If there ever was a tale of two halves of a football season, it was Stuttgart in 2017/18. After regaining their top-flight status, Die Schwaben seemed in danger of dropping right back down to tier two in unceremonious fashion. Just 17 points during the Hinrunde saw Hannes Wolf sacked in January after guiding the club back to the promised land and replaced Tayfun Korkut. It would prove to be a stroke of genius by Michael Reschke.
Under the guidance of the former Turkey international, Stuttgart came to life during the Rückrunde and recorded a laudable 9-4-2 record with him in command, including impressive three-point hauls against Gladbach, Frankfurt, Leverkusen, Hoffenheim, and Bayern. The target would have always been to stave off relegation but finishing seventh in their first year back in the top flight was the stuff of dreams were made of.
Managerial Background – Tayfun Korkut
Tayfun Korkut was never seen as the man to right the ship after the clubs’ struggles under Wolf. With a combined average win percentage of 27% during his time with Hannover 96, Kaiserslautern, and Leverkusen, many questioned his consideration, let alone appointment. His appointment, and subsequent tactical changes would prove every single detractor wrong.
Korkut quickly rid the tactics board of Wolf’s preferred three at the back deployment, setting the team up in a 4-4-2 with a double six in midfield; it was a vital change that ended with Stuttgart having the second toughest defense in the Bundesliga behind Bayern. While their goal tally was less than desirable overall, scoring certainly saw an uptick over the first-half of the league campaign. Questions will remain on if the set-up will be sustainable moving forward under the Stuttgart-native, but for now, his hometown club is hopefully in good hands.
With a view of a long-term building program in Baden-Württemberg, Stuttgart executed a transfer policy which targeted longevity in the Bundesliga. Out of the eight signings brought to the Mercedes-Benz Arena, five are 20-years-old or younger; Pablo Maffeo, Nicólas González, Borna Sosa, Roberto Massimo, and David Kopacz. Marc Oliver Kempf on a free from SC Freiburg adds options at center-back, Gonzalo Castro brings additional experience to the center of the park and Daniel Didavi returns to the club after a mixed experience with VfL Wolfsburg. With a total outlay of €36million, including several players returning from loan spells, Stuttgart are well suited for survival.
The only question surrounding the first-team is where the goals will come from. Daniel Ginczek traded Stuttgart red for Wolfsburg green over the summer, leaving veteran German international and club icon Mario Gómez as one of only two players to score five goals or more last season; his eight strikes last season bests Chadrac Akolo’s five. No other player bagged more than two goals over the course of the season. If Stuttgart is to retain their position in the top-tier, Korkut must rectify a potential goal shortage.
Survival is the minimum base-requirement this season for a club who are far larger than their recent history suggests. Korkut certainly will have the motivation to set the record straight in terms of his managerial track record. The second-half of last season must not be viewed as a fluke either for him or Stuttgart. With the club having already been ousted from the DFB-Pokal at the first hurtle at the hands of Hansa Rostock, the pressure is already on. The fact that Stuttgart were blanked 2-0 already shows that, as discussed before, goals will make or break their chances this term.
Strongest XI (4-2-2-2)
Zieler – Maffeo, Pavard, Badstuber, Insúa – Ascacíbar, Castro – Akolo, Didavi – Donis, Gómez.
By Andrew Thompson.