive runs. In six of their nine Bundesliga outings, they’ve left the field not having found the back of the net.

There looks to be a developing crisis of confidence spreading through the ranks with even World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard not immune to individual errors and lapses.

The prognosis

Markus Weinzierl will want to ultimately put his stamp on the side and get them playing the way he sees fit. However the practicalities of getting off the bottom of the table with the players at his disposal may mean a more gradual implanting of the ‘Augsburg DNA’ into VfB Stuttgart.

Much depends on the return to first-team action of injured duo Daniel Didavi and Anastasios Donis as much as the current playing personnel stepping up their game.

If Weinzierl is to attack with pace down the flanks as he did so successfully at FCA with full backs Baba Rahman and Paul Verhaegh, then Greek speedster Donis will be vital. A muscle tear in his left thigh has kept him out of action for a few weeks, but there is a slight hope he could make a return against Eintracht Frankfurt on matchday 10. As a footnote, at Augsburg their two top scorers were wingers Raul Bobadilla and Tobias Werner.

Halil Altintop was the ‘playmaker’- a role that seems perfect for Daniel Didavi, who Weinzierl will have earmarked for the role. The summer arrival from VfL Wolfsburg has been on the injury list with an achilles problem and a return date is not yet known

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Weinzierl was also noted for his preference for a settled line-up, not being one to rotate just for the sake of it or to keep benched players happy. Should the new coach hit upon a winning formula at Stuttgart, it could be that a few players find themselves out on the fringes for longer than they would like.

Sam Cooke was convinced ‘a change gonna come’, but the jury is still out on Stuttgart. Markus Weinzierl has the track record at Augsburg, but then the failure at Schalke. VfB face Frankfurt at home on Friday, before trips to both Nürnberg and Leverkusen.

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Mathew Burt

A year spent living in Bremen got Mathew hooked on the Bundesliga with regular visits to the Weser Stadion getting in the way of his studies. Back in the UK now, he still keenly follows the Grün-Weißen and German football in general. Follow him on Twitter @matburt74.

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