An Insight Into VfB Stuttgart’s Electric Start To The Bundesliga Season
Arguably the biggest surprise package of the season to date, VfB Stuttgart sit in an incredible second place in the Bundesliga with only one defeat from six games.
This is made all the more impressive considering they have only survived the last two seasons by coming out on top in the relegation/promotion play-off. Add to this the loss of key players such as Borna Sosa, Konstantinos Mavropanos and captain Wataru Endo and this was looking like a difficult season.
The opposite has occurred though as they have recruited smartly in the summer, have a manager who wants to play attacking football and the key players are producing arguably the best football of their careers.
After scoring 11 in the Bundesliga last term, it was pivotal that Stuttgart re-signed Guinea international Serhou Guirassy on a permanent deal. The hierarchy at the club acted quickly in this regard and pinched the striker for only €9 million which so far has been an absolute bargain.
To replace the Liverpool-bound Endo, in came Hoffenheim destroyer Angelo Stiller for €5.5 million. The German under-21 international has added the bite in midfield that was lost by Endo, and at the age of 22, is much younger than his Japanese counterpart.
As a smaller club, Stuttgart have to take advantage of the loan market and they have done just that with the acquisitions of Bayern Munich shot-stopper Alexander Nubel and Brighton & Hove Albion forward Denis Undav. Nubel is a real coup considering his form over the last year for Ligue 1 outfit AS Monaco and it came as a surprise to many that he did not stay with the Bavarian club.
Lastly, Stuttgart have made sure to add depth to a thin squad with players such as Anthony Rouault, Jamie Leweling, Maximilian Mittelstadt and Woo-Yeong Jeong.
Although these names may not stand out as very special, they are all hard-working and the majority have arrived from clubs who play attacking football which is what Sebastian Hoeness wants.
Style Of Play
Hoeness likes his team to line up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, but that is just the start. Firstly, he likes his defence to play a high line so they can squeeze the opposition and play the offside trap.
Once in possession, he likes his side to play quick short passes in the build-up while maintaining possession in the opponent’s half. This allows technically gifted players such as Chris Fuhrich, Enzo Millot and Silas Katompa to show their magic.
Back in defence, Hoeness has used the unusual tactic of deploying four centre-backs which while rather unheard of has allowed Stuttgart to be more astute defensively and concede fewer goals. This tactic also makes them more dangerous from set pieces as they have taller players in the box.
In the midfield so far this term, it has mainly been the pair of Stiller and Atakan Karazor which makes up for a dynamic and aggressive duo. Both of the midfield players are excellent game readers and know when to sit deep or when to help out the attacking quartet.
These characteristics of play all came together perfectly in the 5-0 demolition of Europa League side Freiburg. The opposition were simply outplayed in every aspect of the game, simply watching as Stuttgart’s forwards carved them open time and time again.
Since that victory, Stuttgart have gone on to defeat Mainz, Darmstadt and Köln comfortably with the defence proving difficult to break down and the attack simply clinical.
Key man – Serhou Guirassy
It would be unfair for this man not to have his own segment as he is currently the top scorer in Europe’s top five leagues with 10 Bundesliga goals to his name.
Having been a key component in keeping the Die Roten up last season, nobody would have thought he would explode in quite the way he has this season.
The embodiment of Stuttgart’s unexpected start, Guirassy is full of confidence and you can see that in every action he makes, whether it be in winning the ball back high up the field or delightful chipping over the goalkeeper to put his team ahead.
Guirassy has scored in all but one game so far this term, however, this is no big deal considering he already hit a hat-trick against Mainz and doubles over Bochum, Freiburg and Darmstadt.
With a tall frame, Guirassy offers a vocal point in the final third when his team is under pressure. This also allows him to fend off defenders and link with his fellow attackers which can be seen in any of the highlight reels of Stuttgart’s games.
Having played relatively easy teams so far, the real test for Stuttgart will be when they play top-level opponents. If they continue to play within their principles though then this could be a season to remember for the fans after recent disappointments.