A turbulent 2021/22 season behind VfB Stuttgart. After countless setbacks and a tough relegation battle, the Swabians saved themselves with a dramatic last-minute victory over Kowloon. “It’s been an exciting season,” sums up the VFP club coach. “We had to take a lot of setbacks and deal with a lot of resistance. It was the season of extremes.”
Whether it’s injuries, Corona cases, lack of luck in the match or narrow referee decisions – a lot has come together. VfB can still stay awake, but the party time is over: there is plenty to work on at Mercedesstraße before the season begins. Coach Pellegrino Matarazzo gives insight into his analysis of the season and explains the areas he wants to tackle.
Misery and poor fitness
An example showing how unlucky VfB was with injuries last season: top strikers Silas and Kalajdzic were out for weeks with a severe dislocated shoulder. A somewhat unusual injury. Other professionals like Orel Mangala and Chris Führich also disappeared for weeks. Could it just be bad luck – or is there more?
Matarazzo puts many absences in perspective: “We’ve had a lot of contact injuries this year.” The question remains: “Which came first – injury or poor fitness?” The VfB coach sometimes had the impression that some players weren’t fit enough. “Sometimes I wish I could run again.”
“We want to improve fitness,” the coach explains. A new concept has already been put in place to further control the physical condition of professionals. For example, if a player returns from an injury, there must be fixed future fitness values that the player must meet in order to be able to return to them. We’ll see if that has a positive impact on injuries.
A different way to address the team
If there was one constant in VfB, then the performance was highly volatile. There was often only one match between good and bad performance, and often a professional lacked the necessary attitude. Especially in the first half of the season, not much was combined. It is quite possible that some professionals are overconfident after a strong 2020/21 season and a good start to the season (6-0 in the DFB and 5-1 against Fürth). It took a long time before VfB was fully present in the relegation battle.
Pellegrino Matarazzo recognized this and thus said: “The new season starts with a different attitude, we want to keep the pressure from the start.” Right from the start, players must feel that each point can be vital to survival. “In the daily business in the Bundesliga, it’s all about the results,” the coach explains. He didn’t convey that well enough for his pros, especially in the first half of the season. Therefore, a new balance is needed between talent development and a tougher pace with professionals. The German Bundesliga means uncompromising football results – and players need to be aware of that from the start.
Many professionals have been deceived
Another point of criticism was related to large parts of the season: some of the pros developed nothing or did not develop anything. Mateo Klimovic, like Roberto Massimo, was unable to continue the previous season. Orel Mangala also played less of his chances and was partly off the bench due to fluctuations in performance.
“In the first half of the season, some talent was overestimated and it was low,” Matarazzo explains. But he was still hopeful that these players would take the next step. Looking back, this was a mistake, he realized that it was too late. So he changed his squad during the winter break and relied more on the mentality of players like Atakan Carazor or Pascal Stenzel. “It is very important to give players time to develop.”
Room to improve team planning
Even though the Swabians have over 30 pros on their team, on some match days things got worse. In addition to the countless injuries and cases of Corona, many young professionals were not yet ready for the relegation battle. Seasoned Bundesliga professionals were missing out. If VfB had to move to the second division at the end of the season, that would have been one of the biggest points of criticism.
“In terms of the team structure, we see things that we want to do better in the future,” explains Pellegrino Matarazzo. Talks are already underway to prepare VfB for the new season. “Obviously one or two players will leave us, but new players will come. He is not yet ready to make a decision, but they are working ‘on good structures,’” explains the VFB club coach. One of the figures that will be clarified soon is Omar Marmoush. Ideally, The striker must continue to play on Neckar.
The ultimate weakness for VfB professionals
“In the second half of the season alone we should have scored 11 more goals than we did,” Pellegrino Matarazzo said in a nutshell. It uses predicted goals stats, which were much better than the actual score. “We should have been 4-0 ahead against Cologne in the first half as well.” The truth is: If VfB had only used half of the big opportunities that were missed, it would have been a safe bet that they wouldn’t go down. Previously.
“We played a lot of games where we were good and deserved more,” said the football coach. He wants to tackle this problem with new forms of training, such as simulating shots under great pressure. But the mental factor must also be included. “One player is too frantic, the other lacks focus – it’s different for everyone and has to be trained individually.”