2014 Bundesliga Team Preview: VfB Stuttgart Face a Grueling Season
Changing a coach twice in one season is never a good sign. VfB Stuttgart did just that last year and only secured their place in the Bundesliga with one game to spare. They come into the new season with a new coach, Armin Veh, and a renewed sense of optimism. Veh led Stuttgart to the title in 2007 and now hopes to move them closer to the middle of the pack. However, even that goal may be lofty as Stuttgart face a long transitional season of battling relegation.
Stuttgart finished five points clear of the drop zone in 15th place last season. They had an eight-game losing streak despite scoring in each of those games. They were shut out six times on the season. Stuttgart scored 55% of their goals in the first half, but conceded 58% of their opponents’ goals in the second half. It was a recipe for near disaster for Die Schwaben.
Bruno Labbadia was fired after Stuttgart lost their first three games. Thomas Schneider then led the team to a seven-game unbeaten streak before the eight-game downfall. Huub Stevens was brought in to keep Stuttgart up.
Antonio Rüdiger had a breakout season despite the occasional defensive woes of the team. The 21-year-old center back will hold down a starting position. Daniel Schwab is trying to gain a starting position alongside Rüdiger, but he is most noted for an own goal in his debut. More than likely veteran center back Georg Niedermeier will start on the back line.
The outside back positions are unsettled with three players being brought in over the summer that can fulfill those roles. Florian Klein came over from Salzburg and should be given a chance at right back. Gotoku Sakai spent some time at that position last year and will still be in the running.
Sven Ulreich will be the top choice keeper again, but the possible successor has joined the team. Odisseas Vlachodimos was promoted from Stuttgart II.
Captain Christian Gentner has played over 200 games with Stuttgart and should continue to play in a hybrid role in the midfield. He had four goals and four assists over 28 appearances last year. Carlos Gruezo played as his partner for the final eight matches last season but a loanee from Chelsea, Oriol Romeu, has a good chance to take that spot this year. Romeu spent most of his time at Valencia last year.
The flanks will have a different feel this season with recent signee Filip Kostic now in the mix. Veh likes to have speedy, creative wingers so players like Timo Werner and Martin Harnik could benefit.
The attack comes down to two players. Vedad Ibiševic just signed a new contract through June 2017 and will be asked to carry the scoring load. Ibiševic battled injuries last season but did score ten goals. Stuttgart has shown faith in the former St. Louis Strikers forward.
Alexandru Maxim is the free kick specialist. He scored seven goals and added 12 assists last season. The young player is shifty and will be a key to Veh’s tactics.
The preseason is less of an indication on season performance for Stuttgart than most teams. Veh did not schedule high-profile opponents. His team had success and built some confidence, which was the goal. However, they did face Hull City on August 10th and fell 2-1. Stuttgart fell behind 2-0 within the first 12 minutes of the game and missed a penalty kick opportunity. That may have been a preview of lack of execution that could haunt Stuttgart.
They take on Mönchengladbach in week one, which will be a very good test. The relegation battle will start in week two against FC Köln. Then Bayern Munich is the opponent. It should be a rough beginning to another season in the bottom half.
2014-15 Record: 9-7-18, 34 Points, 14th Place
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