Only one win from nine Bundesliga games, most recently the clear 1: 4 defeat at FC Augsburg: where is the problem at VfB Stuttgart – and what gives hope?
First: the most dangerous players are missing
Sasa Kalajdzic (16 goals), Silas Katompa Mvumpa (11) and Nicolas Gonzalez (6) scored 33 of the 56 goals in Stuttgart last season. All three are currently not or no longer available to VfB. Kalajdzic is likely to be absent until January due to his shoulder injury, while Silas is expected back on the pitch after his cruciate ligament rupture in mid or late November. Gonzalez now plays for Fiorentina.
After a 0-2 home defeat against 1. FC Köln, the DFB Cup season for VfB Stuttgart ended early. The Swabians showed a disappointing performance against the Rhinelander, in which deficits in the offensive became particularly clear.
The 15 goals of the current season have been scored by ten different players. The most successful were Marc Oliver Kempf and Konstantinos Mavropanos with three goals each – both defenders. On the positive side, VfB is therefore unpredictable offensively. The problem, however, is that the Swabians lack a goalscorer who scores reliably. This is not a new finding, but the game against FC Augsburg showed once again that Hamadi Al Ghaddioui cannot close this gap. Storm talent Wahid Faghir gives hope. He scored the late equalizer against Union Berlin. The 18-year-old still needs time to build up fitness and physical stability.
Second, there is a lack of imagination
VfB has a hard time playing energetically and imaginatively – even against Augsburg, the team that allows the most big chances in the Bundesliga. Little can be seen of the fast-paced offensive game and the counter-strength of the past season. VfB was most dangerous against Augsburg when Chris Führich was on the ball. In general, the 23-year-old is one of the bright spots of the past few weeks. Führich is fast, dares to dribble and creates dangerous situations. His individual action brought the VfB against the Fuggerstadt in the lead. However, Führich had to be replaced early. He has torn a partial inner ligament in his ankle – and is now also missing for the Stuttgart team.
Sports director Sven Mislintat analyzed after the defeat: There was a lack of “lightness” on the pitch. After all: Against Bielefeld, Roberto Massimo and Erik Thommy are options again. Both had tested positive for the corona virus and most recently failed. For both of them, when they are in shape, they can spray lightness and liven up VfB’s offensive game.
Third, the boys are talented, but not consistent
VfB has a young team. No team in the league has fielded so many players under the age of 21 this season. Mislintat’s plan was to give the talents time to develop in peace. At the moment, however, that is hardly possible. The current shortage of personnel demands a lot from the young players. You have to perform under pressure week after week. That doesn’t always work.
Mateo Klimowicz, for example, presented himself in good shape at the beginning of the season. It seemed as if the 21-year-old could become one of the central players on VfB’s offensive. Most recently he acted unhappy, he hardly succeeded in Augsburg. Patience and experienced players are required here to absorb these fluctuations.
Fourth: VfB has too few veterans
Anyone who is currently chatting with VfB fans or reading in forums and social networks will come across a name again and again: Gonzalo Castro. Castro had played for VfB for three years, and the captain’s contract was not renewed in the summer. Such an experienced and intelligent player would be good for VfB, according to some.
In fact, it is noticeable in VfB’s game that there is a lack of experienced players who will organize and hold the young team together when a game threatens to slip away from the team. Like in the middle of the first half in Augsburg. Daniel Didavi could, at least on paper, be a player who gives VfB structure. His previous achievements leave legitimate doubts as to whether he is currently able to do so.
After the game against Augsburg, he criticized the team’s attitude. Waldemar Anton agreed with him and spoke of the “worst game of the season”. On the positive side: Neither of them even tried to cite the injury misery as the reason for the defeat.
Fifth: VfB loses too many balls in the build-up game
Only RB Leipzig has won more duels than VfB this season. Captain Wataru Endo is currently the best tackle in the league. Nevertheless, the Swabians do not seem stable on the defensive. Why? Before the game at Augsburg, losing the ball was the biggest problem. Almost half of the goals conceded were initiated by Stuttgart through their own ball losses. It doesn’t happen to any other team that often. Even reliable supports like Endo often messed up the ball. The Japanese was at the Olympic Games, had only a short preparation and hardly any breaks. He looks tired.
The 1: 4 revealed a further weakness on the defensive, which VfB wants to work on during the week: Three of the four goals conceded came according to standards. The failure of Konstantinos Mavropanos (torn muscle fiber) and the early replacement of Marc Oliver Kempf (muscular problems) made themselves felt. Both are strong at the head, both are physically present and therefore important in corners and free kicks. In addition, goalkeeper Fabian Bredlow did not exude the same confidence as regular goalkeeper Florian Müller in some situations. Müller, who tested positive for Corona, could join the team again against Bielefeld. It is not clear whether and for how long Kempf will be out.
VfB has remained calm so far
It is noticeable at VfB in autumn 2021 that sports director Sven Mislintat and coach Pellegrino Matarazzo are calming down. There is no sign of a coaching discussion, as would have been expected in previous years, nor do the two individual players or the team criticize publicly with harsh words. Fans of the Swabians know both differently from the past. Both of these indicate that VfB has learned to deal with sensitive situations. The question is how long it will stay that way. The game on Saturday (3:30 p.m.) at home against the penultimate Bielefeld is all the more important.