When VfB Stuttgart won against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in May last year, we all expected nothing less than continued success for die Schwaben. They had soon amassed a squad that was good enough for Europa League. Swedish football journalist Filip Wollin claimed that VfB Stuttgart would win the league. This was obviously met with laughter and mockery among his peers, but there was a feeling of “Well, why not?” to it. I noticed many English football journalists were claiming that VfB could even reach Champions League with the squad they had inherited. We now know that the whole hype was a ruse. But why have they collapsed? And how desperate should they be to hang on tight in the Bundesliga?
Why have they collapsed? Let’s begin with an analysis of a crisis, which this can most certainly be called. Stuttgart has one of the better backlines, on paper. World Cup winner Benjamin Pavard is the focal point and Pablo Maffeo, Borna Sosa, Emiliano Insua and Holger Badstuber are very potent options in the defensive positions. The clever acquisition of Marc-Oliver Kempf from SC Freiburg made it look like their defence would be the absolute least of their problems, if they were going to have any at all, especially with the recent acquisition of Ozan Kabak from Galatasaray.
Should we blame Tayfun Korkut for this? Probably. That defence is good enough to compete for Europe, especially as it’s been accompanied by a very potent attack, once again on paper. Players like Erik Thommy and Daniel Didavi were going to lead this VfB into the future. Beraky Özcan and Nicolás González would help the old-but-gold Mario Gomez to more success in his already star billed career. That attack, called “the Go-Go-team” by some journalists, was going to provide goals enough for a team obviously focused on defending tight leads.
But of course, Korkut failed. And he sadly did it without style. The squad that had been amassed soon became obsolete due to flawed tactics, because players are nothing but names on the backs of shirts without tactics worthy of their level and thus, Stuttgart fell. Without grace, and with crying witnesses. The tactics failed Stuttgart. One now wonders how he could succeed the season before. One now also wonders what the hell they were thinking when they brought him in for Hannes Wolf, who now leads the league in 2. Bundesliga with a young, inexperienced Hamburger SV.
It is what it is, it was what it was, and Stuttgart had to cope with having a team stricken by flawed tactics and unfortunate injuries. Momentum was in no way with them and when they fired Korkut and replaced him with Markus Weinzierl, it could only go one way. Sadly, their form didn’t work itself out and they kept on losing. Borussia Dortmund slaughtered them on Stuttgart’s own turf and in the game after the restart, a mediocre Mainz fired three goals past them.
What seems to be the main problem, though? Korkut’s tactics were based on defence. But he obviously didn’t know how to defend properly. Weinzierl is a coach often interested in creating attacking teams, as we’ve seen at FC Augsburg and briefly at Schalke 04, but is now stuck with a defensive team that seemingly had forgotten how to defend. Korkut tried to create a defensive team focused on taking leads and holding them. But his attack was never potent enough to score the goals and more often than not, his defence failed miserably. It was a double whammy and the fear of repeating this seems to live on.
Now, Stuttgart fans might stand witness to a collapse not of this world. They seem desperate to stay in Bundesliga and they probably should. Stuttgart have spent quite a big amount of money on their squad, one that costs lots of money every month in salaries. This is obviously possible to cover with the great amount of income that comes to a club in Bundesliga. However, the difference in TV money, which is one of the main sources of income for Bundesliga clubs, between Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga is palpable.
According to Statista.com, VfB Stuttgart will earn €38.5 million in TV-related revenue this season. This would change drastically, if they were to get relegated. Last season, the top team in regards of TV related revenue in 2. Bundesliga was FC Ingolstadt. Die Schanzer got about €16.5m from national TV. Considering Stuttgart’s value and role as a big club, their revenue would probably exceed that of FC Ingolstadt. A reasonable figure would be €22.5m in 2. Bundesliga for a club of Stuttgart’s size and stature. However, would this be enough? This would be a grave loss in revenue for a club stuck with rather hefty deals. Therefore, remaining in Bundesliga is pivotal for the club, a relegation could mean fiscal chaos.
By Axel Falk.