VfB Stuttgart have always had a long history of surprising themselves and the world of football, and it’s easy to see why.
One only has to look to the 2006/2007 Bundesliga season when Armin Veh’s Stuttgart somehow sporadically won the title under the nose of Bayern Munich.
It is clear to see that not a single person, including even the most diehard of VfB Stuttgart fans thought that they would be able to win the championship for the first time since 1992.
The Swabians went into their title winning season of the back of a previous campaign where they finished in a highly respectable ninth place.
Not bad at all given the size of the club in comparison to the likes of other similar sized Bundesliga outfits such as Hamburg and Eintracht Frankfurt, both in terms of gate size and squad capability.
However, any thought of an era of Stuttgart supremacy in the Bundesliga was quickly dashed the following season when they reverted back to their old ways of mildly underachieving by finishing in a typically standard sixth place.
Fast forward seven years and Stuttgart once again find themselves in uncharted territory once more, but this time instead of crowing at the top of the table they are just ten games away from being relegated, and losing their Bundesliga status.
The Mercedes-Benz Arena outfit currently sit second from bottom in the Bundesliga after a very disappointing season has seen them collect only five wins in 25 games.
Whilst any chance of pulling of the “Great Escape” so far seems to be non-existent, with the Swabians having only obtained two points out of a possible 30 in their last ten league games.
The fact that the Stuttgart hierarchy have also dug deep to bring in ex-Schalke boss Huub Stevens to replace Thomas Schneider with only ten games of the season left seems to portray the desperate situation at the club.
This stale air of uncertainty was also evident in Saturday’s disappointing 1-1 draw away to fellow heavyweight strugglers Werder Bremen.
And perhaps it was Martin Harnik’s first-half penalty miss that best summarised the course of the club’s season in one.
On the stroke of half-time the Austrian international stepped up to take his first ever penalty-kick in the Bundesliga following a handball by Werder Bremen’s Assani Lukimya ,but instead of being met with the joy of beginners luck he dispatched his penalty into the crowd.
Although the Reds were able to dictate and boss the majority of yesterday’s encounter of the forgotten heavyweights, the harsh reality was that they once again lacked the desire and cutting edge needed to win these types of relegation scraps.
Although Stuttgart managed to have 12 attempts at goal, only three of these were on target and they had to rely on defender Georg Niedermeier to put them ahead against a very simplistic Bremen side.
It was always going to be the case that Robin Dutt’s side would find an equaliser, especially against a team who have already managed to concede 52 goals so far this season, coincidently the most out of any other Bundesliga side.
It also comes with regret by saying that Aaron Hunt’s scorching free-kick 11 minutes from time will go a long way in convincing the entire Stuttgart squad that relegation looks more like a certainty rather than a possibility.
The harsh reality is that Stuttgart find themselves in an entirely hopeless situation given the quality of the squad and the fact that they have acquired a manager who has been sacked twice by different clubs in a space of two years due to bad results.
It is slightly ironic given the fact that the Black Forrest only lies 50 kilometres from the city of Stuttgart, and it is easy to suggest that the club are being sucked into a dark and daunting wilderness.
Nothing quite seems to be going to plan, and for good reason considering the club’s plans drawn up at the beginning of the year.
In August the club’s president Bernd Wahler promised that VfB would build upon last season where they not only finished in 12th place but also by finishing as runner up to Bayern Munich in the DFB Pokal.
However these words of optimism have disappeared faster than a slice of Black Forest Gataeu down a fat American tourist’s gullet.
Any promise of rebuilding a squad which needed a little bit of TLC following years of mid-table finishes was founded on loose words as the club spent less than £6 million on new players.
In fact Wahler did the complete opposite as he played a big part in selling several defensive players such as centre-backs William Kvist, Felipe, Serdar Tasci and left-back Christian Molinaro in order to generate funds.
This selfish act has now left the club needing to rely more than ever on the likes of Vedad Ibisevic, Daniel Schwaab and Timo Werner to come up with the goods and to compensate for the rest of the squad.
Although Ibisevic has managed to score 15 goals this season in all competitions, the fact that he is played and relied on so frequently has finally taken its toll on the Bosnian international.
Whilst it can be argued that his violent outburst on matchday 20 where he cynically elbowed Augsburg’s Jan-Ingwer Callsen-Bracker in the face and received a five match-ban was the result of long building frustration.
The last five games in which the Bosnian international has been suspended for has ultimately shown that the club rely on his goals to make the difference between a loss and a draw, never mind a win.
It has been obvious that the Reds have missed the 29 year old for the past few games, however his return has come at a very crucial point in the season.
The whole team must now take optimism from the class of 2007 who against the odds became Bundesliga champiuons and wrote their names in the history books for all the right reasons.
There is no reason why Huub Steven’s men can’t do the same. Let’s be frank, can you really see this VfB Stuttgart side playing in the second tier of German football for the first time in almost 40 years? Perhaps…
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