Category Archives: VfB Stuttgart

Hamburg 0 Stuttgart 1: Fourth place a step too far for HSV

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia.

Terry Duffelen reflects on a well deserved and relatively unexpected away win for Stuttgart.

When Milan Badelj almost split the crossbar open on the stroke of half time and Artjoms Rudnevs headed in off the rebound, it looked like Hamburg would be heading into the break with an equaliser they barely deserved and having to face a less than severe bollocking from their coach Thorsten Fink. Their relief was short lived, however as Rudnevs was offside when Badelj unleashed his rocket and the home side remained one goal down.

The pre-match build up to this game was all about Hamburg and their fantastic revival after an horrendous start to the 2012/13 campaign. HSV had only dropped points once in their last four games and their unbeaten run included wins against Hannover and the Champions, Borussia Dortmund. A win would take them into fourth place which would be a impressive achievement, given their starting point.

However, this is the Hinrunde and at this time of year, Stuttgart usually find themselves under pressure and in need of results lest their coach Bruno Labaddia return to the family home with bad news. They started the game much like any other away side, looking to gain an early advantage before the home side settled. They almost pulled it off too after Hamburg ‘keeper Rene Adler made a smart save in the opening minutes from Martin Harnik. A minute later, VfB goalie, Sven Ulreich was given a feel of the ball from Rudnevs but after that it was all Stuttgart and their pressure very nearly paid off when Vedad Ibisevic had a golden chance score but was wide of the mark.

But Stuttgart persevered. They were sharper in the tackle, and quicker around the pitch against a Hamburg side that lacked urgency. The visitor’s reward finally came after 30 minutes with Ibisevic accepting an opportunity to score at close range from a cross by Martin Harnik.

Needless to say, Coach Fink sent his player out for the second half with the proverbial bomb up their backsides and Max Beister was sent on to replace Petr Jeracek who is still struggling since his move from Wolfsburg. Beister succeeded in finding some space in front of the Stuttgart defence but his attempts on goal were ill conceived as he was denied passing opportunities by the opposition.

For the benefit of the neutrals and perhaps lacking confidence in their ability to keep a clean sheet, Stuttgart went looking for a second goal. As the home side moved further the pitch, the inevitable gaps started to appear and both Michael Mancienne and Adler were forced to make last ditch blocks. Harnik, Ibrahima Traore, Christian Gentner provided the goal threats and Adler was kept busy. I also enjoyed the burly runs of the 19 year old Austrian Raphael Holzhauser for Stuttgart.

Rafael van der Vaart had a quiet game. In fact most of the energy and drive came from the alien creature inhabiting the body of Heiko Westermann. Since this possession took place, the German international is transformed from a plodding cart horse to an energetic, visionary who turns his men and leaves them standing while haring around the field destroying any attack he can get near. He was Hamburg’s best player on the day and even managed three shots on goal. Unfortunately, guys like Westermann don’t win football matches on their own and this result demonstrates how average Hamburg can be without a fully operational van der Vaart. Credit to William Kvist for Stuttgart for keeping an eye on the Dutchman and contributing to a well deserved away win for his team.

There’s Only Two Fritz Walter’s – The Legend of the other Fritz Walter

When anyone mentions the name Fritz Walter, the usual association is with rain (Fritz Walter Weather), the ‘Miracle of Bern’ and Kaiserslautern. And quite rightly so, after-all Fritz Walter was a legend. He led Germany to their first World Cup victory in 1954 and was part of the side Kaiserslautern side that won two German championships – the name Fritz Walter is almost as big as it gets in German football. But in Stuttgart they may talk about another Fritz Walter.

Germany's Bobby Moore - The legendary Fritz Walter

This other Fritz Walter can’t boast as great a career as his unrelated namesake, but that doesn’t mean that he amounted to nothing. Born in Heidelberg in 1960,  ‘Fritz Walter Junior’ or ‘Fritzle’ played 348 times in the top flight and scoring 157 goals in the process. He didn’t stray far from his birth place during the bulk of his playing career and the club he is most associated with is nearby VfB Stuttgart. It with the Swabians that his most successful period came, and there was no surprise that Stuttgart came knocking at the door of Waldorf Mannheim in 1987 to sign the striker. Fritz had already been part of the Mannheim team that were promoted to the 1.Bundesliga in 1983, and in his last season with the club he scored 23 goals including two against his future employers from Stuttgart.

In 1992, Stuttgart were Bundesliga champions and Walter was the top scorer in the division that season. He hit 22 of Stuttgart’s 62 league goals that that campaign and was very much the ‘go-to guy’ in front of goal, as no one else in the side got more that nine during that campaign.

After his time at Stuttgart he moved on to Arminia Bielefeld and had quite an influence on the field there as well. In the 1995/96 season, Walter was top scorer again but this time in the 2.Bundesliga. His 21 goals in 33 games for Bielefeld also brought success as the club finished second at the end of the season and were promoted to the top division for the first time in just over a decade.

Fritz Walter Junior - The other Fritz Walter

‘Fritz Junior’ place in Stuttgart’s history is certainly secure for several reasons. At the moment he is the third highest scorer in Stuttgart’s history, due to the fact he was the clubs top scorer for six seasons running. That record puts him ahead of the likes of Cacau, Mario Gomez, Jürgen Klinsmann and current sporting director Fredi Bobic on the clubs all-time top scorers list, so his legacy is safe at Stuttgart. While the original Frtiz Walter has a stadium named after him in Kaiserslautern, the younger one also has something named after him at Stuttgart…the club mascot. ‘Fritzle’ the Crocodile can be seen at every Stuttgart home game and is constaint reminder that ‘There’s Only Two Fritz Walter’s’.

'Fritzle' the Stuttgart Mascot

Sadly, to some Bundesliga fans he might be remembered, not for the masses of goals scored in a long and illustrious career but for something he said. Liverpool legend Ian Rush has constantly denied that he put his foot in it and said “I couldn’t settle in Italy, it was like living in a foreign country.” Well, Fritz certainly did drop a clanger when he was talking about the playing relationship he had with Jürgen Klinsmann at Stuttgart. He reportedly said, “Jürgen Klinsmann and I, we are a good trio…I mean: a quartet.” Never mind Fritz!

 

Rückrunde Return – Schalke v Stuttgart

Diana Yeow takes a look at the Schalke and Stuttgart’s first match of the Rückrunde, and takes a look what this result could mean for both sides in the remaining part of the seaoson.

Schalke's Joel Matip being surrounded by his team-mates after scoring the quickest goal for the club this season, after three minutes. Schalke would eventually win 3-1 against Stuttgart.

So what happened when Stuttgart travelled away to Schalke? As they say, revenge is a dish best served cold, and on a chilly day in Gelsenkirchen, it was Schalke who took their revenge having been beaten 3-0 on the opening weekend of the season at the Mercedes Benz Arena. Schalke’s success (and Bayern’s slip up) means that they are level on points with Bayern and Dortmund, and only third due to goal difference. Schalke coach Huub Stevens has been realistic about his side and has played down being the so-called ‘Bayern Hunters’, as termed by the media. But this result was certainly not out of the norm for these sides. For Schalke, it was their fifth consecutive home win, while for Stuttgart, it was the fifth consecutive time Bruno Labbadia’s side has not registered a win and the third defeat in succession. Despite this great win, there was not all good news to Schalke’s triumph: Captain Benedikt Howedes was injured after a collision with his fellow team-mate Marco Hoeger and suffered a broken his cheekbone, and according to reports is expected to be out for up to six weeks.

It wasn’t a good day for Stuttgart, they were beaten by the set-piece goal, twice: That was how the first two goals from Schalke came about, and the coach Bruno Labbadia was rightly critical of his side after the game on how they defended from corners. The first of the two goals was the fastest Schalke had scored for this season, in the third minute by Joel Matip. The second came from another corner, but this time it was a header from Kyriakos Papadopoulos. If the first two goals came down in part to bad Stuttgart defending from corners, the Schalke third couldn’t have been more different…‘one-touch football’ was the way commentator Gary Preston described it, and it was exactly that.  From Ciprian Marica (who actually used to play for Stuttgart) to Raul, before Klass-Jan Huntelaar passed it to Julian Draxler who slotted it home – a demonstration of how devastating Schalke can be. This effectiveness in front of goal goes some way to explaining the differing fortunes of these teams. Huntelaar and Raul have contributed 23 goals in total for Schalke so far this season. While by contrast, according to the Bundesliga’s English website, Stuttgart have the ‘most lightweight strike force in the division’ with only a mere five to the tally. Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia said post-match that he is putting his faith on Cacau, despite the striker being overlooked for the German national team in view of his form at club level. Also in the line-up was Pavel Progebynak, whose future has been constantly discussed. But with these misfiring strikers, it may of too much surprise that  Vedad Ibisevic was signed by Stuttgart from Hoffenheim in the wake of this match.

Schalke coach Huub Stevens, realistic about the title chances after the 3-1 win over Stuttgart.

What does the result could mean for Schalke? Coach Huub Stevens, may be realistic about their title hopes because they have been down this road before, as Schalke have often their hopes up of a title challenge before their form trailed off. But the manner of their win over Stuttgart has raised the question of whether they can mount a serious title challenge this time around. With players like Atsuto Uchida, Benedikt Höwedes, Kryiakos Papadopoulos and Christian Fuchs, it is not that surprising that on the defence side of things, things are going well. They have currently the fourth best defensive record in the league, and given it has always been said that having a strong defence plays a part in a championship-winning side, this is no bad thing. When it comes to attacking options, Raul, Klass-Jan Huntelaar and Jefferson Farfan are capable of banging in the goals when required. Having the second best goal haul in the league at the moment is a testament to that with 41 goals in total so far. Then there are also players for the fans to get excited about the future in Julian Draxler and Lewis Holtby, who benefitted from his loan spell at Mainz last season. While Draxler did shine against Stuttgart and his goal against them was already one to enjoy, it is frightening to imagine what could happen when Holtby returns from his injury and when Farfan gets enough match fitness to contribute to the goals tally. If Schalke can become injury free and still maintaining their current form, it is possible for Schalke to mount a title challenge.

VfB Stuttgart coach Bruno Labbadia. If how he did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg before currently at Stuttgart are anything to go, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again.

But what about Stuttgart going forward? If things turn out for Bruno Labbadia the it did at Bayer Leverkusen and Hamburg, it could possibly be a bumpy ride yet again…Stuttgart: During the game, I have noticed on my own Twitter timeline where someone had pointed out that this seemed to bear the hallmark of how Bruno Labbadia had been at his previous employers. As in, improving the sides he coached initially before they trailed away. That was also my biggest doubt over Labbadia’s coaching credentials when he first came on board back in December 2010. Not only that, the local paper in the Stuttgarter Zeitung wondered post-match if the club is in for a relegation battle again like it did last season. The paper’s concern is that there does not seem to be a clear leader in the ranks to get out of the position it is currently in at the moment. In the days leading to the away match at Schalke, the paper wrote about how the recent seasons have been up-and-down one for the club, which has exactly been what I experienced since I became a Stuttgart supporter myself in the midst of the 2007-08 season. One can only hope that the contract extension of sporting director Fredi Bobic to 2016 which was announced on the eve of the Schalke match bring some form of stability. In fact speaking to Bild on Tuesday, Bobic criticised what his predecessor Horst Heldt had left him at Stuttgart with before his arrival since the summer of 2010. While Heldt has not replied to the claims, he had already said before in an interview preferring to point out the ‘sporting and economic success’ he had during his time at the club before he left for Schalke, which also included the surprise league title in the 2006/07 season…could it be the Heldt might be heading for a similar kind of success now with Schalke?

Thunder Bernd



Across the pond, we have a delightfully horrid beverage known as Thunderbird. A fortified wine, it is intended to get you properly inebriated while simultaneously providing you with a curious sensation of having just licked asphalt after consuming the bottle’s contents. An occasional side effect includes discoloration of your lips, just to add a bit of comic relief to your evening should you find yourself venturing anywhere else from the parking lot of the liquor store from where you purchased said Thunderbird. Of the prime reasons why it still exists and is sold in an age when bathtub gin is no longer a prerequisite for getting tanked, Thunderbird is incredibly cheap and ready to be used almost immediately upon procurement.

It even comes in a tiny brown paper bag that can be recycled, which is good to Mother Earth and all.

This leads us, completely unnaturally, to Bayer Leverkusen’s current man between the sticks, Bernd Leno. When the young player was taken on loan from VfB Stuttgart 10 August following the mess David Yelldell made in Werkself’s 1st round loss in the DFB Pokal and a concussion suffered by Fabian Giefer in the 2-0 league loss to Mainz,he was immediately thrown into the starting XI against a tricky Werder Bremen side. One clean sheet and a win later, he remained the No. 1 and was put up against those very same Swabians who had loaned him out the previous fortnight. The result was identical–another clean sheet for Leno, another three points for Leverkusen. Certainly, facing last season’s champions in form of Borussia Dortmund, complemented with all the attacking verve to make even the most seasoned Bundesliga GK sweat through his gloves, Leno would be caught out, right? Yet again, Leno produced a clean sheet, making some remarkable saves along the way in a tense affair likely to be remembered when those two sides meet next at the Westfalenstadion.

Leno was ready to intoxicate, right out of the bag, and came relatively cheap too. Let’s hope he doesn’t make Robin Dutt feel like he’s been licking a dirty street later by falling out of form.

Anyone listening to the English commentary of that BvB match might have been struck by some of the hyperbole spilling forth later in the 2nd half, when Leno’s performance was being compared to that of Manuel Neuer. To begin, Dortmund attacking players did not seem to all be dancing to the same rhythm beat out by Juergen Klopp on the day, which made the 19 yr old’s day considerably easier. Further, this was only his third senior Bundesliga match, and neither Werder nor Stuttgart were considered overwhelming favourites in his opening two matches. Still, though, his display against the reigning Bundesliga champions and his third straight match without allowing a goal might suggest young Bernd might be a bit special going forward, but perhaps Neuer comparisons should be tempered just a while longer.

For a young keeper, he has thus far demonstrated considerable skill in anticipating when a troublesome cross is coming his way and where he should be positioned. He also has displayed alacrity with respect to decisions on when to come off his line and smother a loose ball, rather than deferring to his defenders to see off a threat. It has even been remarked by teammates like Hanno Balitsch that Leno has no fears over being vocal from the back and appears confident in the decisions he makes, both in training and during the match. Perhaps the most difficult adjustment for a young, inexperienced keeper in any top flight to make–particularly in Bundesliga–comes down to positional awareness and a lack of fear in taking charge of his penalty area. With the higher quality opposition in Germany’s top flight often widening their attacks and sending in crosses from the wings for other players to dart into the centre for a quick strike, these are two qualities essential for success for GK in Bundesliga.

Just ask Thomas Kraft about that, after his good but not so great time with Bayern Munich last season.

Next for young Thunder Bernd–yes, this is a nickname I am considering using for him, so you will have to abide–is newly promoted Augsburg. While this side appears to pose little challenge to Bayer 04, their early season play suggests the gameplan is to go wide and confuse the opposition’s keeper so that he forgets Sascha Molders is standing right there on his doorstep ready to crack a shot past him. Here again presents a new challenge for Leno and, should he perform similarly to his previous three performances, Rudi Voeller will likely be in contact with VfB hashing out the details of a permanent move for the lad rather than ending his loan spell with Bayer 04 at the winter break.

After all, when you have discovered Dom Perignon was filled in that bottle of Thunderbird you purchased at the last minute in a fit of desperation, you don’t want to have to go back into the store and run the risk of buying actual Thunderbird, do you? That is, unless you needed to get something for Yelldell to drink to go with the hash he made earlier?