VfB Stuttgart will be without leading scorer Daniel Ginczek through the remainder of 2015 after the forward decided during the international break to move forward with surgery to repair a herniated disc.
The club learned of Ginczek’s injury before their match day eight meeting with 1899 Hoffenheim, after which sporting director Robin Dutt told the media, “Ultimately, he must decide for himself whether to treat the injury conservatively or surgically.” On Friday, Ginczek informed the club he had decided on surgery after consulting with team physicians as well as famous former Bayern team doctor Dr. Hans-Wilhelm Müller-Wohlfahrt.
With Ginczek unavailable in Hoffenheim, off-season acquisition Jan Kliment came off the bench to score his first goal for Stuttgart, perhaps opening the door for the 21-year-old Czech to get an extended audition for more playing time with Ginczek out.
Otherwise, Stuttgart will be hoping Martin Harnik will break out of his cold start and replace some of the production lost with Ginczek gone. Second-leading scorer Daniel Didavi will likely also have to increase his strike rate to help Stuttgart climb out of the Bundesliga basement before Ginczek returns.
Timo Werner, however, may have the largest role to play in Stuttgart surviving the absence of their biggest scoring threat. It might be too big an ask of a 19-year-old who has already been in the Bundesliga spotlight for quite some time, but Werner wouldn’t have 75 league appearances already under his belt as a teenager if the talent wasn’t there.
Then again, after Werner headed home the point-grabbing 2:2 in the Hoffeheim match in the 90th minute, his coach was more concerned with how the youngster celebrated his goal and blaming a related lapse in focus for Werner blowing a chance at a game-winner from just six yards.
“He could absolutely not do it. He was still far too busy with the smooch-smooch-making after the 2:2,” said Zorniger after the match, clearly not satisfied with the draw. “If he gets both goals, then he can make-out with the whole world, for all I care.”
It was just a month ago that Zorniger openly expressed frustration with Werner’s lack of maturity by saying that he was not Werner’s “nanny.”
Whether he’s fond of the kid or not, Zorniger doesn’t really have more-attractive options while shuffling his team to account for his missing forward.
Former top-scorer Vedad Ibišević went through a 1,427-minute goal-scoring drought last season and was loaned to Hertha BSC over the summer, leaving the Stuttgart roster without any proven back-ups in case an emergency such as the one they currently face. This, despite a relative windfall from transfer-window work that should have provided enough money to the VfB to assure a modicum of depth at such a crucial spot.
The sales of Joshua Kimmich and Sven Ulreich, both to FC Bayern München, alone brought in a reported €12 million. Throw in an additional €4 million fee from the loan of Antonio Rüdiger, and you already have more than twice the amount of money that was splashed out to help rebuild a roster that had barely escaped relegation in consecutive seasons. Mitchell Langerak was the biggest name brought to Stuttgart over the summer, coming at a cost of €3.5 million to replace Ulreich, but otherwise Dutt’s only other purchases were keeper in Przemyslaw Tyton, winger Kliment, and right back Philip Heise, all coming for less than €3 million total.
Speaking of defense, even if Zorniger manages to improve significantly on Ginczek’s production with his personnel moves, he will still be facing an uphill climb in the season’s second half if the defensive woes are not addressed. While Stuttgart’s eleven goals-scored is better than ten other clubs’ production through eight matches, they’ve already surrendered a league-high 19 goals, a rate of 2.375 goals per game, which is outpacing last year’s fourth-worst defense that allowed 60 (1.76 per game).
Ginczek would be a difficult player to replace. Even had Dutt taken a different approach to the transfer window, odds are that Stuttgart would be facing a downturn in goal-scoring with such a long-term absence. But any dip in offensive performance will shine an even-brighter light on a defense that has been unable to make average goal-production good for anything but four points and residence at the bottom of the table. Considering Zorniger is considered an offensive-oriented coach, it’s difficult to see how Ginczek’s surgery will do anything but deepen this year’s edition of what’s become an annual VfB Stuttgart crisis.
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