Pellegrino Matarazzo is VfB Stuttgart’s success seeking manager as of late 2019. The former Julian Nagelsmann protege proved an instant success leading Stuttgart back to the Bundesliga for the 2020/21 edition.
Here are the tactics that brought one of Germany’s most popular teams back to the country’s top football tier.
Tim Walter’s unfinished revolution
Tim Walter started the season as VfB Stuttgart’s manager. The former Mayern Munchen II manager arrived when the club was, arguably, at its worst. Aiming to promote to the Bundesliga, VfB were a club massively underachieving at the time of Walter’s appointment.
The tactician attempted to employ a number of radical changes to Stuttgart’s in-game tactics. The team was encouraged to play a positive, passing style of football. The full-backs moved high off the pitch, in an asymmetrical manner, encouraging passing opportunities with central midfielders. The players were supposed to move the ball quickly into attacking opportunities.
What went wrong? VfB Stuttgart was a team leaking goals and failing to retain possession. Perhaps, some of this had to do with the players’ technical abilities and Walter’s ability to communicate his ideas. Before Christmas the manager was out, with American-born Pellegrino Matarazzo taking his place.
Pellegrino Matarazzo makes the right adjustments
Pellegrino Matarazzo promoted the club to the Bundesliga. It’s a massive achievement, especially considering the team’s form back in December. This will be pleasing to VfB Stuttgart’s legions of fans. The team is the fourth most popular club in German football. Only Dortmund, Bayern, and Hertha have more paying fans in attendance.
Matarazzo’s main change in tactics had to do with the approaching to pressing. Their pressing intensity was the highest in Bundesliga 2. This proved a good substitute to the players’ relative lack of technical skill.
Matarazzo likes to have Stuttgart’s players employ man to man-marking. This forces the opposition into wider areas. Gonzalo Castro and Pascal Stenzel are the team’s hard-working full-backs. Stenzel, especially, has proven to be good on the ball (91% passing accuracy) and a tough tackler (1.9 tackler per game).
VfB Stuttgart’s strategy for team development
The fact that VfB was struggling in the Bundesliga 2 by the end of 2019 was surprising. The team’s squad was assembled with a clear goal in mind, promotion. Experienced players (Holger Badstuber, Mario Gomez) rounded off a squad of young-prospects whose potential can be confirmed in the next 2-3 years.
Of the young prospects, none has played better than Nicolas Gonzalez. The Argentinian is a versatile attacking midfielder who has scored 14 goals for VfB Stuttgart.
Wataru Endo, Nathaniel Philipps, Silas Wamangituka, and Atakan Karazor were among the team’s best players. None are older than 23 years of age. Stuttgart enters the Bundesliga with a host of players displaying great potential.
VfB Stuttgart in defense
Matarazzo made instant changes to the team’s style. Supporters demanded a dominant approach. To this end, the new manager focused on intensity and tough pressing, instead of possession.
VfB Stuggart tends to play in a 4-1-4-1 formation under Pellegrino Matarazzo. Earlier into his time at Stuttgart, the 3-4-2-1 and 3-3-2-1 formations were employed.
Japanese midfielder Wataru Endo fulfills a crucial role as the pivot in front of the defense line. Furthermore, the team’s wide midfielders (Gonzalez Castro and Silas) tend to drop deeper creating a seven-point defensive system when the team is not in possession.
VfB’s build-up and attacking tactics
VfB Stuttgart is the second best-attacking team in Bundesliga 2. They have managed 62 goals. This is as good as Hamburger SV, and 3 goals behind Arminia Bielefeld the competition’s winners.
Stuttgart builds quickly towards the attacking areas. Usually, central defender will play the ball short to each other. The pivot will then be involved before the ball is played directly towards the attacking players. It’s an old school approach for sure, but one that takes into account the team’s strengths.
The team also likes to create attacking chances through counter-pressing. When the ball is one back, the striker (usually Al Ghaddioui) will drop down in a deep-lying forward role. Mola and Gonzalez will look for space on the wings, while Philipp Klement tends to advance in a bid to attempt a wide range shot.
VfB Stuttgart in the Bundesliga in 2020/21
VfB Stuttgart have done what was expected of them prior to the start of the campaign. Still, given the lackluster first showing, promotion to the Bundesliga in 2020/21 is nothing short of impressive.
There is room for improvement for one of Germany’s most treasured sides. There will be less room to play in half-spaces, fewer opponents giving away possession so easily, and players with a better ability to press for the ball.
Despite this VfB Stuttgart has a talented roster of players. Many of them will play in the top tier for the first time. Much of Pellegrino Matarazzo’s tactics are still being digested by the squad. A good transfer policy and the employment of these strategies can prove beneficial to VfB as they look to regain former glories.
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